How you can make your band practice better

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Band practice is a lot of fun. Hanging out with your band mates, playing awesome songs and overall just having a great time. But sometimes rehearsing can also lead to frustration. For example when it takes forever to learn that new song. Or when rehearsal takes an hour longer than anticipated. This article contains everything you need to know to finish your to-do list and make sure you don’t leave the rehearsal room feeling exhausted.

What do you want to accomplish during rehearsal?

Before you start rehearsing you should determine what you want to accomplish. Are you rehearsing because you keeping making mistakes on this one song? Or are you in the practice room because you’ve decided on learning some new songs? Write down and communicate to your band members what the goal of the practice is. By letting everyone know beforehand they can prepare and adjust their mindset.

Preparing for your rehearsal

If you are going to rehearse new songs, everyone in the band should know what they should play. This means practicing at home till they have their parts just right. Focus on all the riffs/(bass)lines/chord changes and especially the form of the song. Be aware of details like passing tones, breaks or measures that contain an extra beat.

Pay extra attention to when the bass comes in, when there is a break and how the song ends. If you have a singer that wants to play the song in a different key because of their vocal range, the singer has to inform everyone beforehand so they can anticipate.

Figuring out the parts you have to play is something you do before rehearsal, at home. Doing it while you’re at band rehearsal is just wasting people’s time. If you have trouble figuring out a part, ask one of your band members to help you out at an earlier moment. And of course, check out my article Playing songs by ear on bass for some awesome tips.

What can you do during rehearsal?

The first thing you should do is be on time. It would be even better if you are a bit early so you can tune your bass, set up your amp and get something to drink. This tip is even more important for drummers and guitar players since they tend to have a lot more gear.

After setting up it’s time to get started! It’s a good idea to make a general planning for the rehearsal beforehand. If you want to play four new songs in two hours, you have 120/4= 30 minutes per song. Keep track of time while you are rehearsing.

During rehearsal you should focus on things that you cannot practice when you are alone. These are things like grooving together, checking if the parts sound right together and if all breaks/endings/intros are clear. Also, do the sounds of the instruments work well together?

If a song has a fade-out on your recording this is the time to decide on a way to end the song.

Make sure to take notes when you have some work to do once you get home. If you notice your bass line doesn’t sound right against what the guitar players does, both of you should double check at home (if it’s not something you can figure out fast).

What do you do when you don’t have enough time?

If you realize that the allocates time is not enough, you should ask yourself why there is not enough time. Did everyone prepare well? Did you expect to get too many things done in a short amount of time?

When you reach the end of your time slot, move on. You can work on the song some more at the end of the rehearsal if there is time left. You can also decide that some extra work needs to be done at home. Don’t spend your rehearsal teaching one of your band members how to play their part.

Recording your practice

If you are satisfied with how you sound together, make a recording using a Zoom recorder or even your phone. This allows you to practice the song in the version your band plays it at home. It also gives you the chance to reevaluate what you played during rehearsal.

When we are in the heat of the moment our playing often sounds different then when we listen to it as a mere spectator.

Pro tip: Only record a good take of the song. Recording the whole rehearsal means you have to invest time in cutting up the recording and finding the right takes. Share the recordings with your band members. Maybe put them on your cloud storage so everyone can access them?

How long should your band practice be?

The length of a rehearsal really depends on which band you are in, or the goal of the rehearsal. You have probably heard the stories about James Brown’s band rehearsals. They would practice the same groove for many hours just to get it right.

Although that sound admirable, it will suck the life out of you. If the music sounds good, let is rest and move on. Grooves sometimes need time to develop in your brain or in your fingers.

I have worked with a few band leaders who would at the end of a long rehearsal, use any spare time to go over the songs again and again. Talking about the perfect recipe for killing the mood.

Once everything sounds right and tight, and you have the recordings you need (for home practice), please stop. Have a drink, talk about life and have fun.

I always aim to don’t make rehearsals longer than three hours. Sometimes when you are playing a big production and you are short in time you have to work longer days. In that situation, be sure to take regular breaks so you don’t burn out.

Some other general rehearsal tips

Get your own rehearsal space. This will save you having to set up your stuff every time. Invest in a fridge and a coffee maker and you will never want to leave. Don’t put a couch in the room, one of the band members might consider terminating the rent of their apartment.

Choose a band leader. If you have someone in the band who is naturally more organized, let that person keep track of time. This person decides when to move on to the next song and what actions to take before the next practice/show. You can also take turns being the band leader for different rehearsals.

Watch your volume. Practicing at a lower volume allows you to hear better what’s going on in the arrangement. High volumes also tire your ears much more easily.

Don’t noodle. When the guitar player and drummer are discussing whether to play a hit on the second or third sixteenth, it’s not the perfect time to practice your slap technique. Don’t play random stuff in between songs or during important conversations.

Make sure you don’t get hungry or thirsty. Bring something to eat and/or to drink. Nobody wants a hangry bass player.

To summarize

Rehearsing is about doing the stuff that you have to do together. Focus on making the songs sound good together and put in the hard work at home. Take notes and recordings of what you decided on. This way you won’t feel you’re the main star in Groundhog Day every time you are at band practice.

Don’t rehearse longer than needed. When you are done, you’re done. Take enough breaks and be on time. This will make sure everyone will leave practice with a smile.

If these tips didn’t make your band practice better, but you did enjoy reading this article, you might want to check out Should I quit my band?

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