How To Form a Garage Band

This will have to be out little secret... If you succeed in forming a garage band, you can't ever reveal to anyone that you sought the advice of an online article - garage bands have to maintain their unstudied, uncalculated image, after all.  Taking tips from an article online would mean an instant loss of garage credibility! 

  1. Finding bandmates.  You won't have as much fun hanging out in your garage by yourself.  Finding bandmates could be as simple as convincing your musical friends of how cool it will be to form the band.  But you might have to advertise as well. 
    • Online.  Popular websites like Craigslist are a great place to start.
    • Print.  Also consider buying small classified ads in local newspapers.
    • Colleges and universities are hotbeds for budding musicians; try a college newspaper as well, or even post printout ads in heavily-trafficked places in and around campuses.
    • Target venues.  Think about local live music venues.  Advertise around the venues that host musical acts whose style you would like to emulate. 

    Your advertisements should obviously provide a way for prospective bandmates to contact you in order to set up a meeting and audition.

  2. So what kinds of instruments?  That's a matter of taste and goal.  Some opt for a bare-bones feeling to create a raw, unpolished vibe in their garage band, while others feel that the presence of a less straightforward instrument greatly adds to the band's distinctiveness (one reason why the organ is a gift to rock bands). 

    Unless you're trying to chart new territory here (woodwind and xylophone garage band, anyone?), you'll want to include a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer.  Garage rock is typically guitar-and-drum-driven, though there are exceptions.  But whatever instruments you decide to include, your music shouldn't sound orchestral in any way, so don't create elaborate arrangements that require too many instruments playing at any given time.  "Wall of Sound" shouldn't be your goal here.

  3. Practice.  You think anyone can form a good garage band that people will want to hear?  Think again - like any band, a garage band needs practice in order to be compelling.  Anyone can pick up an ax and offend the ears.  Best to get a little refined before you dive headfirst into the primitive!  It takes practice to create a sonic assault that people want to listen to.  Garage bands contain some truly talented musicians who are good enough to obscure their talent behind layers of fuzz and calculated mess.  When I was a kid, I remember a garage band in our neighborhood - they were so bad that all of us children went into the middle of the road and mocked them every Sunday like clockwork.  Children mocking your talent on what, to many, is the most charitable day of the week?  Generally a sign that you need more practice. 
  4. Just one chord?  If you really want it that way, you could make good garage rock out of just one chord, but garage rock is far more diverse than most people think.  Garage bands have played everything from surfer music to the blues and jazz.  Though the roots of garage music are in straightforward fundamentals of '60s rock, you have plenty of musical territory to explore. 
  5. Young at heart.  It helps to be a teenager or twentysomething.  If you're not, then pretend you're a youngster again and harness that youthful naiveté you once had (probably easier for some than for others).  Urgency, immature love, anger, audacity and angst fuel garage music. 
  6. Recording.  If you record your garage band, remember to keep production values relatively low.  This might be the single most important tip.  The more polished your music sounds, the less garage rock credibility you'll have.  That said, don't bury your microphone in the drum kit... unless you really want to. 
  7. Bottom line: don't be pretentious.  I hope you're not trying to solve world hunger or fight intolerance through your garage band, unless we're talking about hunger for good music or intolerance of gutsy, no-nonsense rock.   A garage band is more elemental than cerebral, and certainly not aloof or pretentious. 

But what do I know?  They say those who can't play music write about it (certainly the case here).  Do what you're inspired to do!  If you want to try that woodwind and xylophone garage band, go for it (if you add a harpsichord to that mix, you could give birth to a pretty indescribable version of "96 Tears").  Garage bands always were - and continue to be - about independent, do-it-yourself, homegrown spirit.  As long as you harness that spirit and practice your tail off, nobody (not even a group of neighborhood children) can call your garage band anything but a success.


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