Practically Perfect: Creating the Perfect Practice Regimen

By Mike Ludwig

Every musician and every band needs to practice. Only expert musicians can simply pick up and play together, and only after years of practice. Practice builds cohesion, precision, prevents stage fright and gives band members the confidence to put on their best performance. The punk rocker can jump and spin and the blues player can whip out a minute-long impromptu solo because they have practiced their material over and over. The practice space can be one of creative collaboration and friendship, but it can also be one of conflict and ego-battles, so it’s essential that you and your mates do it right.

Practice starts with you. Professional musicians will tell you that picking up your instrument for at least 15 minutes a day is more effective than playing for hours on an inconsistent basis. Daily practice hones your skills, deepens your understanding of your instrument and stimulates your creativity. You may be surprised by how many song ideas can come from just picking up your instrument for a bit.

The same concept applies to bands. Practicing for hours once every couple of weeks is stressful, mentally draining and stifles creativity, especially if you’re cramming before a gig. Practicing briefly and often gives bands the necessary breathing room to maximize creativity. This approach will help your band develop the kind of friendship and creative compatibility that makes for good musical chemistry.

Every band practices differently. The intensity of your practice regimen depends on your collective goals. Bands that are simply a vessel for self-expression, partying and having fun can have relaxed, casual practice sessions, while bands seeking lots of paid gigs and a record deal must work hard and practice often. Talk to your band mates about your collective goals. Conflict will quickly arise if an ambitious member demands too much effort from their mates, or if a member refuses to work hard enough or even show up on time. Discussing these issues immediately can prevent drama down the road.

After you’ve decided what level of effort and commitment you share, it’s time to find a good practice space. Make sure the space can comfortably fit each member and their gear. Basements and garages are classic spots. Both provide decent sound insulation and cool place to hang out, but playing music into four walls affects sound quality. If you practice in a basement, flat or garage, don’t be surprised if you music sounds much different when you plug-in on an open stage. Sometimes bands get together and rent out flats or buildings to share practice space. This is more expensive than playing at home, but you won’t have to worry about angry flat mates and extra clutter.
Try recording your practice sessions, even if it’s just on a cassette tape or computer.

Listening to your own music allows you to reflect on your precision, identify rough spots that should be rehearsed, and gives you perspective on your work. You may be surprised by how much you don’t hear when you’re busy playing. These recordings can double as demos and will be quite valuable when you make it big.

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