So you’ve assembled a group of talented musicians. You’ve written the worlds biggest smash hit in decades. You’ve already started planning the beach house in Malibu! All you need to do is book up a rehearsal, get the band into shape, get the track recorded, get the tour on the road and happy days!
At this point we can offer some sound advice. We’ve been helping bands with their rehearsals since 1979 and our track record is second to none, with some great artists such as Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash, Modestep, The Damned, Morrissey, London Grammar, Eddie Floyd and Inglorious, to name a few, having graced our studios. We’ve learned a thing or two and part of our solemn mission (well not really so solemn) is to pass that on to you. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up, to help pull things together and have a great rehearsal.
1. The next step in your career is the most important! There’s not much point planning the beach house in Malibu, if you haven’t got anything to play anyone. If it is the first rehearsal of a band, you need to learn what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are. If it takes off you need to know if the people who walk in that studio with you are committed and prepared to do what it takes. So when you book up the session, give your band mates their homework. If it is covers, tell them the songs and the key. If it is originals, do a rough recording, score out the song & structure and ask them to learn it. If you do this, the session will be productive straight away. If you don’t, why are you rehearsing? If you don’t do the homework, you’ll never get there. If you have done that and your new bandmates don’t do their homework, then the band is doomed. They have disrespected you. Make sure they know that they will be expected to know the songs and if they can’t be bothered, don’t join the band.
2. So you are in the rehearsal studio and the band know the songs. How do you approach getting the set together? Are you rehearsing for a gig, for a recording or for both? Unless you are assembling to play a specific track, try and play through all of the songs, maybe two or three times, don’t plug away until you are sick of them. Try and keep the energy levels up. Take a few notes of the songs which there is a difficulty with. Concentrate on beginnings/ends and transitions. It isn’t necessary or productive to play the whole song, if the issue is the start/end. Just play the bars that you need to get right. A white board can be a good way to get things across.
3. Record your rehearsal. Make sure you listen back to the songs. Listen for what’s good and whats bad. Email the rest of the band relevant clips and a few notes, so they can see what is going on.
4. If a song isn’t happening, drop it. We’ve all written great songs which don’t work with a band. Concentrate on things which sound great. It can be difficult guesing which songs work and which don’t. Mega hits such as YMCA by Village People and The Joker by The Steve Miller Band were originally recorded as album fillers. When the band got hold of them they gelled. The tracks that were supposed to be the hits were quietly relegated.
5. Take account of the key your singer is comfortable in. If you write songs and someone else sings them, then it may be that you need to transpose the songs to get the best. Ask the singer if they are comfortable. It is often worth having a play through with the singer before you present songs to the band. This saves a lot of time and can be done in your front room at low volume. This will save a bit of cash as well!
6. Make sure that all of the band can arrive on time. This means picking a good location and time. If someone is late, then that is time and money down the drain!
7. Make sure you have all the strings/batteries/drumsticks/plectrums that you need, or book a studio like Mill Hill Music Complex that has a fully stocked shop.
8. Don’t turn up drunk or under the influence. That is disprespectful to other musicians and is what you do when it is your hobby and you are not serious. Making great music requires a bit of thought.
9. If you are a singer, warm up and insist that the band rehearse at a volume you are comfortable with. If you are drowned out, then the rehearsal is pointless. If you are straining, you will damage your voice.
10. Consider wearing earplugs. Going deaf has ended many musical careers.
* Call Mill Hill Music Complex on 020 8906 9991 and book a rehearsal