Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Best Rehearsal Ever

I've said before that my favorite night of the week is Thursday, writing night. To be clear, it's not that the other nights are bad. In fact, the other nights are great. It's just that Thursday nights are, well, magical.

That said, Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon have recently risen to the challenge posed by Thursday. Already solid performers, they seem inspired by Thursday's success. Wednesday and Saturday are band rehearsal days, Wednesday for No Room for Jello and Saturday for Will Power.

Heading out to his car after rehearsal on Saturday, Scott commented, "Wow, that was the best rehearsal, ever!" And I would have to agree with him. Indeed, rehearsals with both bands have been getting better and better and better.

So, what is it that makes it better? Hmmm...

Making Great Less Than Great
As I mentioned in my post, What I Value Most, one of the things I love about our writing group is that I am the wanna-be novice in the company of highly skilled experts. I find the novice role inspiring, instructive and freeing.

In rehearsals, although I'm with great musicians, I am the highly-skilled expert and I let that role compromise my experience of rehearsal. How? First, I let 'expert' somehow mean 'responsible'. Responsible for how well everyone is playing. Responsible for figuring out what to do with challenging pieces. Responsible for ensuring that we sound good no matter what. Responsible for educating. Responsible for all the equipment.

I enjoy all the above tasks. It's the 'being responsible' part that compromises the experience.

Second, I let my expertise limit my playing. This goes hand in hand with being 'responsible'. Rather than stretching out on a solo and wherever it leads me, I hold back wanting to make sure I don't lose the band in the process. Indeed, there are times when I let fly an out-of-time stream of notes and the rhythm section falls apart or when I stretch things out, slow and low, and the band all but stops playing.

Third is the problem of chess pieces that occasionally decide to move on their own. For the most part, my bandmates are happy to defer to my expertise, specially when it comes to arranging. We craft arrangements developing a unique sound that really works for us. We work hard and long learning parts that make a song pop. We train. We rehearse. The song sounds awesome. Then, in the heat of performance, all the practicing and training goes the way of the positions held by a kids' soccer team. Everyone forgets his role and starts chasing after the ball. I find myself thinking, "why bother?"

Why Bother?
For some reason, feeling responsible, holding back and thinking "why bother?" compromised my experience of rehearsal. Go figure!

But no more. Over the past few weeks, I've continued in my role as expert, but I've stopped feeling responsible. Halleluja! It's not that I don't take responsibility, I just don't feel the obligation of it. I've also started to stretch out and take solos wherever they lead me, and it's been great. I playing stuff that I think is really good. Finally, in response to "why bother?", I stopped bothering. We still work out arrangements, but I don't spend time on parts that take an inordinate amount of time to learn. I don't try to "stretch" people (well, at least not too much), but instead provide each person a part within his or her ken.

All the above changes have made rehearsing just as much fun as performing, even more fun than performing. We've been having the best rehearsals ever!

Happy Tuesday,

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