So you’ve got a band. You’ve got a following. Heck, you’ve even got goals! But recently, you’ve hit a plateau…your shows are just okay. Maybe you need better sleep, or better equipment, or maybe you just need to get…better.
It’s time to unite this raw artistic fervor into a little something called rehearsal.
Conducting an efficient rehearsal is paramount in improving your band’s sound. To help with this, we’ve outlined a few methods to make your sessions run like butter.
Step 1: Make a rehearsal schedule.
Step 2: (And this is the hard part) Stick to it.
Going into a rehearsal with a plan is often the difference between rich, productive studio time and a jam session with the crew.
2. Build a List of the Songs You Want to Work
The more familiar your band is with the material to be rehearsed, the more songs you can expect to get through. Allot a certain amount of time you plan to spend on each track and stay true to it. Ask yourself: is this session about creating new music, work-shopping what’s already been written, or polishing off the finished stuff?
3. Document Any Issues for Next Rehearsal
Apps like SetBoss and Musician’s Diary make this easy by providing shareable templates and spreadsheets where you can record tracks directly, arrange them into set lists, log time spent rehearsing each track, and jot down notes as you go. Even a simple to-do list app like Things can streamline the rehearsal by getting the band on the same page through shareable schedules and to-dos.
4. Be mindful of others’ time and chops
Having a scheduled break time somewhere in the middle of the session can prevent burn-out and improve overall focus. Also, be courteous to your band mates when scheduling your rehearsal set list. If your quasi-ska band only requires the horn players in 3 tracks, then put those tracks back-to-back at the beginning so your brass can leave as soon as they’re done, they’ll thank you for it.
5. Warming up
Coming into a rehearsal “cold” can lead to wasted
time and possible injury. Warming up effectively
sets the tone for the rehearsal and should be used as a period to not only get the blood flowing
through the relevant extremities, but as a chance
for the group to settle in and begin listening to one another. Instead of making it a private and rushed affair, factor the warm up into the rehearsal schedule.
Effective warm ups:
~ Charts or covers familiar to the group
~ 12 bar blues & improvising
~If all else fails, Apps like Scales and Modes or FretBoard provide written and tabulated scales to play through as a group.
6. To Metronome or Not to Metronome?
When to use one: Always.
When not to use one: Don’t even think about it.
Tempo inconsistency is the cause for countless musical hiccups and is the ultimate killer of groove.
Practice. With. A. Metronome. And, while you might think all metronomes are created equal, there has been an epidemic of stilted, inconsistent metronome apps that have developed along the smartphone in recent years. We’ve dug through the bad and the laggy to present you some reliable metronomes.
Web: Metronomeonline.com promises a reliable tempo for free and is useful if you have a laptop handy.
Paid Apps: Drum Beats (iOS and Android) it’s $3.99 but includes hundreds of optional drum tracks to replace the standard metronome beat.
Physical Metronome: Korg Metronome. This is pretty much the standard for portable metronomes and is a worthy trade-off for the unrelenting accuracy it promises its users. You can find these little guys at any music shop and you should only ever need one.
7. Pick a Leader
Coming to a consensus on who’s running this thing can prevent an Oasis-style meltdown between band members. Many bands have an unspoken understanding on who is calling the shots but for those who don’t, decide who is going to keep the ball rolling through the rehearsal. You can have one member who always takes on this role or try switching it up from one practice to another.
8. Record Rehearsals
Like hearing your own voice played back to you, hearing your own music sounding back can be grating at times. Nevertheless, playback is necessary to suss out the problem spots in your sound and be an effective critic of your music. The recording process need not be high-fidelity. This is recording for practical purposes, it’s not going to be your next EP (until it is, of course).
The mic on most phones or laptops: adequate.
Free recording apps: There is Rev (iOS and Android) or Voice Recorder Pro 7 (iOS).
Both apps allow you to transcribe the audio to various formats and export files to Google Drive, Dropbox, and Voice Recorder Pro 7 also exports to Microsoft OneDrive, Box Cloud, iCloud Drive, and SoundCloud.
Handheld Recorders: Zoom makes handy little recorders in different sizes and price and while they cost a bit more than a recording app, on the whole their usability is more far-reaching in that they offer multiple recording channels, easy transfer and saving of files via memory chip, and a bevy of other features for you to peruse.
9. Remote rehearsals
When the rehearsal time is right but location is not we must turn to remote rehearsing.
Websites like jamkazam offer a platform for musicians to rehearse, record, and join open jam sessions with other musicians from the comfort of their home wifi connection and there is even an app version that promises low-latency.
Another route you could go is investing in some hardware like Jamulus or Jam Link which make remote rehearsal work by providing low-latency network audio interface that is able to import and export uncompressed audio up to 500 miles at it’s highest quality. Think of this as Skype for your band, but with much less lag! Having said that, technology like the Jam Link and Jamulus is not impervious to a poor internet connection. They do require parties at both locations to purchase the necessary hardware so take these things into consideration as you decide on whether remote rehearsals are a must for your band. For more information on the topic you can hop over to this How-To guide on eJamming.
10. Run the Whole Show
This is an important step that often goes overlooked.
We spend so much time rehearsing the music that we assume the rest will just fall in place when we’re up on stage. In a final rehearsal, run through the set a couple times. This allows you to work out any kinks in the transitions between tracks. Switching instruments, adjusting balance, and yes, even the banter between you and the keyboardist could really benefit from a practice run.
11. Make time to Jam
Hey, you got everyone using the google calendar to find available practice time, you’ve “woodshedded” those runs before showing up, you kept the rehearsal on the rails; I thought this was supposed to be fun!
It is! So spend some time at the end of every rehearsal playing what you want. Whether this is a cover of the newest Yeezy or some Cream, another lap through the 12-bar blues or something all you own, make time to unwind as a group. Often, it’s here that we stumble upon our next musical invention.
Now go forth and practice wisely!
Robert Loustaunau is a content writer for youbloom and is a member of the social media team there. He is an avid music maker and listener. He enjoys the simple things in life: coffee, a good book, and quality time with his lovely girlfriend.