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Eleven Tips For More Efficient Band Rehearsals
To get the most out of band practice, have a plan of action and stick to it

by Phil O'Keefe

Many of us have experienced less than efficient band rehearsals. Sometimes it seems like you can spend hours and hours at practice yet nothing really seems to get accomplished, and the band never seems to get any better. There are some common reasons behind inefficient band practice sessions, but they all have common-sense solutions. Here are a few tips for making more effective use of your band rehearsal time so you'll get more accomplished, and hopefully become a better, tighter band.

Learn your parts at home first. Every band has their own approach, and I'm not saying there isn't a time and place for songwriting sessions and jam sessions where you try to come up with something new spontaneously, but if you're going to have some of those sessions, schedule them separately from regular rehearsals. Before regularly scheduled practices, each player should already have their own parts largely rehearsed and worked out - the time to do that is in your own individual practice time at home. Save the group rehearsals for getting everything together with everyone playing, and working out how to make that tight - not trying to learn how to play the songs.

Arrive on time, and expect everyone else to do the same. Make it a point to arrive on time whenever possible. Sometimes being late is unavoidable due to having to stay late at work or unexpected traffic. Let everyone else know if you are running late so they can work on other things until you arrive.

Have a plan and schedule for the rehearsal session, and make sure everyone knows what it is in advance. You don't always have to rigidly stick to what's scheduled, but if you have a plan and know what you want to accomplish, you're far more likely to realize your goals and make them a reality.

Save the socializing until after practice. It can be tempting to have a few refreshments and catch up on the latest news with your friends in the band when everyone first arrives, but you'll get more done if you get down to business first and don't get distracted. Save chatting and hanging out until after you're done practicing.

Don't invite your SO or your friends. This one often steps on a few toes, but you'll get a lot more done at band practice if you leave your significant other at home and concentrate on the task at hand. And while you may be tempted to show off how good your band sounds to your friends, the time to do that is at the gig - not practice.

Turn off your phones. You'll get a lot more accomplished if everyone isn't texting their friends, getting a call from their girlfriend, or checking their email every ten minutes.

Turn on an audio recorder. Ever have a band practice where the bass player and drummer argued about who was coming in early on a part? If you record your rehearsals, you'll be able to play the song back and determine who actually was early and who wasn't. Being able to hear yourself on playback makes the areas where you're tight very clear - and the areas where you're not tight instantly obvious. Knowing what you need to work on and improve is half the battle, so don't underestimate the value of recording all of your practices (and gigs) whenever possible.  

When the music stops, STOP PLAYING! Don't continue to dink around on your guitar while the drummer and bass player are trying to discuss how to play the song's bridge section. If you absolutely must play and try to work something out yourself while they're talking, turn your volume down (or better yet, off) while you do so you don't interrupt them.

Leave the intoxicants at home. Many people think they play better after they've  partaken in a little of their personal libation of choice, but the truth is - most people play far worse when inebriated.

Don't push too hard without taking the occasional break. You have set breaks when you do a gig, and your rehearsals should be no different. Don't try to go three or four hours straight - take a five or ten minute break so you can hit the restroom and get some water and come back to finish the second half of rehearsal fresh and focused. But stick to that five or ten minute break limit and then get right back to work.

Make sure everyone is having fun. While you're there to get things accomplished, remember that when you're at rehearsal, it's all about the music - it should be fun and enjoyable for everyone involved. If someone doesn't look like they're having a good time, try to find out what's bothering them. Maybe they need to hear better and need their monitors adjusted, or maybe they're confused about how everyone is playing part of the song, or maybe they just can't stand that particular song. Making sure everyone is having fun, and that everyone feels free to express their thoughts when they're not, can go a long way towards reducing simmering problems that can cause issues for the band in the long term. -HC-

I'm sure you have some suggestions of your own on how to maximize band rehearsal efficiency, so why not click on this link and head over to the Backstage With The Band forum and tell us about what you recommend? And if you have any questions or other comments about this article, we welcome you to come join in the discussion too!



Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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