The complex relationships found in bands are tough to navigate for everyone, but especially for those who are young and new to making music. Complete universes of hope, despair, and creative brilliance can exist within the confines of a single band, making them almost impossible to fully understand unless you’re inside one yourself. A major challenge facing many collaborative bands happens when the voices and opinions of some musicians consistently drown out everyone else’s.
The power of respectful listening
As musicians, we’re often told to be confident and visible on stage and in all other ways we present ourselves to the world. It’s no surprise that many of us have a hard time embracing the big personalities the world seems to demand of us while approaching the musicians around us with grace and respect. Listening to one another, which requires genuine energy and attention, is one of the best assets a band can have, and this applies to both the stage and everything else you do as a group. Listening isn’t easy. In one instance it might mean setting your idea or creative opinion aside, and the next it could demand you to be emotionally available to another musician when you don’t want to be. However, without this crucial skill, your days as a band will be numbered. When only the loudest voices are heard in bands, resentment will inevitably rear its ugly head because the balance of things is askew.
If you’re used to running the show in your band, try taking a more respectful approach by making time to hear what your bandmates have to say about things. Every band has its own dynamic, but if yours is dominated by your own impulses and opinions, you could have an unsustainable situation on your hands.
When to speak up
On the other end of the band personality dynamic spectrum, you might be the kind of musician who lets music do the talking. These sorts of creatives are refreshing in band settings that are often colored by bravado and posturing, but they are often overlooked and unheard. If this sounds like you, speaking up about the things you care most about concerning your work is something you’ll need to do if you want to feel fulfilled and appreciated by your band. This might mean embracing respectful and timely confrontation, or it could be as simple as making a continual effort to chime in and engage with your bandmates, but either way, you’ll need to learn to share your opinions and become a part of the conversation.
No band is perfect, but ones that are healthy and happy outlast those who aren’t. A major aspect of a band’s well-being is whether its members feel seen, understood, and a part of the creative process or not. Whether it’s time for you to speak up or quiet down and listen depends on the unique strengths and weaknesses of your band, and how close you want to look at yourself.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.