Every church, worship team, choir, vocal ensemble, and instrumental section approaches rehearsals differently. Some go the mid-week route, others on Saturday morning, and others just before services on Sundays. Some have the luxury of their own practice/worship space, while others have to manage with a basement of someone’s home, or the cafeteria they rent on Sundays. Some have a full sound system with personal monitor mixes and bottled water put out for them, while others are lucky to be able to even find the light switch.
But for all of the different ways rehearsals can be approached, there is always room for improvement. Specifically, there is a way to do more in less time.
The length of a rehearsal does not necessarily positively correlate with the effectiveness of a rehearsal. Oftentimes, the opposite is true, and the longer (and later) a rehearsal goes, the less effective it is.
How you can make rehearsals shorter (and therefore better)? Five suggestions.
1. Start on time
7:30 p.m. means 7:30 p.m.. Even if you’re the only one there. Start when you say it starts. Expect people to get there early to set up, tune, and plug in. When 7:30 p.m. becomes 7:45 p.m., and chit chat pushes the start time to 8:00pm, then you’ve basically wasted a really good chunk of people’s day.
2. End on time
Never go longer than 90 minutes. Unless you’re preparing for a recording, or a major Christmas Eve service or event, never ever go longer than 90 minutes. Aim for 60 minutes. If you have to go longer, give people a 5-10 minute break halfway through.
3. Don’t rehearse stuff that everyone knows
This seems fairly obvious, but I’ve seen this kill more rehearsals/sound checks than you’d think. There are certain songs that everyone on your team/choir knows (and when I say “everyone” I mean 95%). Either skip over those, or just talk through them briefly, or just polish up the intro and ending. Why rehearse “Ten Thousand Reasons” for the ten thousandth time? There are ten thousand reasons not to.
4. Consolidate similar sections of a song
You can get through a 4-minute song in 1.5 minutes if you realize that basically the verses are the same, and most of the choruses are the same, so let’s practice the different chunks of the song that are actually different. Start with the intro, do a verse, go to the chorus, then skip to the bridge, and then instead of rehearsing another final chorus (that everyone knows), just say “OK, that’s great. Thanks. Moving on…” Your musicians will thank you, and you’ll have saved more energy for the actual service. Saving a few minutes per song can result in an overall savings of 20 – 30 minutes. That’s a lot!
5. You decide when you’re happy
There will always be someone who wants to go back over a certain part again, or practice a transition again, or ask a question, or make a suggestion. That’s fine, but they shouldn’t have the power to drag out rehearsal for everyone else. You should feel comfortable (for the sake of making rehearsal shorter and better) to say “I’m happy with that. Let’s move on”, and if someone has a question or something they want to work on, you can do that with them separately once rehearsal has ended.
Show your musicians that you value their time and you’re aiming to be concise and effective, and they will end up wanting to give you more of their time. But conversely, show your musicians that you don’t value their time and/or can’t manage the clock, and that you’re not trying to move things along, and they’ll end up being more protective of their time and less likely to give it so freely. They’ll also come late.
Why aim for shorter and better rehearsals? Because fruitfulness always requires trimming. Trim the unnecessary stuff away, so there’s more room for actual growth and blossoming.
I’ve written some previous articles on rehearsals (some of which might say some of the same things!) that you can find in the links below:
Leading Effective and Enjoyable Rehearsals
Ten Ways to Make Rehearsals Fruitful
7 thoughts on “Five Ways To Make Rehearsals Shorter (And Better)”
The practical BEFORE the spiritual. ….. The practical WITH the spiritual . we need both. Well said, Jamie
Great post. Taking this seriously is important because we’ve been entrusted with our volunteers/musicians’ time. If we can’t be trusted with their time, how can we be trusted in other areas of ministry? Thanks for the reminder, Jamie.
In his books the late James Rawlings Sydnor recommended that choirs, when rehearsing the hymns and service music for Sunday, sing the first two verses of familiar hymn in order to ensure that they have the tune mastered perfectly and to identify any problem areas. He did not recommend that they skip over familiar songs as you are suggesting.
The churches in which I sang in the choir or music group went over the familiar hymns and service music as well as the new material not only during the week but also before the service. There was a noticeable difference between the way the choir or music group sung the familiar hymns and service music after having had an opportunity to rehearse them and the way the choir or music group sung them when it did not have such an opportunity. A choir or music group does not need to practice the entire hymn or piece of service music. However, it should go over the more difficult parts of the song.
Rehearsing familiar hymns and service music also makes sure that the members of the choir or music group give all their attention to what they are doing and invest as much energy in singing familiar songs as they do new ones. Since the familiar songs are usually the ones that the congregation will be singing, rehearsing these songs emphasizes the importance of congregational singing.
I posted a link to your article on my blog because it does otherwise contain some good suggestions. I also posted a version of this comment after a brief introduction to the article and the link.