Starting a band: PART 2

by Russel Hlongwane & Marlyn Ntsele

Make sure you read PART 1 first:

Playing covers186394755 start a band xlarge
If the direction of the band is to play covers and you have established your genre, the next step is to list the ‘’hits’’ of the genre. This list will determine which songs the bands will perform. The songs will have to fit your target market and maybe you will play different songs at different types of parties. Of coverbands it is often expected that they can play 3 sets of 45 minutes. This means you have to firstly spend lots of time rehearsing your repertoire. Remember, a cover version is merely a new recording or performance of a contemporary or previously recorded piece of work done by someone else other than the original artist. If this interests you, we recommend you do some research into the world of tribute bands or musical impersonators. What these bands do is remake a particular artist’s body of work. Some artists would see the process all the way to the album cover. Two such artists who have done this well is Led Zepagain (original band is Led Zeppelin) and rap artist Elzhi having a go at Nas’- Illmatic album.

Playing covers does necessarily mean that a cover version should sound explicitly similar to the original. In fact, your band should consider adding such flavor to the song that it adds to the original. This kind of work ethically does wonders for the band for media coverage.

Interestingly, another reason for a band to perform covers is to gain fame from well-known songs simply because their composing skills are not on par. So they use the ‘’tried and tested’’ songs to introduce themselves to the public. They are also developing their performance skills and are getting used to each other. Over a few years, they can slowly introduce their own compositions.  

Playing in a coverband does give a band lots of performances that are well-paid in the short term. It is much more difficult getting work performing your own music, but it will bring you further in the long run.
As with many ‘’industries’’, there’s legal implications to this decision to perform covers, and you may read more about it here:

Composing songs
What distinguishes you from the rest? It’s your style, otherwise known as your sound. This is your key to success. This sound ultimately determines the groups success so be very particular, so that the composer understands this responsibility. You can write music alone, with two people or with your whole band. The composer needs to have the talented, but composing is also something you need to give the time to develop. It is a lot of writing, but mainly a lot of scratching. Paul McCarthney once said that him and John Lennon wrote more than 100 songs before their first hit "Love Me Do" came out. Get together as a band and discuss the sound of the band and the sound of your album. You will notice that the hits of the industry have a few things in common, they’re catchy and people are able to sing-along, but there are many ways to structure your song. You will learn a lot listening to your favorite records while analizing how they are structured. You will notice that most songs are between 3 and 4 minutes, most radio producers will only play your song if it is that length. It is very challenging to make a composition compact and keeping it an interesting listen, eg. giving the song the right intro, bridge and ending.

The secret of a hit song is simplicity. The simpler the idea, the bigger the chance that it will be able to attract a wide audience. A popular theory is that the song still has to be interesting in a version with only vocals and an acoustic guitar. Most hits are easy to sing along. Research has learned us that people prefer melodies with little flats and sharps, preferably only C,D,G and F and most people only have a reach of one octave. When you want to work very commercially, keep that in mind.

The lyrical content of the music will be informed by the genre and the image that the band reflects. Lyric writing is a talent on its own, that does not always go together with composing the music. Elton John always lets someone else write his lyrics. For the lyrics it is the same as for the music, just listen to the radio and you are shown how it is done. The trick is to find your own style. Important is that your audience can identify themselves with your lyrics. Everyone falls in love at some point in their lives, this is why it is a loved topic for song lyrics. t could either be protest lyrics – this is what made The Beatles, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan famous. Or your lyrics could be more towards soft issues, the type you can expect to hear from many hits on radio. And the other alternative is, lyrics with relevance, the type that everyone can relate to and understand. Make sure that the lyrics allow you easy access to reach mass media if that’s your goal. A good song has a few hooks - sentences that the listener can sing along easily.

Find English rhyme dictionaries here:

Every song has unlimited ways it can be performed, the way in which it is performed is called an arrangement. Mostly arranging music is adapting the song to the possibilities of the band. Sometimes it also means finalising the composition, since a lot of musicians only come up with a melody for a chorus and a verse, so from there the structure still needs to be decided. Common mistakes made by beginners are:

  • The vocalist can not sing part of the song because it is not within his or her reach. A vocalist should not have to force singing the high notes and still have enough volume singing the low ones.
  • All bandmembers play in every part of the song. The art is to give the solo's enough space and build towards a climax.
  • All bandmembers play the fundamental of the chord. A song gets more exciting of you are looking for harmonies and one instrument plays another melody than the others.
  • Keep your rhythms interesting and variable. For instance play a straight bassline and shuffle the drums.
  • Do not put too many ideas in a song.

This is an integral part of the bands success, because practise makes perfect. Decide on a few principals on rehearsals such as, the frequency of rehearsal sessions per month, the days, times and length of the sessions. And these have to respected, no debate.
 The productivity of the rehearsal session will determine the output and progress of the band. So create an environment which fosters creativity, leave all baggage outside the rehearsal studio, HAVE FUN AT REHEARSALS and always keep the long term objective throughout the session. Every session should have an itinerary, e.g. the songlist, the objective, and a feedback session after rehearsing. This way you are able to gauge the success of the session. And ultimately can track the progress of the group.  

More about rehearsals:

The performance and your stage act
We could say this is the end of the beginning. Your first success, you’ve come a long way, congrats! And so now, you’re on stage and it’s the performance of your life. Performing is about more than just playing what you learned. It is about structuring your set, your presentation and the visual impression. Have key principles and objectives before you get on stage. E.g we want to;
1.    Retain our current fanbase
2.    Attract new fans
3.    And leave a mark
These objectives create a demand.  
In the modern music industry, life performance is the revenue generator. Ensure that the band is solid, it should function as a unit as this will improve the overall performance. Be alert and all focused on the music, fans and the band members. You have to interact with the audience, give the audience something to talk about. Give the journalist in the crowd something to write about it. To you it is a musical act but to your fans, it’s a musical experience. Give it to them!

More about where to perform:

More about choosing your venue:




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