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I'm a 21-year-old guy from Denmark, who plays in a band. The band consist of:

  • Lead vocal (LV) 35
  • Drummer (D) 42
  • Bass (B) 48
  • Rhythm guitar (RG) 54
  • Lead guitar (me)

Context

RG has been my guitar-teacher for 12 years. We have a strong personal relationship, as we've met and played a lot outside the music school. He has also taken me to a lot of concerts with great artists, where we could share our musical interest.

I have played with LV in a former band, and we get along just fine.

D joined the band one and a half years ago. He is really talented, and I enjoy playing with him.

B joined only a few weeks ago, as we needed a bass player, and I do not know the guy particularly well.

Reason I want out

I'm not really into the music we play (old Danish pop, Brian Adams etc.), and I want to play with a friend and a mutual associate.

We're all more into blues-rock in style of Bonamassa etc. and the music that I really find inspiring and like playing.

I won't play in two bands at one time, as scheduling and concerts will interfere heavily.

My band will most likely suffer from my exit, and I'm not sure whether they'll continue playing.

My question is: how do I tell my band-mates that I want to go, in a respectful way, to play with another band and play music that is "for me"?

I want to be honest with them, and show them the respect.

  • 2
    'we swing as you'd say', can you explain this please, if it is relevant, I can think of a couple different interpretations and it is just possible it makes a difference to possible answer. – Spagirl Feb 26 '18 at 15:28
  • @Spagirl with 'swing' I just mean: we get along just fine. – Kristian Feb 26 '18 at 15:30
  • @Raditz_35 edited – Kristian Feb 26 '18 at 15:34
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    @Kristian Sorry, I meant it differently; I meant whether you are willing to stay in the band for some time until they find out a substitution for you. – yo' Feb 28 '18 at 7:50
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    @yo' I would. To show them the respect, that I also care for their success as a band and individual musicians – Kristian Feb 28 '18 at 7:59
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Since you have differing relationships with the band’s members, consider approaching breaking this news differently as well.

  • RG you have a strong relationship and long history with. He knows your musical tastes and it is quite likely that he will have seen this coming.

  • LV and D it seems you have a briefer and comparatively less involved relationship and B is a bit of an unknown quantity.

Thinking about what is appropriate in each of those scenarios I would suggest something like:

Tell RG first and privately, preferably not at a practice session or gig, arrange to meet him and let him know you have something you want to talk to him about. You owe him that respect and a one on one conversation between you about it can be more in depth than with the rest of your bandmates.

Make sure that you preface the news with an expression of appreciation for your common history perhaps something along the lines of :

RG, we go way back and I really appreciate everything I’ve learned from you and the stuff we’ve shared. I really hope that what I need to say next isn’t going to change any of that.

This gets across both the value you place on him and the fact that you aren’t making changes on a whim, but because they are important to you.

If it is appropriate, you could then present your decision as being part of your maturing as a musician, which you couldn’t have done without his support and guidance.

I won’t try and script that because you know what is appropriate to your relationship better than anyone, but make it heartfelt, make it honest and also make it obvious that you assume he will receive the news with goodwill for your future ventures

I know you’ll wish us well, man

or whatever.

People like to be thought well of and often try to fall in line with good assumptions about them, even if they don’t entirely feel that way in the moment.

Make it clear that you are more excited for new opportunities than focused on rejecting the old experiences.

If he takes it well, ask for his advice and possibly help in telling the rest of your bandmates. It might be good to give him a few days to think about forward strategies for your old band before you tell the rest of them, if he takes that kind of role in the band structure.

Consider also discussing with him at this stage whether it is best to fully leave the band as soon as you have told the rest or to offer to stay on for a while, if there are any upcoming gigs that would otherwise have to be cancelled. Just be careful not to get drawn into a rolling leave-date which never actually happens.

A band practice is probably the best time to tell the rest of the band, that way they are together and can discuss what it means for them once you have broken the news.

How you actually word it will depend how you got on with RG, but be clear and concise. You need to tell them what you are doing, briefly why and that you wish them well: ie.

  • you want to take your music in a different direction,
  • you’ll miss this band,
  • you can’t/don’t want to do both.

Don't enter into any debate on these things, just be assured and present it as fact rather than possibility.

Make a special point of addressing B. he’s only just joined and has possibly invested a lot of confidence in the band and might feel that he’s joined up under false pretences. If there is some element of your own circumstances that have changed since he joined, that don’t relate to him, emphasise those. That way you underline to the rest of the band that you aren’t leaving because of B and B can understand that sometimes timing is what it is and no-one is to blame.

Then, I suggest that you leave them to get on with the practice and discussing what it means next for the band, don’t hang around, it isn’t your band any more.

If you want to stay in touch with your old bandmates, be prepared for the fact that they might need a little bit of time to be okay with things, don’t pressure them, but make sure they know where to find you if they feel friendly.

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Being in a band sometimes feels like being a relationship with multiple people. If you've ever broken up with someone, it can feel quite similar.

I would recommend specifically talking to RG first. You seem the closest to him and you might not want to deal with a barrage of questions from everyone immediately. I would make it clear to RG your decision has already been made. Give him the excellent reasons you've given us here. Honestly, saying "I don't enjoy this" is more than enough of a reason by itself.

After RG understands the situation, you should then announce it everyone else at the same time. You might want to enlist RG's support with this to back you up. Here's something I might say:

Hi everyone, I have something I'd like to say. I've thought very seriously about this, and I've decided I'm going to leave the band. It's been fantastic playing with you all and I hope to be able to play with you again in the future, but, right now, I'm not interested in the music we're playing, and I want to do something different. Thanks for playing with me, it's been a lot of fun :)

I think I would personally shy away from bluntly saying "I want to play with my other friends, A and B", because this could be misrepresented as "I like these guys more than you", when in reality, you're more interested in the music. It'd be better to say "My friends A and B are looking to start a blues-rock band and that really interests me at the moment", if you really feel you need to explain yourself.

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It is true that some musicians take band break-ups really personally, and some of these guys might feel like you are letting them down no matter what you say.

In my experience of this (I'm also a musician) the people that will support you are the creative musicians, that is the ones that perhaps write or like experimenting with new styles. They will more likely understand that you want to pursue something different. The less creative ones that just want to play covers of their favourite bands may be less understanding, because to them you're just stopping them from doing what they like doing. I'm generalising, but like I said this is based on experience.

You can avoid telling them that you don't like their musical choices by sticking to your reason of pursuing something new. Perhaps say:

Guys, I'm really sorry but I have to quit the band. I really want to pursue another musical project, and I can't commit to both.

I find "musical project" sounds a little less disloyal, like you're ditching one band for another. Of course don't be dishonest, if they ask "is it another band?" you have to tell them. But again you could say:

It's a different setup, and it is more what I want to do.

This is avoiding comparisons, you're not saying you're joining a better band, you're emphasising that it is a different kind of band.

There is a possibility that they will say something like "We could do some Bonamassa songs?" to try and keep you. Be prepared to be firm.

Something that will soften the blow is if you commit to fulfilling any gigs you have booked with the current band.

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