How much time do you spend in your rehearsal space?
For anyone performing their music in public, practice is important. For groups, particularly traditional “bands,” it’s more than important – it’s the key element of your live show. You have to be able to play the songs (and remember them) with precision and consistency, and the ONLY way to do that is to rehearse.
Before I get ahead of myself here, let me say that I know every group functions differently. Songs can be written as collaborations by the entire group, or composed top to bottom by one member, people learn songs with or without charts or sheet music. I get it – it’s a little different for each and every one of us.
That said, bands have enough in common to learn from one another, to pay attention to the others around them – if nothing else, it offers a little perspective on what you might look or sound like on stage yourself.
These are just a few things I try to keep in mind for a productive practice session, not that I manage to follow them all every time. Use these ideas to tighten up your live show:
1. Practice How You Perform
When you set up, try to go for a layout that at least vaguely resembles your stage set up, get used to where everyone is going to be. When you’re running through a tune you know: if you perform standing up, stand up! Don’t forego a pedal or share a microphone if you don’t have to. Practice your songs the way you plan to play them in front of people.
2. Talk to Each Other
Communication couldn’t be a bigger deal. You have to be vocal about parts you want to go over, the songs you want to run through. When working on new material, share your ideas, let people know what you’re thinking as you figure out your own part. This kind of talk will really help solidify the feel of a tune, and probably inspire others with ideas of their own.
3. Work Out The Kinks
Awkward changes can ruin the momentum of a song, so can sloppy outros or harmony that isn’t quite right. Part of rehearsal is for polishing your established material, but part is also for hammering out all the little rough spots. If your part (or someone else’s) seems weird, say something, and spend the time to figure it out. If it means counting through it as a group, or breaking it down note by note, that’s just fine – this is the time to do it.
4. Don’t Be Afraid of The Rewrite
This goes hand in hand with #3, really. Sometimes it’s hard to get everyone on the same page. Hell, sometimes people write parts that are a little bit outside of their abilities – if this is happening, maybe it’s the part that needs work, not the player. It’s not entirely uncommon for something to “click” musically after it’s been played dozens of times. If you hear something you might like better, there’s no reason not to try it out. Even if you don’t keep it, you’re thinking about your songs in a fresh way.
Wait. A quick caveat before the last one – BE CAREFUL WITH #3 AND #4 – they are a potentially bottomless pit. There’s nothing wrong with working on new parts, or spending time mastering a difficult passage, but it is possible to lose a whole rehearsal dwelling on something small. You have to know when to move on to something else, or when the minuscule change isn’t worth spending an hour discussing.
5. Make a Game Plan
While everyone’s getting set, before you even turn the amps on, take a second to talk about what you want to accomplish over the course of your rehearsal. If you need to bang through your set for an upcoming gig, do just that. If there’s some new tune you want to spend a few hours working on, do that instead. Putting some expectations on the table will help the group stay on track
Bringing these things into your practice routine might help you get a little more done with the time you have, and more importantly, help you get tight for the crowd. Trust me, they can tell when you haven’t been practicing.
There’s a little slice off the top of my head for you, until next time…