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Song Arrangement Rehearsal

(By Richard Morales)
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As a band, forging ahead with a new song is great until you realize that you aren’t 100% sure you know what the other members are doing.  It’s even more frustrating when you realize the song is good but is lacking something to make it great.  By scheduling a song arrangement rehearsal, a band can work out these things in a more controlled environment. 

Ø  Rehearsing small sections

During a song arrangement rehearsal, focusing on smaller sections is a useful rehearsal tool that will lead to a tighter overall performance.  Let’s say a band has a bridge that one of the members wrote, showed everyone and it has been rehearsed within the song but it still is sounding loose and sometimes is still causing the song to crash and burn.

During a specified arrangement rehearsal, the band can bring to the table parts of songs that need work and everyone should be willing to focus on these types of things.  From there, the bridge in question, and any other parts are drilled until they are perfected.  The other suggestions for a song arrangement rehearsal, below, work in harmony with this type of “wood shedding” to create an intensive but incredibly productive rehearsal. 

Ø  Small Groups – Harmonious Workings

In small groups two things happen: first of all you can buddy up to make sure you are playing a part correctly without taking time away from the entire band.  Secondly, it is a great opportunity to add harmonic interest to a song that feels like it is lacking something.  Let’s look at these separately:

The bass player of our example band missed out on the song writing rehearsal for a new song.  He has all the parts figured out, but the bridge is not as straightforward as the rest of the song.  He knows this but during normal rehearsals just toils away trying to figure out the part as it comes up.  During an arrangement rehearsal, he can pull the guitarist aside that wrote the part and ask him to show him one more time the bridge, but slowly. 

From here, he can work it up to speed while the rest of the band hammers out other details.  This is, if nothing else, good time management and can give the bass player an opportunity to play catch up without the rest of the band becoming annoyed at him not knowing the song and just now mentioning it. 

While the bass player is working with that guitarist, the vocalist asks the other guitarist and the drummer if they can do some backing vocals on the chorus.  They work to figure out what harmonies they are going to use and are able to take the time to really flesh out the chorus into something truly magnificent.  They spend a good fifteen minutes hammering out the harmony, then another few going over it to make sure everyone is sure of their role in the harmony. 

Once that has been addressed, the two guitarists get together while the bass player and drummer rehearse the bridge.  The guitarist that wrote most of the pieces feels there is something lacking in the guitar sound on the introduction and verse.  They grab acoustic guitars and head out of the practice room to sit and listen to the part in a different environment and without anything but natural amplification. 

They end up deciding that the lead guitarist for the song should change the voicing of his chords on the verse.  During this time he also writes a counterpoint based high part that sounds amazing with the intro, becoming the hook of the song.  The song is improved greatly from small changes that can only happen during a time where official discussion about song arrangement can take place. 

Ø  Discussion

To be honest, there are many bands that do not do this type of rehearsal or do it on the fly, rather than saying “this week, we are doing a song arrangement rehearsal.  Be ready with ideas of sections you want to work on.”  The fact of the matter is that even a basic band that relies on standard chord progressions can benefit from this type of rehearsal.  

Taking a song and expanding on it is what makes a good song great and what can generate a hook in a song that seems lacking in that department.  It makes good sense to add a rehearsal like this to any band’s schedule.   It can be 3 weeks after a new song is introduced, once every six months or every other week, depending on the band and the needs of the musicians as well as the music they are writing. 

The band that is able to effectively communicate with each other and is comfortable addressing their own mistakes as well as accepting constructive criticism is the band that will be strong enough to survive touring together for six months!

Updated: June 30, 2009

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Rehearsal Techniques
Presenter: Richard Morales

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