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Preparing for the practice room




Preparing for the practice room


A Guest Post by Trevor Mason




Before you book a practice room, think about who needs to be present for the session.


Rehearsals are not just limited to band members but are also an effective way of working with hired musicians who may not be familiar with the song. For example, it makes no sense to have backing singers at the rehearsal while you are going over the arrangement with the rhythm section. Being respectful of others’ time will make them fresher and more productive when they come in.

Build from the bottom up. Rehearsing the rhythm section (bass & drums) first will allow you to really focus on their individual parts. You may hear problems you didn't know existed because they were covered up by the arrangement or the sound of other instruments. Once you have sorted these issues out, you can now add the additional musicians and work with them in a more focused manner.

The outcome of rehearsing your band should be that you are ready to perform a live gig. It doesn't matter if you’re playing support for a band at your local pub, you want to pull off your gig in style. Gigging will improve your skills and you will become a tighter live unit. Another benefit of rehearsing your live set is that you will be better prepared to record an affordable demo. 

Playing live is your best rehearsal

When you prepare with as much intensity as you play live, you will be able to book time in a recording studio and walk away with a demo worthy of getting a gig. However, it is important not to assume everything is going to run smoothly during rehearsal. If you feel the songs are starting to lose a bit of life, book a gig before going in to record.

The energy of the crowd and performing on stage will inspire spirited performances. All the technical issues you worked on in rehearsal will show up in the dynamics of the performance. It is a good way to prime the attitude you will be looking for in the recording studio and deal with lackluster performances.

Maintaining momentum

If interest is waning for a particular song, change to another. This will refresh interest so you can revisit it later with a fresh attitude. If a musician is struggling with a part, it is best to either simplify it or they work it out in their own time. This will limit the frustration of the other musicians.

The pressure of time and money in the recording studio can easily lead to getting something "recorded" instead of something "special". Rehearsals and live performances prior to making studio recordings allow the band to perfect their sound and songs. By working out all the performance matters, you will be better prepared to deal with the recording studio environment.

 

Band rehearsals will help:

  • Musicians learn the song arrangement
  • Establish the best tempo for each song
  • Focus on individual parts and the way individual instruments work together
  • Find the best instrument, tone or sound for each part
  • Get creative input from the musicians to help enhance the song
  • Determine any additional resources that might be necessary for an upcoming recording
  • Create a reference demo so each part can be referenced in a recording session

Health & Safety

 

Observing health & safety guidelines pervades our everyday lives. So it is no surprise advice on protecting your hearing has been drawn up. Guidelines produced by the British organisation Sound Advice recommend the following health & safety actions can be taken to limit hearing and stress-related damage.

Risk Assessment. It is important musicians can hear each other without excessive loudness. Carry out a noise risk assessment and ensure exposure to sound is reduced as much as possible during rehearsals. There are various ways to achieve this.

 

Use a suitable venue. Make sure the practice room is suitable for rehearsal. Wherever possible use a purpose-built and acoustically treated practice room. Using a larger space might mean noise exposure is reduced. Rooms with low ceilings and reflective parallel walls result in excessive noise and reverberation. Where possible, use a space with more height and increase the separation between players more than there will be in the performance venue. Aim for at least 17mper person with a ceiling height of at least 7m. This will generally provide sufficient volume for noise levels to be maintained at acceptable levels.

 

Mixture of repertoire. Schedule a variety of loud and quiet music during a rehearsal to reduce the overall exposure. Try and allocate noisy instruments and passages into separate rehearsals.

 

Quieter rehearsal levels. Aim to rehearse at a quieter overall level unless the group is trying to achieve a 'balance' in the actual performance venue (soundcheck). Limit the time spent when trying to get a balance before returning to the quieter rehearsal level. When repeating sections to iron out problems, musicians should try to play quietly, except for those who need to be heard at louder volume levels. Try to avoid rehearsing when extraneous noise is increasing the overall exposure to noise.

 

Time-out. Exposure to noise can induce high stress levels in individuals. Consider allowing time-out for individual musicians and crew by letting them to leave the rehearsal for a short time if they are feeling stressed by the noise. It might also mean the seating position of one or more performers needs to be reassessed. Ensure non-essential people, such as riggers or cleaners, and musicians who are not rehearsing, are excluded from the rehearsal.

 

Hearing protection. Some players who might find it difficult to perform using hearing protection can be comfortable using it during rehearsals. Using hearing protection during rehearsals could be particularly useful if loud passages are being repeatedly rehearsed.

 

Screens. Screens should only be used as determined by the noise risk assessment. The can be positioned to isolate and dampen louder sounds. The positions of any screens should be noted if the room is to be re-set between the final rehearsal and the performance. Screens are often used in recording studios.

 

Practicing at home

 




Band rehearsal and personal practice time have different outcomes. When the band is all in one room, it is not the time to learn your solo or noodle around on your guitar. That time was any time prior to rehearsal. Rehearsal time should be spent getting your live show together and building a stage presence. Unless of course you are writing new songs and everything changes then.

Practicing on your own is a key part of improving your skills as an artist. You should obviously know how to play your material, but playing it note-perfect every time will only come with practice.

As a professional musician, you should aim to get to a stage where you can sail through the songs and concentrate on how you express them. Leaving notes ringing or placing more emphasis on certain parts of a phrase can make a simple verse or chorus stand out. If you’re a singer, make up phrases on the spot to fit the melodies you’ve written. If you forget your words when you’re in front of a crowd, singing complete rubbish is better than standing with your mouth open looking for somewhere to hide.

Practicing at home on your own enables you to fine-tune your part and sharpen-up your songwriting. Iron out any kinks in your playing so you can make the most of playing together when you rehearse.

How often should we use a practice room?

If you’re in a group, arrange to practice at the same time and day(s) every week. Avoid weekends if possible, because family events or people heading out for the weekend can disrupt or postpone practices. Its also far more likely that one of you will be feeling worse for wear if you meet during the weekend, meaning less productive sessions. If you're a solo artist you may find it helps to set yourself regular times to work on your songs and practice playing.

Try and stick to them. If you want a second opinion try setting aside time with a friend or another musician to bounce ideas around.

It’s worth booking yourself into a practice room in blocks so you’re all committed to rehearsing your set over subsequent weeks. Some practice rooms can only be booked for a minimum of three to four hours, which can be a pretty grueling length of time if you’ve hit a creative block. However you choose to hone your skills, set yourself the goal of being the best prepared person ahead of your next group rehearsal.

New ideas

Aim for each member to come to practice with a new idea or basis for a song. As you get used to playing and writing in practices, you should try developing a song from this small idea by jamming together. To start with, they might be directionless, repetitive or just plain noise, but once you get used to each other’s playing styles improvising like this can be a great way of creating new material.

When should we book a practice room?

Wait until you’ve built up your repertoire before booking a practice room. Building up a “set” of songs can take time so you don’t want to get bored playing the same two songs repeatedly each time you rehearse. It can be tempting to keep playing your newest songs because they’re the most exciting to play, but don’t neglect your old material. Make sure you can play all your songs at the drop of a hat. You never know when you’ll need to pull one out of the bag for an encore.

Once you have 6-10 songs more or less complete, it is time to find yourself a permanent base to rehearse as a full band. For example, using their local pub gave Pulled Apart By Horses not only a room to practice but also somewhere to store their gear.

Practice whenever you get a chance.


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