6 Tips for a Productive Band Practice

Charley Ruddell, Spire Contributor | December 17, 2018

Beatles Practice

Whether you fancy yourself a group of casual hobbyists or working pros, band practice is quintessential to furthering your skill, improving communication, and making advances in your musical pursuit. And despite whatever experience level you may have, every musician will leave at least one band practice feeling like it was a total waste of time.

Here are some helpful tips to avoid wasting time by having a better, more productive band practice.

1. Allow enough time

Some musicians have several practices a night, some have extensive travel times, and some arrive from their day jobs. Time is valuable, so try to avoid scheduling band practice for too long or short so as not to waste anyone’s time. A productive band practice is ideally between 2–4 hours, which includes several 10–15-minute breaks. It’s important to maximize your work time, but equally as important to allow time to unwind.

2. Set goals

Start a productive band practice by setting goals. Whether you plan on writing new material or running over a gig setlist, it’s important to come into practice with goals and a plan to maximize productivity. By keeping your goals realistic and achievable within your practice time, you and your bandmates will work together more cohesively to accomplish the task. If you’re working on new material, try to finish a song skeleton. If you have an upcoming gig or session, work on perfecting certain sections that need attention.

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3. Come prepared

Whether your band is a swing big band that uses sheet music or an improvisational noise collective, every band member should show up to practice familiar with their parts. Spending time with your material outside of practice will not only improve the quality of your band but could potentially lead to new ideas for improvement. If you’re a busy session musician with limited time outside of rehearsal, look into sheet music apps like forScore and iReal Pro to read over charts on your commute. Starting practice unprepared means time spent catching up, and a productive band practice shouldn’t be spent getting you back up to speed.

4. Always try new ideas

Song ideas come in many forms. And though not all of them will be the right one, an easy to way to create distrust and resentment in a band is to instantly reject a bandmate’s creative input. It’s perfectly okay to disagree with a bandmate (which will inevitably happen), so when it does, be sure to hear the opposing side and respond with respect. Try not to turn down a bandmate’s new idea without trying it first—even if the idea isn’t a right fit, listening and creating a dialogue in your band will improve your trust and communication.

Jam Session

5. Record your progress

Fortunately for musicians today, recording devices are easier to access than ever (looking at you, Spire Studio), and are often already installed on our phones. Don’t let such a valuable tool go to waste—any time you make solid progress on a new idea, record it! Recordings are a great way to stay productive by evaluating your progress and archiving all of your new ideas for future reference. If there is ever a dispute during practice over a missed cue or a wonky key change, reference an archived recording.

6. Leave negativity behind

As simple as it may sound, you should always come to band practice with a positive attitude. It’s important to remember that band practice is a workspace, and that your attitude affects your work. A positive attitude will increase the level of communication in your band and allow for a more productive creative environment. Try to let yourself lighten up and have fun at band practice—you play music because you love it, and you should practice that way too.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, band practice should be a space for you and your friends and colleagues to have fun and enjoy creating music. Being productive simply elevates the fun by bettering your practice habits and creating a more cohesive conversation with your bandmates. It shouldn’t matter if you like to have a few drinks and jam or if you are rehearsing for sold out show—band practice should always be productive, fun, and worth your while.