Ask a fifth-year: So, You Think You Can Start a Band?

Dear Sarah,

Some friends and I have been talking about wanting to start a postmodern post-core pop-punk boy band with a female guitarist, but we aren’t really sure where to start. We talk about how cool it would be, and we’ve jammed together a few times, but nothing really concrete comes of it except for comments like “Man, wouldn’t it be cool to play at [insert house name here]’s party?” Do you have any suggestions on how I can get my groove on and get this band on the road?

– Zayn Malik’s Blink-182 Cover Band


Dear Zayn Malik,

Like with any musical ensemble, getting a band up and running is hard to do at Lawrence. It’s the classic problem—everyone already has five million commitments, so they get cold feet about the prospect of adding one more. What you end up with is a group of people in a conservatory classroom, wailing away on their prospective instruments for a few hours one Saturday afternoon, and nothing ever comes of it. While I never had a band here at Lawrence (let the records show that I did participate in exactly one Talking Heads cover band jam session), I have been involved in numerous chamber ensembles, which have similar issues when it comes to the formation process.

Scheduling: Scheduling is going to make or break your ensemble experience. If all the members of your band cannot find a common time, or even several times, a week to rehearse, your group is dead in the water. You might need to consider swapping a player out for someone whose schedule works better. That being said, if you really want this ensemble to happen, you may have to be open to less ideal rehearsal times. Obviously 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning isn’t going to work, but maybe 8 a.m. on a weekday morning, or late into the evening or, heaven forbid, on a Friday night could work.

Organization: In the formational stages, organization is a huge factor. What music are you going to play? Will it be original compositions? Are you learning tunes and rearranging them? Whose responsibility is it to create this material? Everyone needs to be on the same page in regards to what exactly the group is and what they are personally held responsible for. If you want to be the kind of band that improvises new material every time they play, then go for it. Just know that this type of music might require more rehearsals before you start sounding like a cohesive group. If you’re doing all transcriptions and arrangements, then make it clear who is responsible for bringing this material to your rehearsals.

Dedication: Your ensemble will only be successful if every member pulls their own weight. In this regard, a chamber group is easier than a band because you have the threat of a grade to encourage you to put your all into the ensemble. Make sure to schedule rehearsals and sign out a practice space in advance. Show up to rehearsal prepared and on time. Treat this group like any other group you are a part of at Lawrence because this shows respect to yourself and to the other musicians you are collaborating with.