Five Laws of Productive Band Practice

When your band rehearses, is it a chill, low-key hang — or are you getting something done?

There’s nothing wrong with gathering good players in a room, leaning back, and seeing where the musical conversation leads: let things flow, tell a few drummer jokes, see what happens. But if you’re in a working band, and maybe paying a few bucks for a rehearsal space, you need to make the most of your band's time together. Here are five ways to make your rehearsal time as productive as possible.

Set Clear Goals

You’ll get more done with a short "To Do" list than with a vague plan to jam. Make a finite list of achievable goals for the rehearsal and stick to it. Decide well in advance what the band needs to work on (a good time is the day after the prior rehearsal) and circulate the agenda so everyone is on the same page.

Be Prepared

Players should work on individual parts on their own time, so that band time can be dedicated to puzzle-piecing things together. It’s such a drain when one guy is just getting familiar with material everyone else learned in advance. So once the rehearsal goals are set, cut out some time to prepare. Hosting services and personal clouds (Dropbox, Google Drive) make it easy to share the materials that may be needed for prep and practice such as audio clips, lyrics, charts and sheet music.

When Bandmates Are Working Out A Part, Just Shaddup!

Sorry for the attitude but this is a major peeve. We all enjoy making sound but if the band is trying to get from point A to point B, just stop playing so people can talk through an issue or work through a part. Mute your output, take a walk, or make yourself a sandwich. Do anything to give them the space they need.

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Hold Breakout Rehearsals

Kind of a bummer, and kind of a time suck, when half of a rehearsal is spent on vocal harmonies or dual guitar parts, that's wasted time for the rest of the band. Hold separate rehearsals for those members who need to work together. This way everyone’s time is maximized and the parts will be nailed at the next full-band practice.

Add An X-Factor

This sounds like the kind of dodgy advice they offer in glossy mags to spice up a relationship (...whisper filthy things about his mom! Insert a jalapeño somewhere special!), but musicians are creative problem solvers, and dropping a variable into the equation can lead to new, unexpected results.

A few suggestions to kick you off:

  • Switch instruments
  • Invite a guest musician
  • Rehearse on acoustics
  • Rehearse outside
  • Cover a song with different instrumentation

My own band had a great practice recently after we arrived in a rehearsal studio without cymbals or a kick pedal. We thought our night’s plan was sunk but the challenge pushed our drummer into a new rhythmic direction, and afterwards we all agreed we were paying more attention to intonation and timing without the cymbals obscuring everything. Embrace the happy accidents and rely on smart planning, and your next rehearsal may be your most successful yet.

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