Bandvista Blog


It's Personal: Creating from Personal Trauma

Personal trauma can take a variety of forms. From mental illness to a history of abuse, trauma changes the very fabric of our brains, transforming the way we think, feel, and respond. In the wake of Chester Bennington's suicide, fans the world over came together to mourn his death – and to discuss how much his work had changed their lives and, in some cases, saved them. Bennington created whole albums rooted in trauma – and although his eventually claimed him, he was able to move millions with what he had created from that pain.

Musicians as a collective are disproportionately affected by mental illness and disorders. And yet, throughout history, they have used their pain and suffering as wood for the creative fire. Hector Berlioz, composer of “Symphony Fantastique,” was posthumously diagnosed with depression with psychotic features. But from the blackness of that mental state, from the hallucinations he experienced during psychotic episodes, he created some of the most brilliant symphonies that the world has ever heard. Tchaikovsky suffered from bipolar disorder, and worked through his episodes of mania by feverishly working to create incredible works of music. Kurt Cobain's signature guitar melodies and cynical lyrics inspired a new generation of rock music and musicians.

Musicians creating from personal trauma has given rise to extensive discussion of using that trauma to heal – and to help others. It has also generated a discussion about whether or not musicians should feel obligated to share their personal experiences with their fans outside of the context of their music, though the general (and entirely appropriate) consensus is that they should by no means feel obligated to share deeply personal issues with virtual strangers.

Music has a great ability to heal wounds and help people – whether they are writing music or listening to it – in coping with moving past truly dark experiences. From depression to schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder to schizotypal personality disorder, one of the greatest gifts of any musician is the ability to create beauty, redemption, and validation from intense pain and suffering. It goes without saying that the romanticization of mental illness and trauma is a thing to be devoutly avoided; however, the vast body of neurodivergent experience has given rise to some of the greatest works of music in history, and, in turn, has helped to save lives and alleviate suffering.

Whether you create from personal trauma or strongly relate to musicians who do, music created from the darkness of trauma gives rise to the triumph that all creation brings – and, very often, goes on to heal another generation.

Pay to Play: 5 Reasons to Say No

The pay-to-play model – in which bands are required to sell tickets, pay for venue space, or otherwise part with cash for opportunities to play or air their music – has becoming increasingly popular. Despite industry backlash from artists against this model, young and emerging artists are continually parting with money to play their music – or even get it heard on radio stations. But the pay-to-play model is not only unsustainable, it assigns all the risk to performing artists – rather than artists and venues or stations sharing the risk. Here are five reasons you should say no to pay-to-play.

Most Can't Afford It

In a great number of pay-to-play models, artists are required not only to sell tickets to their own performances, but may even be required to buy “leftover” tickets if they have not reached the ticket sales requirements by the date of their performance. This can add up to hundreds of dollars that many artists simply don't have. Some radio stations also require money from artists to submit music to be played on their station – and some charge exorbitant fees. While some artists are financially successful enough to be able to afford these fees, they need the promotion far less than the artists who can't afford it.

Advertisement Revenue, Not Artist Revenue

Venues and radio stations often benefit from advertiser revenue, particularly if they work with high-profile brands or companies. For example, a lot of venue owners will allow product demos to take place at their bar or club – product demos that the company running the demo will pay the venue generously for. Radio stations run principally off advertisement revenue as well, airing commercials between song sets. A well-managed club or radio station has no need to take money from artists; instead, they should be looking to generate revenue not only from their patrons, but from advertisers.

It Creates an Unfair Standard

Endless complaints have arisen from artists who went with a pay-to-play model about essentially playing to empty rooms after shelling out hard-earned cash to have the chance to perform – and then making no money back on the enterprise. Pay-to-play creates a standard in which the the artists assume all of the financial risk, while the venue takes on absolutely no risk at all. While some level of risk will always be present when it comes to booking talent – especially emerging talent – for the venue or promoter to require the artist to undertake one hundred percent of the risk with fewer assets on hand is desperately unfair.

It Allows Venues to Not Promote

If artists take on all the work selling and promoting tickets, the venue doesn't have to do anything – they don't have to put up flyers, do digital marketing, or anything else that involves marketing the show the artists are attempting to put on. This puts performing artists at a distinct disadvantage, particularly emerging or lesser-known artists – they don't necessarily have the connections that the venue may, and there is a tremendous number of people they won't be reaching for their performance if the venue does nothing to promote. Once again, it assigns all the risk to the artist – and none to the venue or promoter.

It Deprives Artists – and Venues - of Income

In addition to potentially having to shell out money, pay-to-play often deprives artists of income they might have earned from a show if the venue doesn't promote or help drive sales. An appropriate professional relationship between artists and venues or promoters will help to generate more income for both sides – so rather than simply having their costs covered, a venue will generally make more money if they don't opt for a pay-to-play model, as will the talent they've booked.

No matter what stage of your career you're in, each of these is a good reason to say no to pay-to-play – and to encourage other artists to do the same.

5 amazing guitarists you should know

The best guitarists aren't always the ones we most immediately think of. But from classic rock to symphonic metal, some of music's finest guitarists are reinventing guitar technique, applying old tricks to new and brilliant sounds, and touring stages the world over. Here are five amazing guitarists you should know.

Steven Archer

A brilliant songwriter and guitarist, Steven Archer of Baltimore-based Ego Likeness applies both traditional and unconventional guitar techniques to EL's darkwave industrial sound. Utilizing guitar as both a supportive instrument and equal partner to the vocals, Steven's technique with guitar playing hearkens back to the era of lieder – art songs – where instruments and voice are equal partners musically. With intensive energy and yet a sonorous quality rarely heard in guitar, Steven Archer and his wife, singer and writer Donna Lynch, tour regularly throughout the United States.

Rahb Eleven

Guitarist to industrial rock band Doomsday Virus, Rahb Eleven delivers an intensity with guitar that many guitarists lose to years of training. With more than two decades of experience in guitar, Rahb combines brilliant technique with a unique rawness rarely heard even in this driven genre of music. Rahb is the mastermind of the avant-garde industrial project Destroy Eleven, and additionally teaches and creates art in the Capital District of New York.

Tony Lechmanski

Longtime guitarist to goth rock band Bella Morte, Tony Lechmanski has a high level of skill in creating intense and yet incredibly melodic guitar strains to flow within the band's varying and yet cohesive sound. Tony has worked with a number of other artists, including synthpop performer Shawn Decker and singer Lauren Hoffman. Married to stage and circus performer Opal Lechmanski, Tony lives in Charlottesville, VA.

Nicole Maher

With a melancholy nostalgia and chordal precision, Nicole Maher is a quintessential example of the young singer-songwriter. Nicole studied audio engineering at SUNY Schenectady, and as a performing artist produces both original material as well as cover songs. In addition to guitar and voice, she plays violin, and lives and teaches in upstate New York.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Though she is no longer among the living, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was both mother and midwife to rock and roll. A lifelong recording and performing artist, Rosetta was described as “the original soul sister,” she was the progenitor of many guitar techniques we now recognize as standards in rock – and many of the performance techniques she pioneered are still studied by modern guitar students. She passed away in 1973 in Philadelphia.

Each of these guitarists represents a different styles, genres, and levels of technique – and each one presents a unique approach to the guitar that is well worth listening to.

5 Steps to Better Guitar Playing

There are lots of guitar players in the world, but becoming a great guitar player? That's a challenge. Dedication, hard work, and determination can make you a fantastic guitar player, and with a few good habits, you'll be solid as a rock when it comes to technique and performance. Here are five steps to better guitar playing.

Practice Daily

No matter what instrument you play, daily practice can't be overestimated. Whether you practice for half an hour or a full afternoon, practice scales, songs, and techniques on the daily. Don't feel like you have to practice for hours on end to become a good guitar player; focus on doing what you can with the time and energy you have.

Play Along

Whether you play along to your favorite pop tunes or some symphonic metal, spend some time now and again playing along with music that you already know and love. This is a great way to develop versatility in technique, so experiment with playing along with as many genres as you can, from jazz and folk to rock and metal.

Record Yourself

Recording yourself is a great way to hear how you're developing. Record a couple of sessions a week and regularly listen to the playback – it will help you to hear where you're doing better, and to identify which areas need improvement. Over time, if you're practicing regularly, you'll hear a big difference.

Take Lessons 

If you're serious about being a pro musician, lessons are an absolute must. In addition to an instructor helping you to develop solid and versatile technique, but can help you adapt those techniques to your unique style – as well as help you develop methods to work around any limitations you might have. 

Focus Up

If you're limited in how many hours you can practice per week, utilize your recordings to figure out where you need the most work – scale fingering, strumming technique, and the like. Spend most of your practice time working on the areas that need the most work until they're solid, and then just continue to cycle through what needs more of your attention. 

Good guitar players are important parts of any decent band, and these tips will help you diversify and solidify your technique – so you can riff your way to greater professional success.

5 Secondary Careers For Musicians

While most musicians have the ultimate goal of doing nothing but performing or composing for a living, most artists – at the very least when they're starting out – still have to have the proverbial dayjob to make sure the bills are paid while they're making their way to the top of the charts. But don't despair – you don't necessarily have to clerk at a shop or cashier at a bank while you're forging your career in music, and some of the jobs that musicians are best suited to wind up also being lifelong career choices within the industry. Here are five great secondary careers for musicians.

Private Instructor

One of the most popular options for practicing musicians – especially those who have a degree in music – private instruction is an excellent part or full-time job for musicians. Most major metropolitan areas – and even some suburban and rural areas – have a number of music studios or shops where you can ply your trade by training new artists to the rigors of music. Most studios allow you to set your own hours, and many have guaranteed payment agreements month to month – so you'll still get paid even if your students miss a few lessons.


From organizing club nights to putting together shows, promoters handle the marketing aspect of live music making and Djing. Typically, promoters will take a cut of whatever the show or event grosses at the door, with the rest usually going to performing talent, audio techs, and security. While promoting isn't necessarily always a full-time job, it can certainly be a well-paying option for promoters who are professional and dedicated.

Industry Writer

If you're a seasoned musician who also happens to be a good writer, writing in and about the music industry can prove to be an excellent option, particularly for musicians who are all about making their own schedules. Whether you write for a popular music magazine or an online blog, industry writing can make for a fulfilling and interesting side career for musicians – and for writers who are particularly skillful, the paycheck can certainly be fulfilling, too.

Music Critic

If you've gone the industry writing route and you've proven your skill, consider approaching hard copy publications about critiquing music. Music critics are not only often well-paid, but they are frequently given comped tickets for everything from operas to rock shows. Not every newspaper has a music critic, but many of the major ones do – so if you've got a lot of experience writing about music and have a good ear for technique, the way of the music critic might be the one to take.

Stage Manager

Stage managers are found at work in almost every venue that hosts music, theatre, or comedy, from bars and clubs to theatres and speakeasies. If you've spent a lot of time on stage – and especially if you've done behind-the-scenes work like lights tech or stagehand work – stage manager can be an excellent side gig. This can be a tricky role to negotiate for performing artists, since a lot of stage managers work weekends – but it can be rewarding and well-paying if you work for a successful venue.

Musicians develop all kinds of ancillary skills during the course of their career. Each of these secondary careers caters to a different skill set – and can support you while you're working towards making music your full-time job.

5 Operas You Should Listen To

Ah, opera – the soaring vocalises, the rich (and sometimes wonderfully gaudy) stage sets, the costumes, the drama. Opera as a tradition is among the younger traditions of voice, but appreciation for opera is re-emerging in the twentieth century as a new generation of performers take old operas into a fresh century. Opera as a musical form has influenced a great number of genres, from symphonic metal to darkwave, and far from being boring, is a tradition well worth exploring. Here are five operas you should listen to.


Depicting a fiery young woman who earns the love of a great many men – but gives very little of her own her would-be paramour, Don Jose – this famous opera by Georges Bizet is the very one that the famous “Habanera” aria is from. A classic tragedy, this opera in four acts depicts not only the struggles of love, but the struggles of the common man in a post-war scenario. The music of Carmen has been hailed as one of the greatest achievements of orchestration in opera, and boasts one of the most engaging scores of the French opera tradition. 

La Traviata 

Penned by the celebrated composer Verdi, La Traviata depicts a courtesan, Violetta, and her lover, Alfredo. La Traviata is another tragedy – it depicts the plight of many a working courtesan that contracted tuburculosis or another then-fatal disease, who eventually dies of it, to the sorrow of their lover (or lovers). La Traviata is among the most-performed operas of all time, and in a few instances has been performed in a contemporary twentieth-century setting, with according costuming. Considered a standard in vocal music, La Traviata is one of opera's most-mined scores for soprano and tenor repertoire. 

Il Trovatore

Another great by Verdi, Il Trovatore tells the story of a nobleman in love with a noblewoman – who is rivaled by a court performer or troubadour. The story also features many Romani characters, who have revenged themselves on the nobles for the death of one of their own, burnt at the stake as a witch, by stealing a baby. Host to the famous “Anvil Song,” Il Trovatore is a thrilling opera to listen to, with energetic music and emotive arias throughout.

Giulio Cesare

Composed by Handel, Guilio Cesare is based on the Roman Civil War that took place 49 – 45 BC, and the relationship between Julius Caesar and Egypt's great queen, Ptolemy Cleopatra VII. With soaring arias and an intense examination of the relationship between Caesar and Cleopatra, the story told by this opera is as much one of love as one of state.

The Magic Flute 

Easily the most famous of the twenty-two operas composed by Mozart, The Magic Flute depicts the Queen of the Night seeking to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from under the rule of the priest Sarastro. Pamina falls in love with her would-be rescuer, Tamino, and both undergo remarkable transitions throughout the opera. As much a story of the supernatural of love, the opera's most famous aria, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen,” is one of the most widely sung among repertoire pieces for the coloratura soprano voice, and is often simply referred to as “The Queen of the Night aria.” 

Each of these wonderful productions has something different to offer the listener – from gods and demons to ordinary everyday people, each tells a remarkable story – with equally remarkable music.

5 Instruments You've Never Thought About Playing

As much as we focus on the standard instrumentation of the western world – whether those found in a standard rock outfit or a philharmonic orchestra – the world of instrumentation is huge, and includes a tremendous variety of instruments that have incredible character and sound. Whether you're a strings player or a percussionist, here are five instruments that you might never have thought about playing. 


The hurdy-gurdy is a haunting, spooky string instrument that can also take on a tremendously comical quality. The hurdy-gurdy is operated by cranking a lever that gives power to the instrument while simultaneously pressing different buttons that produce different tones. Hard to master but beautiful to hear, the hurdy-gurdy is starting to make a comeback in modern classical and folk music. If you want to hear an example, check out Stephan Groth, the hurdy-gurdy player in German medieval folk band Faun.


The Japanese koto, sometimes referred to as the Japanese table harp, is a plucked string instrument that produces elegant, stirring, and graceful music. The koto is a standard in many Japanese orchestras, and is frequently given solo parts, particular in music that reflects romance or is meant for relaxation. The koto can be played with a variety of string types, depending upon the preference of the player. While few koto instructors are to be found in the west, those with a passion for eastern music may find it well worth the effort to study it in an exchange program or during a sabbatical. To hear this beautiful instrument, have a listen to koto player Michio Miyagi.


A Finnish string instrument, the kantele is taught as a standard in Finland to young students in much the same way American children are taught the recorder. Centuries old, the kantele has a clear, high, and yet melancholy tone that suits folk music exceptionally well. The kantele has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with Finnish musicians delving deeper into their musical roots in order to reconnect with the ancient traditions of their forebears. Want to hear more? Check out kantele player Ulla Katajavuori.


The oud is a centuries-old lute-style instrument originating in the Middle East. It is played in nations across the Middle Eastern region, North Africa and the Mediterranean basin, including Persia, Turkey, Somalia and Armenia. Don't let its appearance fool you, though – the oud hosts eleven to thirteen strings grouped typically in pairs, and takes many years to master. To hear this soulful, beautiful instrument, have a listen to master oud player Naseer Shamma.


If you've ever seen the film “The Forbidden Kingdom,” you'll be familiar with this plucked string instrument that Golden Sparrow is occasionally heard and seen playing throughout the film's journey. The pipa originates in China, and has a bright and yet fraught tone to it. Held upright, the pipa is usually plucked with either long nails or finger plucks that players attach to their fingers. To hear an example of the pipa, check out pipa player Liu Fang.


All of these instruments represent innovation and rich history from all over the world. Whether you fancy studying world music intensively or want a unique instrument to accentuate what you already produce, consider one of these!

10 Tips for Auditions

Going on an audition, whether it's for a conservatory or a band, is one of the most stressful experiences of any musician's career. The jittery nerves, the clenched muscles, the sweating hands and brow – most musicians have experienced them before heading into an audition. But the key to managing the stress of auditions is to be well prepared, so here are ten tips for auditions.

Get Plenty of Rest

Make sure to get a good night's sleep the night before. If you have trouble falling asleep, do some soothing activities like reading, taking a hot bath, some yoga, and so on. Don't let yourself stay up until all hours the night before an audition – you'll regret it!

Remember to Eat

While some musicians may become stressed enough that eating is difficult, don't skip out on nutrition. If necessary, eat small and easily digestible meals to keep you sustained throughout the day. While you shouldn't eat immediately before an audition, try having a snack an hour or two before your audition time.


No matter what your instrument is, make sure to drink lots of water. Water helps your brain stay sharp and functioning at peak capacity. Keep a reusable bottle handy and hydrate throughout the day so you'll bring your A-game.

Start Early

Whatever you're planning to play for your audition, start preparing your material early. Know your pieces intimately – the lyrics, the melody line, the dynamics. The earlier you start, the more confident you'll be – and the less stressed out you'll be, too.

Ask for Feedback

If you study with an instructor, ask them consistently for feedback when you're preparing your audition material. Ask other musicians as well. After the audition, make it a point to thank the auditioners for their time and for feedback on your performance. This kind of feedback will help your future auditions go more smoothly if you know what you need to work on.

Be Prepared to Talk

A lot of people you'll audition for will ask you questions about yourself, like what your personal interests are, where you grew up, and other information of note. Be prepared to talk about yourself – it's a great way for both sides to see how you'll integrate into a new department or band.

Come With Questions

Don't go into an audition room, play your piece, and then just leave without asking anything. Ask what the goals of the act or department are. Ask what they are seeking in terms of contribution. Cook up a few questions you'd like to ask prior to the audition and remember them.

Be Prepared to Play More than Pieces

For music school auditions or auditions for large or prestigious ensembles, you'll have to play more than just the pieces you've memorized. Scales, arpeggios, and sight singing exercises are often part and parcel to an audition, so prepare those skills accordingly.

Know Something About the Organization

If you go to an audition knowing nothing about the school or act you're auditioning for, you'll come off as lackadaisical and disinterested. Know a little bit of its history and achievements before you attend your audition, and if it comes up, remark on what you know.

Treat It As a Performance

Every audition is a performance, and it's okay to have fun with it. Go into every audition with the intent of putting on the best performance you can – treat it like a miniature concert. Thinking of it this way will make it an opportunity to have fun and show off your best stuff.

Most musicians will go on hundreds of auditions during their lifetime, whether for music degree programs or ensembles they want to join. These tips will help you audition successfully – whether it's your first or your hundredth.

5 Reasons to take Music Lessons

Musicians come in every stripe and flavor, from conservatory-trained opera singers to guitarists who learned their craft by watching YouTube videos. The age of information has offered hundreds of ways for budding musicians to learn how to sing, play, and perform. But the value of taking music lessons with university or conservatory-trained professionals – for any instrument or voice type – is unmatched when it comes to the professional, personal, and physical development of musicians. Whether you're a veteran or brand-new to the music scene, taking music lessons is a great investment for your career – not to mention your health. Here are five reasons to take music lessons.

Learning Great Technique

While there's zero shame in being a self-taught musician, self-teaching means imperfect technique. Over time, this can pose some serious problems – not only will you not be able to fully master your instrument or voice without quality technical training, but imperfect technique can cause a number of health problems, from arthritis and bone spurs in instrumentalists to vocal nodes in singers (an especially expensive condition to treat, since insurance doesn't cover node removal unless the nodes are cancerous). Taking lesson will help you perfect your technique – and keep yourself safer from health issues associated with poor technique.

Becoming a Master of Your Craft

It's certainly true that you can learn a great deal on your own as a musician without benefit of a formal instructor – from blogs to YouTube, tons of information and instruction on all things music are available as learning resources. However, music lessons not only help to address unlearning bad habits and mastering technique, but having a one-on-one instructor that you personally work with helps to adapt technique to the individual musician – something you just can't get with books or digital resources.


Having a music instructor can definitely help to boost your networking as a musician, particularly if you impress your instructor with your dedication. They may know other musicians, promoters, or agencies you don't, and can help you connect with them – boosting your career opportunities. They may know of competitions, open mics, and other performance-focused events that can help you show your best in front of brand-new audiences of thousands. Either way, most music instructors know the lay of the land when it comes to their local music scenes, and it's worth your time to work and connect with them.

Increased Employability

Getting better at what you do almost always results in better and more frequent work opportunities, and this is especially true in music. Taking lessons will absolutely help you get better at what you do, and this ultimately will help you find and land work opportunities that less skilled musicians may not have access to, like select or juried shows or session work.

Becoming a Music Instructor

While most music instructors have degrees or credentials in music, this isn't always the case. Some have simply studied independently and taken music lessons for years – and become just as qualified to teach as those with university degrees. If you think teaching might be a route you want to pursue in music but don't want to attend university or conservatory for a degree, start taking lessons – and if you study long enough, you may find yourself being approached by new musicians who want to learn from you, or job opportunities at local studios (maybe even the one you've studied at all those years!).

Regardless of what genre you work in or instrument you play, music lessons are a vital investment to any dedicated musician – and taking lessons will help you advance and expand your career.


Straight to the Top: 5 Traits Every Successful Musician Has

No matter how skilled a musician you are, personal temperament has a lot to do with the success of every musician. Even if you have a degree in music – or have taken lessons for years – certain ingredients combine in the individual to generate a path to success in this extremely demanding instrument. Here are five traits every successful musician has. 

Work Ethic

Above all else, musicians must have a strong work ethic in order to succeed. The music industry is a taxing one, and the path to financial and creative success is a longer and harder one to furrow than it often is in other industries. It goes without saying that you don't have to be a workaholic to be a successful musician, but without a strong work ethic and dedication to what you're producing – long-term – you won't be successful.


Determination means that you continue doing what you do regardless of what other people say or do to discourage, embarrass, or shame you. Determined people continue to live the way they choose in the face of adversity. During your career, there will always be people who criticize you, from family members who chastise you for not choosing something more lucrative to the critic who totally pans your album in that magazine you submitted to. Determination means you won't bow down to their negativity – and that you'll eventually rise above.


Even if you're a tremendously successful musician already, your continued success depends on you being approachable. This doesn't mean having no boundaries – because after all, everyone should maintain them – but it does mean being receptive to people who approach you with opportunities or questions, from reporters to fans. It's perfectly acceptable to draw the line at dealing with people who openly harass you, but being approachable will gain you a good reputation in the music industry, particularly among your fans.


Emotional resilience is a must-have in the music world. The disappointments of the industry will sometimes outweigh the victories, and dedicated musicians must be able to endure those disappointments with grace – and without it destroying them or their goals for their career. Resilience doesn't mean ignoring the negatives – it means processing them and moving on from them while still knowing your worth and ability.


Of course creativity is essential to music-making, but creativity is a quality that's applicable to absolutely everything, from marketing your music to packing your tour van properly. Creative people are often able to find solutions to problems that others may not have thought of, and subsequently is a quality essential to every area of your music career.

From performers to music educators, these five qualities are must-haves to the success of every musician.


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