Like any organization or group, a band needs a strong leader. There is a ton of material out there on effective leadership, and I’ll give some resources at the end here. Here are five areas that a band leader needs to address.
Set the Example
For your fellow band mates to trust and believe in you, they need to see you can lead by example. If you want everyone to show up on time for practice, you better show up early. To encourage you band to practice individually, know your parts inside and out. The last thing you want to be labeled as is a hypocrite. The saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” does not apply to a band leader.
As a leader, you need to have a clear vision of what the band wants to accomplish. If something happens that strays from that vision, it is your responsibility to address it. Making corrections can also be as simple as fixing mistakes made in practice. However, make sure you are gentle in your corrections. You don’t need anyone resenting you for making them feel bad about their playing. It can be as simple as stopping a song in practice and asking if someone can play his or her part. If it sounds off, help them get it right.
Most musicians by nature are scatterbrained. This can correlate with creativity, so be ready to work with individuals that don’t always have everything in order. Maybe you’re like that too, but a band leader has to be organized. This means knowing when practices and performances are, and being able to communicate that to the group. It also means having a plan for practice. Know if you’re rehearsing songs, putting together new songs, or writing new material. I strongly encourage writing down an outline of what you want to accomplish for practice. It may feel uncomfortable to write it down, but it gives you a sense of focus, and you’ll achieve more in practice.
As a leader, you are responsible for the morale of the band. Tell your band mates when they did something awesome. It can be as simple as pointing out a great guitar lick or a sweet drum fill. This does not mean giving everyone an ego boost (most musicians have perfectly healthy egos).Giving encouragement shows that you care about your band mates and know they are a vital part of the group.
One important thing to realize as a band leader is being the leader does not make it your band. Sometimes you’ll have an opinion about a decision that others will disagree with. It is important to trust your band mates and go with their decisions at times. I remember once at a band practice, I wanted to change the drum beat of a song we were working on. I had the drummer try my idea, and I told him I wanted to change it. He disagreed and said the original beat was a style he was going for. I realized it was much more unique than what I had thought of and we kept it. If they are not voicing their opinions, ask them to. After all, you are just one person. You couldn’t be a band by yourself, so you shouldn’t make all the decisions by yourself.
Being the leader of a band will be challenging. It creates more work for you, but the reward is great. The most important thing you can do as a leader is to serve. You serve your audience and your band mates.