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cnev
 cnev
(@cnev)
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OK another post created out of boredom. This is for any of you in a band or have been in a band. I am curious to know how you have organized your practices.

The background: Some of you know the saga our "band" and I use the term loosely has been going through trying to find a singer. That saga continues but the issue of the day is how to get the most out of what now is our 3 hr weekly practice.

We currently have about 20 or so songs down but we need at least 30 or more to be able to play a real gig in a bar. We are playing all covers at the moment and most are only around 3 minutes and we do not really jam any out so there pretty much radio friendly length.

The problem is getting new material in the rotation. At the pace we are going it'll be next year before we have enough songs down to gig.

What I have suggested are for the songs that we play well and have been playing for many months we need to stop playing those each week for a few reasons, 1) We play them well and playing them over and over isn't making them any better at this point and 2) and most importantly it cuts into the time we have to work on new material.

I have suggested we put all or most of those songs on the back burner maybe playing one or two every few weeks so we don't forget them but not waste valuable practice time on those and instead use most of the practice time to work on new songs only.

We have a couple of local open mics that we have friends at that keep asking us to come down and play some songs and I thinkthis is where we should play those songs that we already know. This way we will get some experience playing out, we have enough material to play 5 - 20 songs if needed and we play them pretty well.

For some reason the bass player had a hissy fit and asked me who died and made me the boss...I told him I always was, (just kidding but pushing some buttons)..I never liked people that play the bass anyway..Ha. But I am finding democracy don't work well in bands. Yes like anything else there are exceptions for those rare cases but on average someone needs to be in charge or at least each person needs to be in charge of a specific aspect of the band operations.

So the question of the day is what do the rest of you guys do during practices, how often/quickly do you introduce new songs and how long does it take until you feel good about a song (I know there's not one answer for the last one cuz some you may play well after the first time and some may take weeks but an average is what I'm looking for)

To me it's just logical that with a limited amount of time your not going to learn alot of new material if you spend all your time on stuff you already know.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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almann1979
(@almann1979)
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at the minute we gig every weekend, so we never practice songs we already know, we use gigs for that.
Each week practice is spent learning new songs and we always try to have 2/3 new songs we are working on at any one time, and we run through them constantly for the 2 hours.

To be honest, when we started out learning songs, before we had a full set list, we always ran through "the set list so far" once, and then concentrated purely on new stuff.

the real onus was on each of us to practice our own parts at home until we could play through along to the record no problem, we did this to save time re-rehearsing songs we knew at practice times and make the most of the time we had together in the same room.
in terms of democracy - i am very lucky to work with the people i play with and we are friends first - but we certainly all have different tastes. As such, we just allow each of us to choose songs in turn, and this actually helps by keeping the set list varied rather than causing friction.

there have been plenty of times however that - if we didnt know each other so well, we may well have had arguements, but like i said, i am just lucky to work with three other easy going guys.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


   
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cnev
 cnev
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Thanks Al I was hoping you'd respond. I know all these guys and the songs aren't the problem. I'm not picking the songs most of them are the drummers suggestions and I don't have a problem with them and I don't think anyone really has any major problems with the songs. Sure there are some songs anyone of us might not like but you have to get over that and be a bit flexible but we have been running through the set list since we started and now that it's to large to run through quickly we aren't getting any new material in.

I'm not sure if you agreed with my thinking but it's close enough.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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almann1979
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thats the same problem we encountered - we couldnt fit all our songs into just one practice, so we just trust each other to work hard and play along to gig recordings at home.
I suppose the old saying that "if your not pushing forward your moving backwards" applied to us, we felt that if we werent always trying to learn better songs, we were falling behind other bands that were.

recently we have had some requests for songs we havent played together in over 12 months - not complex songs, just stuff like brown eyed girl etc - but i was amazed at how it felt like putting on an old pair of shoes when we played it, no mistakes or forgetfullness.
Sometimes if we find a song doesnt go too well, we will spend time polishing it up in rehearsal, but we never waste time reheasing stuff we played last saturday and will be also playing this saturday unless we feel it really needs it. I agree with you that this would be completely unproductive.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


   
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Moonrider
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Once you're playing out on a regular basis, it's not a problem to keep the songs on the set list(s) sharp. We've got approximately 100 songs in our "book", and we're adding more all the time. Keep in mind that the "kid" of our group has been a weekend warrior for about 30 years, and our oldest did a lot of session work in Nashville for a while. All the things I'm setting forth below are second nature to all five of us. As a result, we have the most productive, stress-free, just plain FUN practices I've ever had in 39 years of being in bands.

Band practice is for learning how to play the song as an ensemble. Learn your parts at home. You should focus on these kinds of things:

Structure: How do we start? Who takes a solo when? Who needs to NOT play during a section? How do we end?

Ensemble Mechanics: Do we need to transpose for the singer? Too fast? Too slow? Harmonies? Pauses? Dynamics?

Stagecraft: How do we introduce the song? Is the singer gonna do that Elvis wiggle thing? Duckwalk? Flash pots? Special FX on the vocal? Lighting?

Unless you're working up what we call an "impulse" song - chord charts that were brought to practice as a last minute impulse by one of the members - NO one should be learning parts at band practice. Everything should be focused on the performance of the song.

. . . and make sure ya save the last 20 minutes to jam :twisted:

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


   
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jwmartin
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Keep in mind we just had our 5th practice last night. And I'm a bass player. :D Last night, we kind of settled on our "format". We have 2 hour practices and we started by playing the 4 songs we have tight just like we were playing a gig. Then we played the 2 newest of those a couple times through to work out any rough spots. Then we introduced a new song that the singer and I wrote during the week. We worked through that a few times, stopping to arrange and try new stuff. Then we worked on another new song the rhythm guitarist and drummer wrote. When we had about 10 minutes left, we started playing our 4 tight songs again, but didn't get all the way through before our time was up (we practice in a rented space and there was another band waiting).

We did get some pics taken last night by our guitarist's wife. I'm the one in the blue t-shirt w/ the bass (in one of the pics, I'm playing our rhythm guitarist's guitar showing them our new song).

http://picasaweb.google.com/jeffwmartin/Spookhand

Bass player for Undercover


   
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Cat
 Cat
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Hey...I've played cover tunes with several bands that actually wrote 'em...so here's my advice for zeroing in on what to "practice": BEING TIGHT.

Sure you can learn the chordings (etc) and get sick of practicing them...but how tight are you guys? This is what 99% of rehearsal time (meaning, going over current songsheets) goes into...and there's NO rehearsal time when you are out on the road.

Numero Uno is to co-ordinate your pick hand with the drummer's foot pedal. (Geez...I've said this heaps of times here on GN.) Have the bassist bridge the percussive nature of the drums with the chordings of the song. By that I mean, of ALL the players, the bassist needs to be the most dynamic...leaning into and coming off of his playing dynamics along with the drummers ride and accent dynamics. If your rhythm section doesn't get the vocalist(s) twitchin'...it'll all fall down.

As for "boss"...the song should be the boss. Talents should be shared. I heard one guy (six string) that was fronting a multi-platinum gig come down on a new (and exceedingly good) drummer: "WHAT are you doing?" Drummer says "Playing what I feel!" Writer says "Play what I feel!"

Great advice!

Hope this 'elps!

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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cnev
 cnev
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Thanks guys for the responses

Al - You guys are about were we are except that you've been out there gigging for awhile where as we haven't.

Moon - I would figure that most of this would be second nature as I've been reading your posts so I know you've all been playing for a long time but we are all nubs to the world of gigging etc. (unfortunately we are not nubs in years) but we do work on the things you've listed axcept maybe the stagecraft since we don't have a singer and haven't even thought about any Elvis wiggles yet :)

Cat - Your definitely correct Tight=Right and we are relatively tight and we try and work on that all the time but as nubs we have alot of things to work on. I'm not one to overestimate things so I'd say we are OK. I've seen hundreds of local band in my time and still see them now and although we aren't the tightest we ain't too bad either but always stuff to work on. And there are days/songs when we really nail it. But I have the good (and I definitely use that loosely) fortune of having my wife upstairs while we are playing and she has no problems critiquing the band and she always mentions the being tight thing. And unfortunately this is one case where I actually have to listen to her because she's been playing guitar all her life and has been in many bands so she actually does know what she's talking about...which is hard to beleive.

Just a short update. We had a practice last night and I "enforced" my new rule of working on new material only and after a bit of "discussion" with the bass player we ended up having one of the better practices in awhile.

We worked on a brand new song for us, Call me the Breeze and having never played it before and really not even discussing it much we pulled off a pretty good version the first time. So that was a major plus.

Then we worked on a few new ones we aren't so tight on and hadn't really ever gotten through the song, Tie Your Mother Down by Queen was one.

Also we are working on Sweet Jane by Lou Reed. A rather easy song so alot of working on this is how long we are going to play it, what kind of intro etc. We worked out a new intro which eliminates most of the 3:00 min Intro that's played on the live version and we tried working on the ending to go right into on of our other songs Hollywood(down on your luck) by Thin Lizzy and I think we have something there too.

we worked on some other stuff too but all in all I thought it was one of the more productive practices we have and I think the rest of the guys did too.

So I'm hoping one of these days I'll be posting a gig report instead of one like this soon!

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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rparker
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Hey cnev, so I might have mis-read. you're only practicing your new material these days, or are you continuing practicing on others for some of your practice?

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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Wes Inman
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Chris

I know what you mean about band democracy, I have been accused of thinking I'm the boss more than once. But truth is, you have to have someone with direction in charge or you won't get anywhere.

You've highlighted a real problem, how to introduce new material, and stay sharp on old material. You have to do both. You may think you have some songs down cold, but if you go a month or so without practicing them, they will get rusty. So you must always review old songs.

I was in a band quite a few years back, we all had direction and had a formula. This worked very well for us.

We would always start a practice with new material. We would spend about an hour on new songs we wanted to learn. This was great because you looked forward to practice, it was always exciting to learn new songs. So, we would spend an hour (sometimes a little longer) on new songs, or songs we had practiced the week before. We usually worked on about 3 or 4 new songs each week, that is about the most you can do.

Then we had the second half of our practice. Now for this, we had our songs divided up into our set lists (in the order we played the songs) we used when we gigged. And we would alternate set lists each week. We would go through the 1st set, the next week we practiced the 2nd set, the next week we would practice the 3rd set. Then we would go back to the 1st set. This way we always kept tight on old material.

Once we got a new song down, we would add it to one of the three set lists. We had about 20 songs per set. Occasionally we would revise our set lists, if there was a song that really didn't seem to work for the crowd, we would drop it, or put it last as a go to song if we needed extra songs. It's funny, some of the songs you personally love best don't really seem to work the crowd, and some songs you don't think are so great are a crowd favorite. Go figure. :D

And you need new songs. If you happen to get a gig where you play the same club every month or so, you need to have some new songs for the crowd. If you always play the same exact songs, even if you are good, the crowd gets bored with you.

When we practiced our sets, we practiced as though we were playing live. We would play a song, then go right to the next song, we didn't talk, goof around, or take breaks until the set was finished. We had so many songs we really didn't have time to goof off.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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Cat
 Cat
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Practice gets tedious, no doubt. But maybe you should take a page from a session that's going to "pay everyone". With a studio full of people on salary...the bickering just doesn't happen. Everyone's paid to do their bit...or they are soon unemployed.

So delineate that "bit" and get on with it. The worst vibes usually gets dumped on whomever "delegates"...which invariably makes everyone else say "Who elected YOU god???" I've seen band after band disintegrate due to bickering. Hey...how long did Harrison carp on about him getting a turn writing for the Beats???

Solutions??? Okay, I work in studios doing jingles. What do I do???

If a producer exists (as sent in by the ad agency that's got the actual contract with the client) it's easy enough: do what the jackass says! Self-produced stuff (mostly for small, local clients that YOU'VE got a contract with) are tougher. We sit over a few beers and pizza and yak about it. Ego doesn't come into it because everyone's got mortgages, etc. The best ideas are evident, no-brainers...and the person that's come up with them....RULES!

ALWAYS do what's best for the song...and your audience.

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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cnev
 cnev
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hey Wes,

Your right we can't stop playing the songs we know just ned to put them on the back burner and play them maybe other week or so and even though we haven't played out and thought about a set list that sounds like a good idea to me.

I will make a list of all the songs we play well and just need to play once in awhile to saty sharp. I'll make 2-3 sets from
that and then we can do something similar to what you described.

That does sound like a good workable solution and I'll admit if I'm not learning something new I get bored easily.

Cat I've already had the "Who died and made you boss" question asked of me. But someone had to do something and we had the best two practices this week we've had in a long time.

So I'm glad that I did it. I just have to watcj and make sure we don't slip back to the old ways.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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spides
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we're an originals only band, so not quite as applicable, although we do the occasional cover for a laugh.

We play through the set as a warm up and cool down for each rehearsal and spend the bulk working on new stuff. If you've already got 20 songs your doing well, and if they're tight it'll only take one or two runs through to get them good again if you do neglect them a little bit.

If your sitting on 20 and want to lean another 30 before you start gigging I'd just focus on the 30 and then try a 3 hour rehearsal of just running through the set once youve got all 50 learned. personally i think you need to gig with tunes in order to get them tight anyway because a crowd adds another variable to your playing.

Don't sweat it dude, just play!


   
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