5 Tips to Boost Your Playing With a Band

While learning a piece of music is a intensely solitary activity, playing music is anything but solitary. Unless one is dealing with strictly Solo compositions, much of classical or popular music whether it is Symphony or Ghazal, Rock or Bollywood, is a multi-instrument arrangement sometimes involving tens of people! Knowing how to play along with others not only necessary to be in a band but also necessary to be in a live performance. Below are 5 pro tips that we share to help you be more effective and expressive when you play with a band. These tips are useful no matter what genre of music you are playing. But for purposes of this blog series we will use Bollywood or popular English songs as examples as needed.


While most of us would have heard a popular song, only a few of us try to find out how the song came about. Like every creative endeavor a song is born out of a stimulus. In the case of a Bollywood song the situation in the movie provides the context, the mood, the tempo, etc. Knowing the song situation and lyrics will allow you to choose the most appropriate range of dynamics for the song. Playing without understanding the lyrics is like walking backwards on a street. You may not knock yourself on anything but you certainly will not be going in a straight line!

Try this experiment: pick a song from an album or movie you have not seen. Play thru a song from the list. Imagine the scene or video for the song. Now check the original. Play the song with this knowledge. Compare your playing!


Chords and Lyrics provide the colors to a song. Before playing any song listen to it a few times and identify the chords and chord progressions. Even if you can not name the specific chords, look for and know where the changes are happening. If you are playing with a rhythm section in a band you anyway need to know this well. But if you are a beginning soloist you will be able to create solos that simply make use of these changes. Play along to chords and see how you respond.


Playing with a band means that there will be challenges playing to time. Some one or other in any band always has trouble keeping up with the tempo. Either they slow down or speed up. Sometimes the band may not have the technical skills to execute a very up tempo song without messing it up. To be an effective band musician try to practice a song at three different bpm – the original tempo, slower (try half) and faster (try a1.5 times). This should give you the ability to play solid with others and also give you headroom in case the band decides to play quicker than the original.


As an extension of the previous tip, in addition to being to able to play slow or fast, it is also necessary to be able to play soft or loud depending on the situation (with or without good amps), the setting (chamber or outdoor) or simply the song situation (romantic versus action). Dynamics also are very important during solo sections whether it is your solo or someone else’s. Classical musicians are very well trained in dynamics and it takes a lot of practice to be able to control dynamics. So keep trying with different dynamics and observe how it affects the tone and musicality of the song.


Record all your practice sessions with the band and listen to them afterwards. Beyond looking for correctness (which is necessary) look for musicality. Go back to our first tip: does your version song fit the scene it was composed for. If not where is the issue? Does your dynamics fir the rest of the band? And if you are able to read and/or write sheet music always keep a binder of songs you are recording and make notes in sections you need to go back and practice again with the band. You may also have notes for others to work upon.

While all of these pro tips will help you become a better band mate, you still need to bring your passion and your dedication to make better music!

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