Every musician knows the secret to sounding good in a performance is to put in the time to practice and rehearse. But worship performers are typically volunteers with other full-time jobs, so there’s limited time to spend rehearsing before each Sunday’s performance. Speaking at CFX 2022 in Dallas, musician and industry veteran Andy Swanson talked about how to make the most of rehearsal time, and the key is discipline.
“First, there’s a difference between practice and rehearsal. You can practice on your own at home, or you can practice as a group, but that’s different than rehearsal time. When you’ve scheduled a one-hour rehearsal time for Friday at 7 PM, that’s it, you have to stick to it. You’ll be rehearsing for an hour starting at 7.”
The trouble with this, Swanson says, is human nature. “What tends to happen is, if you say rehearsal is at 7, people show up at 7, they set up their instruments, and after everyone has checked their sound levels you have about 15 minutes of practice and everyone goes home. To have an effective rehearsal, if you’re the band leader, you have to say, ‘We’re going to start playing at 7 and we’ll be playing for an hour. All the set-up and sound checks need to be done before that.'”
During the question and answer period after Swanson’s presentation, a few attendees had follow-up questions, which illustrated Swanson’s point of the problem with rehearsals. The questions began when one worship performer said, “So if practice is supposed to start at 7, what you’re saying is we need to show up before 7 so we can set up, do soundchecks, and be ready to play on time.”
When Swanson said that was right, rehearsal time is the time the musicians will be playing, so everyone would have to arrive earlier to accomplish the things that needed to be done before rehearsal, another attendee asked, “But we’re normal people with lives outside the band and church. Most of us haven’t seen each other for a week. What if something has happened in our day that we want to talk about? What about praying together first? When we rehearse, we spend a good 15 minutes just catching up, then we pray together, and before we know it it’s time to go, that’s the problem.”
Swanson said that situation is common, but the solution is essentially the same. “Okay,” he said. “We’re all human, and we want to catch up and pray together, and maybe you’re excited or upset about something that day and you want to talk about it. That’s normal. But you still have to draw the line that rehearsal time is for rehearsal. Maybe as the band leader you should say, ‘We’ll take 2 minutes here if anyone has anything they want to share from today before we start.’ Then when that time is up, it’s time to play.”
A production tech in attendance put things into perspective. “What we’re talking about here really is respect for time. Yes, we all have day jobs. We’re all volunteers who are here to worship the lord. The problem is that if the performers are supposed to rehearse at 7, that means the techs have been there since 5:30. We all said hello and prayed, too. We did all the stuff we were supposed to do, and now we’re waiting for you. That’s the tug of war – we need each other. You need us so you can sound good, and we need you because without you there is no performance. But if you show up late, or you’re wasting time talking when you should be playing, you’re not only wasting the time you should be spending rehearsing, you’re wasting our time too. All the time we spent setting things up so you can do your part is being wasted, and that’s disrespectful. You’re disrespecting our time, the time of your bandmates, and frankly the Lord, because on Sunday you’re not going to sound as good as you should, and that’s all on you.”