So you’ve learned to play the guitar. You can cover a few songs, maybe you’ve even managed to get “Stairway to Heaven” down in its entirety. Or, perhaps you’ve penned a few of your own songs and now you want to share them with others. What’s your first step?

Charles Paradis
Courtesy of Dropjaw.

Well, you need band members.

Karl Sturk of Dropjaw, who has been playing the guitar for close to six years and has his fair share of experience in bands (he used to be in the Codependents and One Block West) recommends asking around.

“The best chance of finding another musician is through acquaintances,” he explains, whether it’s direct friends or friends of friends.

He also recommends putting up flyers around town, at venues or at music stores. If desperation hits, there is always the possibility of asking a musician from another band to play with you and, if you’re lucky, he may even switch over.

What could be either a last resort or a first move in forming a band is a website all about Michigan groups (www.plusminusrecords.com/michigan). It’s incredibly easy to navigate and has a classifieds section in which current bands post ads for members that they need. The site offers easy access to bands in your area that like the same music as you and are looking for another member. Updates are added almost every day.

With a band formed, you pretty much have two options in a college town. You can write your own songs and try to forge ahead, working your way towards what could be the rock star lifestyle most dream about, or you learn other people’s hit songs and play those to a bar full of people anxious to be taken back to the grunge era.

Either way, you need to cut a demo. That means it’s off to the recording studio. In Ann Arbor two studios outshine the rest.

40oz Sound, managed by Drew Peters and Ben Began, has state of the art technology, running everything through a dedicated CPU (dedicated as in only handling audio programs and not browsers for surfing the net). They have 48 tracks and a hard disc recording system. A choice of either vintage or new equipment is available if you feel like you’re not getting the sound you want out of your own drum kit. Normal operating hours are noon to midnight, though there is flexibility. If you want to get in on a weekend to record, you could be waiting a while. If you need a demo immediately, the best times to go are during the weekdays, although that could still be booked a month in advance. The price is $35 an hour with an engineer, though you can save some money by bringing in your own man who knows how to run the boards. Check out their website at www.40ozsound.com for more tips on how to prepare before going into the studio.

The Loft, run by Andy and Tim Patalan, is another option. The weekends are the hardest to book, but the Patalans say that they are feasibly open 24 hours a day. Everything here is recorded onto a one-inch or two-inch tape, both 24 tracks, or on 32 tracks using the newest version of ProTools. The possibility there is to combine both tape and ProTools for 56 tracks if you’re aspiring to be the next Queen. The Loft has a slew of both vintage and new gear for use: “The coolest things of yesteryear and the best of today. Whatever sounds best,” according to Andy Patalan. Prices are either $60 or $40 an hour, depending on what equipment you use to record. Those prices are set and there is no reduction if you bring in your own engineer.

Your cheaper option is of course setting up in your basement with a 4-track cassette recorder, found on Ebay for as low as $49.50, though Sturk dissuades most people from recording seriously onto cassette. “Tape is still fun, but you don’t use it for demos because the conversion is difficult,” he warns. He recommends nothing lower than a digital 8-track, which costs around $300 and can be found on the internet at sites like www.musiciansfriend.com or www.samedaymusic.com.

You never know where you’ll find another band member, though. Kristen Howard of Yakum Schmakum met James Lower during a semester at sea program, where they would sit together, play songs and sing. When James and a few friends decided to form a cover band this past October, Lower asked Kristen to sing. With Yakum Schmakum rounded out to its five members, they contacted Touchdowns Caf

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