If there is one thing I know for certain, it’s that playing music is life affirming and totally wicked. Listening to music is vital as well, but being behind the creation process is unlike anything else. Music is its own language, and learning how to read, speak, and create it rocks.
But it’s difficult as hell, regardless of whether you want to cover every Jethro Tull song or play single power chord punk. Below are some steps for turning that brilliant musical vision you have into a hopefully not too over-processed reality.
Step #1: Figure out if you have it in you. Before you start a band or embark on a musical project, you have to play an instrument or utilize those vocal chords. Not only that, but you have to know how to experiment and develop your own dynamic, because even if you are a solo act there will be a dialogue between what you play and what is heard. So study hard, and really listen.
Step #2: Find like-minded musicians. Once you have a style or idea you want to attempt, seek out people who play other, complementary instruments. If you are a guitarist, know that you’ll have to compromise and allow others to be heard. Same goes for drummers, but in another manner: prepare to be ok with shutting up. And bassists? Bassists have nothing to worry about, they’re necessary and often in short supply.
Step #3: Find a space. You’ll need a location that is as sound proofed as possible because you’ll want to blast what you create. Basements are cool, but if you’re serious, look at websites like Instructables and DIY that business (unless you have more piles of money than I can safely assume–I mean, you might even be affording a drum kit).
Step #4: Find a common starting point. You’re not going to get in that space you’ve rented or DIY’d and be awesome. That’s impossible. So, choose a cover or two you love, learn it, and gauge your musical chemistry without dealing with letting your vision out too early. Or jam a bit, but keep it simple and have what jazz people probably call a discussion. For rock bands, “Wonderwall” is a good starting point, but you might hate yourself a little.
Step #5: Play really poorly and love the shit out of it. Most likely, you are not a virtuoso, and even if you are, your songs might sound like transcendent trash, which is totally fine. Dave Grohl has repeatedly ranted that new musicians birthed into the post Y2K universe are binging on singing contest shows and electronic music and not getting their hands on instruments and just playing till they don’t suck any longer. It’s important to get into the dirty methodology of growing and changing with a band, or with exposure to other solo acts. Being terrible is a natural part of the musical progression, and no great band ever woke up one morning and churned out magic.
Step #6: Fail. And fail a lot. Great music comes from those hilariously terrible shows you play for your friends and time wasted driving to gigs only to try your hardest in a room filled with middle-aged drunk people. Failing in music is frustrating, but it forms kinship and makes the whole thing rockingly romantic. And don’t stop once you’ve started. Get in that practice space, suck a little, play your heart out, and don’t assume anything but fun times will come of it.
Step #7: If you’re music actually turns out to be awesome, or strange enough to occupy a perfect niche, record it and put it everywhere. Bandcamp, Facebook, Myspace, personal blogs, doesn’t matter, as long as it’s getting out there. The days of dropping off discs with masking tape labels is over, but the concept of hitting the streets (albeit digital streets) is still important. And videos and photos, don’t forget them.
And step #8: Never stop enjoying it so much that it hurts your soul a little if you ever have a week without your instruments and friends. And allow your band name to arrive in whatever drunken, stoned out haze suits your particular merry band.
Now go, creators of future music–I await your delightfully bad demos.