As a young player trying to find my place in the local music scene back in the early 90’s I had little, if any, concept of what my responsibilities as a musician in a band were. As an overconfident guitar player, I definitely had some crazy misconceptions. Looking back I realize band rehearsals were something I didn’t understand very well and that misunderstanding cost me a lot of great opportunities.
Looking back over the past several decades and really taking stock of the 1000s and 1000s of rehearsals and production runs; my hope with this article is to help you take advantage of more opportunities throws your way by making wiser decisions than I did…
Actually, successful rehearsals can be a piece of cake if you apply the 4 “P”s.
“P” Number 1: Purpose
My vision of rehearsals back in the day looked like getting together with friends, maybe having a cold beverage and pizza, and then spending hours blissfully learning and playing music.
There’s nothing wrong with that if the goal is to just hang out with friends and jam. However, to be a successful, gainfully employed musician there has to be a well-crafted intention or purpose for any kind of rehearsal or things quickly fall apart…
That said, the purpose of any rehearsal is well, to rehearse a predefined set of songs. That means knowing the songs BEFORE arriving at the rehearsal space. This doesn’t mean things won’t change as the rehearsal develops. However, there’s nothing worse than expecting to run through songs and refine things and then waiting around while someone learns what they should have already dialed in.
“P” Number 2: Preparation
While preparation goes hand-in-hand with purpose there some strategies that will help you add massive value to the rehearsal and keep you employed for years to come.
1. Have your specific parts locked in and on autopilot. Seems like common sense, but is not as common as most would think.
2. If you’re a guitarist, have a good handle on several guitar parts you can play. For instance, if you play primarily rhythm guitar, learn the lead parts, and vice versa. I know it sounds like a lot of extra work, but if the lead guitar player gets sick and you can stand in for them you just might become the new lead player;-) Also, learning to play songs in multiple positions on the neck will greatly up the value you bring to the table. Being able to choose different frequency ranges based on the band you’re playing with will be greatly appreciated by everyone involved.
3. Have a general idea of what the other instruments are doing in different sections of all the songs based on the actual recordings. This allows a player to adjust parts as needed to honor dynamic changes during a song, as well as cover for any key missing parts. For instance, if the song has a strong syncopated 16th note groove and the drummer is unable to cop that groove you can update your parts to fill the void.
4. Have your tones dialed with a very loose grip. While this strategy pertains mostly to guitar players, keyboards, basses, and even electronic drums can use this tip. One should always have things set for each song in the set before rehearsal. However, it’s not uncommon to have multiple players show up with similar tones or frequency ranges. Unless the tone you’ve dialed in is key for the song in question, it’s almost always better to adjust on your end with as little confrontation as possible. Not only will the end result (great-sounding song for the audience) be much better, but keeping the peace will provide a healthier rehearsal environment for everyone.
5. Know where the rehearsal is located, allow for travel time, and be in place and ready to make music at the designated start time. If you aren’t able to do that, don’t take the gig. Harsh, I know, but let’s face it, musicians are stereotyped for being late and unprepared. However, if the goal is to be a professional musician then all actions for an aspiring player must be PROFESSIONAL… If you waste people’s time you will have to work exponentially hard to regain trust before you can even begin adding value. I’ve learned this one the hard way…
“P” Number 3: Performance
This one is pretty straight forward, but any rehearsal should be approached with the same energy as the actual performance whenever possible. This accomplishes a couple of key goals.
1. It allows the band to feel and embrace the overall vibe of the performance. Players who hold back in rehearsals tend to overplay at the gig. This could destroy an otherwise good monitor mix or cause the band to speed up. Intentionally playing with performance level dynamics during rehearsal allows everyone to adjust accordingly and vibe better as a band.
2. Assuming the sound engineer is present at the rehearsal or run-through, playing at performance levels allows for a much better overall mix providing a much better experience for the audience.
“P” Number 4: Personality
The last P is probably the most important. While I’ve written several articles on how to fit in with an ever-evolving group of musicians or bandmates; I’ve developed a few insights over the last few years regarding how someone can remain true to themselves and still continue building a career in the music business.
Again, my initial read as a younger player was totally wrong! I thought I had to always be outgoing and the life of the party. However, I now realize that’s not necessarily true.
Here it is in a nutshell. Just be yourself and focus on having a good experience. If you’re naturally introverted then quietly have fun doing your thing. If you’re outgoing then enjoy the experience of being with others and making music.
Trying to fit in by being someone you’re not will most likely ruin the organic evolution of building relationships. For instance, trying to be outgoing when you’re naturally introverted burns emotional energy. As that emotional energy depletes, an easy-going person can quickly become obstinate and ruin the entire vibe of the rehearsal and any gigs. Nobody loves a cranky bandmate!
People love being around others who are authentic and comfortable in their own skin. People also gravitate towards others who are enjoying life.
Always remember, most musicians are hired for how they make others feel, not necessarily how good they are.
These four strategies can be challenging and require a bit of elbow grease. However, they can potentially save you from a ton of heartache on your path to being a thriving musician. Being intentionally purposeful, prepared, performance-minded, and embracing your unique personality at every rehearsal you attend increases the chances of adding value and creating a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Until next time, stay focused, stay consistent, and expect the best from yourself.
About the author: Ty Morgan is a professional guitarist in the Phoenix, Arizona area. He also owns and operates one of the premier guitar education academies in the area. If you’re searching for rock/blues guitar lessons in Mesa, AZ and ready to discover the science of learning and mastering guitar be sure to contact Ty!