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How do You Organize and Run Your Rehearsals?


Dr. Ellwood

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I thought maybe some discussion on band rehearsals might be interesting. Because for most of us rehearsal time is very precious with so many other things going on at home and work, we might discuss ways to organize and optimize this time. Do you do any planning to focus on specific tasks your band needs work on? Are your rehearsals used to iron out rough spots in your set lists? How much time do you dedicate to vocal work? Do you record your rehearsals and review them together? How do you display lyrics (I have some good ideas here for you) How do you control the overall volume to zero in on potential performance problems. Just a general discussion, tips, ideas etc. lets see where this goes.
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My band only gets to do one rehearsal per week (drummer has a long commute, tough to do it more than that) on Sunday afternoon, so we do it marathon style. Typically first two hours (1-3pm) are dedicated to polishing up the material we've already gone through the homework/first group session ordeal on. That's just a good way to get warmed up and into the vibe. Follow that with two hours of fleshing out material that's been handed out already, but we haven't practiced together. Quick dinner break (we practice at my place, and I normally cook a huge meal for everyone) then 90 minutes worth of riff-exchanges - stuff each person has been developing on their own, so we can get some group input into it, pound out arrangements, develop lyrical ideas, etc. Follow that with a 60 minute rundown of all the finished material (stuff we've already recorded or are preparing to record) and we call it a night before the neighbors call the cops.

 

Maintaining this sort of structure just makes it easier to track our progress, as songs move from one stage to another, which keeps everyone motivated.

 

Believe it or not, it's amazingly easy to waste 7 hours if you don't stay on a schedule!

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Originally posted by Griffinator:

ROFL!

 

Shall we assume, HT, that by your statement you don't have much success with those parameters? :D

Haven't we all had to deal with a dirtbag at least once in a band situation?

 

I just want to set some simple parameters. If you don't have the basics in place (reliable people), there's no point in organizing anything.

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Definitely, my example is based on reliable people who show up on time. My drummer drives two hours one way to get to practice, and he's here at 12 noon sharp every Sunday so he can get set up and warmed up before everyone else gets here! My singer usually shows up early as well, to help the drummer out. The other guitarist usually needs a wake-up call, as he's 22 and partying on Saturday nights, but he gets here by 1pm consistently. Bassist, well, she spends the weekends at my place anyway! ;)
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Usually jam through whatever we want. Sometimes it is new material we are trying to complete. Sometimes it is the set so we can work on singing. We are always partying too, it is cool too. I mean after we get done playing for 45 mins then we are ready to play another 45 cuz we feel great and we are warm. I always play better with a few (4) beers in me. Just opens me up a little and dumbs my brain. Thinking and improvising don't mix well with me. It is more emotional. I like to ride the wave let all my practice do the talking. On 12 string it is kind of a box though cuz it takes so much energy to get the job done.
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I'm pretty much with Picker's method, since I write the stuff. I try to get everyone a lead sheet and a demo if possible so that we can have a starting point.

 

We're doing music based on defined structures that can be stretched to accomodate extended improvisation, or tightened to a stricter format. So the big thing is to have good communication and understanding without having to actually use words.

 

Warm up by running down tunes already rehearsed. Play down a couple of tunes you're supposed to already know. Or jam down a Real Book tune to focus it into our style.

 

New material, we'll try to run down the tune from the get-go and then look back on problem areas.

 

We'll focus on transitions from section to section, and then run it from the top again.

 

Other important stuff to do is sort of like exercises for the band. Just groove on an 8 bar phrase for an extended period - really get into the nuance and expression of each instrument.

 

And again, focus on transitions. Take that phrase you groove on, and roll around fills for everybody - first time through, the drummer fills back to one, next time a piano break, next time a guitar break, etc. This lets everyone get a feel for the kind of breakdowns people like to do. When you drop into an improv setting, the leader can give a nod to whoever is going to take next break, and everyone has a ballpark idea of where things are headed.

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Bill do you record ever record your rehearsals just for reference? Good stuff from everybody. We try to structure our rehearsals and the material to get variety from week to week at our gig. For learning lyrics or for new arrangements I use a overhead projector with transparencies, with marked up notation or style notes.
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Well since the add on computer based display graphics/text projectors have come into wide use, the old lamp versions are everywhere! I've been using this method for lots of years and it's great! there is NO problem seeing lyrics/arrangements when they are as big as the friggin wall! ..oh TIP...pick up an extra lamp.
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Let's see...

I'm usually the first one there, because our rehearsal spot is very close to my job. I put on the lights and clean up whatever might need putting away. If we're planning to record that night, I will set up the mics and get approximate levels for the drums and bass.

 

The other guys always show up early for our set rehearsal time of 7pm. It's not unusual for me to see them pulling up at 6:30.

 

We usually talk band business for a while and try to pick up on whatever we last worked on... sometimes we'll practice transitions between songs in our set, other times we work on nailing down arrangements of new material. Still other times, we just play straight through everything we know.

 

As for lyrics/arrangement visual aids, we all have notebooks with lyrics in them placed in convenient locations... and we have three giant dry-erase boards on one wall of our studio.

 

After about three hours or so, we're all dogged. We do this three times a week on average.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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When I was in a cover band, it was each members responsibility to learn his part independently, and we only got together to glue down the details. Bing, bang, done, see 'ya at the gig.

 

When I'm in original bands, the format is much looser. Jamming, fooling around, testing the boundaries.

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Originally posted by Bill@Welcome Home Studios:

When I was in a cover band, it was each members responsibility to learn his part independently, and we only got together to glue down the details. Bing, bang, done, see 'ya at the gig.

 

Bill

We do that as well - in fact, it's crucial, since we have limited practice time together. For new songs, we'll give them a once-over in the allotted time for a practice, I'll throw together a click-track version and lay guitar over it, send it up to the drummer in mp3 format, and everyone else pounds out their parts, and by the next practice, it's tight. Most of the songwriting sessions happen in small groups outside of main practice, so we can get the big stuff done while we're all together.
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We rehearse 2 -3 times/month from Sept until April, not at all during the summer when we gig a lot during the week.

 

Vocal rehearsals are separate from band rehearsals. We have four singers, three of which do leads.

 

I sometimes record rehearsals with a stereo mic into a mini-disc recorder. Later I will post the best takes in a private directory on our website for the band to listen to.

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Originally posted by Griffinator:

Originally posted by Picker:

Your girlfriend is your bass player? Shuck, I might only shoot to wound one like that, myself... :D

Now how could you shoot this?!

 

http://myspace-538.vo.llnwd.net/01341/83/53/1341483538_l.jpg

 

:love::love::love:

Aw yeah! dude you're living out my lifelong fantasy, having a hot girlfriend who plays well enough to have her in the band.

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

 

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Good topic. I am going to try and resist going on and on in my post. But this is sort of my pet peeve area, and the area I had most dissagreement with my group. I joined a few years back, but the group has been together off and on for about 12 years. They had developed LOTS of terrible practice habits.

 

Generally, they still made it work somehow.

 

I was surprised when I first joined that they never even setup mics and stands for backup vocals on songs that HAD backup harmony vocals. I thought this was nuts.

 

We also have a leader that is a great guy, but sometimes he is WAY too vague in critiquing, and also seems to feel he must critique songs right away...I pushed for us starting EVERY practice doing either a set, or a mini-set our songs, rotated when needed. I pushed hard for the idea that we did the set exactly as we would play, meaning the "leader" was not to make corrections while in the set, AFTER he got to mention the things he thought needed correcting, and maybe if he or we noticed a song that needed rework, work on that, then on to new material.

 

It hasn't been a habit yet, but we're getting there.

 

Recently, here, I saw the best phrase or saying, that perfectly stated what I saw as our biggest problem. Roughly it said "if you practice a part, say 5 times wrong, then finally get it right once, and then stop, you've effecively practiced to play it wrong!"...

 

I brought that up, and also got a lot more agressive about sayin "okay again...2, 3, 4!") trying to have really no lag time between trying whatever section we were working on. I think this has helped.

 

Last thing, I have been beating my head against a wall with two members that just plain don't practice...and they are the two that generally need it the most. When I had tried everything, a while back I realized I was the one on the short end of the stick...getting frustrated, etc. So I just accepted it. Turns out this was a good move. I had been the one pushing "please...can you work on that intro for next practice?" etc, but when I gave up the rest of the band began to get more irritated with the wasted time.

 

Main problem, the leader would say "okay...you don't have it down, we'll try again next week" but next week would come and no difference...so it would take LONG time to get to even play the song. My idea was a sort of variation on the new "play it right more times than you did wrong" thing...against all instinct that says "you practice at home, you put it all together at practice!" since that wasn't working, I decided, nope...a guy comes in and has no good excuse for not having learned his part, he'll damned well learn it there and then. We don't move on until it is tight and right. Up til then we moved on...no repurcussions or consequences for not doing their homework (when me and the others had spent hours learning our parts, wanting to come in and play!) so this turned out better actually.

 

Still waiting to see, but I think it will make some of them realize if they don't do it at home, it isn't going to be so much fun at practice either. And the others just have to sit, while they practice their part til they can do it.

 

I wish I'd thought of this sooner.

Okay, it was a little long, but I COULD have gone on for pages and pages.

 

One last thing, the band DOES pull together when we play out. Almost miraculously. I get truly amazed that the "noodling" and missed queues, and forgotten parts get played right a lot of times when we play out.

====================================================

Check out my original music at

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/jacker

 

"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice,

but not in practice."

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I am just in a 3 piece basement band, but we try to have some structure to our practices. Two of the 3 members have young families and we don't want to waste our time. We get together 2-3 times a month during the winter and rarely during the summer. We have about 10 originals, know about 30 covers well, and about 40 more half-assed.

 

We warm up with 4-5 songs..2-3 that we know well and a couple that we worked on the previous practice. Then we work songs that are giving us problems or learn a new one. To finish off we play from our set list for anywhere from 60-120 minutes...with the occasional jam thrown in.

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BWB - I just wanted to throw it out there, as I've given it a ton of thought, considering that my band has, as a project, pushed every member to their limits from a skill perspective, that I actually sent that quote about practicing until you get it right to everyone else in the band.

 

It lead me straight to what once I thought was a rather goofy statement on a football commercial (probably ESPN) - "amateurs practice until they get it right, but professionals practice until they can't get it wrong..."

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Originally posted by Griffinator:

BWB - I just wanted to throw it out there, as I've given it a ton of thought, considering that my band has, as a project, pushed every member to their limits from a skill perspective, that I actually sent that quote about practicing until you get it right to everyone else in the band.

 

It lead me straight to what once I thought was a rather goofy statement on a football commercial (probably ESPN) - "amateurs practice until they get it right, but professionals practice until they can't get it wrong..."

That's really it too.

 

For me it has always been fun. I am not a pro, but I try to act like one. I take a backup amp to gigs, I work long hours getting solos, intros, outtros, and solos right. I know that if you just BARELY can play something right, that knowledge will "spook" you (and the others in the band in the same boar) on top of which you will have to deal with being more nervous when playing, and you will not be IN the music. You have to be able to work on the "mechanics" of the thing so you can do it in your sleep.

 

The cool thing about that is, once you CAN do it in your sleep, once you can nail it every time, instead of that turning you all into littl MIDI-robots, it does the opposite...suddenly a whole pallette of things opens up for you, you can tweak here and there, go away from the planned and slip back in, you can express yourself better suddenly...

¨

Because when a part of transistion is "just barely" EVEN when you make it, by the skin of the teeth, your only focused on hitting the right notes at the right time....not how you are making them sound (soft or hard) or flow..

 

I used to get so frustrated by band members coming in that couldn't do (at least the parts possible to do alone at home or to a CD) their prep, couldn't do their parts, and not from lack of talent, but simply they didn't work on it.

 

When I realized, I was getting frustrated, the culprits were having NO consequences. And the band leader was not correcting it, but instead just treated the person as if they were responsible (okay...well, make sure you get it for next time...next time, nope)...

 

It was later, after reading that quote, just like the NFL one, I realized the solution was to drill. If the guy learns that practice together is a LOT more fun when he can do his part and we can all concentrate on putting it all together than everyone sitting on their hands while he learns it...well..suddenly there are consequences, and the hilarious thing.... I PRACTICE THAT WAY ANYWAY, so I'm not being frustrated and punished anymore. I have no problems trying to "nail it even more" even after getting a part solid.

 

So this is really working out!

Not for all bands, but when you are 50 and have played guitar for 30+ of those years, it IS hard to find like-minded, in the same level playing-wise, and similarly aged people that have the same passion for music, same work ethic, AND taste generally. So if I were younger, I might find another band, or the band might let a person go, but the reality is what I have to deal with, and all these guys, when they are ON they are good!

 

SO you do work arounds. I like mine, it gives me hope!

====================================================

Check out my original music at

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/jacker

 

"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice,

but not in practice."

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