Rehearsals and repetition

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
My band members all have demanding day jobs and domestics so we have limited time for practice, both privately and together.

We are building a repertoire having started a couple of months ago. My band tends to need to go through most of the songs a couple of times before getting them close to right. When we come back to it a week later we have to go through the same process over again - so much is forgotten even thought we take notes.

Last rehearsal I was a bit tired of the messing around and, rather than settling after a couple of times on shaky adequacy, I kept pushing for us to play songs three or four times in a row to refine them. I am thinking of pushing harder on this - even to the point where we might play one song 10 times, if that's what it takes!

Do you prefer to play and play a song until it's just right and solid, even if you're sick to death of it and no longer capable of "hearing it with fresh ears" or do you prefer to do it a couple of times and coming back to it again after running through other stuff? What approach do you find is most efficient?
 

jjmason777

Senior Member
I'm in a very similar situation with my band. What I am finding is that, if everyone likes the song, we will tend to do it until it's right, even if its ten times in a row, or however many times. If it's not our favorite song, then we tend to do it a couple of times, and then "revisit" it later, or next time. Sometimes, maybe one band member doesn't know his part well enough, so he'll say "let me listen to it so I can figure out what is supposed to be played and we'll do it next rehearsal".

What I tend to do is, if someone brings in a song they'd like to do, but I don't know it well, then that will be my "homework". I'll go home listen to the song and practice it until I know it very well, and next rehearsal, I'm all over it.

So lately, well just say "everybody learn such and such song for next rehearsal".
That way, you can learn it at home at your own speed, and if everyone comes to rehearsal knowing the song, we can get it down very quickly, say like 2 or 3 times, and we can nail it.

I hope this helps, Pollyanna, I have been enjoying your posts!
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
This sounds like a case of everybody not practicing their parts on their own. If it's possible, give everyone a recording of the songs, in their arranged form, to listen to throughout the week. This might mean recording your rehearsals so you have a recording of the arrangement you have decided on. If everyone listens to these recordings, then the form and where and how the parts fit in should be solid, and it's just a matter of locking in the groove and being comfortable playing it with each other.

I had a problem with a cover band doing the same thing. We would leave, and I'd say, "everybody work on such and such this week", and nobody would. Every time we got together, it seemed like it was the first time. When we'd come up with a brilliant arrangement or ending to a song, it would be forgotten by next week's rehearsal. As the band leader (and somebody who worked on my parts throughout the week), I got so frustrated that I had to let the project dissolve. The money was good, but the amount of frustration and wasted time started eclipsing the financial benefits.

Find out, tactfully, if everyone else is as "into" this band as you are. If not, maybe consider finding some musicians with the same level of dedication and discipline...
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
My rule is this: When we learn new songs, everyone is expected to know their parts before they get there. If they don't, it's an issue that we address, and the song gets moved to the next rehearsal. For the songs that everyone is prepared for, we run each one two to three times, to make sure we have the general feel of it. We then do any tweaks or arrangement adjustments that we need, and run it again.

The next week, those songs are played 10 times correctly. That's right, 10 perfect runs. If we get most of the way and a lyric is forgotten, it doesn't count. If I drop a beat, it doesn't count. We play it as often as needed at that rehearsal to play it correctly 10 times. After that, most of the time, everyone has the song so well learned that it is almost impossible to mess up on stage.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Good points all.

Yeah Jim, homework ... and thanks for the thumbs up :) Not always easy for this bunch of old fogies with too many responsibilities. I probably have the least on my plate so I'm usually more prepared. But I'm not much of an organiser.

At this stage, since some of us have only known each other a short while, we've been just getting used to each others' styles as musicians and personally. It's starting to look perilously like I'm the one who'll have to say, "Is everyone ok to learn this for next time?". Guess it's got to be someone.

Mt Chattr, your band must be good! Yes, maybe that's what it takes. In my old bands, it's always been once through perfectly (or close to), maybe twice to reinforce (one less than your bands do, Jim LOL). This approach seems a bit tenuous now that I think about it; there's too much chance involved. Too often we'll nail a song once or twice because we're in form on the night rather than because we really had it down pat.

What you said reminds me of something a guitarist friend told me when we were in our teens: "You've got to play songs till you're sick of them" and he went on to sell a lot of albums in Japan so it seemed to work for him. I've always agreed when someone else wanted to repeat a song and would suggest it myself but over the years my bandmates and I have tended to get sick of it after a couple of times, which probably explains why we do proper jobs LOL. I guess what he meant was "really, really, really sick" of it :)

One time I did a fill-in for a band who were much better than me - serious musos doing sessions etc - and they spent the whole rehearsal tweaking one original song. The penny probably should have dropped then. Instead it's dropping now that I'm an office-bound old cow - damn! LOL

I'll see if more organisation and advocating of repetition works out. We're not pros so I'll won't push for 10 times, but at least try to encourage higher standards. If we can improve our discipline it will ultimately be more fun for everyone. If not, I'll have fun and keep working on my consistency of swing and dynamic control ... going from rock to jazz, folk and gentle blues is a bit of a spinout after banging out rawk'n'roll for yonks.

At this stage when playing at low volume I've found I have all the control and grace of a penguin with St Vitus Dance. So Caddywumpus, I might be thinking along your lines in the future if I manage to get my mellow playing better organised and the others don't.

Pardon the rambling brain dump ... this is stuff that's been nagging at the back of my mind for ages and I've never verbalised it until now.
 

DestinationDrumming

Senior Member
This might mean recording your rehearsals so you have a recording of the arrangement you have decided on. If everyone listens to these recordings, then the form and where and how the parts fit in should be solid, and it's just a matter of locking in the groove and being comfortable playing it with each other.
I can't agree more. My last band, all working, all very busy went through 6-8 songs each rehearsal and although they didn't sound really awful there were timing issues. We recorded one rehearsal and immediately could hear where the problems were.
 

rootheart

Senior Member
My band members all have demanding day jobs and domestics so we have limited time for practice, both privately and together.

When we come back to it a week later we have to go through the same process over again - so much is forgotten even thought we take notes.
old problem..."Guitarrists" do not understand the difference between "practising" and "training"..In rehearsal they try maybe about 20 times, and when it works at the 21 time they think they made it, then they go home or have a beer or two... But: in fact: they played it 20 times the wrong way, and just 1 time the right way...and as we all know: what you do often is what you internalize..when they come back next week they play what they internalized: the 20 times of playing it wrong instead of the 1 time of playing it right.... ..so: after the band figured out and can play it, they should play the right version over and over and over again, (training) such playing the right version more often than the 20 previous trial versions, until it gets boring......very easy, but hard to convince a band to do this
 
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Nickkk

Member
old problem..."Guitarrists" do not understand the difference between "practising" and "training"...once they "figured out" how to play a song, which they call "practising".., they cannot stand it anymore and want to figure out a new song..In rehearsal they try maybe about 20 times, and when it works at the 21 time they think they made it. But: in fact: they played it 20 times the wrong way, and just 1 time the right way...and as we all know: what you do often is what you internalize..when they come back next week they play what they internalized: the 20 times of playing it wrong.... ..so: after the band figured out and can play it, they should play it over and over again, (training) such playing the 1 right version more often than the 20 previous trial versions...very easy, but hard to convince a band to do this
wait a minute, are you actually in my band rootheart lol? this post made me smile so much! been there before alot!!
 

brady

Platinum Member
I've been in a band here for about a month and I have the exact opposite problem. We NEVER repeat a song. It's very frustrating. I'll work on certain songs, or parts of songs all week on my own and we just end up burning through our song list during practice. I still don't know how about a dozen of our songs end, and how some bridge/chorus transitions go, etc. But the singer/guitarist says it doesn't matter since we're not recording an album. Like I said, very frustrating. Didn't mean to hijack the thread... I was just wondering how to diplomatically approach the subject (yet again) of working on just a few songs during practice as opposed to burning through our list just for the sake of completing it.
 

Therma lobsterdore

Senior Member
I can't agree more. My last band, all working, all very busy went through 6-8 songs each rehearsal and although they didn't sound really awful there were timing issues. We recorded one rehearsal and immediately could hear where the problems were.
I record most of every rehearsal with the band I'm in, so every new idea is captured and there is a copy of every one of our songs, so there are no excuses for not knowing them! It's easy to do, just get a cheap digital recorder and two cheap mics, set them up on either side of the studio and there you go. Personally I insist on getting songs as tight as possible, so I will force the rest of the band to do at least 4-5 repetitions whenever we practice a song, the only exception is when we're coming up with new material.
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
I've been in a band here for about a month and I have the exact opposite problem. We NEVER repeat a song. It's very frustrating. I'll work on certain songs, or parts of songs all week on my own and we just end up burning through our song list during practice. I still don't know how about a dozen of our songs end, and how some bridge/chorus transitions go, etc. But the singer/guitarist says it doesn't matter since we're not recording an album. Like I said, very frustrating. Didn't mean to hijack the thread... I was just wondering how to diplomatically approach the subject (yet again) of working on just a few songs during practice as opposed to burning through our list just for the sake of completing it.
Honestly, just talk to them about it. Say that you were talking to some other musicians (us), including some people that make a living doing it, and they all said the same thing...that you have to repeat songs multiple times, really get them DOWN, before you move on to the next one...and that it may seem boring, but that it's how bands that succeed generally do it. If that does not work, then just stare at them and say

REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
REPETITION IS THE KEY TO LEARNING
 

drumbandit

Silver Member
I think recording and making sure people are listening to your tunes at home etc, or on their ipods is a good idea. I'v learnt my band's songs without practising just through listening to them a lot (I joined as a new member so there were already recordings).

Tom
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
A few weeks ago our singer tried recording a rehearsal with a mobile phone but when he loaded the files onto his Mac he said the sound was abysmal. So last practice out keys player brought along a tiny digital recorder. Still to receive the results.

I just hope the guys use their "critical ears" when they hear the playback rather than their "airbrush ears", if you get my gist.

Honestly, just talk to them about it. Say that you were talking to some other musicians (us), including some people that make a living doing it, and they all said the same thing...that you have to repeat songs multiple times, really get them DOWN, before you move on to the next one...and that it may seem boring, but that it's how bands that succeed generally do it. If that does not work, then just stare at them and say
Yes, exactly what I'm planning to do.

A question, what do you do about ear fatigue - when you've played a song so much that its feeling escapes you and you fall into a rut? We tend to go, "we can come back to it later" but rarely do *rolls eyes*
 

baz

Silver Member
...G'day Polly.

From my limited experience, how the song gets driven is largely dependent on who is driving it. In the group of old farts that I play with, I try to play as perfect for the song as I can. It is very rare for me to play a song the same as it was recorded, so if the rest of the guys n gals are happy, then I am too. We generally run through the songs as many times as it takes for us to get a consensus, but it is rare that we push for perfection, as "fun" is our prime musical motivation.

My favorite musical experience was when I was working in Fort MacMurray. I had a good buddy who I jammed with as often as time would allow. We had about a dozen songs that we had done to death. Depending on my mood, I would often have a hard time running through them in practice. Odd thing was if we were working, and struggling with new stuff, we would run through some of these standbys to help get our confidence back to where we could tackle the tough stuff. Incidently, when we played those same songs with, or in front of a bunch of our beer swilling Newfie oil patch buddies, we would nail them as if we wrote them ourselves.

My greatest frustration is when the group picks a song that I really do not like to either listen to, or play. I do not have, nor do I want veto power over the rest of the group, so when this does occur, I try to grin and bear it, but it can make even one run through one too many. Conversley, as is more often the case, when it is a song that I love and feel that I can play well, I can not play it enough.

Barry
 
T

TFITTING942

Guest
New songs are always tough, even if everyone does their homework. My band always had go-to songs that we nailed everytime and when practice got frustrating, we would play a go-to song to get back in sync with each other and get the frustration out. Then start fresh on the new stuff again.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
In the group of old farts that I play with, I try to play as perfect for the song as I can. It is very rare for me to play a song the same as it was recorded, so if the rest of the guys n gals are happy, then I am too. We generally run through the songs as many times as it takes for us to get a consensus, but it is rare that we push for perfection, as "fun" is our prime musical motivation.
Hey Baz, I resemble that remark! :) I guess I've done that so much that I would like to take it up a level. I only got back into playing drums fulltime again last year after eight years of no music and a year of keyboards. I accepted a big drop in standards (apart from our singer, who has a fantastic voice) because I was feeling my way back.

Now we've finally pulled together a bunch a musicians capable of light and shade and generally sounding slick. Nice when it's happening, but I could do without the stuff-ups!

TFit, nice idea having a go-to song. I think my old bands did that instinctively but your approach is good - see the signs and act on it rather than meander along until the penny finally drops.
 

brady

Platinum Member
Repetition is definitely the key to learning, both on your own and with the band. One thing I didn't mention in my last post was the complete opposite approach we have in my church band versus my other band. At church, it's pretty common for us to work on a song for an hour or so, or to spend the entire practice time on just two songs. The difference between these two bands are like night and day. That's part of what is so frustrating for me...to sound really professional on Sunday morning and barely even get it together with the other band. So yeah, practice and repetition is definitely the key to getting it together. We haven't recorded ourselves yet for critiquing purposes but we do have the means. I'm sure we will only sound better when we do.
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
A question, what do you do about ear fatigue - when you've played a song so much that its feeling escapes you and you fall into a rut? We tend to go, "we can come back to it later" but rarely do *rolls eyes*
When playing live, the audience keeps me excited during those songs. At practice, it goes back to just learning the attitude that I talked about before...you repeat and repeat, even if you're bored. If it's REALLY bad, we will say "we can come back to it later," but then we make darn sure that we actually do it.

Again, it's a certain attitude...once you get used to it, it's really, really easy to do, even when you don't love it all the time, 'cause it's just part of your job. If you can get into that attitude, then it's just like sitting at a desk or something, doing your job...the idea being that you play enough music that you like so that you won't have this happen too often, so it doesn't ever really feel like a desk job.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
A useful post, Brady. Are the musos in your Sunday band better than those in your other band or is the difference purely through more diligence? If so, I'm tempted to copy your post and email it to the guys in the band, "what do you think of this approach"?

Mr Chattr, I just mean rehearsals. Ear fatigue is my main worry, so if this is resolved I'm primed for some serious repetition :)

Like, you've played the song twice and you get it right the second time. You try to reinforce and the third version is worse. The fourth is worse again and you feel almost like it's not a song any more but a collection of mechanical parts. I find that, when playing a song, there is a "peak" version where everything falls into place - where everyone really understands the song - the versions before it have mistakes and the ones after it lack inspiration and edge.

In 1987 my band went into the studio to record what we planned to be a single (but we broke up soon afterwards). We had a talented engineer/producer who soon afterwards hooked up with some name bands. Two songs. We did two first takes in the afternoon (in hindsight, he should have made us do more takes because my drumming was flawed). He tweaked and tweaked, listening over and over to try to turn our pig's ear into a silk purse and was finally finished by 5am the next morning.

I'd tried to listen in on his work for a while to check that I liked what he was doing during the evening but after a few hours I just couldn't listen to the song any more. I marvelled at his capacity to keep listening over and over and yet he never lost focus on the meaning of the song. It had long stopped making sense to me after all those repetitions.

The feeling is a bit like if you repeat some words over and over they start sounding weird to you - the semantic is lost. I hope that's not too nebulous :)
 
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