5 Tips to Streamline Band Practice

Save for certain walk-on situations, every band/artist/production has rehearsals in one form or another. I’ve seen rehearsals that are extremely organized and others that are more along the lines of . . . “well, what do you want to do? . . . “I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?” To make the most of your rehearsals, being organized and making a plan is essential for success. Whether a musical director runs your rehearsals or it is more of a group-run situation, there are plenty of things you can do to help ensure productivity. Check out these 5 tips:

 

  1. Send out a rehearsal agenda: If everyone knows prior to arriving to the rehearsal what is going to be covered, then they can be that much more prepared. This also helps to focus the rehearsal and helps everyone stay on track. Of course, unforeseen issues do come up and may require attention but an agenda provides a baseline from which to work.
  2. Rehearse sections of songs: Don’t just rehearse whole songs if there are specific issues to work out. Hitting an entire song over and over again without zeroing in on issues is time-consuming and solves nothing. If the chorus harmonies are problematic, but the rest of the song is fine, hit the harmonies a few times. Once you think you’ve got it worked out, then maybe play a verse into a chorus a few times for reps to lock it in, and then move on. While there are some songs that are easier than others to just find a spot to start from, it’s imperative to learn this skill. If the band can’t start from a spot in the tune (a comfortable spot, within reason), then it might be time to learn the song more thoroughly. To quote a musical director I worked for, “you need to be able to play your part minus the other parts.” Knowing your own part well enough to just go regardless of the other parts is an essential skill.
  3. Drill down to parts that need work: If there is an issue but it’s hard to pinpoint, start subtracting instruments from a section. For example, if there is a harmony problem then run a section for vocals with harmonies only. If something in the rhythm section is disrupting the pocket, then drop it to rhythm section only, no vocals. Keep subtracting instruments until you’ve found the issue(s) then fix it.
  4. Know your gear: It’s very important to know your gear inside and out. As gear has gotten more programmable and complex, it is just as important to know your gear as it is to know the songs you’re going to play. You might ask, “why is this on a rehearsal productivity list?” Well, for every minute spent diagnosing gear problems, it’s a minute taken away from valuable rehearsal time (especially if it’s paid time). Now, I’m not a heartless bastard, I promise. I’ve had gear give me the middle finger in rehearsal and on stage a number of times. It’s never fun and when it happens, you just have to react accordingly. The idea here is to know your gear well enough to be able to diagnose issues as quickly as possible and be able to get back in the game with as little time lost as possible. The last thing you want to do is stand there and do nothing because you don’t know how to operate your gear.
  5. Saved the best for last, KEEP THE MOOD LIGHT! – Rehearsals (even challenging ones) can be extremely productive, funny as hell, and serious about the music all at once if conducted properly. It all depends on how it’s run. The best rehearsals I’ve ever been a part of have had my stomach hurting from laughter and my brain hurting from concentration. Levity can be a valuable tool to any band practice when used in moderation.

 

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