As a music director at a small church, I’ve realized just how many ways you can fail when running a practice. Here are the 5 most common mistakes I’ve made in practicing, and how to correct it before it’s too late:
1. Give good practice materials. Make sure that all of your band members have accurate music and charts to work on long before they show up to practice. This allows musicians to practice at home so they can show up prepared, and keeps you from having to coach everyone through the music at the practice.
2. Not being prepared. Musicians are at the practice to work on music, not watch you print off sheet music, arrange charts, or fiddle with your gear. Get everything done beforehand so when practice officially starts, you can focus on the people instead of wasting their time.
3. Don’t make last-minute changes. Sure, you might be able to change your guitar playing last-minute if you need to switch keys, but amateur musicians tend to struggle when you ask them to play parts that they haven’t practiced at home beforehand. Make sure all of your key signatures, timing, and audio files are accurate before you send them to band members, then don’t change them unless it’s an emergency.
4. Not doing a sound check. Even if it sounded good last weekend, you never know what the sound gremlins have done between Sunday and your practice night. Before you start, make sure everyone can hear themselves and each other through the PA system. This allows better communication in practice.
5. Not focusing on beginnings, endings, and transitions. These sections are the most important part of the songs, and ignoring them will often lead to confusion on Sunday. This can become even more of an issue if you practice songs out of sequence, or stop too often.
6. Talking too much. There’s no better way to stretch out a practice than to talk more than necessary. Like great writing, show, don’t tell- spend more time playing and less time explaining, and you’ll be amazed how the musicians improve.
7. Stopping too often. Even if there are mistakes, keep going while practicing. Musicians will make mistakes onstage, and unless a musician is consistently making the same mistake in a section, give them a chance to correct it before you stop the whole band to work on the flaw.
8. Not breaking into sections. If a few musicians just aren’t getting it, call a “potty break” and go over that section with the musicians that are struggling. Avoid wasting musician’s time at all costs.
9. Not addressing practicing issues. If someone comes unprepared consistently to practice, make sure you take them aside afterward and address it. Before you accuse them of not practicing, make sure they have everything they need. I once scolded someone for not learning their part, and later learned from another band member that I had forgotten to send out the practice files that week.
10. Micro-managing. Just say no to trying to control all of the aspects of the worship team. You’ll burn yourself out, and make everyone around you crazy. Nuff said.