Check the Technique

You’ve got a week before your next show: You’ve practiced, promoted, and picked the set list.

The author (center, singing) performs with Nortec Collective at The Fillmore in San Francisco.Use rehearsal time to hone in on show details

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You’ve got a week before your next show: You’ve practiced, promoted, and picked the set list. Now it’s time to polish your performance to increase your odds of killing it. Sure, you’ll naturally tighten up your performance by running the set a few times before the gig. But if you hone in on a few technical details during your last couple practices, it could be the difference between a good show and one that ignites a word-of-mouth buzz about your band.

Narrow the Scope Sometimes, it’s actually a good thing if a bandmate can’t make it to rehearsal. That missing instrument or voice opens the space for others to hear themselves (and each other) more clearly. For example, if the guitarist doesn’t get to a practice, you might hear—for the first time—a clash between vocals and synths.

This is a good opportunity to pick apart nitty-gritty details that don’t feel right. Start by playing and looping a section that you’re not sure about. Drop out instruments and pair up different band members: Have the bass player and keyboardist play together, then the keyboardist and singer. Keep trying different combinations until you identify and correct the problem (a discordant note, janky rhythm, bad timing, etc.).

Making the Switch Transitions between verses, choruses, and bridges are more important than we give them credit. They change the mood, create the dynamic range, and keep things interesting for the listener. They can also lead to a train wreck. Without practice, it’s easy to rush into choruses, lag back into verses, or just biff the change altogether. So it’s good to loop transitions, such as the last two bars of a verse and the first two of a chorus. That way, there’s less chance of the drummer missing his fills or the guitarist forgetting the chord change.

Man vs. Machine Some musicians hate playing to a click, but shunning the click completely during practice is just your ego getting in the way. It can only help your timing and energy to play to a metronome in rehearsal. While the drummer carries the most responsibility for keeping the tempo consistent, playing to a click is helpful for everyone. It’s good to run the set at least once with a click through your P.A., so everyone can hear. You just may fix some timing issues that had been plaguing you for months.

Finally, run your set dress-rehearsal style. Play it all the way through, stopping long enough in between songs to accommodate quick setup changes and talking points (whether you script your banter or have a rough idea of what you want to say). Once you finish, then you can punch the bass player for blowing one of the intros and force him to practice it 20 times in a row.