Is playing in a band better than not playing in a band?

IMG_0088 - Version 2I was being interviewed last week for an article about Michigan Rock School in a local newspaper, and the reporter asked me what the advantages to playing music in a band are. As I’ve been running performance-based music schools for over five years, I’ve been asked this before and was prepared with some of the benefits that seem obvious to me: team building skills, peer support, accountability to bandmates, to name a few. I realized though, those are all things that I personally have discovered from playing in and working with bands. I decided to pose the question to some of my musician friends and see if they had any insight that I might have overlooked. Following are some of their thoughts.

“It teaches a single person to work in a cooperative group. Some people don’t know how to interact. It teaches that. So many things to learn working with a band, it’s all positive.”

I’ve always compared the similarities of playing in a band to playing on a sports team. This thought, I think, supports the teambuilding aspect of playing in a band. While I liked sports casually as a kid, I didn’t play on many teams. But from playing music in bands I got those same benefits.

“A band is composed of individuals who are stronger together than separate. A band is almost like a recipe where all the ingredients are equally important even if they are in different measures. The balance of egos, talents, compromise, exploration and adventure is something only a real band has. You learn from each other in many ways that may not be obvious at the time. If you are in a band long enough, you form a bond that is unlike any other.”

This point of view speaks of the synergy involved in playing music with others. I think a key point is the statement, “you learn from each other in many ways that may not be obvious at the time.” It’s true! You learn things that you had no idea you could learn. You can’t study for it, or practice it. There are bits of knowledge that become discoverable only because of the situation.

“It takes a bit of courage to put yourself “out there”, to openly express yourself amongst others in hopes that collaboration will win the day. Those who dare, win. And I dare say those who have this mindset are probably searching for something better than what they can achieve on their own.”

I like the use of the word “courage” in this statement. The simple act of “doing” builds confidence. It isn’t a competition, but you still “win” by showing up, which I think ties into the next statement.

“Because a lot of times you do an activity with other people, it’s a contest, like a baseball game or a video game. Music is not a contest, and so it can be fun to do it with other people and not have your ego in the way.”

I love this thought because it implies there really aren’t any limits to playing music with others.

“I don’t see the point of playing music alone. It was created as a social activity and (throughout history) always has been. Playing music alone is like playing baseball alone: just not the way it was intended.”

This thought is perfectly insightful in it’s simplicity. Music is social. It connects people, whether they are the people playing it, or the people listening. By playing with others you learn to listen differently. If you play guitar, you may learn to pay closer attention to drums, for instance. This in turn enhances your own personal appreciation and understanding of music in general.

“There are lots of reasons, but a key one is that you get better music. Writing music entirely on your own–even if you play lots of instruments–ends up being predictable. Working with other people isn’t always comfortable, but that give and take and creative tension results in a project that goes where you would never expect. If you have the right people in the mix, it goes BETTER than you would ever predict.”

“Others involved in the process fuel inspiration, and other points of views creatively. In addition, you have the bond, and others to share the stories.”

These thoughts both speak for creativity and songwriting, but I think there is also something to be said for just feeling by others (peers) to simply play a musical instrument. With any creative pursuit an individual only stands to grow when they collaborate and learn from others.

There are surely more benefits to playing music in a band, and everyone will likely experience different positive results. For those relatively new to learning guitar, bass, drums, etc., one of the biggest challenges is staying motivated those times when learning gets difficult. Being involved in some sort of group makes it easier to stick with it and push through those difficult times.

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