Reading this blog will ensure you conduct rehearsals like a professional. I’ll tell you the techniques used by the best that deliver the gigs that blow peoples minds. I’m sure you have experienced this, however, you may have seen bands that have not delivered, and consequently have given an average performance. I’m sure you want to do better and achieve greatness!
So, how do we achieve greatness? Simple, we prepare for it! You need to plan for it and make the magic happen. This all starts in the rehearsal room and I have prepared three tips for you to act on immediately and ensure you up your game in no time!
Pre-production is about nailing down individual parts for recording in the studio, however, the live show rehearsal is different. This is due to live arrangements being unique to the studio and recording arrangements, to be effective live we need to think about what will work best on the stage!
Practically it means we have two different types of rehearsals, dependant on where you are at with your campaign. Pre-production encompasses activities like writing songs, arranging and getting ready to record an EP, Single or Album. There will be lots of focus on individual parts, trying out things like new drum parts, instrument tones and really nailing down the essential components of a great record.
Now, all the pre-production should have been completed before preparing to play live and consequently you wouldn't expect a professional band to need a lot of rehearsal time. Live rehearsal is not the time to be learning your individual parts, it’s the time where you need to be putting a set together. Everybody needs to come in super prepared and analyse the set holistically.
Lets take a hypothetical situation; a band that has just finished their first album and is preparing for a support tour. Earlier in a bands career, they will need more rehearsal, later on experience will fast track the process. If you are serious about being a great band, you may need to rehearse prolifically, and perhaps you’ll need to take a solid week out to nail this down. A lot of detail goes into a great live show.
When I was younger, I was lucky. I was a full-time musician and I could take whole days to rehearse. These days that's not always possible, so you need to be organised and do a lot of the preparation before the rehearsal. Make sure that if you only have one or two rehearsals you maximise the time and have done your homework before you get into the rehearsal room.
Personally, I would not be able to work with musicians who turn up late, who have instruments that are not set up and ready to go and do not have a sense of work ethic. Time is important and I’d find it counterproductive to be having a break every twenty minutes. Its work, there is a defined outcome, you have to compete with an international level of amazing bands, and success will not happen by accident.
Your set is not just a bunch of individual songs, it’s about putting a coherent performance together. Not only that, every single second matters, from when you start the intro to when you go off the stage. Rehearse every little detail from changeovers, gaps, think about the tempo, think of the dynamics and the set in its own right.
You need to think about what to do when something goes wrong. Rehearse a routine for technical difficulties, such as when leads and pedals go down. I suggest making a list that details every little aspect of your set: things like guitar changeovers, changing tunings, costumes, unusual instruments or whatever it is. This all needs to be planned and worked out in advance.
If you are using anything technology related: backing tracks, samplers or loops, it’s implementation needs to be super rehearsed. You may only have a fifteen minute change over so you need to be able to just plug in, check the line and be ready to rock. Build this into the formation of the set! You need to practice for when things go wrong, it's a realistic eventuality and this happens to even the biggest bands. You always need something up your sleeve!
Let me tell you a story, I was watching the band Black Stone Cherry headline a festival stage two years ago. I was watching from the front and I wasn’t that familiar with the band but I was really blown away by the set, it was amazing and it they had huge crowd participation. They were one of those bands where I knew all the songs without realising it. During the latter half of their set, I went backstage to watch from a different angle and discovered that there had been an incredible amount of technical problems. They had changed the whole set to have an acoustic section in the middle, whilst the roadies ran around and fixed everything.
They were such professionals that it was invisible from the front of the stage. I just saw an amazing gig. However, when I went backstage and realised they had to contend with hired gear that didn't work in front of the headline audience, I was even more impressed that they had victoriously played a huge gig and none of the mishaps mattered. This is the definition of a rock and roller, and it blew me away.
Unfortunately, someone has to be the MD and this will probably fall to you as you are the person reading this blog. Somebody needs to crack the whip. You do not get a medal for it and often there is a bit of negativity but it has to be done. It injects some pace and energy into a project and ties the goals together.
You are approaching this as a professional. This is professional music so if you have people in your band who want it to be a hobby, that's fine, but they need to be in a hobby band. You need to work with like-minded professional people as it’s the only way to get the job done.
So this question always comes up;
“What do I do with that band member who doesn't get it, they are pretty talented, but they will not treat it seriously and think it will all fall into place?”
It’s not their fault as they may have watched too many rock and roll films where the whole thing is glamorised and they may have fallen for the mirage we put around the industry. Behind the scenes its completely different. Professional music is competitive and we need to treat it like a business. Your band member may be a little naive and not get the realities so you need to spell this out to them three times. If on the third try if they do not get it, it’s ok to go your separate ways. You cannot be carrying people, it’s the difficult part of the job, but those conversations have to happen.
When you walk off stage you may think the gig is over, however it is not!! You have a huge opportunity to walk into the crowd, get on the merch table and shift more product as you are actually there. You’ll meet your fans, sign their stuff and that's when you really consolidate all that great work you have done on stage. It still does not end there, the gig only really finishes when every last comment on all social media has been replied to, dealt with, commented on and shared. Only when this has been is it the end of the gig!
In the rehearsal room, we need to figure out who is going to do what: who will do merch?, who will do socials?, who will take care of the fans who want a long conversation?. Work it out, Plan it, Lead it!