One of the main problems I have seen with groups I have sat in with or participated in is the lack of productivity during practices.
Practices are vital to your groups’ survival. There usually is only a limited amount of time every band member can be available to practice. This means you need to make sure your group is doing everything it can to make the most of that time.
The first thing you need to do to have a productive practice happens before practice even begins. Make sure you are prepared. So much time is wasted when someone forgets their trombone or important equipment that is vital to practice. Have a list of everything you need for practice and check it really fast before you leave to be certain you didn’t forget anything behind. Its your job as a musician to be responsible for your own gear so don’t cause your band to waste valuable practice time.
Being prepared also means knowing your music. If you discussed covering a song, learn it. I have had so many practices where we have to spend time learning parts because people didn’t take the time at home to do so. One of my teachers once told me that a group rehearsal is not time to be learning your own parts, its where you should learn everyone else’s parts. This lets you have a deeper understanding of songs as a whole and in the end your group will sound much better. Coming in prepared will save you hours of wasted time.
This is a photo of my bands practice space. We use a rented out storage unit because it gives us the convenience to practice whenever we can. We also use the whiteboard for writing out set lists and structuring songs we write.
I have found that setting goals gives the group an objective to strive for. Before you go into a practice ask yourself, “what do I want to accomplish today.” Knowing what you want to get done will allow you to put all your effort onto that one task. Staying focused one or two realistic goals per practice will keep you moving forward and hopefully avoid the always fun ‘random jams’ where nothing is really accomplished.
From personal experience I can say that I have had groups fall apart because of their lack of focus. I have nothing against having some creative song writing sessions, but you need to balance that with completing songs and practicing already completed songs.
The first band I participated in had this amazing guitar player who was one of the best song writers I have ever worked with. He had so much potential, but his fault was he had a hard time picking one song and finishing it. If you have goals and focus your efforts you can avoid all of these distractions that eat up a lot of time.
Keep this advice in mind before your next practice and hopefully you will be able to cut back on some of the waste.