UG editorial team. A group of people who are passionate about guitar and music in general.
Posted on Jan 20, 2016 01:01 pm
The other day, I was reading a garden variety "how to make it in music" book that I picked up in a thrift store. Most of the advice featured was solid, if not revelatory, until I got to the section on band practice.
For bands serious about making it, the book recommended scheduling eight-hour practice sessions. Anything less, it stated, was insufficient time for writing and rehearsing.
You can sort of understand the logic. Eight hours is the length of a standard working day. If you're considering professional musician as a full-time career, then it makes sense to put full-time hours into it, right?
Wrong. I've been in bands where eight-hour practice sessions were the norm. And, in my experience at least, they were some of the least productive times I've spent writing and rehearsing music. Meandering and unfocused, we'd come out of the rehearsal room having accomplished little more than when we went in. Even worse, we'd be exhausted by the end of it, barely motivated to make it to the next marathon session.
These days, I'm a firm believer that rehearsals shouldn't be the length of a "Lord of the Rings" marathon. Actually, I've found that you can achieve more in a well planned three-hour session than you can in an unstructured eight-hour slog.
To get the most out of your shorter session, though, there are a few simple rules that you need to follow.
Record Ideas Before Rehearsals, Send Them to Your Bandmates
It's a familiar scenario. You show up to band practice with a killer new idea, only to spend the next two hours teaching the riffs and structure to the rest of your bandmates. By the end of the session, you're knackered and haven't made nearly as much progress as you'd have liked.
Time spent teaching riffs to your bandmates is time wasted. And, in the age of easy digital filesharing, there's no need for it. Buy yourselves digital recorders (if you're on a budget, you can use your cell phone or webcam) and document your ideas. Then, set up a cloud based shared folder and upload said ideas for the rest of your band to hear.
That way, everyone shows up to practice already au fait with everyone else's material. You don't have to faff around teaching parts and can get straight to the nitty gritty of turning that idea into a song.
Decide What You're Working on Before You Show Up
You've arrived at the rehearsal room. You're gear's set up, you're in tune and you're warmed up and ready to go... so now what?
Cue an hour of aimless jamming, run-throughs of half remembered cover songs or idle chatting before somebody finally suggests a vague plan of action. You've already used up a big chunk of rehearsal time and you've got nothing to show for it.
If you want to make the most of your band practice, you need to decide what you're working on before you get there. This means doing something that rock musicians are intrinsically afraid of: scheduling.
How you schedule your time will depend on what your larger objectives are. If you've got a gig coming up, you'll probably want to devote a good chunk of your session to running through your set. If you've got riffs piling up in your shared folder (see point one), you'll want to set aside some time to work on those ideas.
By deciding what you're working on before you turn up, you can get straight down to business and minimize idle time in the rehearsal room.
Record Your Rehearsal
There's nothing worse than spending a three hour session working on a killer new track, then coming back into the room a week later to find that you've forgotten it.
Back in the day, this was an inescapable part of the rehearsal process. Fortunately, we live in an age where recording sound is easy and sharing said sounds amongst a group of people is even easier.
Invest in a good quality digital recorder(again, use your phone if you're on a budget, though you'll get a lot of clipping if you're playing with a drummer) and capture your rehearsals.Designate a band member to upload those recordings to your shared folder and make sure that everyone listens to them before the next session. That way, you forego the process of re-learning that often takes up valuable rehearsal time.
Work on Ideas Outside of Band Practice
There's no fun in standing around idly while a guitarist tries to come up with a solo or a singer is struggling with lyric ideas. Some people see this as a necessary part of the writing process. Actually, it's a waste of your time.
It's true that most aspects of song writing require a full band presence. But there are a number of things thatcan be worked on outside of the rehearsal studio and don't require all of you being there.
I'm guessing that vocal harmonies, lyrics and guitar solos aren't usually a joint effort in your band. At most, there will be one or two people who handle those aspects of song writing. So let the people responsible for those parts work on them away from the rehearsal and spend the time you have together sorting out the things that require everybody's presence.
That way, no-one has to stand around like a lemon and your song writing is more efficient.
Schedule Breaks Into Your Session
You know what's a sure fire creativity killer? Burnout.
Sometimes, bands think that making the most of their rehearsal session means several hours of non-stop, balls-to-the-wall playing. Those bands often walk out of rehearsals looking like they've gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson with little to show for their efforts.
Writing and rehearsing can be an intensive process that requires all of your concentration. By making sure you have a break in your schedule, you keep yourself fresh and keep the ideas flowing.
It might seem counterintuitive, especially if you're paying for your rehearsal space by the hour. But a well-timed 15-minute breather can save you hours of time wasted due to flagging energy levels.