You run off the bus with your bass in a gig bag. You get to the rehearsal space 10 minutes late and out of breath. Once there, you realize with relief that you're not the only one at fault; the keyboardist is also late. While the singer is polishing a new song's lyrics, the guitarist is testing the loop pedal she bought the day before. The atmosphere is relaxed. You tell the others you will go to the store and get some beer while waiting for the latecomer.
30 minutes later, the whole band is all set up and ready; you make a quick soundcheck. As you begin to play, the drummer receives a phone call. He dropped his car at the garage this morning, and the mechanic wants to talk to him. Meanwhile, the singer gets a head start with the keyboardist to chat about the new song. Together, they look for the right chords to go with the melody. The guitarist suggests adding a track created on her new loop station.
You grab a couple of beers and hand them out to everyone. 15 minutes later, the drummer comes back. He's livid. The repair will cost between $800 and $1,000, so you hand him a cold one. He needs it.
The group has been in the studio for a little over an hour. The singer and the keyboardist try out the first draft of their new song. The guitarist plays something with her new pedal. It doesn't work very well, the loop is not perfectly synchronized, and the rhythm is slightly off. So she takes about 15 minutes to fix it—cigarette break.
Problem solved with the loop pedal, the singer and the keyboardist play their song, as the guitar player tests the arrangement she has in mind. You and the drummer try to lay down the right groove for this new music. The singer is having trouble hitting the high notes. The keyboardist brings it down a minor third; it will be easier that way. The guitarist, who is not a champ when it comes to transposition, takes a few minutes to find her way through the new chords.
You've been in the studio for two hours by now but did not really get into the first song. On the other hand, the case of beer is soon to be empty (should we get another one?). The drummer suggests that, after the rehearsal, you all go out and catch a show in a bar located nearby. A guy he knows produces an event with his record company. This leads to a discussion about the state of the music business, the band's future, artistic integrity and the dilemma between signing with a label and going it alone as true independent artists.
After three hours, you all agree that although you didn't rehearse much, the meeting was productive. You heard the first draft to a new song, tried an experiment with a loop pedal and "planned" a "meeting" in 30 minutes with some guy from a record label.
You pack up our gear. The rehearsal is over.
You think I'm exaggerating? Admit that you've been through similar situations. We've all been there. So here are:
The 7 golden rules to avoid wasting time in rehearsals.
1 - A few minutes early, thou shalt show up
You want to make a living from music? You want to go pro? Then act like a pro. Showing up early allows you to settle in quietly while taking some time to chat with others. It makes for a better atmosphere and avoids unnecessary friction between band members. Moreover, if you really encounter a problem on the way, you will arrive just in time. Easy.
2 - Turned off thy cell phone shall be
By gathering to rehearse, the band members all commit to devoting their time to the project. Cell phones steal valuable time and distract attention with calls, text messages, notifications and viral videos. They interfere with concentration and can quickly jeopardize a rehearsal. If you really must have access to your phones, schedule a few minutes to check messages and return calls.
3 - At home, these new gadgets thou shalt explore
By bringing the new loop pedal she bought the day before, the guitarist given as an example unconsciously sabotages the rehearsal. I understand her enthusiasm; we all like to flex our new toys. But when you don't master a new tool, you don't bring it to rehearsal.
4 - In small committee, these new songs thou shalt write
Creating a new song requires taking the time to get it right. The singer who comes in with his draft lyrics makes the same mistake as the guitarist with her new loop pedal. He wants to share a new idea before finishing it.
Creating new material as a group is often counterproductive. Writing and composing alone or in pairs is usually much more effective. This doesn't mean everyone can't add a personal touch. On the contrary, everyone's participation remains essential to develop a group sound. But composing first and trying it out as a group later is usually much more efficient. So before you come up with a new song, finish the lyrics, find the melody and chords, build the song's structure, write or record it to facilitate communication and bring it to the rehearsal room.
It doesn't prevent you from having fun during creative jam sessions to develop new composition ideas. But at this point, it's part of the day's program.
5 - Thou shalt not drink beer on rehearsal time
Should we really discuss this point?
6 - A group meeting the rehearsal shalt not become
There is a time for everything. Of course, group meetings allow for certain decisions to be taken. We can talk about an upcoming recording, a video, social media management, contest entries, etc. Just get together somewhere else. Discuss these topics at home, in a café, at a restaurant, in a park, in a bar. Hold these band meetings anywhere, anytime, except at the rehearsal space during rehearsal time. Rehearsal time should never turn into band meeting time.
7 - Specific goals thou shalt set
In the example given in the introduction, no one had a game plan for the rehearsal. It's difficult, if not impossible, to work effectively when you don't know what you need to accomplish. So before you even rehearse, set specific goals.
Is there a show in three days? Run through the set two or three times, include what you're going to tell the audience as well as stage movements. Then time it.
New songs in the works? Play some old songs in the first half-hour to warm up, and then dive into the new pieces.
Recording sessions coming up? Test ideas with different instruments and amps to find the right sound textures.