How to Run Band Practice | Tips for a Successful Band Rehearsal
Are you an established group, or a bunch of musicians getting together for a one-off performance? Either way, playing together before gigging or recording is essential.
Get some tips for a successful band rehearsal and learn how to run band practice, so you can make the most effective use of your time. Be it in a studio, back bedroom, or over Zoom, by strategising and planning your approach, you’ll achieve more, faster.
Read on to learn the secrets of great bandleaders and become more productive from your very next session.
How to run band practice
You can have the best musicians, top quality kit and great intentions. But if you haven’t spent time honing your sound together, you’re in for a potentially bumpy ride when it comes time to play live. Don’t leave it to luck. Practice together and you’ll be far better prepared for the unexpected; and if you’ve been gigging for a while, particularly online or in less reliable venues, you’ll know that there are often some surprises along the way, that must be dealt with when you’re in the moment.
How do professional bands rehearse?
Most professional bands will have at least one practice a week for a few hours. Bigger names might be at it every day for periods running up to a release or tour. It’s common for groups to lock themselves away in a beach house or country retreat, as they write, create and record together. Iconic evergreen bands like Abba and Queen were renowned for this; the latter as depicted here in the film Bohemian Rhapsody.
Tips for a successful band rehearsal
Play to each other’s strengths. The wonderful thing about being part of a group, is you’re not alone. You can support each other and divide up tasks. This is a wider topic, as there are many functions and roles to play. But in terms of rehearsal, it may be a case of delegating things like social media (who’ll take photos and post updates from the night), taking care of the mutual kit, booking the space, opening and locking up, and providing some refreshments. Which brings us onto…
Have some drinks and snacks. This doesn’t mean beer and chips. But it will boost morale if there’s a cuppa, some green tea, juice, and nibbles available when you need to take five. Home baking is usually very much appreciated if you want to ingratiate yourself with your new bandmates.
On a practical level, if you’re new to the world of music-making, you might need to invest in some kit. Amps, microphones, mic stands, tablet stands (for digital sheet music), and in-ear monitors for each member are some of the basics. Or if you’re a purely vocal band, then it’s just a case of getting mics, stands, something to play your backing tracks and possibly monitors.
Band rehearsal techniques
To begin with, stand or sit where you can see each other. When on stage, band members will (for the most part) face the audience. But in a practice setting, the band will first work in the round and as close together as is possible. This means being able to see each other, for cues and rapport. It’s only later, that rehearsals take on a ‘fourth wall’ performance style.
Use an app if practising and liaising remotely. Geography or restrictions may mean you can’t physically be in the same room. Avoid many of the issues this poses by using some of the dedicated tech available today. It’ll not only help you practice but enable easier sharing of files, communication and collaboration. Many of the apps are free, such as:
Band rehearsal strategies
Think about the placing of your amps and monitors in rehearsal. Usually, this will be with amps behind instrumentalists and the monitors in front of the vocalists.
Start easy and end on a high. Motivating your peers is part of the battle. If you’ve had a tough session, finish up with a run-through of one of your best numbers. Similarly, don’t deep dive into the hardest sections right at the top. Ease in with a smaller challenge, till you’re all warmed up.
Keep doing it. This is the most obvious answer to successful band rehearsals. The ultimate practice strategy is regularity and frequency. Life will of course get in the way. And some of you may be able to commit to more than others. Be understanding of one another’s circumstances and do the best you can, within those sets of circumstances.
How to make band practice more productive
Plan a setlist. And distribute it ahead of time, so your bandmates have a chance to digest it, and learn or brush up on parts. For full time acts, the timescale for this may only be a day or so. But if you’re working with busy hobbyists who have full-time jobs and lives to juggle, allow up to a week. Include sheet music and any backing, draft or demo tracks that may be relevant. Vocalists in particular will benefit from some backing.
As the leader, you should be on your game. Know what you’re doing when, know the songs and what you have coming up in the way of gigs. You may want to use pre-defined hand signals they’ll recognise to cue and guide your band during practice time – not on stage.
Have fun. If as the person at the helm, you’re grumpy, easily annoyed, overly serious and a hard taskmaster, you’ll strip the experience of its joy. Instead, seek to inspire and encourage, while gently steering the group. Too many bands split because of personal difference and arguments. A happy band will be more successful. Here are some ways you can keep that sense of joy alive:
- Make silly videos. TikTok is a great place to start or to get ideas. Your fans will love it and as a group, it’ll give you a laugh. It could be something like a challenge you each take, or a light practical joke.
- Hang out as a group. Don’t make it all work and no play. Fans are often more magnetised by those bands who have a clear rapport with one another. There’s something really warming about watching people who clearly get on well, performing together. So have some nights out, see other gigs, grab food and even take some trips together. You’ll create great memories and may even write about them.
- See the funny side. Things will go wrong. On stage and off. Work hard and perfect your songs. Although you should take your music seriously, you should not take yourself too seriously.
Band practise plan
Identify what it is you’re trying to achieve. Both on a long and short term basis. From this, you can write out a plan. Your plan should include the duration of rehearsal, broken down into approximate segments. Within these segments, highlight whether you’ll be learning a number from scratch, working on specific parts, or running full songs. Then, during practice, you can continue to add notes, identifying areas for improvement that need to be added to the following rehearsal schedule.
As with any creative endeavour, you’ll have to have some flexibility in there. Being too strict and rigid can have a deflating effect. If something just isn’t working, it might be you need to park it and return to it later. Similarly, if you’re flying with a section or part, go with the artistic flow – this is often where the magic happens. It’s all about balance.
Games for bands
Include some team building activities in your time where possible. Audiences can spot on stage/screen chemistry a mile off. And the best bands have it in buckets. But did you know that it can be worked on? It’s ideal if there’s already a rapport of course, but fun activities that build on that will really help.
Being able to anticipate what someone else might do, is a real boon. And if you ever want to improvise as part of your set, then this will help massively. Here’s an exercise you can try: Mind Meld. It’ll also get your brains in sync – something that’s super useful in a live setting, where a quick response is required.
How to make a band practise more productive
Singers have it drilled into them how important this is, as not doing so can cause vocal damage. However, instrumentalists can be at risk of conditions like repetitive strain injury too, so it’s a good idea for everyone to spend time preparing. It will also make your time together more productive if you all arrive limbered up and playing/singing at full throttle. So be sure to blow away the cobwebs before you arrive.
Record your practice. Making notes is fine and good. But it’s likely you’ll forget much of the detail and you don’t want to spend the entire session scribbling. No fancy tech is needed. Just set a smartphone or tablet to record. If you’re in the later stages of a song’s rehearsal, and you have the equipment, a more professional recording setup may be beneficial.
And consider recording it as a video. Seeing, as well as hearing, will give you more insight into what was going wrong or right, and enable you to view interactions. Plus if you have a magic moment or funny blooper in there, you can upload it to your social account.
Band rehearsal rules
Set some boundaries. The word isn’t exactly popular in the creative world. This is especially so for bands who thrive on a level of anarchy and unpredictability. But having some ground rules can prevent many issues and help bring clarity for everyone. What form these boundaries take is up to you, but some ideas that may be useful include:
- No drinks except water. This prevents any boozy sessions and minimises the risk of damage caused by sticky spillages.
- Phones on silent and no messaging during practice. This may be age-dependent. Teens can be particularly glued to phones, so this might become a necessary rule to avoid constant distractions.
- Mutual respect. Hopeful this goes without saying. But where you have a group of musicians who are new to working together, it may be worth reminding everyone of this.
Band rehearsal – Covid adjustments
Current times aren’t exactly ideal for rehearsing. The most obvious and prolific solution for those in lockdown is a video link rehearsal. Screen sharing functions are useful for talking through the piece’s notes and timing. You may like to share bits of your rehearsal with fans on Facebook Live, or via the TikTok duet function.
Be sure to read the guidance for your local restrictions though. The situation is ever-changing and ever-evolving, but in some cases, meeting to practice as part pf a work bubble (if you’re a pro group) is allowed. Especially if you’re doing it in a managed environment like a studio rehearsal space.
Practising together is vital. Anything you can do is better than nothing – even if it means video conferencing with a dodgy link. So many major bands have shown us its possible to continue collaborating, improving and even recording, under even limited circumstances.
- How do you determine a bands practice space?
If you have large, loud instruments, you’ll need somewhere reasonably large with a degree of soundproofing – ideally a studio. If you’re an all-singing, all-dancing group, you’ll need space to move, with mirrors and maybe a sprung floor. Acoustic bands have more flexibility and can practice at home.
- How do you become a successful band?
You’ll need a combination of musical ability, good original tunes, or some standout covers, perseverance, strong marketing, hard work and personality. There’s also a degree of chance involved when it comes to getting spotted. But you can make your own luck to some degree.
- How do you start a band?
Find peer musicians with differing skills to yours (ideally a combination of vocals, strings, keys and drums). Or a few other singers who can harmonise (as per boy and girl-bands) and book some practice time together to try jamming together. From there, you can work towards gigging and recording.
How do you run your band practice? Do you have any of your own tips for a successful band rehearsal?