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Band Practice Tips?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Icarus26, Oct 16, 2008.

  1. Alright. Since i'm still trying to form my first band (their first as well), i'm looking for some tips on how to go about practice.

    how many songs should we learn a week?

    when would be a good time to start composing our own songs?

    how much time should we put in as a band a week? We're all seniors in high school and we're strapped on time cause of applications and all that.

    tips in general would be great.
  2. bad_andy


    Sep 21, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    Set realistic goals and stick too them. You'll feel less stress and still make progress if you make a list of songs and break it into bites sized chunks to learn each week. Also, and I can't stress this one enough. It's much more productive to keep practice sessions to band members only as much as possible.

    I had a teacher tell me that when even one person person who's not in the group is hanging out in the space watching the band play, then it has a way of turning things into a performance instead of a practice. People show off or get self conscious when they should be free to make mistakes so that they can be fixed.

    Good luck.
  3. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
  4. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    When the band gets together, it's rehearsal. You practice on your own time.

    Depends on how much time you have. If everyone has already practiced/learned the tune on their own, it shouldn't take long to get a song down.

    Depends on the goals of the group.

    I suggest waiting until your applications are done before you start a new project.

    Keep the volume down. Best thing we ever did was to put sound board around the drummer. Cut a hole for the kick drum. The drums themselves can be "muted" with some type of cloth being put on them. If you can, set up the drums in a corner with sound board on the walls as well.

    Also, get the amps up to ear level or at least tilt them back so they are easier to hear. This also keeps the volume down.

    Figure out if the band is a democracy or not. Who will pick the songs? Who decides when the songs are "good enough"? Those kind of questions.
  5. atheos


    Sep 28, 2008
    Tampere, Finland
    Learn as many as you feel comfortable. In case you don't want to be yet another cover band I'd suggest starting songwriting right away - it really doesn't matter how crappy your first 50 songs will be, it'll settle. And make everybody in the band to write a couple of songs (tune, lyrics or both) to see who's got the best talent for it.

    Of course you can and probably have to play some covers too, especially in the beginning. That way you get used to the idea of playing together and you know the songs. When you have some of your own songs, record a demo of them as soon as they're ready enough so you can practice them at home as well.
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    +1 to what stumbo said.

    I think the one thing that younger bands will tend to over look is the importance and benefit of each individual learning their parts on their own time and using rehearsals to adjust performance, rather than using rehearsal as the only time you practice the songs.

    Learn some covers. Even if your ultimate goal is to be all originals, it is very helpful to learn covers, if only to get used to playing complete songs as band. It allows the band to focus on the practical performance aspects of executing the material well, and paying attention to how the band sounds rather than how the song goes.
    The general pitfall of original material is the endless tweaking potential : "This song doesn't sound quite right. let's rewrite this part!" at some point you have to stick a pin in it and say "that's how the song goes, lets focus on playing it"

    As Stumbo sez, keep the volume down. Get everyone on board with the idea of maintaining good relative volume, think about your live "mix" from the outset.

    Also, newbie bands tend to overlook dynamics. try to pay attention to how your song performances can go form soft to loud, from sparse to busy, etc over the course of the song.

    Get a half-way decent recording mic + preamp setup. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS:



    I've been using it for a while now and the recordings you get by just hanging this little amazing mics in the center of the room is absolutely amazing! With a little tweaking of your room sound, you'll be astounded at the quality of the recording.

    I just plug this setup into my laptop, fire up Sonar (but you could use any program - Reaper is FREE and works very well) - track armed - hit "R" - play - done. You now have an unbiased and very accurate representation of what you just did.

    Put the recordings onto CDs for everyone and EVERYBODY listen to what you did - a lot! Put those CDs in your cars (one of the very best places to listen to music) and listen a lot. Those recordings will accurately tell you whether you sound good or not. They won't lie - if you're out of tune, you'll hear it... If you don't come into a part properly - you'll hear it... If you NAIL a solo, you'll hear it.

    If you rely on your memory of what you did to be the measure of whether or not you're making progress, you're relying on an imperfect representation.
  8. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    Practice on your own outside of rehearsal. If you are learning covers, it'll take less time/frustration if everyone comes in prepared.

    Writing... that'll be fun (challenging!). If you want to play a more active role in it, show up prepared also with our best lines and maybe work some grooves out with the drummer before adding everyone else.

    Be careful with the girlfriends. It's the bane of young cats. Myself included, when I was a young cat!
  9. +1 to everyone who has suggested practicing new songs on your own time and putting it all together at rehearsal. I just left a band (because the majority didn't want to continue gigging with a substitute during a 4-month pregnancy leave) and it was the most efficient band at rehearsing I've ever been with. We used the following techniques:

    Regular rehearsal time & place. We rehearsed weekly, on the same day of the week and at the same time, in one of the member's basement. We increased to two rehearsals a week when I or anyone else new joined the band, but usually only needed to do so for 2 or 3 weeks. Using this schedule and the others techniques listed below, we normally had new players ready to go in two weeks with the 35 songs or so necessary to squeak through a gig. Within 30 days, we were always able to acceptably play any of the 55 or 60 songs in our rotating repertoire. During these "ramp up" periods, we would typically work on 6-8 songs per rehearsal to reach about 95% of the proficiencey level at which we'd eventually perform them--which was always at a level acceptable to an audience. When we weren't "ramping up", we used regular weekly rehearsals to fine tune the remaining 5% of the songs (add/tighten harmonies, refine breaks and accents, tweak beginnings and endings, modify arrangements, learn new songs, etc.) There was always plenty of refinement to do. An observation: If you can limit the ways you begin and end songs to those on the existing recorded arrangements you're following (or to one of 2 or 3 "standard" starts or stops), and if everyone can sing and play the song in the same key as the recording, the "ramp up" process goes much more quickly and easily.

    Spare equipment left at the rehearsal site. We kept backup keyboards and drums, practice amps and the PA set up at our rehearsal site, so guitar and bass players only had to bring their axes. I realize this is a luxury not everyone can afford. In fact, not all of our members could. Some schlepped their practice amps (along with their axe) to and from practice and a couple of members loaned their extra pieces of equipment to another member for use at rehearsal. To the extent you can leave your rehearsal space set up and ready to go, we found that attendance became more consistent and productivity increased due to decreased setup time.

    Reference Recordings. For practicing at home, it really helps to have a copy of the recording you're using to learn the song. For original songs, even the author's homemade version on a CD, .mp3, dictating machine tape, etc. can help. With today's computer technology, these copies can easily be exchanged via CDs and .mp3s. It's simply easier and faster to learn a new song by being able to listen to it repeatedly, at your leisure at home or in the car or wherever, instead of having another band member try to sing or hum it to you at rehearsal.

    Chord/Lyrics Sheets or "Charts". When someone brought a new song to the band and the band agreed to play it, that person had the responsibility to prepare and distribute a chords & lyrics sheets. I don't know many bands in which all the members read music well enough to use true charts, (though I do know a few horn sections within bands that use true charts, to the extent available, for their parts). Like "Nashville notation", chords & lyrics sheets consist of the song lyrics with the chords written above. (I prepared these for the drummer--who couldn't really analyze chords--when he occasionally wanted to suggest a song. We found countless ways for him to pay me back and he always supported my suggestions.) Use different colors for the chords and the lyrics. Make the font large enough to read at a reasonable distance. Make the font BOLD. If possible, return to a new line at the end of equal-sized musical phrases, rather than at the end of each sentence or phrase in the lyrics.

    Set the Rehearsal Agenda in Advance. We almost always spent the last 5 minutes of rehearsal agreeing on the agenda for the following rehearsal. One member followed up with a written agenda e-mailed to the others later that night or the following day. This took some planning and discipline. Often I would have to e-mail .mp3 copies of a song I wanted us to learn to the other members 10 days before rehearsal so that we could agree to learn it, put it on the agenda, distribute the CD copy (if applicable) and distriibute the chords & lyrics sheet at the end of the prior rehearsal. It actually helped reduce disputes about new songs, however. Most prople won't do that kind of planning and prepare a recording and a chords & lyrics sheet more than a week in advance unless they REALLY want to lean and perform the song.

    Record Your Rehearsal if you can. I was in another band that recorded a performance-length version of every song it rehearsed (2-3 minutes, or longer to include special features). We then bundled those recordings regularly on CDs, which were distributed to band members. Not only do these CDs tell you how your version sounds to others, it enables you to listen to and practice with your own arrangement of a song. That proves to be invaluable when you're back in a "ramp up" phase and can give CDs of your own arrangements to new players.

    Obviously these kinds of processes require a collective commitment among band members, and they need to be modified to fit the peculiarities of individual ceircumstances. They can also be simplified somewhat if your band is a leader-with-sidemen rather than a partnership. And if being cool and laid-back musicians is more important than agreeing on a few methods to make your music easier to learn as well as sound better, you'll never agree on these suggestions anyway. But since you raised the question in the first place, I'll bet you have more productive priorities.

    Good luck to you and your band. Let us know what you try and what works and doesn't work.

    Bluesy Soul :cool:
  10. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I agree with all the Bluesy Soul has written. We incorporate every one of those into our band rehearsals. I manage the sheets, keep them current, and post them on a private website for other members to download, and usually include an mp3 of our latest renditions.

    If you think you're busy in high school, wait ... I'm in a new band with three others (acoustic stuff) and we're all over 50, have challenging professional day jobs, families, and responsibilities. We manage a full band practice one night a week for 2-3 hours. We usually add two songs a week. Practice consists of reviewing last week's songs, everyone having gone home and polished their bit using the recordings we made during practice. We then work on the new ones, and finally choose a couple for next week. Typically we're ready to perform a song after two rehearsals (but of course, they get better the more times we play them). We have years of experience and individually know several hundreds of songs, and some nights we can add more than two songs to the list.

    Song writing is not part of band practice, but takes place outside of that setting. One or more members collaborate apart from the practice time.

    On average I'd say:

    • Band Practice 2-3 hours
    • Personal practice of band material 2-3 hours
    • Personal practice for my own advancement (new techniques, elaborating on existing songs in the set list, etc)
    • Writing - whatever time the ideas keep coming
    • Performance - 1 night week

    The important thing is to keep focused on your goals. You DID set out goals, didn't you? Are you playing for your own enjoyment? Are you putting together something to perform? Open mic stuff (freebie) or paying gigs? Are you and your band mates all on the same page with this?

    Obviously, we take it seriously and respect the other member's time and efforts. It works for us.
  11. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    +1 on the dynamics. One way to learn dynamics is to play parts of a song as softly as possible.

    Also, each instrument should have its own sonic space.

    Guitars shouldn't be so bassy that they step on the bass. Bass should be so mid-rangy it steps on the guitar/keyboards. Keyboards should limit 10 finger chords and not step on the bass or be playing bass lines. No need for the drummer to pound so loudly and drown everybody out, especially at rehearsal.

    Listen to the vocals. Don't get busy during the vocals.
  12. Skarekrough


    Aug 7, 2006
    Never end a rehearsal without a complete and total understanding of what needs to be worked on for the next rehearsal.

    Never show up to rehearsal without an understanding of what is going to be worked on.

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