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Practice vs. Rehearsal

Veggie Dave

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This conundrum recently came up with a 'professional function band' that I agreed to play with.

I've always, even when I was a somewhat stoned teenage herbert in a metal band, believed that you turn up to the rehearsal room prepared. Whether you're playing covers or original songs makes no difference - if you are or you plan to be a band that gets paid to play then you better be worth the money. That meant, among so many other things, that the songs were as good as you could make them and that required productive rehearsals. Plus, I also thought it was incredibly arrogant and selfish to turn up unprepared, thinking it's okay to waste everyone else's time while you faffed around doing what you should have done at home.

Now I'm somewhat older, I'm playing with people who have a life outside of music. This often makes getting together regularly that much harder, which in turn means rehearsals need to be that much more productive. And if you're planning on being paid four figure sums for playing someone's wedding then in my mind you had better make damn certain you can play the entire set perfectly, both at home when you're practicing and in the rehearsal room with a full band.

This blog (Practice vs. Rehearsal • DM Blog) explains rather perfectly what I consider to be the bare minimum of 'professionalism' required from someone in a 'commercial' band/show, as opposed to people getting together purely for pleasure (such as a Café Quartet). However, I have recently been told that this is actually a very high level of professionalism for people who aren't full-time musicians.
Really? Is turning up to a rehearsal knowing how the 3 minute pop song you knew you'd be rehearsing that night starts, ends and how it gets from the former to the latter that outrageous? Particularly when you've apparently been playing it for years?
Have I been really lucky playing with musicians/bands, for whom music isn't their main job, who also consider everything mentioned in the above blog as the bare minimum?
 
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Adrian63

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Hard to say Dave . It depends on the individuals work ethic for one . Also most bands at this kind of level tend to have one member who is more into the idea of being in a band : being the pseudo rock star and mostimes failing .You have been lucky by the sound of it in that your band mates all carry this work ethic . I agree it's not hard at all to learn a set well enough to earn that four figure sum . If you can't manage that then you have no real business being there .
Look at what we do here...a horn player needs to learn an hour set or more and carry most of it alone : tune head and solos in every tune : we know the format but it's making those tunes work that counts . I saw Spike Robinson play a two hour set to twenty five people ; it was spellbinding.
Ì digress : it's important that everybody is still enjoying their part . Again along comes the rock star muso type who wants to be heard at all times and has no idea when it comes to playing with a band ; the emphasis being on the with.
To sum up rehearsals have to be productive or they are pointless . It's not a major feat by any stretch to play a full set well providing every body is pulling their weight and again understands what being a part of a band is about. The guy with the ego and the hairçut may be a good mate and a nice guy...make him a roadie...
I haven't been in a band for twenty years...all those mini buses and forsaken venues...most certainly couldn't do it now..
Cheers Dave
 
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rhysonsax

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The link doesn't work for me either.

In general I agree with the point being made, but I think the important thing is that everyone in the group has a similar aim and expectation for the rehearsal session. If it all gets too intense / focused / serious then that will put off some people. Music, even rehearsal, should have something enjoyable about it.

It is very different where the music group is more about recreation and being together than it is aiming for the best possible level of performance.

On a related point, it has surprised me when I have played with some people who don't understand the difference between a rehearsal and a performance and give it maximum energy and volume every time through and don't want to work hard on the weaker areas, don't want to stop until the end or polish the piece.

Rhys
 

sax panther

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I totally agree with you. I find it quite insulting when people turn up having done zero prep. It's infuriating, but I console myself by reminding myself that it's not me letting the side down.
 

Veggie Dave

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I was going to make the difference between bands who play for fun and bands who expect to be paid more obvious but I decided that the blog post did a great job of that so I would be wasting my time.

If only I hadn't made a complete pig's ear of the link. ;)
 

JayeNM

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Actually I am going to chime in (primarily) in disagreement. I am torn by it....and I lean towards saying that piece is too strident, IMHO.

There IS a difference between practice and rehearsal, but it isn't what the author identified.

Practice = going over tunes together when there is no particular performance the gathering is geared towards. You are just getting together to work on your stuff, which may include trying out brand new tunes, or may include rearranging tunes, and may include discussions about what tunes need work or what tunes seem not to be working all that well, etc....

Rehearsal = practicing together when there is a specific end point (performance/appearance) the group is preparing for. IMHO.

There is a significant distinction.

So statements such as "You don’t go to a rehearsal to sight-read charts or to use other people’s time to learn your parts.You go to a rehearsal with your parts learned, charts annotated, roadmaps highlighted, ready to play as if it was the day of the show."....if I were to use as aggressive a mood as this piece apparently was written in....I'd perhaps say something like : "your dogma is too big to come inside, tie him to the post out front, please"

But as I am a peaceful bloke, I won't say that.

I will say that the author seems to disregard the various contexts of band practices/rehearsals....seemingly lumping them all together in one big, demanding, pressurized cauldron.

(I.... would not want to be in that band).

There's a massive difference between a sextet and a full big band or pit orchestra, for example.

ALSO...consider the context of whether a musician is a regular or a hired-hand for a particular gig. Think about whether the band in itself is a regular practicing unit or just one which comes together WHEN there is a performance secured in the near future. Etc, etc.
These things also would color expectations, methinks (as it should). These things would color the logistics and structure of the affair.

Of course getting together for practice OR rehearsal may well include things such as sight reading, chatting with a bandmate between songs, possibly suggesting a new idea or arrangement here or there, and all of this.
THAT is part of the creative process...it is what makes the whole endeavor both enjoyable and creative. A leader who is of the ilk that a "rehearsal is simply gonna be the combining of various players who have learned their separate parts and now when all those parts are combined everything should go really smoothly IF everyone did their job"...????....that's not a very realistic modus operandi to be working under.

If there is no allowance for "OK, individually we have these pieces, now we gotta combine 'em and see how it goes, see how the parts relate to each other, see what each individual member's strength can contrinute to the whole"...something like this.....then honestly, the 'leader' is unlcear on a very, very important concept or two.

The whole "everyone arriving ready to play as if the day of the show"....well.....again, no I don't ascribe to that.
One can learn their parts individually at home and come to rehearsal...but that isn't synonymous with "as if the day of the show".... because inevitably being ready for the show (as a performing group) is made up of far more than each individual knowing their particular parts.

So one can never arrive to rehearsal in the same state as if they were arriving at the venue, ready for the show. Because practice/rehearsal is a different dynamic than that.

"when a rehearsal doesn’t go well or when musicians leave feeling less than stellar about it, it’s often because someone went to the rehearsal intending to practice"


I find this presumptuous. Because it's someone's fault, eh ?

Consider: Is it possible that a rehearsal can go rockily without it being the fault of one or two individuals ?

The creative process is only given a very brief and superficial nod here as well.

Dunno...to me...this whole piece is sorta off-putting, and rather than seeming to have been written in a clear-mind, professional state...it comes off as more of a rant, perhaps a letting off of steam about something which happened or didn't happen in the person's musical life recently.

Blog entries, of course, can often be like that....

Music, and the creative process, and how that creative process can be dynamic when artists combine...is a beautiful thing and it is our gift we share. Expectations are fine, and a requirement I would say...but there can be a point when the expectations dampen enthusiasm and creativity.

I am all for professionalism and etiquette, mutual respect, etc...and indeed it burns my toast when I will send a player material - tabs or charts and YT examples, and they show up 5 days later clearly having looked at none of it....and...I am all for 'sectionals' when there are certain aspects which need not the entire group present....and I even agree that to some degree a band needs a leader of some sort to both keep a hand on the tiller and maintain a band/group identity. All of those comments touched upon are quite apropos.
But some of this...again, no, I wouldn't wanna be in that band.
 
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jbtsax

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Coming at this topic from experience in playing in and conducting symphonic and concert bands, I see this question from the perspective of the ability and experience of the players. At the university level the new music was passed out a few days before the rehearsal and everyone was expected to know their part the first time the band read through the piece. Failure to do so would incur the wrath of the conductor and embarrassment in front of one's peers. This left time in the rehearsal to work on balance, blend, style, intonation, phrasing and rhythmic precision---in other words to turn the notes into music.

On the other hand in school band programs this "ideal" is rarely possible since most students typically can't or wont make the effort to master the notes and rhythms of their part before the band "rehearses" the piece. The result at first is that the rehearsal becomes a "practice session" where difficult technical parts are slowed down and repeated, often section by section till the members "learn" their parts. Then after days or weeks of this type of drill, teaching "the music" in a true rehearsal setting can take place addressing the aspects of the music listed above. This of course is frustrating not only to the director, but to the motivated students who have practiced and learned their part.

In the adult "professional" jazz groups I play in the members have the ability to sight read any new arrangement that is passed out unless it is incredibly difficult and with those charts members are given the opportunity to take the part home and do the necessary "wood shedding" before the band rehearses the piece. I have also played in combos where the songs are played without charts, and there is more creative freedom for all of the members. These experiences can be the most fun, but also the most challenging at the same time drawing upon all of one's musicianship and ability to listen.
 

LAP13

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Practice your own parts at home, rehearse as a collective - put it all together.

Having run bands, I've been known to be that bitch who pulls rank and gives a bollocking to people turning up using everyone else's time to learn their own parts. Really naffs me off. If you want it, do it like everyone else has, if not... Off you go!
 

Adrian63

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There are so màny angles . Sure everybody should know their parts before rehearsal but to expect everybody to turn up and make it work is a rather high expectation .
Unless we are talking top drawer musicians; simply each knowing their bit sounds a little sterile . It's the groove ; the dynamic : the playing off of each other that makes it work . Hard to explain this but that's why the line between practice and rehearsal is so blurred If you like. You need to go over the tunes time and time again to get them tight and funky / rocking / whatever....that's a practice . Once enough practices have passed rehearsals can begin and not before. Again I think it's unrealistic to be in touch by phone or mail until everybody is satisfied they have their individual thing together and to expect it to " gel "...
 

Tenor Viol

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In orchestras I've played in, the conductors' view is that the primary purpose of rehearsals is for you to hear the other parts with yours and to work on the performance.

I think as others have said, it depends on the nature and function of the group. I would say the further up the 'professional' ladder that you are, the more the rehearsal is about the performance and less about note bashing.
 

Halfers

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Horses for courses. Whether a musician is a full time dedicated pro or a part time dedicated hobbyist, individuals will have their own preferred way of learning and playing music. A heavily disciplined working style of 'you will learn everything in your own time and come prepared for a rehearsal' will attract the type of people who thrive in that environment and likewise deter those who benefit from a different approach.

When my band were learning a new song, we'd get the basics sorted off site and do the rest in the rehearsal room. Very often a song we thought would be an absolute killer just wouldn't work when we played it in the room. Sometimes a song we thought would never work turned out to be a killer.

Some of our best gigs came off the back of a terrible rehearsal...
 

thomsax

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Sax/hornsplayers use to put in a group practise (just for the horns) in between band rehearsals. A rehearsal is not enough to get the horns tight and to to have the right sound.

A hobby/amatuer band needs more than just individual practice and rehearsals to perform. How to deal with all the other things? We never get paid if we play outside the practice/rehearsal room. How to work with goals that is not going to end up in a "gig".

Beside practice and rehearsals we also need to jam. This is also important.
 

JayeNM

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I think the main nugget I am gleaning from the majority of responses is...this isn't black and white (and the blog sorta views it as black and white).

IOW...depending on the musical context, the skill levels of the musicians, and how the musicians relate to each other (both musically and personally) ....all of these things create a band dynamic - and will color the best approach to rehearsing/practicing.

It is OK to make expectations clear, but whoever is drafting those expectations also needs to consider whether they are reasonable ones, and would create a positive environment.

My issue with the blog piece is....based on the statements, argument, semantics....I don't believe the author's "method" would create a positive, creative environment for a lot of players.

Comments such as :

"Actually, I’ve found that when musicians start wasting time or have side conversations in the middle of a rehearsal, it’s just their way of deflecting attention from the fact that they didn’t work on the material and are feeling unprepared and insecure....."

and the aforementioned:

"when a rehearsal doesn’t go well or when musicians leave feeling less than stellar about it, it’s often because someone went to the rehearsal intending to practice"

come off, to me, as presumptuous and judgmental...they are negative interpretations of member behaviour which speak more to the author's frame/state of mind than to the members' behaviors.

How many here would agree with those ? Is a side conversation between two members during a session most likely due to the fact that the members are trying to hide the fact they are unprepared ? Really ?
Because I can think of a half-dozen more likely reasons for side chats going on than that.

If it is these sorta interpretations which someone is going to use as their basis to draw conclusions, then in a sense the frustration which is clearly evident in the blog...is at least as much a result of the author's viewpoint and manner as it is of, ostensibly, slacker band members, IMHO.
 

Veggie Dave

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How many here would agree with those ?

Me.

Is a side conversation between two members during a session most likely due to the fact that the members are trying to hide the fact they are unprepared ? Really ?

I'm certain this is not what he's talking about. I've never, ever been to a rehearsal where there's no conversation between musicians in between songs, or sometimes during songs - and as he specifically talks about how being prepared helps the band be more creative, which would be impossible without interaction, I think we can happily assume that this isn't what he's describing at all.

From my experience he's talking those rehearsals where certain people spend more time talking than playing, forcing everyone else to wait for them to finish their chat before moving on. If you've never found yourself in that position then you're really lucky. However, even then I think it would be unfair to assume the blog means that there aren't occasions where this isn't an indication of a lack of prior practice.

An example would be a very happy sax player who's so excited about his new alto that he gets a little carried away with talking about it. ;)

He also makes it very, very clear that he's not talking about what he calls 'hobby bands', where the social aspect is as much a part of the process as the playing. I'm also in one of these, too, which is great fun.

I think taking a short blog post and treating it like an academic essay is a smidge pedantic.
 

JayeNM

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Me.



I'm certain this is not what he's talking about. I've never, ever been to a rehearsal where there's no conversation between musicians in between songs, or sometimes during songs - and as he specifically talks about how being prepared helps the band be more creative, which would be impossible without interaction, I think we can happily assume that this isn't what he's describing at all.

From my experience he's talking those rehearsals where certain people spend more time talking than playing, forcing everyone else to wait for them to finish their chat before moving on. If you've never found yourself in that position then you're really lucky. However, even then I think it would be unfair to assume the blog means that there aren't occasions where this isn't true.

An example would be a very happy sax player who's so excited about his new alto that he gets a little carried away with talking about it. ;)

He also makes it very, very clear that he's not talking about what he calls 'hobby bands', where the social aspect is as much a part of the process as the playing. I'm also in one of these, too, which is great fun.

I think taking a short blog post and treating it like an academic essay is a smidge pedantic.
Nothing pedantic about it. I agree with a few aspects of what you say, however

Blogs are written in the moment. Oftentimes humans don't say the most measured things in the moment.

But the fact that one would choose to publish it....well, as I stated, that's a dynamic of blogs (not a positive one, IMHO).

Fact is...it doesn't take a whole lotta reading between the lines to see there is a certain way the author thinks, and interprets the actions of others. It's really obvious, actually, in the words he has published.


From my experience he's talking those rehearsals where certain people spend more time talking than playing, forcing everyone else to wait for them to finish their chat before moving on. If you've never found yourself in that position then you're really lucky.

Well...begs some questions...

1) why would one let that 'continue' in the first place ? Would not a 'good' band leader be able to gently and respectfully interrupt that 'chat' with a simple "folks we can discuss that later, let's get back to the biz at hand" sorta interjection ?

2) is that not a better approach than, say, sitting there 'waiting' for the diversion to wrap up (thus likely raising one's own blood pressure and exacerbating the situation as opposed to addressing it respectfully) ?

Regarding 'hobby bands'...I am not discussing hobby bands either. I am discussing bands which regularly practice and regularly play. And get paid. Therefore, by a certain definition - professionals.

So one cannot even use the defense "he is only taking about serious musicians and professionals" because even if he were...it's still a very strident position to take and again, it assumes that given a professional or semi-professional band, his suggestions are the ones which should be in effect in order to assure success. There's an intimation of "this is the way it should be, period". And it's just a very narrow argument to make, IMHO.

That....still leaves us with an author who appears to lack an understanding of certain (important) dynamics of a band and group.

Lastly re: "if you have never found yourself in that position"...

I am 57, I have been gogging since I was 16. I have been in....over 75 different band situations in my musical life (this counting the 'pickup gigs' where one person lands a gig and just phones up people and we meet and hit it).

When one says 'if you have never found yourself in that situation'...I would reply not with a crotchety "lemme tell you...I was gigging before you were XXXX, sonny !" :old: - but rather:

the 'situation' is how one interprets it to be. If one chooses to interpret the actions of other members as conclusively being disrespectful, slacking, etc....then the 'situation' will BE that. The leader has concluded that is the dynamic, and they will react to that dynamic. Problem is, the conclusion may be ersatz, so the 'solution' employed isn't the wisest.

If one, however, chooses to employ a path of greater consideration, then the 'situation' will BE something quite different...and the 'policy' employed will also be something quite different.

IMHO, band 'leaders' who are able to employ the greater understanding and more measured thought and approach of the second method...are the successful band leaders.
 
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