Pro Tip #6: Practice at home / Rehearse with your band

Oh no, pucker factor 10! (pucker factor – the amount your butthole clinches up during a tense situation)

In a world far far away, this is a fictional story.

Jim Smuckatelli, bass player who played with the band “Sasquatch” comes into rehearsal with a new band called “Lazerbeam”. Now everyone knows that Jim is a player, he’s got 87 Facebook followers and has recorded at Larry Gussledorf’s (a.k.a. Night Rider Band) home studio right outside Nashville at the microtel Rm #23 . Jim will self-admit that he is a bad ass and when he walks in a room, people don’t notice, I mean notice.. this is fiction.

Jim, who is now playing with a cover band (strictly for money to pay for his drinking habit) approaches the night of rehearsal.  Jim knows that his “reputation” will prevail and he will slay the 3 songs set as goals for the rehearsal, because, that’s what Jim does.   

Enter the “rehearsal”: The drummer kicks it off 1,2,3,4.. and boom. Jim is playing some weird progression, it kinda sounds like something I’ve heard before… hmmm… what could that be… I know! “shit”. Yeah, it sounds like “shit” (as if it has some musical properties to it).

The band stops. Other members confused as to what has occurred given the pedigree of such a player.  The poor leader asks “Jim, what was that?” Jim is at pucker factor 10.

And like clockwork, the excuses start coming out. (Have you heard these? I probably said some of these when I was younger!)

  • “Man, I didn’t have time to really learn them, I “mapped” them out though!”. – I’m not sure what the term “map them out” means but I’ve heard it a lot in my career. I can only deduce that “Mapping something out” appears to be a term that means “I really don’t know what I’m doing but trust me… I listened to it!” Net gain: 0
  • “Man, I learned the tune in a different key / different version” – As opposed to the tab that you were given and the explicit instructions to play the version on the album in the key of “g”? Net Gain: 0
  • “Hey man, show me that one part” Because you just now realized you don’t know how to play it? You are now asking others to learn your parts as well? Net Gain: 0
  • “Hey man, I’m gonna be honest (like you are not always honest?), I got with a chick the other night and didn’t practice”. – Well, at least you now know where the commitment is and I appreciate you being honest the day of rehearsal (yes, I’ve heard all of these). Net Gain: 0
  • “Man, I thought we were doing our own version of it” i.e. My musical integrity would never let me play something like the original recording, after all, people will be able to recognize my version.. NOT. Net Gain: 0
  • “Nobody told me”. This is a fabulous excuse given that everyone else seemed to know what was going on. How about some self accountability bro, maybe ask if you don’t know what songs to learn? Net Gain: 0
  • “I listened to them all week” – Awesome! I never knew you are one of those people who can just listen to it and know the parts, that must be nice. Did you just develop Alzheimer’s before rehearsal cause it appears you can’t remember anything. Net Gain: 0
  • “I’m a dumb ass and I think my time is more important than yours” BINGO! I’ve never actually heard this one but I’d respect it much more than the others because it would be the truth. Net Gain: 1 – at least you know who to escort out of the band (politely).

The Impact:

What Jim failed to realize is:

  • His actions have built frustration / distrust with his fellow band members.
  • His actions have spoken louder than words and have wasted others time.
  • He does not possess the same commitment as others.
  • He has no integrity. Cannot be relied on.
  • He has disrespected others.
  • He is the weak link,
  • He sucks.

Awe, come on, give Jim a break! He works and does not have time to practice like the others.

My response: You are exactly where you want to be (as a band).

If you are ok with Jim not learning his parts and you not really progressing, rock on. It’s ok, you folks do you. It’s totally your choice as I’m sure Jim is a great dude, maybe your best friend and you folks will have a great time. I’ve been in bands where it was all about just jamming, in which case someone like Jim may thrive playing part and pieces of songs because nobody cares.

However, I’m talking about a band, a unit of people with the same focus. I’m just saying that I’ve never seen anything become great by choosing to be average, below average, or not putting in the work. As for me, I cannot recommend enough finding people who have the same commitment, values, and work ethic. I personally value my teams time as well as my own so I don’t know how long Jim would last in one of my bands. LOL

So, what’s the different in Practice and Rehearsal and why does Jim suck?

As nouns the difference between rehearsal and practice is that rehearsal is the practicing of something which is to be performed before an audience, usually to test or improve the interaction between several participating people, or to allow technical adjustments with respect to staging to be done while practice is repetition of an activity to improve skill.

More specifically, Practice is what you do at the house. It’s what you learn prior to a rehearsal with a band. It’s what you do to ensure you are NOT Jim.

It’s where you are learning your songs, and yes, to the very detail of what is recorded.

Why do I want to learn every detail?

Ultimately, by learning the details from the album or even official tab, you and your band now have a baseline. The baseline provides the same “operating picture” to work from. From there, you can always make the tune your own (if you want to), but knowing the baseline will not only make things smoother, it will give everyone confidence that you are nailing a song.

What is Rehearsal?

Rehearsal is where everyone comes together as a band to “practice” together. It’s a different mindset completely because knowing your parts now allows you to work on the other aspects of the musical journey such as dynamics and performance. The rehearsal provides that fine tuning of the songs and allows for the band to take the song and make it their own (if required).

“Practice is personal; rehearsal is relational.”

Bottom line: Please, don’t be a Jim!

If you are a Jim, do yourself and your band members a favor by communicating what you are able to provide. Don’t sign up for something you cannot accomplish given whatever circumstances you have. It’s so much easier to be honest and upfront so band members can plan properly and manage expectations. We all have jobs, we’re all busy..etc. This is why it’s important to consider everyone’s time commitment, not just your own.

If you have a Jim in the band, speak to them about the standards you have and what is needed, otherwise, consider removing Jim. Jim could essentially be robbing you of your time, talent, and opportunity.

I realize this article was a little touchy and if you have been in one or more bands, you’ve seen it. There is no rule that says you have to run a band like a business or take any of this advice. It’s just things I’ve seen and have grown to despise at times and getting rid of the Jim attitude and ethic is crucial to growing.

I will continue to say this over and over, find people with your same commitment, values, and work ethic. From there, you can do just about anything your band sets out to do. Rock on.

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