Bells & Whistles
Perhaps now’s a good time to put your own stamp on things, if you feel so inclined - maybe put together a medley with the song you just rehearsed and something completely out of left field; My Generation into Purple Rain anyone? Or you could add a solo or two, or put a section of another song into the one you’re playing (for instance, my band used to put a riff from Metallica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls into the bridge of Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand)…anything’s possible, as long as it sounds good, and it can help to keep your audience on their toes as well.
You might even want to rehearse a few choreographed moves. Most bands would probably grimace at the very idea (and for a lot of bands that’s probably the right response) but, depending on the sort of band you are and the sorts of gigs you play, a few prearranged moments can make a big difference to your live show. We’re not necessarily talking full on Beyonce dance routines here - it’s more about, say, all the guitarists coming to the front and centre of the stage for the guitar solo in Free Bird, or maybe some synchronised scissor kicks into the last chorus of Sex On Fire (watch those low ceilings though). Obviously, this probably wouldn’t suit a band that exclusively plays shoegaze music from the mid 90s, but if you’re gigging a Motown tribute show a few carefully placed shimmies here and there would give your musical cake a welcome layer of icing.
Who’s In Charge?
Every band works differently. Some bands have a de facto leader, someone that will decide which songs to play next and often will take the lead when it comes to re-running sections of songs. This can be an effective way of doing things as it eliminates the umming and ahhing that can happen between a group of indecisive (but enthusiastic!) musicians, therefore saving valuable time. Of course, it can lead to dissatisfaction among the rest of the band who may feel that their voices aren’t being heard, and after all, a band is a group of people, and it needs the group to all be happy with their roles. Having said that, other band members might be happy to let one person take the lead, as long as their ideas and opinions aren’t routinely ignored.
Other bands will run everything as a democracy; maybe they’ll take it in turns to lead a rehearsal, or even a song within a rehearsal. Perhaps one band member is more familiar with a certain song than the others are, so they might be the best person to lead when rehearsing it. Another song might be full of guitar solos, so the guitarist might be the best person to lead that particular one.
It all depends on the personalities within the band - if you’ve got a band full of strong personalities, it’s unlikely that one person will dominate the rehearsal. Equally, if everyone in your band is less forthcoming then it might be difficult to get as much done as you might like. It’s about finding a balance, and seeing what works best for your particular group. There’s no right or wrong way as long as you don’t end up with a room full of people all talking at the same time. That’s the quickest way to get nothing done!
The End Result
All of these ideas should result in a band that’s tight and gels together, and where each band member knows their parts, as well as their individual role within the group. Whether you’re rehearsing with the intention of playing live or recording (or both), the more you play together the more polished you’ll be - you can always tell which bands have spent time rehearsing and fine tuning before a gig and which ones haven’t. Which one would you want to see again?