Take lessons. The best songwriters and musicians never stop learning, and many take lessons from a variety of teachers throughout their careers. In most bands, the singer either sells it or sinks it, so vocal lessons are a must. Having the “cool frontman look” is great, but blowing audiences away with your vocals is way better. Drummers are the foundation of the band and a mediocre drummer can undermine the music. Bassists, guitarists, keyboard players, all will benefit––and will be able to contribute more to your band’s collaborations––by keeping up their abilities and increasing their knowledge base. What each individual brings to the band collaboration makes a stronger collective whole. That goes for harmony vocals too.
Vocalize. Why practice the hell out of your instruments and leave the harmony vocals to chance? Big mistake. Figure out who your singers are in the band and put them to work. Song ideas may develop from that. If someone is not a singer but can manage some group choruses or shouts, put them in the mix but know their limits. Everyone in the band can be a better singer than they are today. Vocal lessons help tremendously, but a band should sing with one another on a regular basis. Having your vocal chops together for the live show will make your songs sound that much better live. Why underperform a great song in your repertoire? Or any song, for that matter?
Study songwriting. It’s one thing to know who your favorite bands or instrumentalists are, but who do you admire as a songwriter? What songs move you so much that you listen to them or play them hundreds of times? Examining songwriters will help immeasurably in your own songwriting progress. Lyrics are a craft unto themselves, as are melodies and chord progressions. Familiarizing yourself with an ever-widening variety of chords and changes will give depth to your songwriting. As you absorb new ideas, your songwriting will evolve. There’s plenty of info available from insightful people who excel at examining what makes a song really click. Find those people and soak up everything they can offer.
Set goals, be proactive. You have to dream big to get big; it takes hard work and planning to make something happen with your music. By setting both short- and long-term goals, a band can work with focus and organization to achieve the kind of results that matter: great songs and recordings, great live shows and great pictures and videos too. Everyone in the band should have tasks and be accountable for some of the action. Everyone should be expected to bring something to the collaboration. No freeloaders without skin in the game, unless you want resentments to build by those handling most of the work. If you are in a band, you are running a professional business, so act like it! To be the best, you must do your best.
miniBio: Robbie Gennet is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, performer, journalist and educator living in Los Angeles, CA. His book/DVD, The Key of One, provides a notation-free approach to understanding music and a great foundation for your musical evolution. Find it at http://thekeyofone.com and at all major music retailers. Gennet can also be found at http://robbiegennet.com and http://facebook.com/robbiemusic.