What To Do When One Of Your Band Members Won’t Practice

Having a band member that will only practice at band rehearsal is something that you can actually work around.

A Weak Bass Player Is No Problem At All For AC/DC
A Weak Bass Player Is No Problem At All For AC/DC

   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.

Author: Live Musician Central

My name is Matt Rushton. I have been playing in bands for 27 years. I've been playing professionally for 21 years. I have opened for Sheryl Crow, Barenaked Ladies, Joan Jett, Little River Band, and Quiet Riot.

6 thoughts on “What To Do When One Of Your Band Members Won’t Practice”

  1. So Knarf0, I bet you’ve seen this phenomenon in the real world of playing in rock bands yourself? 🙂

  2. I don’t think that a band should be held back to such an extent by one lazy member. This seems to be what you’re saying in this post.

    If a band member isn’t pulling his weight he should be given a warning, and if that doesn’t help he should be kicked out.

    Why should other band members suffer because of this one guy?

  3. Well Rob, letting the problem member go and starting over with someone new is definitely the easiest way around this problem. The thing I’ve found from my years of playing in bands is that you open up a whole new set of problems every time you change band members. So you have to ask yourself, does the problem member bring enough to the band that we can work around his limitations? If so, it may be in your best interest to work within the problem band members limits.

    That’s why I give the example of the three brothers forming a band. One of the bro’s won’t practice but plays well enough to do certain songs well. The marketing aspect of having 3 brothers in a band is huge (case in point, the Jonas Brothers) so it’s probably in the band’s best interest to choose music where the non-practicing member has a simple part to play that will allow the music to still sound great.

    I’ve never been in a perfect band where everyone carried their weight equally. That’s why I suggest learning ways to work with weaker members.

  4. this sounds like advice for a covers band or band with no ambition, surely if your an orginal band and want to get signed then only playing the songs that a weak member can play going to lead to nowhere.

  5. Hey Chris, this advice works even better in an original band. In an original band you can tailor your songwriting so that weaker members can play more to their strengths. Cover bands don’t have that luxury. In my original band I’ve found that getting along and being able to create music together is far more important than individual playing ability.

    That being said, if you have a member holding you back and they don’t have anything to offer to your band, it’s time to kick them out.

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