What can you do when one member of your band will only play their instrument when the band gets together to practice? I get this question all the time from friends and colleagues that play in live bands. It’s actually a lot more common than you may think to have a band member only practice when the band gets together as a group to practice. It’s something that you may have to deal with in your live band so let’s discuss some of your options.
It may seem like a no-brainer to just kick the offending member out of the band. That may seem like the easiest solution but let’s face it, this person may have other qualities that make them very hard to replace. For example, I was working with a young band that consisted of 3 brothers and it was a great marketing opportunity having 3 brothers in the same band. The problem is, one of the brothers would never practice his instrument unless it was band practice. It was very obvious that this brother was far behind the other two in terms of being prepared and also in his actual playing ability. But, it was crucial to keep this brother in the band.
Here’s another example, I’ve worked with a band that had a member that was fantastic on their instrument but would never learn and practice the backup singing. The band wanted to do a lot of music that had four-part harmony and many agonizing hours were spent at practice trying to get this member to learn his singing parts. Needless to say, things sounded good but could have been much better if that member had learned and practiced his parts on his own outside of band practice.
So what can you do when you have a member that will not practice unless the band gets together to rehearse. As I said before you can kick the person out and find a replacement. But you have to take a serious look and see what you’ll be giving up in other areas such as stage presence, personality and band related administration such as booking gigs. If the member has other qualities that make you want to keep that person in the band then it is possible to work around their limitations.
That’s the key to making the band work with a member that will not practice on their own. If you have a drummer that won’t practice and improve his skills but they have some good basic skills then you’ll have to pick songs that the drummer can easily play. You probably won’t be playing any Rush cover songs with that drummer but you can surely play some Creedence cover songs. There’s no need to spend hours at rehearsal while this member learns the songs. Just pick songs that are easy for that person to play on their instrument so you can minimize wasted rehearsal time.
That’s really the secret to making your band work with someone who is important to the band but isn’t as rehearsed or prepared as the rest of the band. You just have to pick your songs around that weakness. There are millions of songs out there and it’s possible to put a setlist together that will allow your weak band member to put in minimal practice and still have the band as a whole sound good.