Music Business: How to Rehearse for Results

By Loren Weisman

When you’re in the music business, you need to make the most of your rehearsal time. The following is a list of techniques for rehearsing your songs for arrangement, production, and performance to achieve the best sounds in the fastest ways. There’s no right or wrong way to rehearse; find the method that works best for you.

  • Metronome rehearsing: Practice your music with a metronome. Can you stay in time, or do certain sections fluctuate too much? It’s not about being a robot; it’s about defining the time, tempo, and groove that’s going to work best for the song.

  • Heavy dynamics: Try playing across the spectrum of loud! Sometimes the loudest parts can mask and cover issues that need to be addressed to make your music sound that much better.

  • A little faster and a little slower tempos: If you have a locked-in tempo for your song, rehearse it a little slower and a little faster than the tempo you have set for it. By practicing on each side of the tempo, you’re able to have a better sense of when something is rushing or when it’s dragging. It also gives you a better sense of the pocket of the song and exactly where you want it to be played.

  • Much faster tempos: Whether you know the exact tempo of a song, or you’re just dialing what feels right, rehearse your songs at considerably faster tempos. By rehearsing at a much faster tempo, you can check the technical ability of the band to run through the melody, rhythmic hits, chord changes, and transitions of a song.

  • Much slower tempos: By slowing down the song and rehearsing it as slow as possible (with a metronome to keep you in check), you can identify a variety of problems that might come from skipping over an issue that isn’t being caught because of its normal speed. Think about the lick that you know how to play when you play it at a normal tempo, but when it’s slowed down, you trip all over it because there’s more space for things to go wrong.

  • Different keys or modulations: Test the waters of different keys or modulating inside of the key to bring a different flavor, but also to see how the song sounds and how you can perform it with another set of notes. Trying different keys can also introduce creative ideas on soloing, or show where you might choose to add a modulation to the key you have for the song. Again, it builds up the strength of the performance and the musicality, too.

  • Different time signatures: This is a great one to get your rhythmic and melodic phrasing in check but also to create new approaches and options to a song. Add a beat or subtract a beat from the time signature of a song and see how you phrase ideas with a beat missing or an extra beat added.

  • Switch genres: If you have a song with more of a grunge feel, try it as a jazz piece. If you have something that’s more hard rock and punchy, try it with a reggae touch. Experiment with a genre change to reinforce the feel or genre the song is in and give you additional ideas on small nuances and embellishments that you can bring in from one genre to another.

  • Minus-one rehearsing: Make the vocals go away, or take out the drums, bass, or even guitar in a song and see how it feels to rehearse it that way. Sometimes certain instruments become a crutch for other player’s ears, and those players might not have their specific parts down solid.

  • Invisible or blind rehearsing: Turn around so you can’t see each other or literally put on the blindfolds. Think Luke Skywalker and Star Wars. You may not feel the force, but can you feel the tune, the changes, and the transitions without eye contact from the other musicians?

  • Backward order of the song: Do you know your song front to back? How about back to front? You don’t have to practice the song in complete reverse, but by playing each section from the end back to the beginning, you can get a different perspective on transitions and changes that can help when you record or perform the song from the beginning to end in the right order. Even if the song is a simple verse/chorus–verse/chorus type of format, practicing backwards for the dynamics and singing the last verses first can help you see if energy or endurance might be an issue.

  • Looping sections: An offspring from the play-it-backward idea is to loop sections, and play just those sections over and over and over to tighten them up and lock them in. For example, play the bridge — just the bridge and only the bridge — section of a song from start to finish. As you get to the end, start over again at the top of the bridge.

  • Playing it front to back: And last but not least, practice the song the way you want to record it or perform it.

From slowing down your songs to slowing down the different exercises that you work on when practicing your instrument alone, get out of the mindset of trying to do everything as fast as you can and get into the mindset to play it as well in the faster tempos as you can in the slower. The better the understanding of a song, part, solo, exercise, or rudimentary phrase at the slowest tempo, the better you understand the space, mechanics, and motions that are missed when you try to speed through it.

The extra attention to detail and efforts you put into rehearsing, the better your proficiency, musicianship, technique, and overall ability is in your songs and your performances. It also saves so much time and money in the production process.