When a band is working up a new set, how many new songs per rehearsal?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Jarrett, Mar 11, 2014.

  1. Jarrett


    Jan 19, 2004
    Waxahachie, Tx
    So say you are putting together a new cover band. And let's say you need 40 songs to do your first gig together. And you are going to rehearse once a week (2.5 hours per rehearsal) up until the gig. Let's say the band members have typical 8-5 day jobs and families as well. And the requirement is that they learn the songs on their own and show up ready to rehearse them.

    How would you break that workload down?

    5 songs a week? 10 songs for two rehearsals, then next 10?

    If learning new songs each week, how many songs per week is adequate?

    I'm trying to determine if I'm being a slave driver or not :D

    Updated: The band has split up because the stress of having to learn new songs was too much for one member :D
    A new band is being formed and that is one of the questions to potential members.
  2. I'd say it depends on the difficulty of the songs. Most cover bands I've been in half the material, at least initially, are standards that we slap together on the spot.
    Personally I find 3-5 new ones a week to be sufficient homework. But I'm lazy.
  3. standard covers and "2.5 hour rehearsals" would mean everyone should be prepared to preform/rehearse somewhere in the ballpark of about 25-30 songs minimum at least - depending on the time length of each song.

    EDIT: If you think most can only learn about 5 songs per week - I recommend cutting the weekly rehearsal time down to about an hour maximum - unless you don't mind hanging out and teaching them songs.

    EDIT: EDIT: Except for maybe working on vocal harmonies - personally, I'd be absolutely bored to death playing the same 5 songs over and over again for 2.5 hours (I probably end up turning on the looper for them and go get a pizza :D).
  4. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Much depends on the chops and experience of the members. Seasoned cover players should already have a list of songs they know. First, make a list, using everyone's input. Then scan it for "low hanging fruit", ie, songs that most of you know, and need minimal work. Bundle half a dozen of those for next rehearsal. If that rehearsal shows that everyone did some homework, you are off to good start. If not, then learning NEW songs will be damn near impossible.
  5. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    The difficulty of the songs is definitely a factor.
    I'm in a similar situation. Forming a new, cover band. 30 song set list.
    I have asked that we learn 10 songs per week, for 1 rehearsal (2 hours) per week.
    I find this reasonable.
  6. Marginal Tom

    Marginal Tom

    Apr 28, 2010
    O'Fallon, IL
    A four-hour gig usually means around three hours or 3:15 of music. So that's 90 or so Buddy Holly songs, or 20 or so songs by the Grateful Dead or Allman Brothers. Without your playlist, knowing how many weeks it is to your first gig, how much time your band will waste between songs and how much low-hanging fruit you have, it's impossible to answer your question.
  7. Do you have a gig lined up and how soon? That could dictate how many new songs per rehearsal.

    I'm a firm believer in quality over quantity. Given the choice, I'd rather come out of a rehearsal with 5 songs that are tight and gig-ready than 10 songs, none of which we feel ready to foist on the public. I value my time and want to feel we accomplished something significant in that 2.5 hours.

    That said (and not knowing your song list), I don't think 10 songs per session is unreasonable—IF everyone comes prepared!

    Good luck!
  8. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    I'll share some practical first hand experience numbers from my recent past. Your mileage may vary. ;)

    When I first joined my latest Top 40 "modern country" cover band I had to learn 50 songs in 3 weeks because they had gigs booked. I had two rehearsals with them before our first gig. We haven't stopped gigging since. That was over two years ago.

    When we are learning new songs, got to keep the repertoire fresh in a Top 40 band, the number will vary between two and six a month. If we're not gigging too much we will rehearse once a month to work up the new material (6 tunes this month) and brush up on previous material.

    We usually have a 3 hour rehearsal and everyone comes prepared. No learning of parts at the rehearsal. Most of us work day jobs and have families so we don't like to waste time in the evenings.

    We generally plan on 12 tunes per 45 minute set, four sets a night, about 48-50 tunes in a night.

    Doing the math, at 5 songs per week it will take your band two months to learn 40 songs. You are not being a slave driver by any means.

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I think standard in groups I've been in is 4 new songs per rehearsal when the group is starting up. That's songs that at least some members need to learn from scratch. When I joined my current cover band, they already had a list going with about twenty songs and I think I already new ten or twelve of them. So the first couple of weeks I got up to speed on the 20, then we added new songs from there.

    If songs are super simple, though, we sometimes just throw more in on the fly. We decided pretty spontaneously to do Wild Thing that way, for instance.
  10. Sam Kinison's version? :D ;)
  11. marmadaddy


    Oct 17, 2005
    Rochester, NY
    Five per rehearsal is reasonable as long as you're not getting too detailed with harmonies and are sticking to the recorded arrangements. I wouldn't expect a singer to memorize lyrics that rate though.
  12. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    I joined a classic rock band a few weeks back and we try to learn 7 or 8 songs a week. Many of these songs I know, as do the other members, so it's not a big stretch. 1 or 2 we end up trashing for various reasons, so it's like 5 or 6 a week.
  13. In these situations, homework is key. Listen to the song, learn to play it, and play along with it until you can get through it decently. Make sure that you know that song inside-out before you get to practice. Be the guy that knows the answer when somebody else asks "What's that chord/note at this part?"
  14. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    In one band I play with, we add new songs at the gig. It's usually 1-2 that we'll do in either the 1st or last set, depending on the crowd. We have to learn them on our own time because we don't rehearse. If there's any discrepancies, we talk it over and fix it at the next gig.

    In my band, I'm a slave driver. We don't rehearse often, so we'll run through 12-16 songs with maybe about 6-10 of them being new, depending on the gig we're preparing for.

    I have done last minute pickup gigs where we had rehearsals that covered 20 or more tunes. We usually wouldn't do them all they way through, mainly starts, ends, sections, and transitions.

    IMO, IME, if you're rehearsing weekly, then 4-8 is good. But, if you don't rehearse often, then you should do more with people having more time to learn the material.
  15. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    We would throw anywhere from 1-20 new songs at you, depending on about a million things.

    How hard are the songs; is there a specific theme to a show where we need different material; are we in the mood to kick it up a notch; is the set list growing tired; etc.

    20 would be unusual, but it could happen.

    1 would also be unusual.

    Usually 3 or 4, I guess, but you never know.

    Again, how hard are the songs?

    When we do VFW shows, we might pull out 10 really easy 4/4 beat songs, and say, "everybody be ready to rehearse these next week." We have done so successfully.

    20? I don't know we've ever done it, but I think we could.

    Not if a lot of them are by Yes and King Crimson, but we mostly play bar covers.
  16. rfslick


    Dec 31, 2008
    Benicia, CA. USA
    We rehearse once a week. Lead guitar and I have been with colds for a month, so the singing has suffered, but... We go 2.5 hours, and from a master list, we work on 15 songs a week with about 2 to 4 new things plugged in. New band in the last 4 or 5 months.
  17. thefruitfarmer


    Feb 25, 2006
    Kent UK
    We have found that a bunch of three new songs each time works for us...

    ...it takes as long as it takes to get them up to speed.

    But, this is because the musicians are relatively inexperienced and there is little structured practice at home.

    With better musicians....

    ... I can learn the hook themes for a song, chord progressions and make a cheat sheet to remind me of how it goes within a few hours, depending on complexity of the song of course.

    Should be working with a better guitarist soon so hopefully we can pick some of the low hanging fruit....I have been wanting to sing "Starman" for a while now and this guitarist should be able to actually play the song in the key comfortable for me to sing it in..

    ..actually the main issue I have with singing is getting it in the right key for my voice. I can resolve this on my own but without a guitarist who can play in the keys of G minor, E flat, B flat, which is where it often ends up, it is not possible for me to sing the song.
  18. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    First do a bunch that you all have in common, then five a week or so.
  19. 5 songs a week always worked for my last, and current band. Its not too much to ask for. If 5 cant be met due to work, family, health reasons etc., then we expect that 3 of those 5 will be learned.
  20. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    4-5 is pretty comfortable for a week, unless you're talking straight forward 3 chord songs with no stops, those you can pile up really fast as long as everyone is reasonably familiar and knows what key you're doing them in.

    Right now my band is learning songs that only the singer is familiar with, so it takes a while to be able to remember the arrangements and stops, much more so than the actual notes.