This is a guest blog post by Rob James
It can be difficult to reconcile a band where individual members have different tastes in music. Some members may want to go in more of a rock direction, while others might be obsessed with getting jazz drumming into the mix. In any case, these kind of differences can often lead to more serious problems, and even to the breakup of a band. It’s important, then, to think about some ways in which you can work around these problems, from going song by song, to trying everything from particular styles to digital and dance tracks. Moreover, it’s important to both find a way to appreciate difference, while accepting when things aren’t going to work out.
Go Song by Song
If you’re just starting off as a band, it might be a good idea to simply try learning different songs that suit different band members’ interests. This might mean playing some acoustic material, or allowing another member to select a cover, or to write a song that expresses their own musical tastes. If recording, it might also be an idea to record some B sides that show different members’ tastes, while finding a way to incorporate some of their styles into more prominent songs.
Experiment with Particular Fusion Styles
There are many different fusion styles that can be experimented with, and its rare to find a popular band that haven’t experimented with adding depth to their sound. Blues rock represents one example of this trend, whereby solos and blues riffs can be added to more straightforward rock chords. Punk rock is similar in style, as is funk rock, or country and metal. Often the best thing to do is to try to see what main styles can be played together without becoming too confusing.
Mash Up Songs
You could also take a more experimental direction, and try using samples and mash ups as part of your band’s style. This might involve including samples and cross mixing in different material. In this way, you can include elements from other genres without necessarily having to lose a consistent style that makes up your band. This can be a particularly good option when recording songs and playing live, albeit with the need to get rights for particular tracks.
Look for Inspiration
Some of the best bands and performers have a long history of mixing styles, and reinventing themselves from album to album. Focusing on this experimental approach can be inspiring, and is particularly important if you want your band to grow and not get stuck in a rut. Bands and performers like Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, and PJ Harvey, as well as David Bowie, are particularly adept at changing their styles, and incorporating work with new collaborators within a band.
Experiment with Digital and Dance Samples
Again, it can be a good idea to take a risk on trying out different band members’ tastes by making them into part of a live show. Digital and electronica can be made part of a show, as can dance samples and reworkings of existing songs. Playing covers, and adapting existing songs can consequently work well if some band members are getting tired of playing in the same style night after night.
Make the Most Differences
Some of the best bands are able to recognise when their different tastes can lead to a better overall product. The important thing is to be diplomatic, and to realise when the tastes of a drummer or bass player may be harder to reconcile with the greater presence of a lead singer or lead guitarist. A band like Led Zeppelin or Queen show the benefits of when some diverse musical tastes can lead to a better whole.
This can be a hard decision, but sometimes musical tastes can mean that it’s impossible to maintain a band without having too many arguments. In this case, it can often be more practical to find more members, and shift the overall direction for a band, rather than constantly trying to compromise on musical tastes.
Rob James enjoys checking out the guitar jam tracks at LickLibrary. Rob is an avid NOFX fan and has been playing in a band for the past 5 years. In his free time he can be found blogging about guitar tuition, rock history, and the problems beginner musicians face.
Image Credit: Mark Chadwick