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Musicians’ Most Common Mistakes – Part 7: Mistaking Practice for Rehearsal

This blog / video on mistaking practice for rehearsal is the seventh in a series we’ve put together to answer YOUR questions.

Links to the first six video blogs are at the bottom of this post.

We began by answering one of the most asked questions:

What are the most common mistakes musicians make in their live show?

Tom is currently addressing Mistake #7 which is: Mistaking practice for rehearsal.


Tom: I say this often.  To me there’s a process for learning to do this thing called music and putting a show together. 

It starts with wood-shedding.  Wood-shedding is where we learn to do what we do.  We learn to play our instrument. We learn to sing in our room, playing the piano, learning the guitar, practicing.  That’s wood-shedding.

I’m a basketball fan and I read the story about Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and they’re out in their backyard shooting a thousand free throws a night.  That’s wood-shedding.

They don’t go to practice with the team and practice their free throws.  They should already know that stuff when they get to practice with the team.

Practice is going over the game plan and that kind of stuff.  

So one of the mistakes is that people don’t woodshed enough this stuff that we talk about.

Amy: It tends to be the last thing people think about.

Tom: The very last thing.  We can say to people “Listen, use the microphone stand.”  And, I often tell this story: 

A friend of mine, Dez who played with Prince for many years, told me that Prince actually spent six days working on microphone stand technique…six days…

How many of you spent six minutes?  Literally, working, I know you might have played with the microphone stand, but literally thinking, “How do I do this?  What’s the technique for learning how to use this stand and make it look totally natural?”

We watch him and we think ‘wow he’s so spontaneous’ (he spun around, grab the stand, did all these things), HE PRACTICED IT.  He actually wood-shedded those things.  Then he went into the rehearsal room to learn the songs. 

That’s what practice is: learning the songs, getting the music down…GETTING IT DOWN.  Then rehearsal is actually setting up in a place with a stage and working through the ideas to create moments.

And then you think, “Well wait, I’ve got a guitar solo that’s shredding.”  But, you’ve done it behind your pedal for a week.  Can you go over to that side of the stage and play you solo?  Because then, all of a sudden the audience will respond, because you changed the pressure on the audience.  It’ll have more impact.  

Now when I say that, I gotta a little thought here… I hear the guitar player saying, “Yeah but I won’t be able to hear myself, yeah but my cord doesn’t reach over there”.  Well let’s see, we gotta solve that problem. 

Let’s see: wireless, and figure out a way to get it to where you can hear yourself, in the  monitors or another cabinet over here or ‘in ears’, whatever it is, but figure it out! 

Most people that I’m talking to won’t take the time to figure it out.  They’ll say, “No, no, I’ll just stay behind my pedal and do the solo.  It’s too much work, it’s too big a hassle to go over there and do that.”  And there’s where you just become average. 

You keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.  And you’re frustrated with, “Why aren’t we really popping? Why aren’t people coming back as much?  Why aren’t we selling as much merchandise?” 

It’s the little things.  It’s the things we’re talking about here.

Amy:  I’ve heard that a lot.  I’ll ask an artist, “Well how did that song we worked on go?”  “Oh I didn’t take the stool that gig cause I didn’t have room,” or, “I only took one guitar.”  And its those details that make the song unique.  And it’s important to follow through on that stuff or else you just look like everyone else.

Tom:  Yeah, could you see James Cameron when he’s putting together a movie saying, “You know, about the lights, well, I wanted to do it, but I had to get there early to set it up.” 

It’s so typical (of artists).  And that’s one of the dilemmas folks for those of you who have been playing for quite awhile. 

You’ve lost that vision, that drive, to go the extra mile.  And you’ve gotten lulled into not a groove, you’ve gotten into a rut.  And all the things, (doing a solo on one side, then one on the other side and one in the middle, changing the things if you’re a guitar player.). 

We run into this every time we work with a band.  “Well I gotta hit my pedal.”  Well do you really?  There are certain times the answer is ‘absolutely’.  You’ve got a ‘wah’ going on, you’ve got something that is really, really musical.  Then, you’ve got to hit that pedal. 

But, so often we’re doing stuff on stage, not just guitar players, that the only person who knows you’re doing it is you.  That’s it.  Now we’re getting into musical masturbation. You’re digging it.  But no one else knows what you’re even doing.

So, how are you going to sell more CD’s, how are you going to get a better gig?  None of that stuff will happen because you have to understand what the audience wants, how to make that connection, and some of those things are visual and some are verbal, and some are musical, and that’s why I put together my book.  And we’re doing this video.  

You have no idea how cool it is when we get these emails, and we get them regularly when people do the work, “This happened because we did this!  Oh my gosh.”  (I hear this all the time, like they’re surprised.), “Oh my gosh! This really works!”  And I’m like, “Oh really?  I’m so surprised.” 

This stuff works!

 If you have questions, please let us know.  We’ll work on including the answers in future blogs.

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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