High school is a great time to start a band. You have lots of potential band mates around you all the time. You have free time to spend doing what you want, and hopefully you don’t have too many responsibilities at home that take you away from your passion.
The hard part is always taking that first step – how do you find band members and start a band?
In this guide, we are going to break it down for you.
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How Many People Do You Need In A Band?
Before you start the band, you should have some general ideas about what sort of of music you want to make. Most bands require at least two or three people (drums, bass, guitar, and maybe more).
That said, you should keep your mind open. If somebody wants to play trumpet in the band, you can always give it a shot and see how it goes!
Figure out how many people it will take to play the music you want to play, and make a list of the instruments you are looking for.
If it helps, try making a poster to clarify your plans.
“Singer/guitar player looking for bassist, drummer, second guitar player, and keyboard player to play space-funk and disco music”.
The simple act of writing this down will clarify your intentions and set you up for success. Next step; find some band mates.
Find Band Mates
Finding good band mates is the hardest part about starting a band. You need people that you connect with on a personal level as well as a musical level. It is very important that the people in your band are people you want to hang out with.
Luckily, finding people with similar interests is easier than ever. There are so many ways to connect, both within your school’s community and within the wider community. Here are some ways to find band mates.
Connect On Social Media
Post on your socials looking for band mates. Describe the kind of music you want to make and who you are looking for. You may get some surprising responses from people looking to make music.
Better yet, reach out to people personally. Social media is a great place to scope out potential players. People often post videos of themselves playing – if you see someone you want to collaborate with, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.
Take Concert Band Or Jazz Band
Joining concert band or jazz band is a great way to meet people with similar interests. At the very least, you’ll know they can play and enjoy music!
Many people in concert and jazz bands will also know how to play the piano, drums, bass, or guitar, as these are common instruments to learn.
Join High School Choir Or Musical Theater
Choir is a great way to meet people who love to sing. Choir is also a place where people who enjoy writing music, playing covers, and otherwise being musical. If you are worried about choir being a little nerdy, just give it a shot! It can be a very welcoming space.
Joining musical theater is also a great way to meet people who love to sing and be musical.
Go To All-Ages Shows
In most communities, there are people organizing all-ages shows. These are great places to meet people that are actually playing in your local music scene.
Some of the organizers will likely be high-school aged, interested in local music, and playing in bands. Some of the organizers will also be older, and that is great as well – you will learn how your local scene works and meet people who will later give you gigs.
Finally, all-ages shows have people of, you guessed it, all ages in attendance. You are sure to meet people your age who are interested in playing and putting on shows of their own.
And hey, maybe you are a hot shot musician and will end up playing with already-established bands. Don’t limit yourself!
Go Old Fashioned – Put Up A Poster!
Back in the day, the poster boards at music shops and outside band rooms would have posters from people looking to start bands. They would list what kind of music they want to play, the commitment level, and who they are looking for.
This may seem dated now, but you never know! Make a poster and put it up – maybe you’ll end up meeting some awesome band mates.
Find A Practice Space
Next up, you need to find a place to practice. A rehearsal space is essential for a young band. You need a place you can meet each week to practice, hang out, and make plans. It should be a safe place where you are not worried about making mistakes.
Here are a few ideas on where you can practice:
- In the basement or garage of a band member’s home
- In the school’s band practice room – ask a teacher if you can use the space after hours!
- If you do not have loud instruments, you can use a living room or bedroom
- Some music stores offer rehearsal spaces for rent – these can be affordable if they are split among the band members
Wherever you end up practicing, make sure to treat the band like an extracurricular activity. It is important to meet and practice regularly!
Even if you do more hanging out than practicing, that is okay. Just meet regularly and see what happens. Eventually, you will get into a groove and make some good music.
Once you have the players and the space, it is time to learn some songs.
You should start out playing songs that at least one of you knows already. It is a good idea to come to the table with a few things you can teach the group.
To make everyone comfortable, I suggest each band member comes to the table with a song or two that they would like to play. Your band mates must understand that not every song will work, but all songs can be considered.
Learning cover songs is a great place to start. Some bands learn lots of cover songs and end up becoming cover bands. This is an option for you as well!
However, when you are a young band it is fun and exciting to come up with your own sounds. That is why your next goal should be writing your own songs!
Cover bands are great. They are a fun way to play your favorite songs and maybe even make a little money at a high school dance.
However, if you are a young band you should be writing your own songs. Learning to write songs can be one of the most important skills you acquire at a young age. Writing songs is a healthy way to express yourself, work through feelings, and make something exciting.
There is no better feeling than jamming brand-new songs with your band mates – especially in high school!
There are lots of ways to create new songs with your band. Here are some ideas:
Come To The Rehearsal With A New Lick Or Riff
Something as simple as a lick or riff can spawn a whole song. Come to the jam with a chord progression, lick, or riff. Start playing, and let everyone contribute to the song.
Soon enough you will have the beginnings of a song!
Write Lyrics Together Or Alone
There is no right way to write lyrics. You can write lyrics as a unit or take them home and work on them yourself. Experiment with this process.
In my experience, it works best if one or two members of the bands focus on writing lyrics, but that is not a universal rule.
As you work out the song, make sure to take recordings. You don’t want to forget all your hard work at the next rehearsal!
Just use your iPhone to record the rehearsals. Share them with your band mates, and take notes for next time.
Writing songs is a fun and important part of being in a band.
Choose A Name (You’ll Probably Change It)
Choosing a terrible band name is a rite of passage for most high-school bands. Don’t stress about the name, just pick something cool. You can always change it later.
For example, U2 used to be called The Hype. Radiohead used to be called On a Friday. Oasis used to be called The Rain. Led Zeppelin used to be called The New Yardbirds.
Also, Coldplay used to be called Pectoralz, which is totally embarrassing. They then changed their name to Starfish – still not great. Finally, they settled on Coldplay.
Point being, just find a name you like and start playing some gigs!
It is time. You have the band. You have the songs. Maybe you even have a couple originals. You have a super-cool name that is totally not embarrassing. Time to play a gig.
Playing gigs is a ton of fun, especially when you are just starting out. There isn't much pressure, so you can just have fun on stage and learn how to put on a good show.
When you are starting out, there are a few ways you can go about getting gigs:
Organize A House Concert
The easiest way to get a gig is to create the gig yourself. If you have a willing parent, you can put on a show for you and your friends. Invite a crowd, set up your gear, and play a set. After the set, you can hang out with your friends!
To take it a step up, invite another band or two to play a set. Pretty soon, you’ll have a full night of music!
Get A Gig At A Local Restaurant Or Bar
Getting a gig at a restaurant or bar is contingent on you being of age. Some bars and restaurants have different rules for entertainment – make sure you are allowed to play before booking the gig!
Playing at restaurants and bars is great because you can make a little money, meet other musicians, and meet people who may want to hire for more gigs!
Start Applying For Opportunities Locally
There a lots of opportunities to play gigs for young bands. Talent shows, festivals, street festivals and more.
Keep your eye out for these opportunities and start submitting your band.
As your band progresses, you should absolutely record some music at some point in your career. You never know how long the band will last, and you should make efforts to record what you have been working on.
There are lots of recording studios and home recording experts that can help you record a single, and EP, or an album. You should absolutely do this!
Once you record the project, have a release show. Invite your friends. Get your friends listening to your music. This is the beauty of having a band!
How To Start A Band In High School, Final Thoughts
Some bands are done after high school, and some go on for years. My high school band stayed together for four years after high school. We toured Canada, the U.S., and even Japan. It was the time of my life!
You never know where music will take you. Try to stay focused on the music and keeping your relationships positive with your band members. Everything else is a distraction!
Have fun, and enjoy your new band!