Making music together is not just about playing instruments at the same time. A major part of being in a band, especially if the band writes original songs, is collaboration and co-creation. Making this process work takes interpersonal and communicative skills. Band members bring in their own ideas and listen to others’ input, negotiate which parts end up in the song and how they should sound, and give each other feedback and compliments on their ideas and performance.
The band coaching methodology is shared and taught by experienced pop music educators from Fontys Rockacademie in the Netherlands, our partner in the Rock School program since 2008. Within the Rock School program, the methodology was adapted to the local context of the Western Balkans, becoming a successful approach to inter-ethnic cooperation through music making.
The role of the band coach during a rehearsal isn’t to tell band members what chords to play or how the song should sound. Instead, they guide the creative process. This can look like any of the following, and many more:
- Asking quiet band members for their opinion, including them in the process,
- Giving an objective overview of the problem the band is dealing with, clearing up any potential misunderstandings,
- Offering inspiration and ideas, helping the band think of solutions to their musical challenges,
- Suggesting taking a quick break to get some fresh air, allowing the band to take distance from the process and return with renewed energy,
- Keeping track of the band members’ ideas and navigate the band through trying them all out,
- Leaving the room so the band can work without any outside interference or pressure,
- Giving compliments and getting excited about the progress and performance, boosting the positive energy in the room.
The band picks up essential interpersonal skills by working through challenges together, with support from the band coach. Eventually, bands function independently, no longer needing a band coach to guide the process.
The rehearsal room is a safe space
Songwriting is a sensitive process: it takes bravery and vulnerability to share creative ideas with others – and potentially having them be rejected. That’s why it’s important that the rehearsal room is a safe space. Band members have to feel comfortable and secure enough to participate in the process.
A band coach is responsible for maintaining this safety throughout the rehearsal. Part of guiding the process is to ensure that musical problems don’t escalate into personal conflicts. The band members should also feel comfortable with the band coach – if they’re afraid of judgement, they might not feel confident sharing their ideas. Especially when band members are more used to a classical, hierarchical style of (music) education, achieving this level of safety can be a challenge.
Teaching versus coaching
While many musicians can function in the role of teacher as well as coach, there’s a fundamental difference between the two approaches that’s essential to the band coaching methodology.
In this context, we view teaching like this: a teacher is an expert on a subject, and shares knowledge and explains skills to a student. This work focuses on transferring skill and technique, often by way of exercises, practice and feedback. Teaching can be result-oriented, adhering to a curriculum that matches the level of the student.
Coaching, on the other hand, is entirely demand-driven. The coach takes their cue from participants, adapting their plans to whatever goal the student is working towards. Coaching focuses on protecting and sustaining the process, offering support but ultimately letting the student figure things out independently.
The demand-driven approach that’s inherent to coaching builds confidence, empowering students to make their own decisions in a safe environment.
Band coaching in the Rock School program
The band coaching methodology can be applied to any style of music and any type of group, as long as the process is collaborative. At the Mitrovica Rock School, we work with mixed rock bands, meaning the band members have different ethnicities.