Punctuality is the backbone of any employee. And musicians are no different, we all are time accountable. Rehearsal is the most important part of this job. Punctuality is a “carved in stone” law of the real business world. To be a part of it you must be on time for every step of the way. At any other job if you are constantly late you are fined or fired. The professional entertainer will respect this job as being no different. So get there early and be ready to start on time. Do not settle for a little late from anyone. Set an example for your players to follow. Time is money so spend your rehearsal time wisely and productively.
b) Being well prepared
Being well prepared is the key to a productive rehearsal. Each member must do their homework. Individual rehearsal with practice CD’s and lyrics sheets must be done well in advance of the group rehearsal session. Having the equipment all ready set up and running is just as important as the cords and lyrics. At the end of rehearsal plan the goals you want to obtain during next time you meet. Make practice CD’s and gather lyrics for whoever needs them. Set goals you want to reach within an obtainable time schedule and stick to it. It is always a fast step forward to record all your rehearsals and then listen to it while you all are still together and it is fresh in your mind. Facing mistakes with you players is a good thing, having to face them in public is not good for anybody.
c) Take advantage of the time
Take advantage of the time you put in to a show. It is hard enough to get several people together at the same place and time. Now talking is over get down to work on what you have planed for that session. Finish what you have started before going on to new ideas. Keep on track don’t get side tracked with having too much fun.
d) Jokes and patter
Jokes and patter that are well delivered will separate the professional entertainer from the weekend warriors. Watch late night TV talk shows for ideas. They stay current with jokes and offer a lot you can borrow from them. Dirty jokes are not a good idea. You stand a chance of offending someone and that’s not worth the humor. If the drummer just ascents the punch lines with a drum fill it’s a start toward burlesque. But don’t be corny or stupid. More than likely your playing for people who are trying their best to have fun, so entertain with all you got.
Some people are great joke tellers while others make a good straight man. Find out who has the best “Master of Ceremonies” voice and personality and let them do what talking is necessary. Having a front man helps break the ice with a cold audience. Patter between players is just as important to be rehearsed as the arrangement of the music. Support whomever is talking by paying attention to what their saying. Don’t all talk all at once or over someone. Speak slow and deliberate so the audience can understand what your saying. Make sure all the vocal effects are turned off while someone is speaking to your audience.
e) Interplay among the players
Interplay among the players lets your audience know who to watch and when. The lead singing and instrumental leads should be in the spotlight. When someone is singing or being featured by an instrumental lead the other players should show an interest in what they are doing. Respond to your band and your audience will to. You can use eye contact and body language to telegraph to your guests the point of interest on stage. Remember these things in this book are suggestions. Do no do something that doesn’t feel natural and comfortable to you or the band.
The band must give whoever is talking their undivided attention. In other words no twanging guitars piano cords or kicks on the base drum. All this extra noise and it is just that, noise. It distracts from what you want the audience to watch or listen to. Do not telegraph the beginnings of the songs. On stage is not the place to practice you part. I worked with Robin Turley in Reno and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. He told us that the last note of the song is the first note of the next song and so on. That is a tight and very simple arrangement when possible. There are times when you switch instruments or make a change that someone should be talking over this action. Our first session with Robin was on a Saturday morning. He showed us the beginnings and the endings to his material. That night we auditioned for the Howard Johnson’s down town. We got the job. They told us that we were hired because we seemed to be the most rehearsed out the group of 11 bands that tried out. Robin was a great man to work for and I owe him a lot. One day on the road I asked him this question. When he knew so many other keyboard players in town why did he choose me. He said ” there was a 1000 keyboard players in town better than you but none of them would back me up like you do”. Then Robin told me this ” there is only one YOU so be the best YOU you can be. He showed me how to best back up a front man. And he was very generous with his complements about his band members to his audience. Showing that he had a good band behind him made him look better still. I learned that if you are trying to be the best musician around there is always someone better than you. But no one can be a better you than you.
f) Set up and tear down
Set up and tear down quickly is very important to any traveling band. There are casinos in Las Vegas who have a very short time limit to tear down one band and set up another. I have seen clubs that had the curtain on a timer. It will open and close whether you were ready or not. Not being on time could cause you to open and close the same day.
Have all the equipment you can rack mounted and preset so you’ll have less to plug in. Everybody should know how to set up the PA and lights. Set up the band in a logical order. It is a good idea to set up PA and lights before your individual gear. Most pros can set up their ax within fifteen minutes anyway, so get the hard stuff done first.
Load in and load out should run as smooth as the rest of the show. Know just where everything will set on the stage and put it there when you move in. This will save time moving things around in each others way. When you load out, know what goes in the vehicles first and move out in that order.
The best idea is to set up a day or days before the opening night. Ask the club manager when, at their convenience, you might set up early. Setting up during the dinner crowd hours just before you play makes everybody uneasy. So make it easy on everybody concerned and set up and sound check when the cleaning lady is running the vacuum. That way you won’t make waves just good music.
g) Set time and length
Set time and length must be a known factor. You are in control of the entertainment. You must not short change your employer or your guests. So you must know how long each song is, and just how many songs it takes to make a good set. Employers deserve one hundred percent effort no matter what your job is. They assume when they hire you that you will do your best. You must use good business ethics and have enthusiasm to work with your employer. Remember their names spicily the owner’s .
No one like to see bums lounging around on stage. So look like your having the time of your life, even if your not. Boredom can be telegraphed to the audience just like a bad attitude. So smile it is easier to sing in tune anyway.