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I am currently playing in a band of beginners with varying degrees of skill.

It all started because my friend and I (the two guitarists) are enrolled in a music school that closes for the summer, and we wanted to practice together. A few friends wanted to join and now we have a typical rock band formation (2 guitars, 1 bass, 1 drummer and a singer).

Our drummer is the only exception: he's a semi-professional musician on a temporary hiatus, and he's playing with us just for the exercise. He can ace anything we can play, so he doesn't care too much about the songs.

We have been voting for the songs to include in the list. However I feel that the bass player and the singer have been often pushing for songs that are not appropriate for our formation, skill level and general intent. They often push for songs that require lots of synth or keyboard sounds, or songs that are very much pop with little didactic value.

The other guitar player is an absolute beginner and is not really able to judge the didactic value of a piece, and the drummer (as explained above) is usually neutral because everything we do is easy to him.

I've already tried to explain that pop songs are not good for us, as we are supposed to be studying hard rock or blues pieces, but my bass player and singer are convinced that we can just write our own arrangements (which is not a good solution in my opinion).

How do I approach them about choosing different songs that better fit our intent, without hurting their feelings towards their own suggestions?

  • The question seems to be geared towards asking "what should I do?" Which would generate more opinion based answers and not help you in finding the right answer. Can you edit it to narrow it down to a specific interpersonal goal, like your first question "How do I approach them about choosing different songs to play?" Your second question is primarily opinion based. We can't tell you accurately whether you are wrong or right, but we can recommend how you approach them. – ElizB Aug 13 '18 at 13:31
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    I edited according to your suggestion. I also removed the secondary question, I'll discuss that specific matter with my teacher. – Michele Ippolito Aug 13 '18 at 13:35
  • When you say "didactic value", are you talking about the song's appropriateness in facilitating the members learning about music? Or are you talking about whether the song expresses an important message, such as "trees are your friends; save the trees"? – elliot svensson Aug 13 '18 at 23:39
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    @elliotsvensson since the band was initially formed for practice reasons, I am fairly sure the "didactic value" is about the song's value of learning to play the instrument better. – Kaspar Scherrer Aug 14 '18 at 7:43
  • Yes, that's what I meant. It all started as a study group to do our summer homework. – Michele Ippolito Aug 14 '18 at 7:58
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This is in part a frame challenge, although also providing a direct answer.

At the end, you sum up your question by asking how to approach the other band members about songs that fit "our intent". Before that, you say your drummer doesn't care too much about the songs you play, the other guitarist isn't able to judge the didactic value, and your bassist and singer are pushing for things with little didactic value.

Putting all that together, I find it hard to reconcile with asking them to play songs that fit "our intent" - you're asking them to pick songs that fit your intent.

You're very clear that your purpose with this band is to learn and develop as a musician. The other guitarist, who you initially started with, is also on board with that aim, but the impression I get from reading your post is that the drummer is indifferent and the other two members sound like they just want to have fun playing music they like. I think the key thing is for you to reconsider whether the make-up of this group is compatible with your goal of playing to develop particular musical skills. It may well be that the best way for you to achieve that goal is to just find a different group of people to play with - people who share that goal, or at least who are happy to actively help you work towards that goal.

If you don't want to do that, you can of course go ahead with your plan of asking the others to play things that better fit your intent. You said the drummer doesn't really mind what you play, and the other guitarist seems to share your goals (at least to a reasonable degree). So you only have the bassist and singer to convince.

You said they're your friends, and you didn't mention any personal issues coming from the disagreements over which songs to play, so I'd suggest you can be very straightforward. Something like:

"Hey, I've been enjoying playing with you, but some of the music that we've picked doesn't really fit with my goals. My main reason for being in the band is that I want to keep developing my [x,y,z] skills while school is shut over the summer. A lot of the [synth/pop/etc] we've been playing doesn't give me an opportunity to practise those skills. If I'm going to work on those things, I need to play more [blues/rock/whatever]. Would you be ok with us focusing the band in that direction?"

Don't talk about "the music you've suggested" not helping with your goals (it sounds accusatory and could lead to them getting defensive and arguing), and don't talk about "when I started the band" even if you did start it with those intentions (it could sound a little controlling and arrogant, even if you don't mean it to). Just explain the problem (the music you've been playing doesn't help you reach your goals), propose a solution (tell them what would be necessary to help you reach those goals), and ask if they're ok with it. Be prepared for the possibility that some of them might answer "no".

You say you've tried to speak to them before and they suggest writing your own arrangements of the songs they've suggested. That sounds like they're offering a compromise. You don't have to take that compromise (as I suggested above, you might just have to find other people to play with, either as well as or instead of your current group), but you should be prepared to explain why the compromise doesn't work for you (if you just bat away their suggested compromise without explaining why it doesn't help you, it could come across as you being rude and unreasonable). As above, they're your friends, so you can be quite straight-forward here: "I need to work on my [whatever] skills, composing new arrangements would take too much time away from that".

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Playing in a band always comes in hand with making compromises. From personal experiences i can tell that you have to find a style of playing every member from your band can enjoy. Otherwise the ones which personal preferences will not be minded will loose fun and quit the whole thing.

  1. The great thing about music is, that you are able to combine everything and make up something new. Why not having a pop-song and make it more interesting with some bluesy licks? Or give a bluesprogression a pop-touch with some catchy melodies?

  2. Another solution to your problem would be just to jam together instead of playing a song. By doing so, everyone can add the style of playing he likes. This also makes you a 'better' musican, because you will learn to play together with your friends. You will have to listen to the other players and response to them instead of just playing how a song is written. The only catch is, its very hard to jam as a singer. But you can try to choose a chordprogression from a song the singer knows to jam on, so he can sing the lyrics.


They often push for songs that require lots of synth or keyboard sounds, or songs that are very much pop with little didactic value.

You have to mention the different levels of skill. You always have to fit to the wakest part of your band. Overtaxing a not so skilled player will lead them to loose fun of playing. Let them play some easy / basic things. You can come up with something more advanced on top of it.


pop songs are not good for us, as we are supposed to be studying hard rock or blues pieces

Why do you think so? Maybe it is just because you want to play that style or dislike pop? Most popsongs might just have a simple chord-progression, but its up to you to play it in an interesting and challenging style. You dont have to just strumm the chords from the progression. You can spice every still so easy song up and make it challenging to play. You can reinterpret any song in any style/genre or grade of complexity.


How do I approach them about choosing different songs that better fit our intent, without hurting their feelings towards their own suggestions?

Just tell them you want to play more in the style of blues or hardrock. But you have to make clear, that it is your intent. If you are looking for different things, you can try to search for songs in between your genres which everyone is okay with. Try out the two solutions i wrote above.

You can also try to inspire the other bandmembers for the type of music you want to play. Listen to some music together. Try to find out, what the other mates like / want to play and what they dislike.

Try to see things from their perspective. Let them inspire you with the music they want to play. Be open mindend for other things, maybe they will come up with a popsong you really like and want to play...

  • > Why not having a pop-song and make it more interesting with some bluesy licks? Our composition skills are... "lacking". But it could be a good suggestion, we'll try. > Another solution to your problem would be just to jam together instead of playing a song. I'd like to, but as you mention early about trying to match everyone's skill I'm afraid this is too advanced a topic for the other guitar player. > Maybe it is just because you want to play that style or dislike pop? It's more about the fact that I have a blues exam in a few months, regardless of taste :) – Michele Ippolito Aug 14 '18 at 8:01
  • Anyway, thank you for your suggestions, I'll keep them in mind and try to work out a compromise. – Michele Ippolito Aug 14 '18 at 8:02

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