A new song: how many times do you reherse a song before it's stageworthy?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Rockin John, Jun 13, 2001.

  1. In my thread about nervousness, Big Wheel said:

    "...doing what you've already done at least a hundred times before..."

    So, for an average, non-professional band with average players, starting with a new song, how many times do you think it takes to get it to an acceptable standard.

    OK, I know this is really subjective, but is there an opinion....?

    Rockin John
  2. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    who cares ? unless you're a professional band who can run through a flawless cover of "Stairway To Heaven" without batting an eyelid, you're out there to play for yourself, not the audience. as an average player, you should be grabbing every oppurtunity for live experience that you can ! just make sure you have enough material to play a full set, tho .. don't make the mistake my band did when we got on stage at a club and expected to play for 10 minutes ... we ended up going into this huge 30-minute jam that sounded like sh*t :D
  3. Hello ToNeS.

    Not sure about the "Who cares" thing. OK, in the end the actual number doesn't really matter: if a song's good enough, then it is.

    But there was a strong idea coming through the other post I mentioned, that suggests stage confidence is proportional to the amount of preparation a musician / band has done. So, the way I see it, the more rehersal the better. And, really, as a greenhorn pertaining to stage performances, I need all the advice I can get.

    Do you mean the actual number doesn't matter, or that it doesn't matter about how well prepared a player / band should be, or that perfection doesn't exist anyway...?

    Or have I totally got the wrong end of things:D?

  4. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    "Practice makes perfect, but nobody's perfect so why practice?"
    ~ Billie Joe Armstrong

    perfection in music is unattainable, man. try as you might, you will never completely nail anything you attempt to play. and the number of times you play a piece (original or cover) before you and your band becomes comfortable with it and what happens should be minimal - if you're all on the ball and serious about it, all you should have to do is call out "okay, smells like teen spirit, now!" and you should just launch into it.
    all your practice and rehearsals will practically go out the window when you hit the stage - your adrenaline and fear of messing up will drive you to the point where you subconsciously play your parts how you want them, covering any mistakes you might make with an instinctive lick or some such. don't get me wrong, a band will always need to rehearse (otherwise, there's no point) but i think there is a point where it can go into overkill, and people start shutting down. you have to vary what you and your people play, and how many times you play. the chances of a young band messing up a song they've played to death is far more likely than one they've gone through thoroughly just a few times (in my experience, that is).
  5. Fair enough, ToNeS. 'Sounds like fair comment to me.

    Thanks very much.

  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Actually I would disagree with this completely and say that the more preparation the better - if you don't reallyknow what you're doing, adrenaline is more likely to cause mistakes and nervous embarassment.

    Tones advice sounds like the triumph of extreme optimism over practicality - a very nice "romantic" idea - but in my experience almost never enough.

    If you make a huge number of mistakes, the chances are you will never be asked back and you will probably be so embarassed about it that you won't want to anyway. If your whole band and all the audience are completely out of their heads on drink,drugs whatever you might just get away with it, but otherwise I would say this is the worst possible advice - seriously!!

    I have been there - I've played all sorts of gigs in the UK over 25 years and I can tell you the less prepared you are the worse you will feel. I've been at gigs where the guitarist has rushed to the toilet to throw up, just as the drummer counts the first tune.

    So my current band is full of very experienced amateur (semi-pro at a stretch) musicians and we rehearse every Monday night for 3 hours at least and more if we are learning new stuff or have important gigs coming up. We practised and got "tutors" (pro Jazz/Latin musicians) in to help for 6 months to a year before launching and then only at small gigs - and we still had disasters!

    OK - if it's clear from the outset that an event is "open-mic" a jam session or similar then fine - go for it! But if people are paying money to come and see you, then they expect you to know what you're doing and will let you know in no uncertain terms if they think you're rubbish! ;)
  7. Hello Bruce (again).

    I did wonder whether ToNeS' view would hold for me and the guys I play with. You wouldn't get a sportsman/woman turning up to a game having done little or no training. You wouldn't realistically turn up for an exam not having revised your subject. And so on.

    I guess private rehersal and public performances are two very different facets of exactly the same process: playing music.

    Perhaps there isn't an answer to my original question but your advice very clearly is to know the songs and the set inside out and back to front. That disasters will happen but that thorough preperation is the best way to deal with them. Is that fair?


  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's exactly right and I think is the advice that most professionals would give you. Pro bands go away and rehearse solidly for months if they are going on tour and no matter how much an impression they give of a "casual attitude" you can always tell if people have put in the effort.

    I think Big Wheel is closer with the "hundreds of times" quote.
  9. I guess that, armed with such info. We're perhaps not doing so bad with out little outfit. Rehersal is very sporadic for loads of very good reasons. And that's heartening.

  10. Obiviously the more preparation the better, but if the same people are making the same mistakes over & over at a rehersal, you can bet they're going to do it on stage as well. That's what needs to be addressed at a rehersal instead of just playing it wrong over and over, stop and pinpoint the part, might hurt a feeling or 2, but little things make a big difference in songs. Rehersal can be frustrating getting everyone on the same page. I find it works best when one person in the band kinda takes the bull by the horns. To Bruce, yes, some professional bands reherse alot, but others don't at all! I had a gig with a Warner Bros artist that i didn't get ANY rehersal and didn't even meet the artist until a few hours before showtime. Alot of pressure to look like i knew what i was doing on stage in front of a few thousand people. We never did actually reherse, we just kinda went over the rough parts at the soundcheck before the next gig, and i had to ask them to do that! lol Trent
  11. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Based on my experience, I have to say that the amount of rehearsal and memorization needed is based mainly on the skills of the players and their willingness to listen to each other. If you want the thing to run like a well-oiled machine totally without error, then lots of preparation is in order. However, you also run the risk of sucking the life out of the thing based on having done it to death...to the point that any spontaneous interaction is lost....everyone is playing by rote, without emotion. A higher level of player can turn in a fine performance with a less rehearsal, and still retain a bit of the spark.

    Trent, I've also worked with national acts who absolutely refused to put in a bunch of rehearsal with their backing musicians. They expected you to be up to the job, given proper material to woodshed the gig on your own.

    My personal preference is somewhere between the two extremes. Give me the stuff, and I'll be ready when I arrive at the first practice. Let's smooth out the rough spots, cover the details, and get the hell out. Of course, that's not so easy unless you have know and have confidence in your fellow players.
  12. My band has enough songs to play all night (usually 4-5 hours) without repeating a song. Even with all those songs under our belts we never know for sure if we really know a new tune untill we play it on stage in front of a crowd. One thing that slows a lot of young bands down is guys learning to play their instrument at band practice instead of learning songs. Learn the instrument at home not a band practice. By the way.......Practice DOES NOT make you perfect. It just makes you BETTER than everyone else!!!
  13. How many times do you rehearse a song? As many as it takes, my friend.
  14. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    i agree whole-heartedly that my method is "romantic", as Brucey put it out, and you're probably right - it probably wouldn't work in the context you're working in. i've just found that this is the approach that i'm beginning to take with my band, as the other guys tend to be _very_ spontaneous with their musicality (not saying that you're not spontaneous or anything, man :)) and i find that attempting to run over the same thing with them a million times will just not work. while not entirely practical if you wanna get perfectiony about your stuff, it does apply to a lot of guys out there who never play the same thing twice. forgive me for spouting such drivel at ya, i keep forgetting that everyone here except me can actually put together a song that "remains the same" :D
  15. Hello ToNeS.

    Yeh, I guess its horses for courses.

    We're just 4 guys all approaching 50 years old and mostly pretty average players with a less than average drummer who are struggling to get anything going. We reherse just a couple of hours per week cos that's all the time we can spare between us. And I don't think the others do any private rehersing @ home. I do what I can but it's still probably not enough. Almost a recipe for failure, eh?

    We're not in it for anything other than a bit of fun. It's no more than a hobby. We might play the very occasional gig at some point down the line:then again we might not.

    'Fact is though, ToNeS, we're really struggling to get a song or two even partly reasonable. We're a country mile away from anything that resembles perfection and, to be honest it's getting very soul destroying. Hence my original post.

    Thanks, though, once again for your replies.

    Rockin John
  16. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    John, sounds to me like you need to take stock of what you want to get out of that band, and then assess what you're actually getting. If the goal is to enjoy and have fun, and that's not happening for whatever reason, then maybe you should think about finding something else (unless you honestly feel that you are contributing to the problem somehow).

    The fact that you intend to gig only occasionally makes it even more important that you have a good time with it, IMO.

    That said, I've struggled for years with my tendency to push things "onward and upward" at the expense of the enjoyment of the other band members (and myself). You have to be honest with yourselves about what you're really capable of, set some realistic goals, and be happy when you get there.
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I don't see where anyone anwered the original question.

    The amount of time depends on:

    1. the difficulty of the song
    2. the abilities of the players

    Stuff that makes a song hopeless include bad key for the singer(s) or players or a rhythm feel that someone is uncomfortable with (funk, reggae, swing, etc.).

    Some songs you may NEVER get. I once was playing Top 40 and we tried to learn Elton John's "That's Why They Call It The Blues". After TWO MONTHS of twice a week rehearsals we could NOT get through the song. So we wisely gave up :) On the other hand, the same band learned "That's What I Like About You" in as long as it took to run it down once.

    I've also been in blues bands where we gigged with no rehearsals, we just talked about what songs we would do and everyone just went home and listened to the records to refresh their memories.
  18. That's right, I'm sure. With really good / well practiced / experienced musicians many songs can be played to really quite a good standard with minimal practice; I guess 12 bars and their variants are quite good for that sort of thing. Even we can put a stomp together after some fashion.....

    For us it's all about getting to some sort of standard in the shortest but most reasonable time. We are to play @ my lad's school and our club in December-ish. Yet we've been on and off with this band since Christmas and there have been far more downs than ups. But (he said, thinking hard....) we've probably only done a total maximum of 40 hours rehersal in those 6 months. And of that perhaps 30 to 35 with all 4 of us attending.

    Whilst you're right, Brianrost, there hasn't been an answer to my question, there isn't one numerically, is there? But the kind of help and advice I'm getting is worth asking a question to which there's no real answer!:D!:D!

    Grateful Guys.

    Rockin John
  19. I think this thread's about been worked to death now but I would like to give a little feedback to those who took the trouble to reply.

    First, I copied bits from all the replies, printed them up and we all had a copy to take home and read. So that's been really useful. Thanks.

    Second, our playing has come on really quite well over the past two rehersals. Nothing's changed except...well...except I got this other bass (the Bass collection one I've banged on about) and have used it over the past two rehersals. It comes clean through now whereas that Squier didn't. We've had quite some problems with the drummer's playing but this new bass seems to have fixed it almost overnight.

    Perhaps that was the problem - well, some of the problem. A cr*ppy bass in fairly inexperienced hands = a cr*ppy band.

    :D:DThanks again folks:D:D.

    Rockin John
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I did provide the answer as far as I could - saying that my current band practiced for about 6 months at least once a week, with some help from pros, before gigging. But as Brian says - it depends on the difficulty of the song. We have tried many songs for a month or two and decided that we weren't going to get them right and have given up. Some songs, like simple bossa novas that our singer, who is Brazilian, already knew very well, were "up and running" on the first try-out.

    I think you have to have a "set" of about 45 minutes - preferably two sets like this before you start gigging. You also need a bit of variety and need to keep the thing moving on. There probably is no real "answer" but I think there is an expectation of what a reasonable live band should do, but if we're only talking about a "one-off" then it's probably not the same situation.