What Do You Want To Achieve
We’ve all heard the age old adage that practice makes perfect, but the recipe to create the perfect practice regiment seems to remain shrouded in mystery. Although there are many successful formulas and theories to arrive at that pinnacle of band practice perfection, the only way one of these formulas will work for you is to craft a methodology based on what you want to achieve and experience as a musician.
Start by taking a look at what your goals are collectively as a band and what it’s going take to reach them.
If your aim is to play a set that sounds strong every performance without fail, then it takes a great deal of practice to build the physical endurance. To muscle through 5-12 songs every night with power and finesse takes lots of effort in the developmental stages of practice. Whereas jamming in a 3 man punk band may leave a bit more room for discretion, therefore not requiring so much prep work.
It’s important to take note of the different paths that you can take with your music career. Preparing for a world tour is much different than preparing for a gig at the local pub. A deep understanding of your level of aspiration gives you a point to aim for.
By now you and your bandmates should have formed a bond over your songs and have similar musical interests that have inspired you. So looking at the examples and steps taken before us by the artists we look up to and aspire to be like, we can get a sense of the level of work that has to go into achieving our goals.
So each band (or solo artist with hired bandmates) has to start from a distinct goal and work backward when it comes to rehearsing.
Location and Schedule
Once you have a clear idea (collectively) as to where you want your career to go, you need to find a time and a place that everyone can commit to. The right creative environment and a mutually convenient schedule is crucial to helping every member of the band feel fully engaged and present when at rehearsal.
Whether you choose a band members basement/garage or settle into a nice lockout or rented rehearsal space, make sure everyone involved is happy in your band rehearsal space and that the practice space is allowing you to do what you do with complete freedom.
If you only have a limited time at your band practice space and the sound conflicts with other businesses or tenants in the building, you could run into some troubles. You want a place where you can go and be completely immersed in your art, and that should be clear to everyone when looking for a spot.
If three people in the band love it but one is complaining about the smell of the carpet, it will surely affect your rehearsals (especially if that band member happens to have a microphone).
A typical band practice schedule is usually something like 2 or 3 hrs, 3 days out of the week and that certainly has proven to allow enough time for a group to become nicely polished. However, sometimes you have to work around certain obstacles that require you to get creative.
In a previous band that I was in, we all lived in different towns that were over an hour apart. We did one weeknight rehearsal for 3 hrs and then the same on Saturday. The guys would crash at my place that night and then Sunday would be an all day jam. This gave us the same amount of time to grind it out as if we did 5 or 6 days a week for 2 hrs.
Stay Out of the Box
It’s not the quantity as much as the quality of your band rehearsal and there are many ways that you can make the most out of each band practice session. One trick that I stole from my martial arts training was to start over from the beginning if you make a mistake. So for instance, if you are working on doing 100 repetitions with the nunchucks of a certain pattern and you make a mistake at number 65, you start over. Do this with the most difficult songs only or that one section that just needs the extra spice. This will also require everyone to come prepared so that you are not starting every song over a dozen times because one guy didn’t work on his parts at home.
One trick that I stole from my martial arts training was to start over from the beginning if you make a mistake. So for instance, if you are working on doing 100 repetitions with the nunchucks of a certain pattern and you make a mistake at number 65, you start over. Do this with the most difficult songs only or that one section that just needs the extra spice.
This kind of focus will also require everyone to come prepared so that you are not starting every song over a dozen times because that one guy didn’t work on his parts at home.
Another, rather extreme, practice method that I developed from my Jeet Kune Do training was the use of a weight vest.
Weight vests are used in training to build strength and endurance. Once you do a move with added weight, it’s much simpler once you remove the weight.
In an effort to really ramp up my vocal power and endurance to sing full-on for a 90-minute set, I would sing through the set while wearing a 40 lb weight vest, then take a short break and do the set again without the vest. The result was stronger chest, diaphragm, and abdominal muscles as they relate to singing.
All this extra work will lead to better projection, extended range, longer holds, and increased confidence.
Can you imagine what it would do for the quality of your band rehearsals and gigs if everyone in the band found a similarly extreme practice to zone in on their own strengths and weaknesses!
Another method is having partner jams outside of the regular band practice schedule. For instance, the two guitarists, or the drummer and bassist work on parts together once a week for an hour before band practice.
These intimate jams really help to isolate each part so that you can hear what the other is doing and find ways to lock in better. It also builds and tightens the musical bond and friendship as you work hand in hand to breathe new life into your songs.
Even just hanging out and listening to music with your bandmates can have a real positive influence on the way you see each other’s viewpoint or approach to music.
Treat Band Practice like a Gig
When you finally get everyone in the room, tuned up, and ready to rock, it’s best to treat your band practice like a live show. When you give all you’ve got to the practice and push your boundaries the way you would on stage, you open up something that catapults your performance abilities and musicianship to a new level. The same spirit is echoed in a quote from Bruce Lee:
“Fear not the man who has learned 10,000 kicks, but fear the man that has practiced 1 kick 10,000 times.”
Always play with passion and intensity, whether it’s a live show or a quick rehearsal. The more you use your expressive talents, the more vibrant and magnetic they become!
Keeping your band practice sessions focused and productive is crucial to getting the most out of your time together. Have an agenda and stick to it!
A practice agenda could be either running your set twice, focusing on new material, or a combination of both. Set aside times for short breaks and get right back in the zone when it comes time to work.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in other things when you step outside the rehearsal space and it’s everyone’s job to hold each other accountable and committed to using your time wisely.
The most effective thing that I have ever done for my music career is simply recording my shows and rehearsals. Having a solid recording of your whole band jamming is a great way to learn where you can tighten things up and make improvements. It also gives you a listenable reference of your music that you can hear as you step back from playing.
These days most music rehearsal facilities are equipped with a CD recorder or Pro Tools rig, making it simple for each member to leave band practice with a reference CD they can rock on the way home. Even a good phone app like the Fire field recorder, or at best your voice recorder, will give you a decent reference if properly placed within the room.
Whatever methods you choose to employ for your band’s rehearsals, the bottom line is that these practice sessions are the most important time that you and your bandmates get to spend together to mold your craft.
By aligning your goals, staying focused, and pushing your limits, you are sure to unlock your own secrets of effective practice that will help you reach your musical goals!
Do you have any tips on how to improve your band’s practice schedule? Leave me a comment below!