5 Tips to Keep Your Band Rehearsal Focused

Oct 5, 2016

blog - 5 Tips to Keep Your Band Rehearsal Focused

Have you ever thought about the distinction between “practice” and “rehearsal?” When you boil it right down, practicing music is something you do alone, working on your own, trying to get things that you have personal difficulty with right. Rehearsal, on the other hand, is a group activity, where you all work together to get thing right, to sound and act as one cohesive group. While both concepts are intimately linked, trying to bring your practicing habits into a rehearsal might not be the best idea. If ever there was an activity with the potential for wasted time and effort, it’s band rehearsal! If everyone just brings their own practice routine to the band rehearsal, you end up with a guitarist practicing some random, complicated riff, that may or may not have anything to do with the rest of the band, a drummer tuning his heads and fidgeting with his sticks, and a singer distracted by their “fans.” Thank God for the bassist, or nothing would get done!

Practice, as we’ve covered before, is an extremely important part of your musical education and journey, and rehearsal can be an equally important opportunity, but they require a slightly different approach. So, with that in mind, this week we’ll be exploring 5 tips for running an effective band rehearsal, where everyone can get the most out of the session.

1. Structure Helps

First and foremost, the most important thing you can do to make sure you get the most out of your rehearsal sessions is setting up a structure for the session ahead of time. I know, it sounds obvious. how else would you know what you’re going to be working on? But you would be surprised how easy it is for the entire band to show up and basically say, “Okay. Now what?”

There are two or three obvious things (depending on your group) for a band to work through during a rehearsal. The first is building your set list, the second is refining that set list, and the last is songwriting, if your band writes their own music. To form your structure, you first need to decide which phase your band is in.

  • Set list building requires about 4 songs to rehearse. Any more than that may be a bit too much for one rehearsal, especially if you’re in the early stages of learning these songs, and are looking to really nail them down.
  • If you’re in set list refining mode, you should play through your set in order, one at a time. If there is a major mistake made early on in the rehearsal, start over, but your goal should be to just play all the way through. Any errors made later in the set should be taken note of, to be worked on at the end of the rehearsal.
  • If you also write your own material, a songwriting session will be vastly different than set list setting or refining. You may want to save the first half of your rehearsal for songwriting, take a short break, and go back to pre-written music after.

2. What’s Important?

When you are working on the structure of your rehearsal, it is important to consider what you “should” be working on, rather than what you might “want” to work on. In the simplest of terms, you should be fully comfortable with your current musical selection before bringing in any new material. New music has a kind of subconscious draw to it; we always love what’s new! But trying new stuff before you’ve fully mastered your current set list will just muddy the waters and complicate your rehearsals going forward. In a worst case situation, starting new music before you’ve fully learned the old material might result in your band not knowing any of your music well.

If you find that your band is having problems perfecting a song after weeks, try giving yourselves more time to work on it during your next session.

3. Speak Up!

Musicians tend to have pretty big personalities, especially those musicians driven to join a group or band. And while this has a lot of advantages in both the real world and the musical world, it can be a pain in the rear end when it comes to rehearsal time. With a room full of dominant personalities it can be difficult to get people to focus amid all the joking around and constantly shifting ideas.

“Let’s do this…!”

“Hey, I’ve got a great idea…!”

“What if we did this instead…?”

“I think we should do it this way…”

Meanwhile, no music is actually being made. It can be overwhelming sometimes. Don’t be afraid to speak up to try to focus the group on the reason you’re all together: rehearsing actual music. Sometimes that just means playing until everyone figures it out, and joins in.

4. Do Your Homework

Rehearsals are a group activity, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect your private practicing. If you know that you are struggling with a particular passage or song, don’t waste your bandmates’ time by using the rehearsal time to work on your part. You should be doing your own homework, and making sure your know your part at home. If it’s a new song, make sure you have the proper sheet music, chords, or tabs to practice it on your own.

You might also want to assign new songs to specific members of the band, making it their responsibility to make sure everyone has the same material to practice from.

5. How’d it Go, and What’s Next?

At the end of each rehearsal session, it’s very important to have a frank reflection on the success of the rehearsal. This not only helps you assess your progress, it also helps you to plan your next session by making sure important things aren’t missed, and can be addressed the next time you meet. It’s highly recommended that someone take notes at the end of your rehearsal, being careful to note where you are as a group on each song, and what needs to be worked on. If you can manage to take just 5 short minutes at the end of each session to do this, your rehearsals will become a lot more effective each week.