Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

August 10, 2010

Band Rehearsal Lessons From Prince

This is a guest post from my friend Tom Jackson, the premier Live Music Producer who has worked with Taylor Swift, Jars of Clay, Jordin Sparks, Casting Crowns, NewSong, Sidewalk Prophets, plus a multitude of independent artists.

Look below for the special offer I was able to arrange with Tom for you to get his "All Roads Lead to the Stage" 7-DVD set at a deep discount.

Dez Dickerson, the former guitar player for Prince, was telling me about their rehearsals. If you've seen any video of Prince or seen him live, he goes off on jams that appear completely spontaneous. Sometimes they're so off the wall, you wonder where they came up with the stuff they did!

I asked him, how did you get from that place to this funky thing to this Pink Floyd thing to this breakdown, to this jammin' stuff -- and it all seems so spontaneous? And he said one word ...


In practice they got an instinct, they were jamming, and they went down that road in practice. The idea came to them, they stopped, went back, fleshed it out, and rehearsed it to where it was really tight and they didn’t have to think about it.

Those of us who have just "jammed" know that it might be magical ... one night. And then on other nights it's just terrible. So the key is this: If you understand the fundamentals in your preparation, and you know how to hold the mic, and you know placement on stage, and you know what it takes visually onstage, then they're in your arsenal and you can use them (be spontaneous with them) onstage. They'll come naturally -- without thinking about them.

Otherwise, you get an instinct, and if you haven't rehearsed the fundamentals, then you have to think about it, and all the audience sees is you thinking about what you're doing. And that's not exciting.

I have a good friend who lives in Chicago. When he flies into town he doesn't give me a call and say "Hey, Tom, let's go down to the library and watch people read!" We don't want to watch people read. And no one wants to watch people think!

So what we need to do is plan, practice it in rehearsals, and then we can go out and do it. And when we're onstage, IF we have the fundamentals, then we can follow our instinct, and it's natural. We've done it over and over and over again. It looks spontaneous even though the basics are things we've worked out in rehearsals.

On a football team, those players are not just playing their 19th, 20th game of the year when they get to the Super Bowl. Before the Super Bowl, they had six weeks of training, and before that they had a six-inch thick book of plays that the team runs, and they study those plays. The truth is, everyone knows their role. They run the plays over and over and over again. Then the coaches have a game plan.

THAT'S what a live show should be! You've studied a playbook, you've rehearsed it, and where the spontaneity comes in is that every night, every audience is different. So just like the running back, you don't run through the same hole every play. You try left, you try right, you try jumping over them, you pitch the ball back ... that's where the spontaneity comes in.

Everyone needs to know the role they have and the goal of each play. That's the way a song should be, too. That's what should happen onstage -- a combination of rehearsal and spontaneity. No one is thinking! The running back isn't thinking when he runs up to the hole, and the hole is closed, "Oh, maybe I should run this way" -- he just reacts. Why? Because he has the fundamentals!

Having the fundamentals down because you've done your woodshedding is the first step. Then planning the show -- getting a vision for what you want each song to look like, and what you want your show to look like -- that's the next step.

It's important to find the balance between form and spontaneity, and to understand the creative process. That means brooding over your songs, listening to them in different ways, planning, getting ideas ... and then working it until it becomes a part of who you are onstage. Something natural, something creative, something unique -- and that's what your audience wants to see!

Tom Jackson is the #1 Live Music Producer in the industry. He developed the Live Music Method, an onstage formula that makes your live show engaging and memorable, exceeding your audiences' expectations, creating fans for life. Tom has worked with nearly every genre, from rock to pop to Christian Gospel, impacting hundreds of major artists.

Go to this special page to learn more about Tom's "All Roads Lead to the Stage" 7-DVD set and how to get it at a deep discount between now and August 20. I've seen Tom work his magic with performers many times. He's amazing. If you can't make it to one of his live workshops, this DVD set will give you the insight and tools you need to create a stellar live music show!

Also, what did you think of this guest post? And what are some of your best band rehearsal and live show tips? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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posted by Bob Baker @ 10:04 AM   4 comments


At Aug 10, 2010, 2:04:00 PM, Blogger Adam said...

Thanks for the post. Looking to advance practice and this is going to give me the push to do it.

At Aug 10, 2010, 8:43:00 PM, Anonymous Danika Holmes said...

Thanks for this Tom Jackson blog post! If you don't own Tom's videos and you're a performing band, you should... they're awesome!

At Aug 10, 2010, 10:58:00 PM, Blogger mike said...

I am a worship leader and I will be passing this post to all my band members. Sometimes church music can be the least prepared performances and can even be uncomfortable to watch. Like Tom said (paraphrased) who wants to watch someone think? Let's all push past "good enough" when it comes to whatever music we're performing.

Wonderful, practical stuff that I will be using. Thanks!

At Aug 11, 2010, 2:16:00 AM, Blogger Christian Calcatelli said...

Classical musicians well know what the word 'practice' means - it's part of our training for years to conquer an instrument, a composition, technique...

Often we're classified as dull & boring because we approach music this way, which may seem more analytical than creative.

But it pays off in the long run.

There can be extreme beauty even on a simple, strummed E major chord on a guitar - when practiced right the sounds are clear & tight. Sloppiness has no place for the successful musician. How do you get control of those 4 simultaneous notes, calibrating each sound to your liking? Practice.

An awsome book I can suggest is Gladwell's "Outliers". One of the points he presents in a brilliant way is the 10,000 hour rule; it's fascinating to see how the greatest acts in history became great because of hours & hours of... practicing. Lots of pages are dedicated to the Beatles - we think of them as THE band. But how did they achieve their sound and silent understanding on stage? By being on stage, by playing everything under the sun and familiarizing themselves with all genres of music; after their 10,000 hours of practice in Hamburg, they became the Beatles as we know them today.... To quote John Lennon (from the same book): "We got better and got more confidence. We couldn't help it with all the experience playing ALL NIGHT LONG. In Liverpool we'd only ever done one-hour sessions, and we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones, at every one. IN Hamburg, we HAD TO PLAY FOR EIGHT HOURS, so we really had to find a new way of playing". By the time the Beatles had their first burst of success in 1964 they had performed live an estimated 1200 times. How many bands have played that many gigs in their whole career?

To sum it up in three words: Practice practice practice.


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