What makes a band sound tight?
Practice? Good communication between musicians? Good leadership?
Now I'm the first to admit that my band isn't the tightest band. As a matter of fact we play quite loose. We don't mind that because we have a fun- loving show that permits that style. However, we always try to sound a bit tighter in particular sections to get that punchy sound.
We did a show about a month ago and, due to busy lives, only had 2 rehearsals. We hadn't played for a while and I was worried we wouldn't sound as tight as we'd like. This got me thinking about what the most effective strategy is to get that tight, professional sound really quickly. How could we speed up the process?
In those two rehearsals we tried a few new things and it seemed to work for us. I thought I'd share how we run our practice now and how we work on our songs to have a more efficient rehearsal.
HOW DO YOU RUN YOUR REHEARSAL?
As with most bands I've played with, we start a rehearsal with a couple of songs we know well to warm up and get excited. Then we might try a new song and spend most of the practice on that. Then in the last hour we play the set. This is ok, but sometimes it leads us to avoid songs that we think are tricky or don't like that much.
I've found going into the rehearsal with some notes helps the band focus on problem areas and not just play the ones we love. But, I tend to be mindful that I'm not walking in with a list of sections I think people don't play well. This can come across a bit judgemental and you could leave with a drum stick up your arse!
DO YOU STOP WHEN YOU MAKE A MISTAKE?
With my band we usually just play through minor mistakes. A wrong note here or there is always going to happen and if someone else is in 'the zone' or improvising a new idea stopping can be counter-productive.
We usually do a few run throughs non-stop. Then choose some sections. Lately we've been concentrating on our Turnaround sections. That is, how we transition from Verse to Chorus, Chorus to Bridge. We've found those last couple of beats before a change can often get a bit messy. Now, as the guitarist, I stop and ask our Bass player what rhythm or notes he plays in the last 2-4 beats before the chord change. Then we work something out that sounds tight. The same goes for our drummer and keyboardist. We've found this really tightens us up.
Sound engineering Author, Bobby Owsinksi has an interesting video on this too.
RECORD YOUR REHEARSALS
Our drummer likes to record our rehearsals to listen to later. This enables a critical feedback that's difficult when your playing in the moment. Also, if its a new song you can play to it at home or memorise the changes in the car.
Most rehearsal studios have a setup for this, but to make it easy, I just record it on my phone or our Bass player's Zoom recorder. I'm always surprised what I hear!
DYNAMICS AND SOUNDING TIGHT.
My last point is not something we consciously do, but I think we do well. It's kind of unspoken in our band however, in other bands I've played with we say "ok, let's work on the dynamics. Play heavier here, here and here." Which is fine too, it's just a bit more intentional.
I've found playing dynamically adds that last drop of showmanship to your sound. It's interesting for the audience and adds a bit if theatre.
Of course, Practice makes perfect. But intentional practice gets you there faster, leaving more time to have fun and rock out.
Feel free to leave a comment and tell me how your band practices to sound tight!
All photos by Virginia Ford.
Special thanks to James Douglas for his input in this article.