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Band Practice Formats

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by MetalSearGolid, Oct 8, 2013.


  1. MetalSearGolid

    MetalSearGolid Cyperpunk Cowboy

    Aug 29, 2013
    Michigan, USA
    I thought it might be fun/informative for folks less experienced playing in/leading a band to share and discuss different practice formats for... well, band practice.

    The way I have ours set up is that we start out each practice by having everybody address concerns with band related issues. If someone thinks there needs to be a change (e.g. nix a song, new suggestions, etc.) then we all vote on it, I don't just play the "I'm the leader listen to me" card. This goes anywhere from a couple minutes to about a half hour usually. Then we get to playing the actual music.

    We write music improv style, so everybody comes up with their own parts (except for a couple songs I've already written, which they are welcome to vary the main melody), and each jam is recorded into my phone. You can get surprisingly good quality (still not THAT great) if you use the right program/phone, it's good enough to remember what we we're playing at least.

    We end each practice by going through the recordings and cherry pick the parts that sound good, and the next practice we pretty much start at the same point but build on what we did last practice. At this point we don't have enough material to gig, but we haven't run into any issues with this format as an early band.
     
  2. thefruitfarmer

    thefruitfarmer

    Feb 25, 2006
    Kent UK
    What I have found works is to start the practice session off by going through part of the set or jamming something. This could be just a few songs or maybe up to an hour.

    After everyone has warmed up and settled in then it is time to work on new material. I usually have 2 or 3 different new songs so we don't get too bogged down and if someone needs to go away and work on a part then we can move on to another song. It is important to keep things moving on and a practice session is not really the place to be teaching one another.

    After an hour or so of working new material we then go through some rehearsed material for the rest of the session.

    Keeping it this way means the set is continually expanding.

    As far as I can work out many bands just fool around in rehearsals, or get involved in circular discussions. Without a plan of action or a systematic rehearsal a band will never get a good set together.

    IME and IMO the songs need to be well rehearsed to actually be performed live with any conviction, and this means playing them through again and again. I find it very hard to enjoy a band when they all start looking at each other on stage, attempting to resolve an issue that has not been resolved in their private practice time.....

    .....this does tend to apply more to musicians of average ability rather than those of professional ability.
     
  3. MetalSearGolid

    MetalSearGolid Cyperpunk Cowboy

    Aug 29, 2013
    Michigan, USA
    Definitely true, I won't even consider gigging until we have our material down well. The good thing about writing via improv is that we can get into the groove of the song before the song has even finished being conceived, we're already synchronized to the rhythm and beat by the time the song is done, so the biggest hurdle has been cleared in my opinion. Memorization of the arrangement is trivial if you already know the parts to the song.

    By contrast, the songs I've written and the others are learning takes quite a bit more time for everyone to get down. Right now due to scheduling issues I have to work with our guitarist on some parts for these songs during practice, but because of the overhead I've only got him working on one song right now as opposed to our collaborative work.
     
  4. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Minneapolis
    We don't use up much of our rehearsal time on discussion. We have phones, and of course, two of us live together. We get most things hashed out long before we hit rehearsal. Once we go, it's pretty much first play the songs that are newest, or had an issue on the video of the most recent gig. Those songs get played through, and if they are played well, we will play them again. If they have hitches, we stop and work on the hitch, until that is smooth. The rule is, a song has to be played through twice, with no issues.

    Then we'll work on sets. We try to make sure the set flows. We have a lot of instrument-switching going on, so I try to make people aware of when stage banter is needed.

    Most of our practice is spent on just making sure we are in synch. If we're going to talk, it's usually about music we like; various topics; a lot more BS'ing since we got this drummer, and a lot less business. We're really reading each other well right now, and so the rehearsals go a lot easier.
     
  5. thefruitfarmer

    thefruitfarmer

    Feb 25, 2006
    Kent UK
    The main frustration for me at rehearsals is when they become non-productive, when peeps start going over issues again and again or just sitting about chatting.

    That is why I like to launch straight in to playing some music, that is why we come together and it sets the mood for the rest of the evening.
     
  6. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1

    Jan 17, 2009
    N.H.
    One band I got off the ground had to do this.
    3 tunes a week, no discussion, play them, review issues.
    Next night play those 3 tunes at a weekly jam in a busy bar.
    The mistakes they made at the Jam usually made them aware and were quickly
    remedied by each individual.
     
  7. Comrade Momenta

    Comrade Momenta

    Oct 5, 2013
    Well we're a cover band so not as many issues as you guys writing your own music. We pretty much just practice one song until it sounds perfect. We've practiced one song for hours each week to get it down perfectly. The only time we waste chit chatting is usually when we stop to eat, which I can forgive. We used to have another guitarist who was a real time waster, he would actually stop in the middle of practice to check on his fantasy football team. He is no longer with us.
     
  8. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    Not a big fan of writing via improv, definitely not for lyrics. I figure lyrics tell a story - one person should tell the story or write it as they see it, others can touch up the grammar or ask "what does that mean?". The music - you can improv your way to a lick or rythmn, so recording is very good to catch those. I tried out with new group last week and guitarist said, "I liked what you did at X spot". Unfortunately it was my first time through an original I didn't have broken down in MY head, so whatever I did I hope I recapture it this week. This week I will bring my little Zoom recorder.

    Twice thru each song on set, repeat if glitchy. Go over new stuff 3-4 times but stop for further individual woodshedding (at home) if it is not coming together after 6-ish times.

    My biggest concern with many band's rehearsals is there is no agreed upon method for trying different members ideas before locking in on "well, we should be able to make that work". Geesh - field for any other ideas before trying to fit that square peg in the round hole.
     
  9. MetalSearGolid

    MetalSearGolid Cyperpunk Cowboy

    Aug 29, 2013
    Michigan, USA
    Lol I'm also into fantasy sports, but you don't need to check on that crap during practice. My biggest interruption is that my girlfriend is usually at my house during practice and always wants kisses when we're in the middle of a jam <_<
     
  10. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Minneapolis
    :spit:
     
  11. Savage_Dreams

    Savage_Dreams

    Jan 8, 2007
    my main thing for rehearsals is no 'noodling'. my guitarist always starts noodling around his fretboard whenever the band stops. noodle at home, thats where you practice, band room is for the band, thats where you rehearse. know the difference between practicing and rehearsing.
     
  12. Savage_Dreams

    Savage_Dreams

    Jan 8, 2007
    im the complete opposite. my band has written some of its best songs that way. lyrics as well. my vocalist can jump in on a jam and sing along, and tell a story. we record everything we do so its documented. there will of course be a little tweakin on words after the fact. we have 2 songs that we just played on the spot, in a jam, and they remained virtually untouched after the fact, just a little tightening up a few things. this is the second vocalist ive worked with who can sing on the spot improv, and i will never work again with someone who cant.
     
  13. MetalSearGolid

    MetalSearGolid Cyperpunk Cowboy

    Aug 29, 2013
    Michigan, USA
    For us, improv is key. Our guitarist is one of my best friends and I've been jamming with him for years, we mesh incredibly well musically. Same with our drummer, I've only known him since last Feburary but it's crazy how the three of us can lead and follow each other with ease. It just makes it easier to write music and the lyrics/vocal melody come later. Though improv lyrics actually are pretty cool sometimes, though most times they definitely need some tweaking. It's a good jumping off point though.

    To us, improv is also more fun. It keeps us on our toes and helps us to be able to know how each other bandmate plays their music. In addition, busting out a new jam on the fly is totally awesome
     
  14. masterFlash

    masterFlash

    Jul 6, 2009
    detroit
    My Group practices every other week, so being productive is key.

    As gear is being loaded in, P.A. set up, pedal boards plugged in, etc, we discuss any new business like Merchandising, new contacts, how the last show went, ideas for the next show etc..

    I usually have a couple of items (songs) that we are going to rehearse. I always communicate that by email at least a week before practice so everyone nows what we are going to try to accomplish and can come as prepared as possible.

    Also I have one of those handheld recorders. Recording practices is super helpful. After I get home, or the next day, I take the 3 hours of audio and extract the best takes we did of the new material and send it out to every one.

    We use dropbox for that file sharing.

    After we have done our stuff, if anyone has a new interesting idea (be it a modification to an existing song, or a new song they have on the back burner) and if we have any gas left in our tanks, we'll run through and brainstorm on that.

    The more organized you are, the more you can be spontaneously creative, because people aren't fighting about what to do next. Also the unproductive noodling is diminished.

    Also with set goals you get a greater sense of accomplishment. However goals and priorities need to be agreed on by all, otherwise you know, it just gets bad.
     
  15. FWIW: This is the way it works at church. Monday morning the BL emails the song list, with charts and MP3 files (usually 4 or 5 songs) - rehearsal is Thursday evening from 6pm to 7pm and sometimes until 7:30pm and the songs are preformed Sunday morning.
     
  16. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    For some genres that may work better than others. I'm just thinking that sometimes someone has an idea of something they want to tell others. So they know where their song message ends, they may have to spend some time deciding on how they want get to that message. I've worked with "improv lyrics on the spot folks" - unfortunately the lyrics generally didn't make a lot of sense or tell the listener anything, just words over good music. YMMV. Some of this may be the mix of musicians - last guitarist I worked with was such a silent clam that it was impossible to work with him on anything, lyrics or music. I hope my new BMs are flexible enough we can do some(not all) improv. Certainly would foster a feeling of inclusion for everyone which seems to be pretty darn important to most.
     
  17. Shardik

    Shardik

    May 24, 2011
    Halden, Norway
    This is interesting, but it is also a "different strokes for different folks"-matter. I am playing in cover bands. We also have families and full time jobs, so practice time is limited. This means we have a rule that everyone must learn their part before we start playing it and work out those finer details.

    We usually vote on what new songs to play in a small peptalk before each practice, but we also handle a lot outside practice in a closed Facebook group.

    We usually focus on songs that we feel need practice. We usually don't have a detailed plan, but we"re still pretty efficient.
     
  18. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    White board - every band can use one. Set list, notes,etc. And you can mention to that constant noodler, "hey, it says nothing about noodling between these songs.":bag:
     
  19. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    I think a LOT of us think this is how it should be - practice is what you do alone, at home. Rehearsal is putting it together with other people.
     
  20. start with drums, guitar, and bass jamming out. just riffing, maybe playing some tunes, whatever feels right, maybe make a new song out of it, maybe working out a cover, whatever we want, singer then comes out and we do some songs, discuss any of the jams we liked and work on a a new song, take a break and discuss any band issues, then back to jamming and playing songs. real loose and fun.
     

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