Band rehearsals are part of playing live music, and there are things you can do to ensure you’re making the most of your time. I’ve got 11 tips to get you on the right track.
Whatever flavor of music artist you are — a solo artist putting a band together for a showcase, an original band that works as a partnership gigging locally or getting ready for a tour, a cover band looking to play the circuit, etc. — rehearsing for live shows and recordings is part of the life of a musician. Anyone who has been doing this for any amount of time already knows that sometimes rehearsals can be very efficient and sometimes they can be a complete nightmare.
I’ve got several tips to make sure that your rehearsals are productive and help you move your music and performances forward.
1. Find a rehearsal space
If you’re rehearsing with a full band, renting a house might be an option. This is something I did with with my groups — we rented a house and we had everything laid out in the cellar. It was perfect — our neighbors were really cool, we had woods in the back, we had a park next door, and I think the lady across the street was deaf, so we didn’t bother her.
But this isn’t always an option, which means you may need to go and find a rehearsal studio — plenty of cities and towns have buildings with tons of rehearsal rooms and you rent your little cube and throw your drums and guitars and PA in there and many of these places will give you 24/7 access. Another option, of course, is rehearsing in someone’s home — especially if you don’t need to be rehearsing with your amps cranked to 11. Maybe you can do an acoustic rehearsal with acoustic guitars and the drummer playing bongos or playing with brushes or slapsticks. Oftentimes, that’s a cool way to rehearse.
But you need to plan for how you’re going to rehearse and the first step to effective rehearsals is having a consistent place where you can go without a hassle and be creative. Sounds basic, and it is, but it’s very important.
2. Agree to a consistent schedule
Have you ever worked a job where you never know when you’re gonna work and they just call you up and say “Hey? You want to work a shift today?” Probably not, right? Every serious group I was in rehearsed on a schedule like it was a job. Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, we’d rehearse. We had specific times laid out and you made it part of your life, like going to a class or a job. That really helps everybody to organize their lives and leads to consistency and efficiency because everybody can work everything else in around that schedule.
So treat this like a job and make sure to schedule a very specific time each week. The frequency depends on the band — we rehearsed multiple days a week, but that’s not the case for everyone. But I’m always surprised when I hear about groups that just rehearse the night before a show and it’s only the one rehearsal. If you’re trying to go somewhere with this, you’ll need to build in plenty of rehearsal time.
Rehearsing before the rehearsal … wow how about that? Do you know how frustrating it is when you show up to a rehearsal and you’re ready to run the songs and then … someone’s got to sit down and show the chords to the guitar player. That is really a pain in the butt. Everybody needs to sit at home, do their work, know their parts, and then come in and get down to business.
I mean, can you imagine a marketing meeting at a professional corporation where everybody gathers to review financials or the budget and the team comes in and starts asking “What’s this folder?” and “Where’s the income statement?” and “Oh, yeah, I didn’t pull that report together,” and everybody is just shuffling around? You can imagine how long and unproductive the meetings would be and how quickly the company would fold. You should be ready to rehearse when you arrive — so rehearse before band rehearsals and know your parts.
4. Be on time
Don’t show up late for rehearsal. It’s disrespectful, first and foremost, and let’s just say you’re renting a rehearsal room by the hour. You’re paying $40 an hour for rehearsal and you’re going to show up late and kill 20 minutes and your band mates’ money?
What you should do is show up 20 minutes before rehearsal begins and set up your drum kit outside so when the other band comes out, you wheel yours in and you’re ready to rock and roll. You’ve got to think of this as a business. Yeah, there’s traffic in every city, so plan ahead and leave 20 minutes early. Enough said.
5. Don’t noodle
Noodling is when you’re trying to talk about something and the guitar player is playing his solo or the drummer’s got that nervous twitch where she just wants to keep on playing. In rehearsal, in between songs, you may need to discuss stuff — hey, slow down, or you were playing behind the beat, or push it a little bit before the chorus, etc. But then the keyboardist is banging a riff over and over and you can’t focus or concentrate. If there’s a band discussion going on, take your hands off your gear, turn down the volume knob, and pay attention.
6. Rehearse with a click
When you’re on stage — especially drummers, man they’re like racehorses, they want to take off. Well, not all drummers, but I was on fire. I wanted to push things. So, rehearse with a click, and maybe even rehearse slower than you intend to play live, so when it comes to the stage where you’re a little bit more excited, you’re going to be more controlled. A lot of people these days are even playing with clicks onstage because they have to trigger things — but in any case, rehearse with a click. It will make the group tighter, it will keep things relaxed, and it will keep things on tempo. You don’t want to go out there and play the songs twice as fast live. Figure out some sort of system where you can rehearse with the click, you’ll be glad you did.
I’ve got five more tips for better band rehearsals in this next video:
7. Record your rehearsals
8. Hold sectionals
9. Bring supplies
10. Have a guest policy
11. Have a party policy
Want more music career advice? Don’t just read it… watch the videos on Bobby Borg’s YouTube channel.
Bobby Borg is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician (Second Edition), Business Basics For Musicians (Second Edition), and The Five Star Music Makeover (published by Hal Leonard Books). Get these books at any fine online store in physical or digital format. Learn more at www.bobbyborg.com.
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