Playing together as a band

  • Learn about what will make a great group performance.

  • Find out about how Sormzy, Nirvana and Clean Bandit create performances in groups.

  • Understand how to make your own group performance.

Watch how this band works together to create a great group performance.

One of the most enjoyable parts of making music is playing and performing with other people.

A group is any combination of two or more musicians. Whatever your instrument, you will be able to play with others or form your own group.

Playing together isn’t about all playing at the same time. Different skills are required depending on your role or the instrument that you play. There are many opportunities to learn from each other.

In a musical group, some instruments might play the main tune or melody and some might play the accompaniment. These roles can be passed between the players too.

Skills for performing in a group

Your own performance

Practise often so that you are able to play or sing your part in the group with confidence. Fitting your part in with other people can be challenging, so it will help if you know your part really well.

Listening, responding and communicating

It is really important that you listen to the other people in your group while you are playing. You will then be able to fit your parts together and play in time. Think about how to respond and communicate by changing the dynamics (or variation in volume) and phrasing (or how the notes are sequenced in 'phrases' throughout the piece) to get the right balance. Notice how the individual parts blend together in a musical way. Players often look at each other to help bring the performance to life.

Watch The 1975's live performance of Give Yourself a Try.

In this clip from The 1975’s set at the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend, the drummer, guitarist, bassist and vocalist all work together to create a good group performance. The guitarist plays a catchy riff, whilst the bassist plays a bass riff. After getting the crowd going, the vocalist begins to sing. All of the performers’ roles are different but essential.

Listen to these examples of great group performances

Listen to Stormzy's Big for Your Boots. After hyping the Live Lounge listeners up, he performs a new arrangement of his popular grime track. This swaps the produced beat of the studio recording for a backing band with live drums, electric guitars and synthesisers.
Listen to Nirvana's stripped-back version of their loud and heavy song About a Girl. They use two acoustic guitars, an acoustic bass and a drum kit, which is played with brushes to sound softer.
Listen to Clean Bandit's Rather Be. Notice how they fuse classical and pop instruments together and switch between elements of both genres. Listen for the solo violin part after the chorus.

Make your own group performance

Everyone’s role in a group will be different. Some players will be responsible for the melody or tune, some for the chords or harmony, and some for the bass line or the rhythm.

Try getting together with someone you know to make music – even a duet is a group.

Find someone or a group of people and choose something to play. Start with something you all know well.

Some tips:

  • Make sure you can all play your parts confidently.

  • If there is a score, refer to it to make sure you are playing at the right time.

  • Think about your role and how your part fits into the piece.

Keywords

KeywordDefinition
melodyThe main tune in a piece of music. Often players will take turns playing the melody in a group performance.
accompanimentThis is the music which supports the melody. It is sometimes a chordal instrument (like a piano) or it can be multiple different ones.
dynamicsThe variations in the volume (loudness or quietness) of the music.
phrasingA phrase is a sequence of notes, like a musical sentence. You can shape phrases by placing more emphasis on some notes than on others, or changing the dynamics between them.
balanceHow the dynamics change so that the individual parts blend together in a musical way.
chordTwo or more notes sounding at one time.
bass lineThe lowest line of a piece of music. It is usually played on a bass instrument, like the double bass or bass guitar.

Next steps

Melody writing
Bass lines
Making musical theatre