When The Band Has An "Off" Night


Senior Member
Let me start by saying that I am fortunate to be in a band that is committed to, at least, a once a week practice and we have an awesome practice space where we can play anytime and leave our equipment set up. We have only done a couple of gigs but would love to do more and we have a decent set list that we are always adding songs to.
Even though we practice once a week it is hard to work around everyone's work schedules and carve out a night to practice, but we make it happen. Last night we had a practice where we were just "off". We ran through our set list (set list meaning- songs that we are comfortable enough to do at a gig- no new stuff) and almost every song we just weren't tight and flubbed through parts. This was not the fault of any one particular member- it was all of us at one point or another. After running through both sets (miserably), we left telling each other, "Oh well, we'll get it tighter next time."
However, once I got home it really started to bother me. I began to question if we were being as disciplined as we should be as a band and making the best of our practice time. My question for those of you in bands (and have experienced this) is, should we have:

a) Not accepted a flubbed song and played it again until we got it right?
b) Ran through the set until it was "gig worthy"?
c) Is it o.k. to accept the fact that sometimes we just don't "click" and this will happen from time to time?
d) Other?

The fortunate part is this was only a practice and at least we didn't play this way on stage! :) I should also state that this really isn't the norm for us. We usually play much tighter than we did last night. I'm just courious to hear how others in bands handle this situation.


Platinum Member
Just a practice? Who cares? This will also happen to a band when they're in front of a packed room, so don't sweat the practices. Sometimes the planets just don't align. The good news is that most of the time, the average listener in the bar or what have you basically doesn't care and probably didn't notice your being a bit "off".
I'd say its normal for a band to have an off night. I've had practices where just none of the songs clicked, and it wasn't one member making mistakes but the whole band just not locking in.

I've also experienced a full day practice where the first half we played miserably, took a break to have some food and then came back to play everything note for note perfect. Thats just the way it is.

I certainly would never get wound up over it, just accept it and at most take it as motivation to kick a** next practice.
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"Uncle Larry"
The worst thing you can do is worry about it. Forget it, it's in the past. Laugh it off. Big deal, you guys didn't nail it in private. When the stakes are high, (meaning when there's females watching) you guys will step up lol.


Platinum Member
I agree, don't sweat it. There's a kind of relaxed attitude in a practice setting that vanishes at the gig. And as mentioned above, the crowd rarely picks up on any "mistakes." Sounds like you band is dedicated so again, don't worry about it. At the gig you are going to have "excellent" nights and "good" nights.


Platinum Member
I'd love to go with the crowd but it sucks. I find nothing more infuriating than when I can't get centred and focused.

I find that, as with sportspeople, I go through purple patches and form slumps. If you ever follow sports you see them going through exactly the same thing. Champs get knocked out in the first round. The underdog gets an upset victory against overwhelming odds. In the end, the most important thing is your usual level over a longer period.

The peaks and troughs still matter, though. If you ever want to do anything serious in music then there's a certain baseline standard that you can't fall below. You almost never hear pros do really obvious flubbs.

I suggest you keep practising on the pad/kit and, especially, work on stick control and listening. I tend to play worse when I have a preconceived idea in my head about the way I want to play or start playing by numbers instead of trusting myself to blend in with the other instruments and vocalist, trying to make them sound good (even if it means doing nothing interesting for drummers). It's one of those situations where you find yourself by losing yourself.

How well I'm playing has a HUGE effect on how well the band performs. We drummers carry a lot of responsibility. Not 100%, but more than the others. Bassists also have a major influence and, unlike drums, it can be hard to pinpoint what is wrong when a bassist is playing badly ... it just sounds like the band isn't quite right.

When they say drums and bass lay the foundation, it's not just a catchy phrase. So if your band practice sucked, fixxxer, then you'd better lift your game! ... no pressure, of course :)


Platinum Member
Meah...this is normal. If you and your bandmates can't learn to forgive yourselves for the little things, you're not going to have a lot of fun making music together.


Senior Member
Thanks for all of your responses so far. Please let me clarify, it's not as if I'm pissed and ready to throw in the towel on the band. I was just a little disappointed at our practice. Again, wanting to make sure that we are getting the most out of our practices. I do agree that it's just one of the things that happens from time to time and i don't want to force the music as I believe that it should be a relaxed, fun and a comfortable exprience as much as possible.

Polly, I really appreciate your words. You know, last night as I was thinking about how things went, I was harder on myself than anyone else in the band because I made my fair share of mistakes. I realized that because I haven't had much time, at all, lately to do much individual practice (homework), it was reflected in my playing last night. So, yes, back to the pad and the home kit more often! Of course, no pressure! :)


Senior Member
Don't sweat it. What could possibly happen is that you're just not clicking at practice, but you'll be more likely to just let loose, relax, and play the heck out of your setlist when it's time to play in front of people. From what I've seen during shows with my school ensemble and from people in our audiences that I've talked with, I'd say it's safe to assume that you and your band will be more particular about your mistakes than the audience will be. Unless something goes completely wrong and you completely flub it at your gig, the audience is going to focus on little more than just kicking back, relaxing, having a good time, and listening to some good music on top of that.

I had this same experience a year ago. My ensemble's audiences were generally more relaxed and happy-go-lucky about the music than my bandleader was, so I could just relax and play gigs without his input. At practice, however, my leader made me more nervous than a deer in headlights, so I messed up fairly often because of that.


Platinum Member
I've posted this before when this topic has reared it's head and I'm posting it again....

Some days are diamonds......some days are stones.

That spreads far, far wider than just musical performances. In your case it was only a rehearsal.....that's what they're for. Go back next time and get it right.


Platinum Member
Thats what Practice is for.Amatures pactice till they get it right,and pro's practice till they can't get it wrong.I agree with the universal theory of sometimes you just have a bad night,and even the pros have a bad night sometimes.

Back in the day I must have seen Zeppilin a half dozen times at least.I think it was in 71,(green sparkle Ludwigs)I saw them in NY at the Garden.....they were terrible,compared to the first couple of times I saw them

So how you practice is a band decision.If the whole night is off;it is what it is.If its just one or two songs...play it over and try to get it right,without pounding it into the ground.

Steve B


Senior Member
Trying not to echo all the other replies on here...

Sometime the planets arent aligned for you and sometimes they are. Been in both spots where the band just sucks and or timing is terrible and then other times still playing the same way you are so closely locked in with each other you seem to know exactly what your other players are going to do etc.

This also happens live where I've absolutetly killed it live- played out of my skin, ready to put the sticks down forever because I will never play that song better again and the crowd are standing around tapping their feet etc....

And then there has been shows full of mistakes, gear problems and we've had people dancing on the bar and tables and everyone telling me afterwards we 'were fcuking amazing!!!!' when all I can think about is 'no we actually stunk so bad the town is about to turn up to take us off in the garbage"

Think about what happened- if there are things to learn- learn from them and move on...

Otherwise chalk it up to sod/murphy depending on which side of the Atlantic your own and just enjoy the experience...

The lows are there to remind you how good the highs feel


Gold Member
Unless you are doing this for a living (and it sounds like you are not) the most important thing is to have a good time. Having said that, there is no better feeling than when it all clicks.


Platinum Member
I think this depends on the circumstances of the practice. Tuesday night we had our last practice before our next gig Friday night. The band was just not tight on a couple songs, and our guitarist sometimes gets real anal about this situation. So we practiced those songs over and over again until we sounded better.

If it's a practice that isn't leading up to an imminent gig, then I wouldn't sweat it. Just jot down which songs were problems so they can be worked on next time. If it was just a case of everyone having the blahs and not sounding good together - see how next time goes. If this is consistently the case then you have a bigger issue.

But if the band doesn't sound good the practice before a gig, that could be a problem. One thing you want to feel is that the band is getting better and better leading up to playing out. Otherwise you could have doubts about the gig.

It could still just be a case of one bad practice, and you'll be fine at the gig. Or it could be that bandmembers aren't really into a specific song and not motivated that night. Or it could be something else - colds, lack of sleep, personal problems, etc.


Senior Member
We had a terrible practice last week. We just wasn't firing on all cylinders and everyone was missing licks. I was kind of worried because we had a new gig at a new place coming up that Saturday.

Saturday rolls around and I am very worried because of the last practice. Low and behold, it was one of, if not the BEST shows we have ever played! Everyone was dancing and we had an absolute blast...and it payed very well.

Don't be discouraged by a practice, that's why they call it practice!


Platinum Member
Back in the day I must have seen Zeppilin a half dozen times at least.I think it was in 71,(green sparkle Ludwigs)I saw them in NY at the Garden.....they were terrible,compared to the first couple of times I saw them
I have a few DVDs of Zep live. One is fantastic, one is very good and one is so abysmal.

tezzeri said:
Something I've often noticed - bad pre-gig rehearsal >> great gig!
Yes - but I've also seen it where the band is simply in good form that carries on to the gig. The worst one is when the band is too keyed up for a gig and does its performance on the rehearsal beforehand.


Staff member
The worst one is when the band is too keyed up for a gig and does its performance on the rehearsal beforehand.
Yes, that's a bummer.

Fixxxer, you mentioned you've only done a couple of gigs. You'll find that road miles level out the peaks & troughs.


Senior Member
Yes! I have noticed that there is something about doing songs in a gig that "gels" those songs forever within the band once they are played live. I do expect things to solidify once we get a few more gigs under our belt.
Thanks so much for the replies!


Platinum Member
If we all got it perfect every time, we'd all headline at Madison Square Garden. The best most bands can hope for is "relatively free of errors" - i.e. train wrecks where something goes so wrong that that the band HAS to stop playing. Little flubs like chords, lyrics, dropping sticks, etc. happen all the time, to even the most experienced bands. The differences between good and great bands are not determined by how few errors they make, but how they deal with them.

In the Army, we used to practice what to do when things went terribly wrong. I think a lot of bands could benefit from that sort of "practice" - what if the power goes out in the middle of a song? The drummer stops playing suddenly? The bandleader gets lost and goes in the wrong direction?

Case in point. We were playing an outdoor gig recently and we were having power spikes all through soundcheck. During the first set, the power cut out. Completely. All of a sudden it's just me audible. Without too much drama, we finished the verse we were on and I went into a drum break. The guys got the audience clapping along. When the power popped back on, the bandleader called off the chorus and we slid back in, literally without missing a beat. Some of the audience later told us they hadn't noticed anything happen - they thought it was part of the act.