Sometimes band practice just drags. You run through the same songs, but the energy just isn’t flowing. You try to write new material, but you’re repeatedly going over the same stuff. And before you know it, you’re packing up to go home. We’ve all been there. But, when you’re busy with people that only meet once a week, this can be disheartening. So, having been in many less-than-perfect rehearsals myself, we eventually came across a formula for the most productive band practice.
A 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.
I’ve been in bands for over 10 years and experimented with every situation and format. So here I’ll share with you exactly what’s involved.
The Perfect Band Rehearsal
There isn’t really a ‘perfect band rehearsal’. Different bands have different preferences. It also really depends on what your goal is at the time. It’s critical that your band should always be working towards the next goal or milestone to have productive rehearsals.
Looking at the Album Release Cycle, there are 3 main situations for any band, Writing an album, Gigging the local scene, or Touring. However, for the sake of this article, I’m going to assume that you’re not signed to a label already and that all band members have full-time jobs or are in school.
The table below outlines the length, content and frequency of rehearsals in each scenario.
|Writing an Album
|2 / week
|Warm-up with 1-2 existing songs.
Review previous band practice.
Work on existing songs.
Plan new songs for the album.
|2 / week
|Playing through the set. Staying tight as a band.
|Touring An Album
Practice songs you’re not playing live.
Try to play different songs each night to stay fresh.
While each situation is critically important, the most common situation for most bands starting out is between writing an album and gigging locally. So let’s explore that situation for most bands.
Band Rehearsal Itinerary
Before we jump into the itinerary for each band rehearsal, we should consider how often your band should practice.
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.
It’s important that band practices follow at least a loose itinerary. This ensures that you make progress towards your goal. Assuming you are a new band, aiming to write a new album while also playing some gigs, you may have 1 session each week for writing and 1 session for rehearsing your existing repertoire.
Rehearsal Itinerary when writing an album
When writing an album, your rehearsal time should be 2-3 hours. It’s important to note that your rehearsal extends beyond the confines of your scheduled practice time. This is especially true when you are in the writing phase.
In almost every band, songs are written by 1 or 2 members outside scheduled band practice sessions. They then bring these ideas to rehearsal, pitch them to the band and flesh them out into full songs with the band.
A big mistake that bands make early on is trying to write all together. However, this leads to the drummer getting bored and making a noise, and even some band members just chatting about something else in the background. It doesn’t make for a great environment when writing music or rehearsing. This is a big cause of bands feeling like they have unproductive rehearsals.
These ideas don’t have to be complete. It could be a riff, a verse and a chorus. It could have lyrics. Or you could bring 20 riffs and look to link them together as a band. Whichever you do, there needs to be enough that the band can work from and build on.
Generally, I recommend bands split their rehearsals into segments. Use the first half to review and work on new songs pitched in the previous rehearsal and the second half to work on new ideas that people bring.
|Review Previous Session
|Practice songs from the previous session
|Review new material
|Orchestrate or develop new material
|Review, assign actions and pack up
Setup and Warm-up
Unfortunately, for every rehearsal, you need to setup at the start and pack away at the end. Try to keep this to a minimum as it’s essentially wasted time. The best way to ensure you minimise this is that everyone arrives on time, or early if possible.
Additionally, use this time to chat and catch up with everyone. You’re probably friends and need time to have fun as well.
The warm-up is a part that shouldn’t be overlooked either. Everyone comes from their day job, their home life, their school, and it’s important that you can get everyone into the right mindset for the rehearsal. Having a warm-up of some of your favourites can be a great way to get everyone raring to go. But vary the songs you play each time to stop it from becoming stale.
Writing New Material
I’ll start on the second half first, because it informs the first half. I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out.
In the second half of the session, you should 5-10 minutes reviewing the ideas that people have brought to the rehearsal. Whether it’s riffs, lyrics, or a whole song, spend some time reviewing them, but try to keep it to 10 minutes. Then select one of those pieces to work on.
After your first time doing this, you might have a backlog of ideas to work through. Make a note of all of them and bring them up in another session. People might not write new songs each week but then might write 5 in one go, so balance it out.
As a top tip for anyone writing ideas, record them when you write them. You can’t imagine the number of ideas I’ve forgotten because I didn’t record them. We actually came up with a whole new song trying to remember a riff – only to remember it just after.
Once you have chosen one or 2 ideas to work on, start to flesh it out as a band. What parts is it missing? What does it need? Does it transition from section to section? Does it retain interest throughout? What will each band member do?
This is the fun part of writing a song where you all experiment and jam around an idea, so have fun with it. Don’t worry about getting everything perfect, but ensure everyone has input.
At the end of each rehearsal, review what you worked on (make a note of it all if you can) and remind everyone what they need to bring to the next session. If you are in the middle of writing a song, then assign tasks for each person to finish writing their part, or to continue thinking about it. And most importantly, learn their part ahead of your next rehearsal.
Creativity works best when people are introduced to an idea, they explore it actively but then have time to process it in their subconcious. By allowing band members time to process the song and their parts in their own time will be far more productive than trying to force it while you are all together and tired.
If anyone doesn’t think they’ll be able to work on it before the next session for any reason, ask them to raise it now. It will become difficult otherwise.
If you’re unsure who should assign actions or what actions people should be responsible for, then we can help. Check out my article on the different band roles you need and their responsibilities.
Working on songs in the pipeline
So now, returning to the first half of the rehearsal, you can begin to see how it all fits together. Once you have warmed up, you can review your progress from the previous session, and check that people have worked on their parts or done the things they needed to do.
This part could take 2 minutes or 10 minutes depending on the actions and wether or not people have done them. Assuming they have, then you can use the next 30 minutes to continue developing the ideas.
It’s ideal that you can complete the song – or at least a draft – within this first session you revisit it, but don’t worry too much if you don’t. I would aim to get 10-12 songs to a draft stage as quickly as possible, then come back to refine them. Just record a version of each song after you get that first draft.
A 2-hour rehearsal where you’re being creative and collaborative can be exhausting after a long day. Make sure you take a break to separate the session, grab some food, and relax before jumping into the writing phase of the rehearsal.
Make This Template Your Own
This band rehearsal itinerary is based on what worked for the bands I was in, but it isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some bands cannot do a 2-hour rehearsal, so you might need 2 1-hour rehearsals. Additionally, some bands might prefer exploring new ideas first, then returning to previous ones.
This is a starting point that provides some initial structure and guidance for when you’re writing and rehearsing as a band.
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