6 Tips to Get the Most out of Your Band Practice
We are busy people.
Often, the demands of our schedules can dictate what we say ‘yes’ to and what we cut out. Though there are different seasons, band practice is something that’s very helpful to have on a regular basis.
Over the years, these six things have really helped me stay on track and get the most out of my weekly band practice:
1. Get Organized
First, as the worship leader, you need to figure out the system that works best for you to keep track of your band practice content. Then encourage each team member to have a way to store and organize the songs, arrangements, notes, theory, etc. that you’re working on. Personally, I find digital storage is best, but there are still some who use a three-ring binder because they prefer a hard copy; whatever works for you and your team is great. The filing system allows band members to record keys for songs, templates for songs, etc. Even if they have the songs memorized, it is still helpful to have—especially as your song repertoire grows.
2. Set a Goal
How do you want your band to grow? Is it primarily in learning arrangments, ear training, musicality, or songwriting? Think this through, write it down, and bring something specific to your band.
A few examples of team goals could include working on a new corporate worship song every other week, flowing together as a band and exercising the muscle of spontaneity, or wanting the community to grow amongst your band and taking three months to intentionally build it. Clarity brings purpose, so set your goals accordingly. They will change in different seasons.
3. Expand the Musical Tool Belt
I like to think of musicians as craftsmen or builders who just showed up at a job site on an empty lot. Their goal is to build a house. There are so many variables and options for how that house can look and each of the builders will have a different opinion of what color it should be or how many stories it should have. Don’t view this as a negative thing; it is an incredibly positive thing! If everyone wanted to build the same exact house, it would be a boring neighborhood.
Band practice can be a great time to let your band members shine with the tools they possess. It is also a great time for you as a leader to inspire them to develop and grow as musicians while expanding their musical “tool belt.” To continue my building analogy, after your team has shown up at many different empty lots and built many different houses (a.k.a. playing 52 Sundays a year), it can be easy for the houses to start looking the same—the same five builders building identical houses every single weekend. You as the “general contractor” have to continue to set new blueprints before them.
4. Challenge Them
Challenge them practically to grow in their musical craft. I know for me, as I look at the musical tools that I have at my disposal, I am regularly challenged to continue to add new tools (skills) in order to build and develop more beautiful music. Depending on the nature and goal of your team, band practice may or may not be a great time to work on some of these things. Everyone learns differently. Some learn by seeing pictures and images, some learn best by simply hearing facts spoken, and some have to touch and feel something with their fingertips. Mixing up your approach from time to time helps you to expose your band members to the learning styles that work best for each of them.
5. Advocate At-Home Practice
Something I am always encouraging both myself and my band members to do is have personal practice time at home. As we grow individually, it helps the whole band. For some this is easily doable; for others, it can be a real challenge—but it’s always good to pursue. I find that starting with a small, attainable goal for at-home practice is best. Can your electric guitar player give fifteen minutes a day to practicing his scales or your drummer his fills?
As a worship leader, I have discovered that some of my personal musical development goals can become my team’s goals—essentially killing two birds with one stone. For example, if I want to grow in my melodic creativity I would devote some time in our band practices to working on this. Challenge your team with what you’re challenged with.
6. Include Your Sound Tech
I suggest really pushing to get your head sound tech or the person who mixes most of your sets to be present at your band practices. He or she is a part of your band and should be included in all arrangements and songs you plan to do. Sound techs who don’t feel part of the team will most likely end up feeling at odds with the team. Having them at band practices is a great way to get them feeling like a part of the team and it’s helpful for your front-of-house mix to have your sound tech in the know about what’s going on.
Don’t try and implement all of these at once. Pick one or two that stick out to you and give them a try.
I’d love to hear how this goes.
Huge thanks to my friend Jordan Vanderplate for letting me use this photo of Loch Garry, Scotland. Check out more of his work here.