Posted on November 14, 2016
Are You Rehearsing Effectively?
Greetings, Ladies & Germs!
Ever since I first entered the music program at the one and only Suny SCCC back in 1999, I’ve often wondered about practice and more specifically, rehearsal technique. The context in which I thought of this, was both in the arena of a classical guitar ensemble and as a member of a rock/metal band. Though, back in high school, one of my band directors made a very deliberate point one day about the very word “rehearse.” “It means to “re-HEAR,” he explained. In other words, learn the material on your own time and come to rehearsal to re-hear it as an ensemble…in context.
Now, the point I’m getting to, is in my experience of both playing in a band in rehearsal spaces and watching my clients rehearse in similar rooms/spaces, it dawned on me one day that they’re playing practically at full stage volume in a cramped little room; the singer is screaming just to be faintly audible over the PA system which is now whistling from sheer volume levels and microphone proximity to the speakers. All the while, the drummer is bashing away on cymbals right into the bassist’s ear and the guitarists are cranked at full tilt to be heard over the washes of cymbals and the rumbling bass. Does this sound at all familiar to any of you in rock bands? I thought so! Would you agree that this method seems completely and totally counterproductive to your musical endgame? I thought so!
What about spending less time in the general rehearsal space and more time rehearsing (or even writing) unplugged? I know this sounds crazy, but what you’re trying to achieve is an efficient way of learning and perfecting your own material. Consider breaking the band/ensemble into sections and playing either unplugged (that’s right: your electric guitars unplugged) or even on an acoustic guitar. I know it doesn’t sound very rock n’ roll, but electric guitars unplugged are plenty loud in a quiet situation and guess what…you can actually talk over the volume and hear what you’re playing! A drummer can be nearby jamming on practice pads as well. The atmosphere is finally quiet enough to think clearly and get down to business. Even use small practice amps at a modest level if you absolutely need the heavy distortion for proper feel or sonic reference with your material. It does work. Additionally, depending on the performance medium of your band (how many members playing each instrument and/or singing), it’s also advisable to have what are called “sectional” rehearsals. Those of you who have attended band/orchestra in secondary public school will be familiar. Essentially, you set aside times where only parts of the band meet up to rehearse. For example; perhaps the drummer and bassist are having a hard time locking as they should be, so they may arrange to rehearse the material without the other members. If you have twin guitars in your band, they may need to set aside time to work on trade-off solos, or maybe very specific harmony passages that need to be super tight…or better yet, if you have multiple vocalists and have 3 or 5 part harmony sections in a song. It can only be beneficial to the group to spend some time, only those members rehearsing said vocal parts. No need to get the entire band in a rehearsal space and waste time plowing their way through entire songs that may have several faults in the performance that need attention on an individual level.
Finally: too many times have I entered the studio or general recording situation with a band and because they’ve ONLY ever rehearsed plugged in and at stage volume, their lack of knowledge of their own material becomes shockingly apparent. Case in point, many years ago I was acting as co-producer on a tech metal band’s demo. When it came time to start tracking individual guitars, there were a lot of red flags raised during overdubs. You’d hear one of the members say “wait, why did you play that there?” To which the member in question would answer that they’ve ALWAYS played that passage at this spot in the song…BUT because they’d always rehearsal in a small room with blaring levels, neither guitarist never knew what the other was playing…ever…until they hit the studio and now we’re burning studio time second-guessing an entire section of a song’s arrangement due to totally avoidable lack of preparation. This is but one example of a situation that I’ve witnessed countless times to varying degrees of severity in the past decade or so that I’ve been doing this.
In short, your music deserves to be taken seriously by you, the writer and performer. The more time you spend treating your music seriously and like the viable art form that it is, the better results you’ll see as a band, whether it be prepping for live shows or cutting your record in the studio and everything in between. You’ll have more confidence in your music, performance and that will translate to the perception of your adoring fanbase! We’re all in this business together and if my clients are successful, I’m successful.
Thanks for reading and until next time!