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7 Steps to Running a Great Rehearsal

3. Do a Familiar Song and Sound Check (7 minutes)

Choose the most familiar, big song in the set, and count it in.

Have everyone play full out—the loudest and most dense the band will be (but remind them to be musical).

Rock the groove for awhile, even dropping out vocals after a bit, just to let the musicians find their musical feet together.

Repeat sections, ask for things in monitors or fix your IEMs (in-ear monitors). Git ‘er done, and move on.

4. Outline the First Song, Run It and Tweak (10 minutes)

I start right at the top of the set. Give a quick rundown on where the song is going, what instruments (voices too) come in where, preferences you have and go for it.

Play it through, the whole arrangement, and note all the train wrecks (wrong bass notes, wrong drum groove, etc.).

Go back to the train wrecks, and repeat those parts in a loop (short, four-bar loops that repeat the challenging part over and over) until each is fixed.

Note that vocalists need direction. Our vocalists know to give me at least one verse solo before coming in on the pre-chorus or chorus.

Tweak monitors again.

5. Repeat Step 4 for All Songs (20-25 minutes—three more tunes)

That’s it. Rinse and repeat for each song.

6. Learn the Unfamiliar Song (15 minutes)

I never start by learning a new song; I usually push it till the very end so we can linger on it for a bit.

So, you’ve let the band get in the groove (and respond to the Spirit) with familiar tunes. Now you’re at the new song.

Spend some time on a new song, giving an overview to the band, speaking about instrument roles one by one, listening to the MP3 so it’s fresh, walking through chart with pens in hand, and using seperate mini-rehearsals for parts as necessary.

7. Top & Tail, Reinforce Weak Spots (10 minutes)

I aim at leaving 10 minutes to wrap up the rehearsal. I first always ask: “Is there anything anyone is feeling uncomfortable about? A part you need us to quickly run through?”

If not, I aim right at 1) Topping (how we’ll get into a song/start it) and 2) Tailing—how we’ll finish it, and get to the next song.

To do this, we literally count in the first song, do a few bars, and just when the band is ready to rock it,

I smile, wave my hands, and yell, “Awesome! Let’s go to the end.”

We go to the end, finish the last few bars of the song, and make the transition to the next song.

Same thing for the next song. I move fast, and skip easy ones. Top and Tail.

Some Final Tips

Here are some final tips to tighten up your rehearsals even more.

  • If possible, I like to turn my mic around and face the band for rehearsal. They can then read my body language more clearly, and I can say things while making eye contact with the drummer, etc. I can also smile and say, “Yep, that’s it” to the bass player laying it down.
  • On occasion, run ‘mini-rehearsals’ that just focus on the vocals. I kick out other musicians for a break and just let the vocalists, along with me and my guitar, nail that chorus harmony.
  • Create at least one, ‘open’ moment where the band can get past the chord chart and get lost in worship for awhile. It changes the set and creates a powerful leadership unit ready to go with you where you need to go.
  • Have your awesome sound person show up early for the morning sound check to get the system humming and to be ready for the band. Give them clear direction on what instruments are on that day.
  • Be polite, friendly and playful with each other. It lightens the burden of the hard work we must do.
  • Begin and end with prayer. Sometimes, take a few extra minutes to pray for the person needing some extra support.

Bless you as you do the hard, but important, work of running rehearsals.

Question: Does your band do rehearsals? If so, how often?

Resource: Essentials in Worship addresses these main ideas in the Session on Building Sets and Arranging Bands.

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Dan Wilt, M.Min. is an artist, author, musician, educator, songwriter, communicator, and spiritual life writer. With 20+ years in the Vineyard family of churches, he serves in various ways to further a “New Creation” centered vision of the Christian life through media.