Whether you’ve just started playing in a band or are a veteran of your local music scene, you’re bound to encounter rehearsal problems at some point in your career. Here are my top five most-common band rehearsal problems, along with actionable tips on how to fix each one:
1. Not Achieving A Good Live Mix
When setting up for rehearsal, many bands struggle to achieve a good live mix. This is causes two main problems:
- Not being able to identify problem areas: If you’re unable to clearly hear each instrument, it’s often much more difficult to identify problem areas in the arrangement.
- Performance issues: If you can’t clearly hear your own instrument or voice, you’re likely to push yourself much harder than necessary. Additionally, it can be much harder to follow the arrangement or keep your timing when dealing with a sub-par mix.
Even if your rehearsal space isn’t particularly sound-friendly, there are several things you can do to achieve a decent live mix:
- Don’t play too loud: Whilst I completely understand the temptation to turn everything up as loud as it will go, it’ll limit your ability to achieve a solid mix. Going loud will make it much more difficult for the vocals to cut through, which can cause vocalists to strain unnecessarily. Additionally, keeping things at a moderate level will encourage you to focus more on the arrangement, meaning you’ll better-identify the strengths and weaknesses of the performance.
- Set guitar tones/levels last: Many guitarists go about the level-setting process by simply dialling in a killer tone and turning the amp up as loud as it will go. However, this means that the guitars will most-likely overpower the rest of the mix. I’d encourage you start by achieving a good mix of drums, bass and vocals before adding the guitars in. Furthermore, dial in a tone that sits comfortably in the mix. Whilst your favourite tone might sound great all by itself, it might be overpowering the rest of the mix in a live setting.
- Use in-ear monitors: In-ear monitors are a real game changer. They allow you to achieve a crystal-clear mix whilst simultaneously protecting your hearing. Sennheiser’s IE 40 PRO Monitors (link to Amazon) are the best-value monitors I’ve used and offer a great mix at an affordable price. If you’ve got a little more budget, it’s worth investing in a dedicated set for the whole band, such as the Audio2000’S AWM6306U (link to Amazon).
2. Not Getting Anything Done
Whilst rehearsal is a fantastic opportunity to make serious headway as a band, it also has the potential to turn into a huge waste of time. Here are a few pointers on making the most of each rehearsal:
- Show up on time: Turning up late severely compromises productivity and can ruffle the feathers of your fellow bandmates. If you consistently turn up ten minutes late to rehearsal each week, you lose approximately four entire rehearsal’s worth of time over the course of a year.
- Learn the material beforehand: Rehearsal should be viewed as an opportunity to tighten up material that each member has learned in their own time. Use the time you spend with the band to tighten up the material as an ensemble.
- Plan & structure the rehearsal: Each rehearsal should have a schedule indicating what needs to be worked on as well as how much time to spend on each activity. Make sure you include set up/tear down time, breaks and active discussion into your schedule.
3. Not Making Consistent Progress
It can be immensely frustrating when you’ve been rehearsing for weeks or months at a time without seeing any real progress. Here are a few tips on making consistent progress through your rehearsals:
- Rehearse on a consistent basis: Just like running a race, maintaining a consistent pace ensures consistent and measured progress. In addition, making small improvements on a regular basis will add up to a significant level of long-term success.
- Set short and long-term rehearsal goals: Goals offer framework whilst also providing a sense of progress and accomplishment. When setting goals, it’s best to focus on actionable and achievable steps instead of more lofty, unstructured end-results. Furthermore, it’s good practice to ensure your long-term goals are a direct result of continuously achieving your short-term goals.
- Keep a rehearsal journal: A rehearsal journal can be a hugely beneficial tool when planning future rehearsals or keeping track of your overall progress. Get into the habit of jotting down a few summary notes at the end of each rehearsal; make sure you note what you did, what went well and what could’ve been done better. Reviewing your rehearsal journal on a regular basis can help you effectively track your progress and note any recurring issues.
4. Not Tightening Up
A slick, tight-sounding live performance is one of the strongest attributes an independent band could wish to possess. However, many bands are unsure of how to hone a tight sound through their rehearsals. Here are a couple of tips on how to tighten your sound up:
- Be ruthless: Adopt a take-no-prisoners approach to mistakes. If two members came in a couple of milliseconds apart, loop the section until they’re totally on-beat. If your singer didn’t quite make that top note, get them to practice it with just the drums.
- Rehearse in breakout groups: Many bands make the mistake of solely rehearsing material by running through it as a full band. Whilst this is a necessary aspect of rehearsing, it limits your ability to fundamentally grasp each element of the arrangement. Rehearsing in breakout groups (such as just guitarists or backing vocalists) allows you to fundamentally nail each aspect of the song before incorporating it into the full arrangement.
- Rehearse turnarounds and stops: Turnarounds and stops are two areas that’ll really stick out if they aren’t tight. For this reason, it’s well-worth looping turnarounds and stops until they’re completely on-beat.
If you’d like a few more pointers on achieving a tight sound, check out our article ‘How To Make Your Band Tighter | 10 Essential Tips‘
5. Not Effectively Preparing For The Stage
I completely understand how devastating it can be to put in a huge amount of preparation in for a gig, only for it to catch you completely off-guard. This is usually the result of failing to rehearse for the stage. Here are a few tips on effectively preparing for the stage during rehearsal:
- Rehearse in stage positions: Many bands will only ever rehearse in circle formation. Whilst this allows for easy communication between members, it can also make you overly-reliant on visual communication. When you’re stood on stage, it’s often much more difficult to communicate visually as you won’t be facing each other. For this reason, I’d strongly recommend rehearsing in stage positions at once before each show in order to better-hone your sonic communication.
- Rehearse stage presence & banter: I understand you might feel like an idiot doing this, but it won’t be convincing if you haven’t rehearsed it. Roughly plan what to say to the crowd and rehearse your stage presence in advance.
- Video your rehearsals: This is one of my all-time favorite rehearsal tips. Videoing your rehearsals allows you to view your band from an audience perspective, meaning you get an all-encompassing understanding of your stage presence and sound. I’d highly recommend buying a dedicated camera for rehearsals in order to leverage the camera’s memory and keep everything in one place. The best-value camera I’ve found is the WEILIANTE Digital Camcorder (link to Amazon), which is remote controlled and stores up to 30GB of data.