Greetings band members and leaders! Last week we looked at the frequency of your rehearsal schedule, which you can catch up on here if you missed it. This week, I’m looking at rehearsing your rehearsals before you rehearse them. And yes, I did just manage to get the word “rehearsal” into that sentence three times.
So hopefully you’ve chosen the songs for Sunday, you know who is in your band and rehearsal night is set. Do you now:
1. Turn up, hope for the best, race everyone to the end and then get home in time for Jools Holland and a mug of tea?
2. Plan your rehearsal, then do all of the above anyway?
3. Rehearse your rehearsal before you actually rehearse, so that it runs as structured and smoothly as it can?
I will be honest, I used to rehearse somewhere between 1 and 2 on the options above, picking a selection of favourite or new songs to practice that we would play through until we got to the end, and then moved onto the next one. Which was nice, generally quite fun, and we all went home feeling quite good…although possibly this was not the most constructive use of our time. But as our experience, understanding and team has grown, we have become much more structured in how we run our rehearsals, which starts before we even set foot into our rehearsal space. So:
Rehearse Your Rehearsal
- Plan your songs and set in advance. Are you changing the arrangements, or keys? Give some thought as to how you might carry out the transitions between songs. We at EBC make sure that the songs are with the church office at least 10 days before the services, so there is plenty of advance notice for all involved.
- Think about your band. We have a group of musicians so rarely have the same band playing together each week. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and different levels of ability, aside from the usual girl/boy singers. Have you thought about this aspect when putting your set list together?
- Communicate this to the band in advance as well. I always make sure that they know the songs and the keys at the very least, and often how they are going to be put together so that we can start to put the transitions in place. Have you written this all down?!
- Make sure to put aside an evening before the rehearsal to run through the songs. Play them as if you’re leading them on Sunday. Work through the transitions. Make sure that you are well practiced before you bring it to rehearsal. Remember, Practice is different to Rehearsal. Practice is personal, rehearsal is relational.
Running Your Rehearsal
- At the rehearsal, make sure you have spare copies for everybody. We make sure that all of our team have their own personal music folders which are regularly updated, so that I can be sure that the team has up to date and complete copies of all of our current songs. But I still bring spares just in case… Before we’ve even started playing (and everyone is always itching to make some noise), go through the arrangements with the band so that they know how you are going to play the songs. Which leads us to:
- Everyone should have a pencil! I bought a box of 50 that we keep in our music cupboard, to avoid everyone sharing the one blunt writing implement that we find on a stand. This is the time that the band makes notes so they are clear on repeats, texture, harmonies, introductions…
- Then start to work through the songs. Don’t just play through them (as I used to do). Rehearse them with a view to honing them to be the best they can be. Practice the tricky bits. Work on the transitions. Make sure that everyone is on the same page, playing the same bar, keeping together. Don’t be afraid to keep repeating sections until they are right.
- Before the end of the evening, aim to run the whole set of songs as if you were playing them on Sunday.
When it comes to Sunday morning, you and your band should be in a position to just do a soundcheck and then a brief topping and tailing of the songs for Sunday. There should be no need to play through everything before the service, and if your church is like ours, this is a blessing as we don’t need to be there as early, and we have the energy and stamina to do two morning services.
If you turn up to run your rehearsal well prepared in all practical aspects; you know the songs well, you’ve practiced the arrangements and transitions, and you’re able to communicate this clearly to your team, then your team will be able to easily follow you and work with you. And the more you do this, the more the team will grow together, the more together the team is, the better the band will be, and the possibilities that this brings to the worship music are exponential.
We have been running rehearsals like this for a good few years now, and the response from the congregation, both in their worship and their feedback to us as a team has been nothing but positive.