Giles Dring

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Being creative in a group

I’ve been playing in a band with some local friends / dads (prosaically known until yesterday as Dad Band, now dubbed Fustians). Every other Friday night we book out a rehearsal studio and bash out a few tunes. We’ve been doing it for six months or so, and having made a decision not to do covers, it’s been interesting to observe the growth of a creative unit.

On reflection, we’ve been traversing the stages of group development as described by Bruce Tuckman.

Our early practices were filled with optimism and some early success in the form of some pretty musically interesting jams. We’ve even developed a few nascent songs. I’d classify that as forming. It feels as though we’ve moved into a storming period where minor difficulties and differences are causing wobbles in the initial optimism. Tuckman tells us this is a natural part of moving into the norming stage where the group roles and agreements are made. This paves the way for the performing stage when we begin operating as a well-oiled machine.

I suspect that this may be a slightly uncomfortable period for the group, especially given it’s essentially mates getting together for a fun evening. It’s also worth remembering that it’s a cycle that is likely to repeat if we ever decide to go gigging or record tunes properly.

Another observation is that as a group we’re creating, which has a descriptive models of its own. This brings additional tensions. Models that seem to ring true are the four or (marginally extended) five stage models.

The five stages are:

  1. Preparation - learning chops, absorbing ideas
  2. Incubation - jamming, practicing, mulling over ideas
  3. Insight - having an idea for a melody, chord sequence, lyric
  4. Evaluation - assessing the idea for value, sharing with the band
  5. Elaboration - working hard to develop the idea and polish it to a finished product. This is the bit where most of the 99% perspiration resides.

As this last bit is hard graft, it’s also trying given the group dynamic development.

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