Category :

Career Advice

Band Leading 101 - Rehearsal

Band Leading 101 - by Robin Yukiko

While there are many bands that share credit equally among their members, there is usually a person who stands out as a leader. This is a good thing since it helps get things done. Often the singer, lead soloist, or the person who writes or arranges the songs takes charge. Whether playing with seasoned professionals, or in a garage band, it’s good to know how to lead a band.

Running Rehearsals

Have charts if you are playing with cats who can sight read (if they need them). Always ask a new member of the group what they prefer.
  • Drummers tend to only need a recording and the sections (including number of measures) and any special rhythms written out.
  • Violinists or more classically trained players will want sheet music written out in their preferred clef(s).
  • Many horns and woodwinds transpose so make sure their key is correct.
  • Most guitarists and pianists will want chord charts, preferably with the melody (lead sheet).

There are a number of services and individuals (including yours truly) who can help you with this for a fee if you’re too busy or a just little rusty on your notation.

If you don’t have parts worked out yet and you are relying on the ears of your bandmates, be sure you can execute your ideas through singing, playing, or mouth percussion. This is why it helps to have some theory terms under your belt.

Talk the band through the form of the song, making sure everyone is (literally) on the same page, then play it through. Once you make it to the end, pick out problem spots. One mistake I see a lot of bands make it simply running through the song from beginning to end every time. That’s fine if you’ve already rehearsed it 300 times, but it’s more helpful in the beginning to do small sections at a time.

Tip: start with the ending and work backwards (last chorus, then last verse and chorus, etc.); it also helps with memorization. Get transitions smooth. Clean up tricky spots, especially if you have stop time (or tutti, where all members play the same rhythm together; it’s very dramatic if done right). If the band keeps snagging at a particularly difficult spot, try it slower than usual (be sure to count off), then once that bit is mastered, try it again a tempo (at normal speed).

Don’t be afraid to point out if a musician is sharp/flat/rushing/dragging or if their dynamic is off. (Hint: Some drummers tend to rush, some singers tend to be flat, everyone tends to be too loud!) Be constructive. Leaders exist to guide and produce results, not have a power trip. And be open to others’ critiques about you.

Of course, not all bands are structured the same. Sometimes leadership is temporary and changes to whomever booked the next gig. But if you are calling the tunes and the band members are looking to you, be sure you’re ready to step up and get it done.

P.S. If there were any terms in this article that you did not understand, banish your ignorance and google it! It’s not hard.

Robin Yukiko is a Berklee College of Music grad, singer-songwriter, pianist, and music educator in San Francisco. She hosts the SF Singer-Songwriters’ Workshop at the Musicians Union Local 6. Learn more at


5 Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing Your Demo

Everything You Need to Know About Branding

How to Sell More Music as an Unsigned Artist

Musicians, the gig economy, and online learning... a happy (but dysfunctional) family.

If You Want to be a Recording Artist You Need the Right Development

15 Things You Must Do to Make it in the Music Industry

Saying no to everything else

Managing Expectations

Consistency Equals Success

How To Get Better: Practice

Separate The Emotion From The Event

Turn it down a few notches, please!

Are You Taking Ownership Of Your Songwriting Success?

The Shawshank Songwriter

Show Me Your Songwriting Friends, And I'll Show You Your Future

Getting out of a bad place

Taking your Music From a Hobby to a Career

How to change or build your career


4 important qualities of a band manager

Touring Advantages/Disadvantages From Less Than Jake

What musicians can learn from Joan Rivers

What you can learn from Bob Dylan's Career

Yes You're Talented, But Remember This…

Two Things That You Can Do to Start Making Music Industry Contacts Today

Promoting Music Internationally – The Right Way

How to Sell More Merchandise at Your Show

How To Reach The Best Music Business Contacts. Period.

4 Ways To Be A Boss A$$ Indie Artist

Are you over looking this strategy to becoming a better musician

Why You Should Be Doing House Shows

It's All of Your Business

Don't Buy Your Own Tunes

What If You Didn't Need Money or Attention?

Why Bands Need to Stop Bitching

What's In Your Toolbox?

Why You Need a Live Music Producer (And Don't Even Know It)

Many Eggs, Many Baskets: How to Make a Living as a Musician in 2014

Your Music is Just a Hobby. So What? Part 1 of TBD

Defining Success And How To Achieve It With A Career In Music

Why Talent Isn't Enough

Why You Need Your Own Superhero Alter-Ego

How To Make It In The Music Industry

What If The Label Says "YES"?

How to Avoid Artistically Starving to Death

20 Worst Indie Artist Mistakes

Why Your Most Important Tool In Being A Successful Indie Musician Might Actually Be Your Day Job

The Importance of Branding as Recording Artists

Why Bad Days Can Do You A World Of Good

How To Tell If You Need Singing Lessons

How To Ruin Your Music Career In 10 Easy Steps – Part 2 (Steps 6-10)

How to Stay Motivated to Make Music

The Self-Promotion Tactic that Fails Every Time

3 Important Lessons In Success From Bob Dylan

Sell 1000 CD's In a Weekend

Music Licensing – 90 Day Challenge

Superfans: The Key to a Sustainable Music Career

A Solution To The DIY Artists Biggest Challenge

How To Ruin Your Music Career In 10 Easy Steps – Part 1 (Steps 1-5)

What to Look For In A Distributor

Does 99% of Jazz Suck? – The Jazz Kickstarter That Seduced 870 Backers

Are You Making These 9 Band Rehearsal Mistakes?

Enhancing Your Music Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Press Kits for Musicians

7 Important Aspects to Getting Noticed in the Music World

7 Tactics to Double the Size of Your Fanbase

Why The Vocals On Your Track Are Vitally Important And How You Can Improve Them

Top 3 Tips To Find The Right Singing Teacher

Some Will Always Say You're Wrong

That Time'n Thang

Leap Of Faith


Question & Doubt

Eat Lighting

Connecting With People In The Industry

Five Reasons You're Not Licensing More Music

The Importance Of Following Up In The Music Licensing Business

How To Fund Your Band's Kickstarter When You Have No Fan Base

Human Intervention as a Competitive Advantage

A Quick & Dirty Guide to Branding

Why it Pays to Replace Self-Promotion with Selflessness

Rules for Confronting a Difficult Band Member

Valuable To Others, or Only You?

It's All Who You Know?

Ignore Your Website & Social Networks and Your Career Will Suffer

Three Intelligent Ways to Make a Living as a Musician

What Musicians Should Carry at all Times

Sometimes Big Promo Doesn't Work

Avoid Band Drama: Be Up Front

How To Effectively Handle A Flaky Band Member

Why No One Is Listening To Your Music

Establish Your Blueprint

How To Avoid Serious Mistakes When Choosing An Agent

Managing The Fear of The Unknown In The Music Industry

How To Balance A Family, Your Music Career, And Your Stresses

MusicPreneur - The New Music Industry Mindset

Band Leading 202 - Gigs

How Does An Independent Artist Stay Relevant While Creating New Music?

What It Takes To Be A Successful DIY Independent Artist

How To Make Lots Of Money Selling Your Merchandise

Why You Need Great Pictures As An Artist

Overnight Success - Does That Happen?

The Power of Positive Thinking

Goal Setting Tips That Work

Easy Tips For Engaging Your Fans

Getting Things Done As A Team

4 Common Newsletter Mistakes You Should Avoid

Creating Your Social Media Image

Effectively Utilize Your Youtube Music Videos

Tips For Building A Bigger Fanbase

How To Build A Professional Music Team

The Top 5 Ways To Get Noticed in Today's Music Industry

Why Radio Spins Matter And Tips On How To Get Them

Networking Essentials For The Music Business

Why You Should Be On Pinterest

Signup Free