We all look forward to the next band practice. It’s an opportunity to have fun, get away from the stresses of life and focus on music. But sometimes you can get there, and, for whatever reason, it doesn’t go to plan. So you leave deflated, thinking you haven’t accomplished anything. Well, here are 11 tips to help you have a more productive band practice.
1. Have an upcoming goal to work towards
The best advice for any aspiring band is to have goals and projects to work towards. It’s too easy for your band to drift for months with few productive band rehearsals if you don’t have something to work towards.
The types of goals might be:
- Writing an album
- Playing a gig
- Touring an album
You give your rehearsals structure and purpose by ensuring you always have an upcoming gig or a planned album release. You know that you need to write a certain number of songs for your album or nail those 5 for the upcoming gig.
If you’re unsure what you should be working on, when we can help. I recently shared an industry standard process for writing, recording and touring an album, called the Album Release Cycle.
2. Rehearse at most 3 times per week
As a general rule, your band should rehearse 2-3 times per week. We found that for people with school or a full-time job, 2 rehearsals per week ensured they remained productive. It gives band members time to reflect on the previous session and learn material for the next session.
If you rehearse more often, half your time will probably be spent with each band member learning their parts because they don’t have time to learn them outside of band practice. Meanwhile, rehearse too little, and half the session will be spent catching and remembering what you did in the previous session.
3. Keep rehearsals to approximately 2 hours
In addition to having the optimal number of rehearsals, you need to ensure they are the right length. If rehearsals are too long, they can drag. But too short, and you won’t have time to do any more than warm-up.
Band rehearsal should be approximately 2 hours to be most effective. This allows time for setup, warm-up, 1.5 hours of productive time, breaks, review and dismantling. When your band is meeting twice per week, this is ideal to ensure you cover all the points you need to.
Of course, this varies based on the goal you are working towards.
4. Keep rehearsals to a loose itinerary
Often, a band practice is unproductive because there is no plan. No one in the band knows what they will be doing in the session, so no one prepares anything. Then when you’re there, you kind of go through the motions.
A good band rehearsal should have a clear agenda. This should include setup, warm-up, reviewing the previous session, productive time to write or rehearse for your upcoming album or gig, any breaks, and time to pack away. By ensuring your have the content of your rehearsal defined and a clear itinerary, you are likely to have more productive band practices.
If you need help with exactly how long each of those sections should be or what to include, check out my article on the perfect band rehearsal itinerary.
5. Appoint a Band Leader
If you lack clear direction and structure as a band, you probably haven’t appointed a band leader. Often the band leader emerges naturally (usually the singer). They are generally responsible for driving the band forward, assigning tasks, and ensuring things get done.
If none of you naturally assume this role, you could openly discuss where you are going as a band and make a plan. Then promise to hold each other accountable. This way, you share the role, and no one feels like a dictator telling everyone what to do. Alternatively, you could appoint a band manager to hold you accountable.
There are many band roles to share among bandmates, from finance to booking gigs and marketing the band. For more information, you should check out my article about assigning band roles.
6. Record a log of what you cover in each rehearsal
Another great way to ensure you stay organised and productive as a band is to make a log of what you covered in each rehearsal. It doesn’t have to be war and peace. It can just state the songs you played or learnt, the key actions for everyone for next week, and if there are any points, you need to come back to.
If you don’t like writing stuff down, then use the dictaphone of your phone and just talk through what you covered.
No one has a flawless memory, and this makes it easy to ensure you’re making progress with each rehearsal rather than covering old ground each time.
7. Assign homework to do before the next rehearsal
Many people might cringe in fear at the mention of having homework as a band, but hear me out. The role of a band practice is for the band to practice together. It’s not for everyone to learn their own parts while sitting next to 4 friends.
If you have too many band practices or they last too long, then your band members won’t have time to practice their own parts on their own. So they will use that time in band practice to learn them. But this is hugely detrimental and distracting to everyone.
There’s nothing more distracting than trying to learn your part while your singer’s writing lyrics, the guitarist is trying to figure out a kick-ass solo, and your drummer is testing different beats for the chorus. It all makes for an unproductive cacophony of chaos (great name for a band, by the way).
Instead, try to work on songs enough during practice that you all know what you need to do, then assign homework that each band member needs to do before the next session. This goes along with ensuring you have enough time between rehearsals to practice.
8. Prepare for at least 2 hours before the next practice
As you know, for a band to make it, this can’t just be something you occasionally think about on the side. You need to prepare your parts and do your homework before the next rehearsal. This could be learning your part, but it could also be contacting a promoter or researching recording studios, or reading this blog.
The time apart as a band is when you will finish most of your work and preparation. So don’t neglect it. Aim to practice for at least the length of the band practice in your own time. But ideally, until you complete the task you have.
9. Record your band practice
Especially when you’re writing songs, you will probably want to record a rough version of it when you get a good point. Or if people need a reminder so they can practice their parts. A great way to save time is just to record the whole rehearsal.
This way, you don’t have to try to remember to hit record, and it isn’t an extra 5 minutes of time added at the end. By recording the whole session, you can type up notes later and chop up the recording. All this helps your time rehearsing together as a band be more productive.
Don’t worry about the recording quality or having a special microphone for recording it. Just use someone’s phone to record it.
10. Test your gear beforehand
With a finite time to rehearse together, you need to make every minute count. One big-time drain is the set-up at the start. If you’re bringing gear from home, including your instrument, the drum kit, the mic, the PA system or your amp, make sure it works, and you have everything.
You would not believe the number of times another band member, or I have had to run around looking for a cable or a spare amp because we get to practice and the lead doesn’t work, or we left it at home. It is such a time drain and kills your productivity.
Of course, mistakes happen, and sometime these situations can’t be avoided. But when someone asks, you should be able to honestly say that you did everything in your power to make sure you held up your end, but you were let down by technology.
11. Find a suitable rehearsal space
It goes without saying that if you’re trying to keep the noise down because your parents are sleeping next door, you won’t be very productive as a band.
The ideal rehearsal space should be big enough for you to have your own space, look at each other and walk around. But it should be small enough that you aren’t stood miles apart, and the sound is awful.
I’ve tried everywhere imaginable. My parent’s living room, the village hall, the school music room, a recording studio, a bus converted into a music studio, a friend’s basement, and even the hallway between rehearsal rooms. Out of all of them, the best ones are the spaces designed for it.
I was lucky enough to have fantastic free music facilities available at the University of Salford while studying music. They had drum kits, PA systems and amps available in every room so you could just rock up with your instrument and start playing. They also had technicians on hand if you had any problems or needed to borrow anything else. It went a long way to ensuring rehearsals focused on writing and playing rather than setting up and sorting equipment.
So, I advise investing the money in renting a proper space to rehearse together. Alternatively, try to find a local college or university that will have rooms set up and let you practice there for free.