Welcome to Level Up Your Band, the series that teaches you how to build a successful band from the ground up, and to avoid the common pitfalls to which lesser bands succumb.
So, you've found a band that works (assuming you followed the advice that was laid out in Part One) and have built the essential foundations needed to level up your band. Now, it's time to get on with things, and that starts with rehearsals.
How exactly to go about rehearsing is likely something you haven't thought much about. Many bands don't, assuming it to simply be a case of "get everyone in a room, plug in the instruments and let the magic happen!"
In truth though, it doesn't work like that. Making rehearsals happen and making them happen effectively is more difficult to do than you think. And, getting it wrong is a sure fire way to limit the potential of your band, and to led to disappointment for you.
So here they are, the three Golden Rules of making your rehearsals work.
Rule One: Find a suitable rehearsal space
Using your rehearsals effectively first means finding a space that is suitable to rehearse in.
What exactly do I mean by that? Well, as I see it, there are two things that a space needs in order to facilitate effective rehearsing.
Firstly, you need a space where you can practice for hours at a time without being interrupted. Using the family garage or spare bedroom might seem like a great option for bands on a budget, but if family members, housemates or neighbors are consistently gatecrashing your session to tell you to keep the noise down, that session has been compromised.
Secondly, and related to point number one, you need a space in which you can make some noise. Ideally, you should be using the same equipment set-up in rehearsal that you'd use on stage: electric drum kits and practice amps might seem like a good way of limiting noise complaints, but they don't prepare you for the actualities of gigging.
If you've got a space on your property that can function as a rehearsal room and meet these criteria, then awesome. But, if you don't, then you can't compromise with reduced volume or face a continual barrage of noise issues. Hiring a rehearsal room might seem like an expense that you don't want, but if it gives your band the conditions to play in that they need, it's well worth it.
Rule Two: Set a consistent rehearsal time
I cannot emphasize the importance of this rule enough. From the get go, your band needs to have a day and time for rehearsals fixed into your schedule.
As a musician, you'll likely know that the only way to get better is through consistent and regular practice. Going through fits and starts of binge practicing between not picking up your instrument for several weeks will not get you the same results. Well, bands work in exactly the same way. Progress is incremental and built upon week-by-week.
In my experience, bands that don't have regular rehearsals find themselves going back to square one every time they meet up. They get sloppy, they don't remember what they worked on in the last session. They're not consistently building upon the last week's advancements and, as a result, they end up not progressing at all, usually before calling it a day with little to show for it.
Pick a day and a time to rehearse and stick to it. Make sure everyone in your band blocks that time off in their schedule and commits those three or four hours a week to rehearsal. Those who are serious about being in a band will not be afraid to making that commitment, and if your bandmates are wavering on this, then you know they're not the right bandmates for you.
Two more things of note here. In order for your band to progress at the proper rate, rehearsals should be happening at least once a week. Bi-monthly or monthly rehearsals will result in slow movement, so don't go down that road. And, while everyone in your band should be attending every session, there are sometimes legitimate reasons for people skipping the odd rehearsal such as family emergencies. In those cases, though, the rest of the band should still show up and carry on as usual. Momentum, after all, is the key concept here.
Rule Three: Rehearsals shouldn't be marathons
So you've decided on a day and time for your rehearsals. But how long should those rehearsals be?
In the past, I've read a number of articles and "how to make it in music"-type books that have recommended marathon, all day practice sessions, saying that shorter rehearsals aren't conducive to optimizing your creativity. But, I've never been convinced by the merit of eight hour, all-day sessions. In fact, I think they are actually detrimental to the creative process.
Here's the thing. An all-day rehearsal tends to be unfocused. There's a lot of meandering, a lot of distractions. Basically, you end up wasting time. And, even if you were on it, focused and super creative for all of those eight hours, you'd find yourself absolutely shattered by the end. Keep that up for a few months and you're going to end up burned out and disaffected with the whole situation.
In my experience, three or four hour rehearsal sessions are the way to go - it's a timeframe that gives you enough time to make good progress, but isn't so punishing that it knackers you. It's sustainable over weeks and months and is much easier to fit in alongside other life commitments, making it more viable for everyone to stay on it.
Now, some of you might be reading this segment and disagreeing with me, thinking that three hours a week is nowhere near enough rehearsal time for a band that's serious about getting somewhere. But to those of you I say this: "how effectively are you using your time?"
If the answer to that question is "not very," then make sure you read next week's edition - Optimizing Your Rehearsals - because, when you use your time right, you'll be amazed what you can accomplish in three hours.
By Alec Plowman