The optical and electric properties of a material are entirely dependent on the ordering of its electrons. In crystalline materials quantum effects constrain the electrons to bands that are best described in terms of crystal momentum. It is this electronic “band structure” we need to understand in order to fully harness novel materials. Soft x-ray based spectroscopic techniques provide a way to directly measure electronic band structures. In this talk I will present an overview of synchrotron based x-ray absorption, emission, photoemission, and resonant emission spectroscopy. Focusing on zinc oxide – a transparent conducting oxide with numerous potential applications – I will show how each of these techniques has been harnessed to provide band structure information.