I've been pondering joining a band for some time now, but I usually get stalled at deciding whether or not I should spend more time learning to play first. I don't want to go through potential embarrassment of being told that I completely suck.

Is there a particular set of skills that you'd say is required before one considers joining a band? I.e. playing common chords, scales, knowledge of notes of the neck, etc. Is being able to compose new melodies important, or is it possible for a new player to get by for a while with someone else working out the arrangements?

I feel like as a fairly new player I'm not yet up for playing covers (I can usually get the rhythm down, but solos? Forget it.) and yet also not that good at creating my own stuff. Does that mean I'm doomed to play by myself for the foreseeable future?


8 Answers 8


Is there a particular set of skills that you'd say is required before one considers joining a band?

Not really. Look for other players at about your own skill level. If you are taking classes, perhaps your teacher can advise you of others looking to play together. If you are reasonably comfortable playing in front of others, you should do reasonably well. I don't consider myself a beginner, but due to an abusive ex, I don't play in front of others. Older students tend to be far more critical of their own abilities, so the "tell me I suck" concern is something a teenager won't have. I am quite comfortable standing in front of a group of strangers and giving a presentation/speech (I've even run for elected office), but put an instrument in my hands in front of even close friends and I choke.

Is being able to compose new melodies important, or is it possible for a new player to get by for a while with someone else working out the arrangements?

This totally depends on the group. I've seen some bands that played in bars who had players of widely different skill levels together in the same band. One could tell the guitarists who were classically trained, as their skills were a lot higher than others. In some of the groups, most of the music was written by one of the players. For an example, look at the early Indigo Girls albums, compare and contrast the songs written by Emily (complex and deep meaning) vs Amy (simple).

Finally, if you are looking to play in bands, you may want to pursue bass (guitar) as those players are a lot less common. Bassists are far more rare and hard to come by.

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    Methinks it's all about passion. One must one want to play, not just play in a band. If one doesn't love the bass, I wouldn't recommend picking it up simply for the sake of playing in a band. In music, passion is everything. You won't stake out much for something you don't love. Except, well, playing on a band is more important that what one plays...
    – Jimi Oke
    Jan 14, 2011 at 1:30
  • @JimiOke and then there's Paul McCartney who picked up the bass because the band needed a bass player. They did OK as I recall. The passion needs to be for music, not an instrument.
    – PJNoes
    Oct 15, 2019 at 17:20
  • If anyone feels like their technical abilities are inhibiting their creativity, just remember that we live in a world where Bob Dylan is one of the most influential singers of all time. Artistic merit can be more about the quality of the ideas than the execution.
    – user63785
    Oct 15, 2019 at 17:40

Just going to paste Dave Grohl's take on this:

When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight f___ng hours with 800 people at a convention center and… then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not f___in’ good enough.’ Can you imagine?” he implores. “It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy and old f___ing drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll f___ing start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some s__tty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass s__t, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a f___ing computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.

-- Dave Grohl

Rock 'n' Roll Jedi

  • 1
    Can you give the source for this quote? Also, it might be fair to make this community wiki. Nov 30, 2015 at 22:26

I agree with Tangurena's answer.

I would add that if you aren't sure about your skills at the moment, find one or two people you can jam with that are better than you.

I've found that playing with people better than me forces me to get better faster than just playing on my own.


Joining a band should not be a question of your abilities. Sure, those are important, but the most important factor is your passion for playing with other people. If this is something that drives you or makes you go insane at the very thought of it, then look for a band without delay. Or form yours. You only really get better when you have to perform.


All a band requires is a couple of people that enjoy playing their instruments and playing them with each other.


Do both. There isn't a minimum required skill set to play in a band. When I started playing in a band, I could barely follow a song. But I kept practicing on my own. A couple years later we recorded a fairly good album, nothing out of the ordinary for most people, but something I personally I'm very proud of.

It is very important to practice on you own, so you polish you skills and learn new things that the rest of the band don't need or don't want to learn. But it is equally important to play with someone because you will also improve a different set of skills that you just can't practice on your own.

If someone tell you that you suck, so what? Maybe that person doesn't even play nothing more than a plastic rock band guitar or maybe he does play, but at some point he had to suck as much as we all did :-)

Practice is the key, I used to come home from school, finished all my homework and duties and practiced until I fell asleep. Every day, I practiced like 6-8 hours until I got fairly good.

Finally, it is great to get with people of your same skills, so you learn together, but try also to play with someone better, so you will learn from them.


Joining a little band is very often a transformative experience that others might not understand. They might be thinking it's just music, but very often it's like joining a new family or club where you aren't just learning a new repertoire or act to earn some extra cash, but also how to work together, how to compromise for the good of the whole band, how to cover for each other, and how to learn from each other. I look at it like a child who is just learning to talk, it happens much faster if the child has someone to talk with, some one to practice communicating with. I think it's the same with playing music. Play with people who are better, people who are not as good as, and people who are on the same level as you are. If you are open to learning, they will all teach you something, and you will come away knowing things you didn't know before, probably resulting in advancement musically and socially.


As others have said, there is no particular thing. However I'd suggest that being able to play reasonably in time is going to help a lot. Because you can play the wrong note at the right time, you may well get off with it, but if you play the right note at the wrong time - well that just doesn't work at all with other people.

(And that's also why everyone needs to work with a metronome sooner or later.)

But the real answer is - just as soon as you find people who you have fun playing with.

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