Against all the best available advice, people keep forming bands. Sometimes they strike it rich, sometimes they have a local following, sometimes they amuse two friends, and mostly they just suck. It causes me much distress that just anyone can form a band. Having a band should be like owning a gun: there should be a waiting period, there should be a background check, and there should be grisly death involved if you use it wrong.

In an effort to prevent yet more shitty bands from forming and bothering our poor ears with their awful songs, I have constructed the following test to be administered to any musician or band who intends to make any sound whatsoever. I call it the YBSAT: the Your Band Sucks Aptitude Test. At this point, this test is based on the honor system. It’s self-administered, self-scored, and offered on a voluntary basis. Failing the test has no binding consequences, other than my implied condemnation. But believe me, I’m working on it. I’m going straight to Washington with this. This thing is going to be the law, so you’d better get your practice in now.

The scoring is simple: start with a score of zero. After each multiple choice question, add or subtract the number next to your chosen answer.

Part One: Why?
The following section addresses the most fundamental question of all band formation: why bother?

1. I’m starting a band because:

a. I’m overflowing with natural talent (+1)
b. I’m bored (-1)
c. There’s this girl I like… (+0)
d. I just got a great haircut (-5)

2. My main motivation to make music is:

a. Fame (+0)
b. My soul demands to express itself (+1)
c. Pussy (-1)
d. The Lord (Automatic fail if you’re white)

3. My bandmates bonded over:

a. Our musical chemistry (+1)
b. Our shared love of They Might be Giants(-1)
c. The desire to record some hilarious novelty songs and post them on the internet (Fuck off)
d. Speedballs (+5)

4. If I couldn’t make music, I would:

a. Work in a record store (-1)
b. Kill myself (+1)
c. Work at Guitar Center (-10)
d. Be a music journalist (Automatic fail)

5. My friends all:

a. Worship me (+1)
b. Encourage me (+0)
c. Encourage me to keep practicing (-1)
d. Rotate instruments like a big musical commune where we can all play our part without being judged (-10)

Part Two: Your Bandmates
Next, we will assess who is in your band and what their qualifications are.

6. I met my bandmates:

a. At a punk concert (+0)
b. In high school (-1)
c. At a performance art “happening” where our future guitarist and our future bassist were screaming foreign obscenities at the audience and smearing themselves with their own (and each other’s) feces and vomit (+1)
d. The Berklee College of Music (Automatic fail)

7. My band consists of:

a. A guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, and a vocalist (+0)
b. A guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, a vocalist, and a DJ (-10)
c. A guitarist/vocalist and a drummer (-15)
d. Just me and my MacBook (Automatic fail)

8. My band’s guitarist plays a:

a. Fender (+0)
b. Gibson (+1)
c. Ibanez (-10)
d. We don’t have a guitarist (Then you’re not a band, dipshit)

9. My drummer’s idol is:

a. Keith Moon (+0)
b. John Bonham (+0)
c. Neil Peart (Automatic fail)
d. Animal from the Muppets (+1)

10. My band’s bassist is named:

a. Something normal, like John, Amanda, Charles, or Kate (+0)
b. Christfuck Dahmer (-1)
c. I don’t remember due to his or her irrelevance (+1)
d. Flea (Automatic fail)

11. My band’s vocalist is:

a. A swell guy and an accomplished shower-singer (-5)
b. Not really a great singer, but the best out of the four of us (-10)
c. A megalomaniac asshole (+0)
d. An escaped lunatic (+1)

12. My band’s name is:

a. Something cool sounding that doesn’t particularly mean anything (+0)
b. Something studiously thought-out and filled with personal meaning (-5)
c. Something HILARIOUS like “Ninja Jesus” (Automatic fail)
d. xX You, My Bitterest Sorrow Xx (Double automatic fail)

Part Three: Genre
In this section, we determine your band’s artistic potential by arbitrarily pigeonholing it into a genre.

13. My musical influences include:

a. The Beatles (+0)
b. The Eagles (-5)
c. The Red Hot Chili Peppers (Automatic fail)
d. Obscure German shit from the 70s or postmodern architecture or something: (+1)

14. I would describe my band to the press as:

a. Punk, or some variant thereof (+0)
b. Metal, or some variant thereof (-50)
c. Fuck you, you fat journo faggot (+1)
d. _____-core (Automatic fail)

15. Our subgenre could be described as:

a. Jazz Fusion (Automatic fail)
b. Nerdcore Hip Hop (Automatic fail)
c. Emo or Post-Hardcore (Automatic fail)
d. None of the above (+0)

16. I grew up watching:

a. 120 Minutes (+0)
b. MTV’s coverage of Dan Cortese making boner jokes at a beach house (-1)
c. VH1 (-10)
d. When Animals Attack! (+1)

Part Four: Live Show
Playing live is an important part of any new band’s establishment. This section will determine whether or not your band is cut out for life on the road.

17. Our venue of choice is:

a. The teen center (-5)
b. Impromptu “guerrilla” shows on rooftops because we think we’re clever (-5)
c. Arenas (Automatic fail)
d. We don’t play live because our sonic experimentation can only be captured on recordings, and plus we’re kind of shy (Automatic fail)

17. Before singing live, our singer warms up by:

a. Eating a spoonful of honey (-1)
b. Smoking a pack of cigarettes (+0)
c. Getting too drunk to sing (+1)
d. A circle of high-fives and a pep-chant with his “band brothers” (-10)

18. On tour, we drive:

a. This sweet van that our dad bought us that used to belong to our church youth group (-10)
b. In an old hatchback, bodies stacked like cordwood, PAs jutting into our ribs (+0)
c. Like I said, we’re more of an online collaborative thing so we don’t really play live so much as send tracks back and forth in MP3 format and mix them together in ACID 4.0 (What the fuck are you even still doing here?)
d. Drunk (+1)

Part Five: Miscellaneous
In this section, we will ask vital questions that defy easy categorization in order to determine with finality whether or not you’re cut out to form a band.

19: Upon hearing the term “Nu-Metal,” you get a distinct feeling of:

a. Nausea (+0)
b. Camaraderie (Automatic fail)
c. White guilt (+0)
d. Having just murdered the person who uttered it (+1)

20. If I were to tell you that Freddie Mercury was the greatest vocalist of all time, you would say:

a. Fuck you, grandpa (+1)
b. Who the fuck is Freddie Mercury? (+1)
c. I hear that, man! Fuckin’ A! (Automatic fail)
d. Are you making a pass at me? (+0)

21. If you had to choose between fame and artistic fulfillment, you’d choose:

a. Fame (+0)
b. Artistic fulfillment (+1)
c. I wish… for more wishes! (You can’t do that)
d. Heroin (+2)

22. The greatest punk band of all time is:

a. The Clash (-5)
b. The Sex Pistols (-10)
c. The Ramones (-15)
d. Dude… Johnny Cash was like the original punk, if you think about it. (Automatic fail)

23. The greatest metal band of all time is:

a. Black Sabbath (+0)
b. Metallica (Automatic fail)
c. Iron Maiden (What are you, fifteen?)
d. How the fuck should I know? (+1)

24. Prog rock is great because:

a. The musicianship is amazing (Automatic fail)
b. I can get really stoned and just go on an amazing trip in the land of awesomeness (Automatic fail)
c. I’m a completely worthless, boring idiot (+0 for honesty)
d. I can tell if someone is a completely worthless, boring idiot just by their faded Dream Theater t-shirt (+1)

25. Nas is like:

a. Life or death (+0)
b. I’m a rebel (+0)
c. My poetry’s deep, I never fell (-1)
d. Half man, half amazing (+1)

26. My favorite female guitarist is:

a. Lita Ford (-10)
b. Bonnie Raitt (-1)
c. The one in my band (Automatic fail)
d. What? What the fuck are you even talking about? (+1)

27. I tend to dress:

a. In a zoot suit (-15)
b. In leather and safety pins (-5)
c. In tight jeans, Chuck Taylors, a faded t-shirt and a half gallon of hair-shellac (-10)
d. Like a normal human being (Automatic fail)

28. I deserve wealth and fame because:

a. I’ve worked hard for it (-1)
b. Then I could devote my time and money to important causes, like Bono does (-10)
c. I’m really no dumber or more revolting than any other rock star (+0)
d. I want to build a life-sized replica of Michelangelo’s David out of cocaine, and then get enormously fucking high off it for years or until I die (+1)

29. There hasn’t been any good rock and roll since:

a. 1969 (-1)
b. 1977 (-1)
c. 1989 (-1)
d. Jim Morrison died (Automatic fail)

30. My promotional tool of choice is:

a. Photocopied flyers (+0)
b. Word of mouth (+0)
c. Constant pandering to the press (+0)
d. Myspace (Automatic fail)


-100 to -20 points: You’ll just have to settle for playing air guitar along with Aerosmith albums, you worthless hick.

-19 to 0 points: Don’t start a band. Your appalling taste will doom you to a career of pure humiliation and defeat.

0 to 15 points: Sorry, you may have a few things going for you, but you just don’t have what it takes to start a band that’s anything but totally fucking terrible.

15 points or more: Congratulations! You have the YBSAT blessing to start a band.

If you have any suggestions on amending or improving the YBSAT, or if you’d like to share your score, please feel free to email me at Good luck!

– Dr. David Thorpe (@Arr)

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