Band practice is always a highlight of the week for me. Getting away from the office and making noise is always a great stress reliever, and a conducive environment for creativity. Something that I failed to do the first couple times my band was practicing was to set up the space. Being charged by the hour, I felt as though we needed to use the time for playing our instruments instead of setting them. The result was ear splitting feedback, unplugged chords and difficulty hearing our voices.
After a few of these jam sessions I decided to do some research on the best way to set up a jam space and came up with the following tips.
Point the mics away from the monitors
A huge source for our feedback was the way the mic directions. A mic facing a monitor will create a loop, where any noise generated from the mic will come through the monitors and back into the mic, and through the monitors again. The result varies to an annoying hum all the way to a deafening screech that has rung my ears for days.
Value the vocals
I apologize in advance for playing into the head of your perhaps already inflated singer, but vocals are a huge part of practicing. I found it incredibly difficult to piece together melodies for new songs when the singing could not be heard. When my band played its first show after a couple months without taking time to properly mix our vocals, it was all shock and awe when we were playing live and I could actually hear myself sing. Granted I am not the greatest or most experienced singer, but I found it difficult to control my voice while playing as I had never heard it properly mixed with all the other instruments. Ever since we started taking time during our sessions to soundcheck, it is become so much easier to learn new songs, and I find playing live much more comfortably vocally.
Face the drums for learning new songs
Many of the rooms available to us for rehearsal were set up in the same way: a kind of semi circle or line facing the drummer. I have found this set up more preferable when introducing a new song, as it gives you a chance to give physical cues for transitions, allows everyone to see what you’re doing, easier discussion, and lastly it allows you to see your bandmates facial expressions indicating whether your song is a yay or nay.
Face away from the drums when rehearsing
If your band is rehearsing for an upcoming show, it is best to have your setup match the venue you will be playing at. While varying sizes of venues will determine the specific setup, the general idea is the same: drummer behind and facing the backs of the guitars, bass, singers and whatever else your band is rocking with.
Noiiiiiiissssseeeeee. Band practice is about getting loud and making noise. When you think about it, it’s pretty rare that you get an opportunity to make as much noise as you want, and I’m definitely guilty of getting carried away. This ties back into the vocals being an essential part of learning a new song and practicing, but I think its important to mention that practicing with lower volumes will help your band perfect the songs it plays. Alot of bar room gigs are too small to let you crank a 30 watt head through a 4×12 speaker, so there isn’t a whole lot of worth practicing at that volume. Your ears will be thankful, and playing at lower volumes (when properly mixed) can help you pick out any parts that could use a change.
Example set up for learning a new song
Example set up for show rehearsal