Rehearsal bands (jazz content)
I play in a couple of "rehearsal bands" and was curious if anyone else did.
For those who don't know, a rehearsal band is when someone has a book (hundreds) of big band or small big band charts and a band assembles every week or every other week for a couple of hours in someone's garage, or at a church, or a school, or retirement community clubhouse to read through charts. Some bands might get a gig a couple of times a year but for the most part, the focus is on the "rehearsals".
Members of these bands range from retirees who would rather play some music than play some golf, college students "paying their dues", or weekend warriors like myself who use them as surrogate practice. The bands range in ability from god awful to pro level. The same goes for charts. They go from watered down high school charts to "hold on to your hats, this is going to be a rough ride".
So why is this thread in General Instruction?
1. Rehearsal bands can teach you how to play bass
The guy who ran the first rehearsal band I was in recently passed away and I was reminded of how I learned to play bass in his garage...RIP Keith.
I started playing in his rehearsal band as soon as a I bought my first bass. I had switched over from trombone so reading wasn't really an issue. Playing bass was. What I learned in that initial trial by fire, hanging on for dear life, was priceless. Reading charts, transferring those notes onto bass, the role of the bass in music, and how to play with others were all instrumental in my early development. Most importantly, it happened in a low pressure, non-performance situation.
2. Rehearsal bands are a great way to work on reading
Let's face it, the majority of swing is four quarter notes per bar. That only leaves you four notes to decipher. If you're lucky, the chart will also have chord symbols and you can start associating notes with chords. Latin charts will usually have simplified bass lines that'll provide an increased challenge in reading rhythms and teach you the basics of playing different latin rhythms. The added pressure of doing it in live will enhance your focus and concentration; you'll rarely get a do over.
3. Rehearsal bands are a great way to break into jazz
I see plenty of threads asking how to get into playing jazz. As long as you can read, this is it! In a small combo playing off fake charts, you'll be expected to "write" your own bass lines. That can be a daunting task if you're just starting out. Most charts will be notated note for note so there's no need to develop a walking bass line, just read what's there. By doing that, you'll learn what makes a good bass line.
4. Rehearsal bands are a surrogate for proper practice
Unless I'm working on something specific for an upcoming gig, you'll rarely find me playing alone. It bores me to tears. Playing in a couple of rehearsal bands allows me to maintain my playing and reading chops for times when I need them
5. Rehearsal bands are a great way to network
Rehearsal bands are often a revolving cast a characters with substitutes coming in or people coming and going. You never know who will be calling you for a gig or referring you to someone else.