Rehearsals are obviously important to any performance, but if you’ve had a few by now you’ll realize that it can be difficult to be productive during a rehearsal. It’s easy to lose track of time, chatting away and treating it more like a hang-out than an effort to be prepared for the next gig. You might realize by the end of a rehearsal that your band hasn’t accomplished much, leaving you worried and having to book more rehearsals. Learning how to rehearse a band sometimes means you have to step up to the plate and be the taskmaster that leads the band.
Rehearse like you’re on Stage
A big mistake that a band makes when rehearsing is to not play as if you’re on stage. This might seem pretty obvious, but think about how a typical rehearsal might be different from being on stage: You don’t have an audience, you can start and stop at any point without consequence, you have plenty of space (hopefully) to move around, you don’t have to work with a sound technician, you can take as long as you want between songs, etc. None of the pressure and constraints of a public performance are usually present. You must take advantage of the relaxed atmosphere of a rehearsal to work out any kinks in a performance, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the end goal is to have a tight performance on stage. If you’re wrapping up a rehearsal without ever playing a song from start to finish without stopping, you’re going to be in trouble. Aim to recreate as many aspects of your live performance setting as possible, including stageplots, amp positioning, performing without eye contact, etc.
Show up Prepared
Nothing sucks the wind out of a rehearsal’s sails like showing up without doing your homework. Learning your parts is something you do on your own time, because you shouldn’t waste other people’s time while you try to catch up. Rehearsals are a group effort and should be more concerned with how tight the whole group is playing. Pull your weight, and don’t let your team down.
Don’t Start at the Top
So you’re ready to tackle the first song of rehearsal and all goes well until you hit that one spot where it falls apart. You discuss what needs to be worked on with your band mates before tackling it again, from the beginning of the song. Hold it! You were doing just fine up until that point, so why bother repeating all of that? It’s a huge waste of time. You will likely make the same mistake because your mind will be distracted with everything else you have to play correctly up to that point. What you should do is to begin from the section of music that needs work, or even zoom into the specific measures/bars. Once corrections are made, then play the entire section/song.
Have a Plan
A typical plan for a rehearsal will include the list of songs that will be practiced and what needs to be improved from the last rehearsal. You will also need to consider time constraints; for the whole session and individual musicians who may need to leave sooner. Be open to adjust the plan as you may discover new problems in rehearsal, but don’t lose sight of the overall game plan.
Appoint a Director
When a band doesn’t have a leader it can behave like an animal with too many heads, trying to go in many directions at once and accounting for everyone’s opinions. Time is wasted as a result. In most professional settings, you will have a musical director that guides the rehearsal in order to have an effective one. If you’re in a “democratic” band where everyone is an equal, the musical director should be the one who has the best set of ears. They need to have the skills to identify exactly what needs to improve, and the language to communicate that to the respective musicians. See if your band can unanimously agree on someone to take on this role. This role becomes less important if your whole band is made up of experienced musicians, as it’ll be easier to agree on issues.
There’s something to be said about the type of directors that resemble the one in Whiplash. There are many out there who exercise a tyrannical rule and use fear and intimidation as a way of getting what they want. This might work in some settings, but is generally a bad way of going about being a director. You’re more likely to breed contempt and resentment which ultimately leads to a bad reputation. In a band, you’re a team all working towards a goal. You’re much more likely to get cooperation if you avoid behaviours that blame or shame your musicians. There will be times when you need to call out unprofessional behaviour, but as a rule, be kind. This is even more important when you’re in a “democratic” type band.
That’s it. I hope your next rehearsal is a great success!