23 Jun, 16

How To Be A Valuable Member Of A Rock Band When You Don't Write The Lyrics

Think of your favorite rock n roll song and chances are it has words. The lyrics we love inspire us to cut loose, daydream, come together, to revolt. Lyrics clearly embellish a song’s meaning and intent while at the same time fill listeners with anything from bold ideas to wild emotions or deviant thoughts. It’s only natural for the lyricists and singers to be atop the band pyramid.

However, bandmates who don’t write lyrics are important too! The music’s personality, feel, and attitude are crucial to a song’s potential and that’s where you come in. In my 20 plus years as a drummer and collaborator, I have learned to contribute to the creative process by being kickass, a good bandmate, and by following these 8 simple rules.

1. Become a Merch Maven

I’ll bet your lyricist doesn’t want to be responsible for designing, supervising, ordering and selling the merch. Taking on these duties is a great way to make up for the fact that they spend countless hours writing words and you don’t.

Quality merch brings a lot of happiness to fans, and it allows you not only to make a little extra money, but to connect with the kids who come see you play. But switch it up and make certain you aren’t settling for generic choices. Take the merch job seriously and help fabricate your band’s identity.

2. Buy A Van

This is a terrific way to keep from being dead weight. Providing the tour vehicle and transporting gear to and from shows is a practical way to be incredibly useful. Remove logistical burdens from the shoulders of the wordsmiths whenever possible. Drive as much as you can handle and keep the vehicle in good shape. This is more important than people realize.

3. Always Help Load the Gear

This goes without saying - contribute contribute contribute. You can be replaced and don’t ever forget it.

4. Practice On Your Own

Band practice is a perfect time to collaborate and allow your personality and creativity to shine. What isn’t so cool is to show up ill-prepared, out of shape and without ideas. As a drummer, I have learned there is a language and a set of tools that must be honed prior to coming together as a group. My solo practice allows me to feel confident and ready.

5. Learn To Arrange Songs

This is a big one. Just because you don’t write the words or the chord progressions doesn’t mean you can’t pitch in significantly to the songwriting process. Become a student of music and study how songs you like work. Learn options for turnarounds, intros, bridges, breaks, backup vocals and suggest them when your band is working together in the practice space. Speaking of which...

6. Supply the Practice Space

You don’t have to pay for the whole thing, but being in charge of finding the space and making sure the rent gets paid every month is a fantastic way to pull your weight. If you have a basement that is suitable, clean it up and make it comfortable for your bandmates. The more you and your bandmates can be in the same room working on material, the more impact you will have on it.

7. Consider the Songwriter’s Intent

Becoming an expert musician is wonderful, however your ability to get inside the songwriter’s head is more crucial. Going off on your own trip won’t win you any blue ribbons—no matter your skill level, understanding and serving the writer’s intent will give your band cohesion and power. Find yourself in the music. (And you can make a solo record if you aren’t feeling artistically satisfied.)

8. Be A Good Hang

Don’t be a bummer—try to inspire your bandmates with your playing and your rad personality. Some of the best musicians in the world have been fired for being drags. Check your negativity at the door and think twice before you complain about mundane stuff. Like in any relationship, the ability to bite your tongue is incredibly valuable.

By Janet Weiss, distributed under a Creative Commons CC-BY license.

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