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Is It Possible to Over-Prepare Your Show?

Listening through headphonesI’m not a big fan of early sound checks. Yeah, I know — sometimes it’s necessary.

But whenever our band would arrive at a venue 5 hours early, set up, and do our sound check, it seemed like the day would drag on. When it was time for the show, I’d feel uninspired and tired.

Then there’s the long, long, LONG sound check! The kind where one or more of your band (or the sound man) is an absolute perfectionist. They work on it, and work on it, and work on it, until they feel it’s exactly right. Over thinking it, really.

Then the audience comes in, and everything has to be tweaked and changed because it doesn’t sound the same anymore.

I think it is possible to over think things when it comes to rehearsing the live show, too.

Last week I wrote about the benefits of rehearsing early enough to feel confident and prepared when you get onstage in front of your audience… Read How Soon Should You Work on Your Show… But today I want to look at the “cons” of overpreparation:

Con #1: Losing the spark

One of the worst things that can happen when you start working on your show too soon and for too long, is that you’ll probably lose the spark you had when you first started planning it. The passion and emotion you had as you sat and got a vision for the moments you’d create can begin to die if you rehearse and rehearse and rehearse…

A vision brings passion, energy, creativity, and excitement to your show and to your career. But doing anything for too long can sap that energy, and it will show up in your live shows!

Con #2: Having the wrong focus

You’ve heard me say, nobody wants to watch an artist or band “thinking” onstage. When you are under prepared, we’ll see you thinking about what you’re supposed to do next. That’s not at all interesting to us in the audience!

However, thinking too much about your show and over rehearsing will also make you appear stale and uninteresting. If you spend so much time trying to perfect every nuance, obsessing about “getting it right,” one of two things may happen. Either you’ll end up not doing it right anyway (because you’re so nervous about it), or you won’t enjoy doing it because it’s simply not fun any more.

Con #3: Appearing canned and planned

One of a musician’s biggest fears is to have a canned show. No one wants to look hokey, cheesy, or be part of a show where everything is so planned and canned it’s not believable. To be honest, one of the reasons some shows look planned and canned is because the band was under prepared! Trying to pull off something that’s not been rehearsed and practiced can look awkward — and an audience will probably perceive it as canned.

But canned and planned can come from over preparation as well. The boy band style of choreography is definitely and obviously planned. Doing too much movement, particularly when it’s doing movement for the sake of doing movement, or when it doesn’t keep the integrity of the song, will also feel canned. If there’s too much going on visually, it can feel forced, and it takes away from the show. 

Bottom line: don’t rehearse so much that what you are doing becomes so automatic there’s no room for spontaneity!

Con #4: Spending too much time with each other

I try to get along with people. And most artists I spend a few days with seem to enjoy working with me. I enjoy working with them, too — for a few days. But to be honest, how many weeks can you really spend with the rest of the people in your band or group without getting on each other’s nerves? Working with people day in and day out on your show, rehearsing the same things over and over, will probably not be good for the relationships you have with each other.

What are your thoughts?

I’d love to hear from all of you… how many days/weeks/months do you work on your shows? Have you found yourself feeling under prepared or over prepared? What’s been working the best for you?

Tom Jackson

Tom is uniquely talented and skilled at transforming an artist's live show into a magical experience for the audience; helping artists at every level create a live show that is engaging and memorable, teaching them to exceed their audiences' expectations and to create fans for life. Tom has taught indie and major artists of every genre. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Le Crae, Home Free, The Tenors, Shawn Mendes, The Band Perry, Francesca Battistelli, Jars of Clay, & many more. Tom also teaches at colleges, conferences and events worldwide.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. Agreed. i Love my brothers in the band, but I need my space.

  2. John Peacock says:

    A very good piece of advice I was give (that I almost always ignore for one reason or another, but that just makes me WRONG), is that you can practise as much as you like on gig day, but none of the material you’re actually going to play that night, although you can play material like it. That’s individual practise, though – with groups it depends on what the issue is you need to address.

    Another thing was to memorise the setlist, so that you know what’s next and after that and after that and exactly where you are in the set without having to think about it.

  3. Any thoughts out there? I’m seeing a lot of worship bands rehearsing right before they go on
    Each week. In my professional training as a singer, this was always a no no because it can sap vocal and performance/ministry energy. But some bands make it look like it works???

    sure, it’s easier to not have to rehearse on a Tuesday nite but is this really ideal? Does it sap energy or are they cheating the church out of aome greater experience???

    • As far as singers rehearsing right before the service, I don’t see a down side to that, unless they are over-singing or not warming up enough in rehearsal.
      The bigger concern is everyone coming in prepared with just one rehearsal. It’s fine IF your band comes in with songs learned and are pros at putting it together quickly. With many worship teams though, this is NOT the case, and they aren’t able to effectively LEAD because they are glued to charts or lyrics, and thinking too much about the music. Ideally, the band and singers are rehearsed enough so that they can focus on the congregation.

  4. Byron Santo says:

    No need today for long sound checks unless the band requires it. If it’s strictly for tweaking sound do a virtual sound check.

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