4 Tips For Having Difficult Conversations With Your Bandmates

For lots of musicians, navigating relationships with bandmates often proves to be more difficult than writing songs, promoting music, or performing on stage. Touring around the country and pouring money and countless hours into a band can precipitate tense conditions between members because the stakes are so high. Learning how to bring up tough topics with your bandmates isn’t an option if you’re planning to make music with the same project over the long-term. Here are five tips to help.

Approach conversations with empathy

If someone had to have a tough conversation with you, how would you want them to speak to you? Embracing empathy when it comes to bringing up tricky subjects with the musicians in your band can help you figure out how to best talk to your bandmates. This won’t always make things easier on your end, but it will help tough conversations go as smoothly as possible.

Leave emotion out of it

Easier said than done, right? When emotions run high in bands, it can be tempting to let anger, fear, and hurt dictate how difficult conversations are handled. Rather than jumping into a conversation with the intent to win, prove a point, or hurt someone, take some time to figure out your own emotions first. If you’re upset, hurt, annoyed, or feel like something big has to change with the musician in question, why? Your emotions are valid. Acknowledge them, feel them, figure them out, and then sit down to talk.

Figure out what you want to say and how to say it

Coming into a difficult conversation without a plan can lead to some major problems. Sure, not every conversation can or should be planned between bandmates, but if you know something major needs to be addressed, it’s best not to take an improvisational approach. If you can, write things down or discuss what you want to say with someone not in your band beforehand. This does a couple of important things. First, it helps you to get whatever’s been banging around inside your head out and in the open. Second, it helps you discern your feelings and narrow down what’s bothering you and what needs to be done to fix it. If you’ve got a major conversation on your hands that has to happen, don’t come to it without knowing what you want or how you really feel.

Be as kind as possible

Kindness isn’t weakness. It’s not the act of smiling and soldiering on when things aren’t okay. Kindness happens when one person is considerate and respectful of the other. Making a real effort to be kind during difficult conversations will help you get the most out of the confrontation. This especially applies to musicians with real anger and justified rage. For example, right now you might 100% believe you can’t work with a bandmate ever again. Will you feel that way in a week or year? Maybe, but kindness will leave that door open in case you ever change your mind.

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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  • Hovall Solar - November 8, 2018 reply

    A very good article, thanks.

  • Joe - November 14, 2018 reply

    Is there more to this article? Because I only count 4 tips. Or does one of the tips count as two? Or did you figure they wouldn’t notice because musicians can only count to 4 anyway? 🙂 I mean, the four you give are good, I’m just curious about the discrepancy between the title & the actual number of tips.

  • CC DeVille - November 14, 2018 reply

    Best to treat your fellow musicians with kid gloves. Most already are delicate little flowers with wilted stems. Tey think an over inflated ego, and aloof attitude covers up incompetence and lack of knowing your parts, your roll, and your actual contribution (or lack thereof) to the band.
    If you suck, others shouldn’t have to “carry “ you. Nor should they be “gentle” about your feelings.
    Do you consider the feelings of the artists you’re dragging down (who’ve put in the time to hone their talent) with your whining, feelings,…etc. Empathy? I never got paid for a gig cuz I was empathetic to other players.
    Being a good player/writer/performer takes work and the ability to know constructive criticism when you hear it.
    Just cuz u got a guitar for your birthday doesn’t mean you’re now allowed to inflict on a crowd , band mates , club owner, promoters and anyone else, the kind of baby shit you impose on your parents. Grow up , then you’ll learn to be a pro performer

  • emily duff - November 14, 2018 reply

    Dear Patrick, you promised 5 Tips. You only provided Four. You left us hanging……Very tricky. guess I have to keep that lame drummer on the gig after all.

  • Gayle - November 15, 2018 reply

    Always remembering each person is human just like me. But we have to face issues.

  • Rich - November 15, 2018 reply

    Good advice but I only saw 4 tips!! Did I miss one? ;0)

  • John R. Borja - November 15, 2018 reply

    Wonderful topics and excellent resolves.

  • Michael J Deal - November 17, 2018 reply

    On point advice 🙂

  • erin ryan - November 17, 2018 reply

    How about some examples of what makes a conversation difficult?
    .. like confronting addiction/alcoholism, stealing gear, being an idiot, lack of chops, forgetting parts and being threatened with dismissal…?
    What else?
    Meanwhile your GF is screwing everyone in the band but you…

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