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Friday, April 29, 2016

Why You Should Join A Band

    I have recently become a member of a rock and roll band, sort of.  It happened almost by accident. A few years ago, just for kicks I decided to learn to play the old family fiddle that had been languishing in the closet for decades.  I took lessons for several years and learned the basics.  At the age of over-fifty it was a challenge to find the time to practice every day, but I did.
     About 6 months into it, I started taking the fiddle to church and playing along with the pianist - hymns out of the hymnal, mostly, while the congregation sang along.  I wasn't very good but I played the melody quietly and stayed mostly in tune and nobody noticed, or if they did they were polite enough not to say anyting.  It was pretty nerve-wracking at first but after awhile it became easier.
    Somebody decided we needed to be more "contemporary" so a song leader/guitarist was added.  We started playing more modern music, using sheet music downloaded from the internet.  The song-The song leader, who played the acoustic guitar, sometimes asked me to do little solos which I did with varying degrees of success.  We needed someone to keep us together rhythmically so a teenage bongo player was added to the group. The sheet music now had harmonies and we took turns playing different parts.  Sometimes the songs were on YouTube and we could make up different parts for ourselves.  The music became more rich and  layered with the 3 of us on keyboard, fiddle, and guitar playing different parts.   A harmonica sometimes joined in.  We were getting pretty good!
   Then alas, as it sometimes happens, the song leader was offered a better gig and took it.  Luckily, she was replace by a younger song leader/guitarist who liked even louder, more electric, more contemporary music.   She quickly invited an electric guitar to join us, an electric drum set was purchased, and now we had a 5 piece band that sounded more like rock and roll than hymns and gospel.
   It's great to be a member of a band.  I highly recommend it for many reasons.  First of all, playing music is great fun.  Back in the old days before television and internet and video games took up everyone's time, playing music was one of the few methods of entertainment available.  Families spent Saturday nights sitting around making music together. That's how many of the great family bands like the Carters and the Jacksons were formed.  Kids learned to play instruments as soon as they were big enough to hold them.  Everybody was included, there was a place for everyone in the family band.
     Playing music together forms a bond.  Band members rely on each other. Each person has to play their specific part well in order for the music to sound right.  If one member improves, the whole band gets better.  Knowing that your fellow bandsmen will be relying on you spurs you on to practice more than you might otherwise.  You don't want to let your fellow band members down!  Being in a band gives you the motivation to become a better musician.
     Playing in a band is non-competitive.  Everybody plays a little different part, so nobody is competing directly with another. It's a cooperative effort.  Band members learn to listen to each other and anticipate what the others will do.  It becomes almost a sixth sense to know where the others are going with the music.  They learn to listen and react quickly when something unexpected happens or changes are made on the fly in the middle of a performance.
     Band members appreciate each other.  They know the practice and hard work that goes into preparing for a service or a performance.  They know the sweaty palms and jitters that precede doing a solo, and help each other have the confidence to try.  They know how easy it is to make a mistake, and encourage one other to keep trying.  They know it takes audacity to stand up in front of and audience and claim to be a musician, when sometimes you're not so sure about that.
   It's great to be a band member - it doesn't matter what kind.  Country, rock, gospel, blues, symphonic - they're all good.  If you want to connect with people, have fun, set goals and reach them, and overcome self consciousness, learn and instrument and join a band!   You'll be glad you did.