Monday, November 4, 2013

Effective Rehearsals - How can I get more out of rehearsals?


Effective Rehearsals

Over the years I have attended many rehearsals both as a musician and as a supervisor.  All too often I have seen large amounts of time wasted because bands/ensembles have a misconception about what rehearsal is.  Time in rehearsal studios need to be productive.  Often musicians are time poor and need to maximise the little time that they have together.  The following is a list of what I have found to greatly assist the effective use of time within a rehearsal context.  I hope that these tips will help you get more out of your rehearsal times and therefore be able to achieve greater musical performances.

Set Goals

Each rehearsal should have some goals attached (even if those goals are something like “jam out and experiment with a section of a new song”).  Having clear goals can really help to make rehearsals an efficient use of time.  As I said above, musicians are often time poor.  The less time is being wasted, the more likely other musicians will be willing to give their time to the project.

Homework

At the end of each rehearsal, each musician should leave with a clear idea of what they need to work on between now and the next rehearsal.  You should try to set individual tasks as well as ensemble tasks.  Some example tasks might be:
  •        Learn the lyrics of a specific song(s)
  •        Chart the form/chords
  •        Learn a specific solo/part
  •        Set up sounds (guitar/keyboard especially)
  •        Practice vocal harmonies

Keep notes (come prepared)

This is really part of Homework.  When you make notes of things to work on between rehearsals, write them down; either using pen and paper or digitally.  Make sure you complete the tasks and come prepared to the next rehearsal.  The last thing that anyone wants is someone who continually comes to rehearsal without making progress as this is a waste of everyone else’s time.
Another great tip is to make notes during rehearsals regarding chord and/or form changes.  This is especially important when working on originals. 

Rehearsal is NOT practice

As I said above, time spent in rehearsal studios with the whole band is so precious; you don’t want to waste it.  You should not use band rehearsal time to practice things that you can work on individually.  Again, this leads to other band members feeling like their time is being wasted.  Make sure you come to rehearsals having achieved your goals from the previous rehearsal session.

Provide Charts/Lead sheets.  If none Exist, create your own

One of the biggest time wasters is playing a song over and over with the whole band so the form can be learnt.  It is far more beneficial to write down the form of the song as a chord chart which can be shared with all band members.  Not only is this great aural and chart writing practice when writing the charts, but it’s great reading practice too.  This will also allow you to really work on performing the song. 

Listen – It’s not just about you

When playing with other musicians, always try to listen to what is happening within the ensemble.  You might hear some conflicting rhythms or notes within the ensemble which could be addressed.  I remember countless times when writing original songs within a band where I had come up with a part that I was really happy with, only to realise that it was conflicting with another instrument/part.  By acknowledging this, you are able to isolate the issue and work out a solution (either to be solved then and there or set as a homework task).
Sometimes during rehearsal it’s hard to have a critical listen, I’d suggest regular recordings on portable devices (digital recorders or phones).  Not everyone has to do it, but if there is someone in the ensemble who is good at that stuff, sending around an MP3 of a song or rehearsal for review can be really beneficial.  Review can be done either individually or as a group, or both.  Don't forget that this could form a homework task to be discussed at the next rehearsal.  

Acknowledge when you made a mistake so it's not necessary to revise with the whole band

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge if you make a mistake during rehearsals.  No one is perfect.  By acknowledging that you have made a mistake you can save valuable time in rehearsals.   I learnt this technique while singing in a chamber choir.  The signal was raising your hand briefly after the error.  This indicated to the choir master that: “I am aware that I made a mistake and it was either a one off, or I know what I did wrong and will fix it in my own time.”  Feel free to experiment with your own system but try to implement a similar system.  You’ll be surprised at the results. 

Be Punctual

This sounds like basic stuff, but again I see it happen all too often.  If your rehearsal is from 3pm – 5pm, make sure you are ready to start at 3pm.  If you require 15 minutes to set up for rehearsal, make sure you are there 15 minutes before hand.  As a common courtesy to others using the rehearsal space, make sure you vacate the rehearsal studios at the allocated time.  This usually means finishing 10-15 minutes before your time is up so that you can pack up and debrief from the rehearsal without eating into another band’s rehearsal time.  If you find you are running late it’s good manners to let the rest of your band know.  On the flip side, if a band member is running late, there are always things that can be worked on without members.  Break it up, try something different.

Hope you found this helpful.  Happy rehearsing!

- Andrew Rostas