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Brett McCarronMusic Minus One

When a band member doesn't show up for rehearsal, does the rest of the band take a night off, or do they make the most of their practice opportunity?

By Brett McCarron

When a band member doesn't show up for rehearsal, does the rest of the band take a night off, or do they make the most of their practice opportunity?

A band that practices infrequently agrees to rehearse in a month. The day of the practice arrives, but there's no drummer (or guitarist, or singer, or bass player).

After waiting an hour, the guitarist calls the drummer's house and wonders what happened. The drummer replies that she didn't get any reminder messages, so she assumed that the band wasn't rehearsing that day.

Do the gathered band members get angry, and leave out of frustration, wasting a perfect opportunity to make the most of this rehearsal situation?

Or does the band use the remaining rehearsal time as best they can, going over harmonies, playing bits and pieces of potential songs, and talking about ways to improve the next session?

If the band agrees to rehearse without the drummer, she loses out, because she isn't there to absorb any rearrangements of existing material. The other bandmates may even hold a grudge against the drummer, if this is any sort of continuing behavior. Any funny story, practice malfunction or incident that results in an inside joke from the session will mean nothing to the drummer, since she wasn't there to experience it.

Most of all, it puts that band member behind the rest of the band in terms of growing together as a group.

Don't assume.
You're familiar with the saying, "If you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME." The drummer shouldn't have assumed that there was no practice. It also was wrong for the band mates to assume that everyone else would remember that they had agreed a month ago to get together on a particular day.

Was everyone paying attention at the time and heard the band leader say that there'd be a rehearsal in a month? Did that mean four calendar weeks from the last practice? Or exactly one month later on the same numeric calendar day?

Check in.
It wouldn't have hurt for the drummer to check in with at least one of the other band mates during the month. Ditto for the other band members. The check in can be in the form of a text message to the band mate's respective smartphones. Or it could be an email message, FaceBook post (or private message), or even an old-fashioned phone call.

As it turns out, the drummer in this story had a history of missing practices and rehearsals because she was also performing with another band. She ended up leaving the band to go where the grass seemed greener.

Put it on the calendar.
An online, shared calendar (such as the free one offered by Google) can help the band remembers a special day. But they only work if the band members will actually use it. That means that the band leader should send an email to each of the band members with the link to the calendar ahead of time, and ask them to visit the page. If view permissions for the page aren't set properly, the band leader can be contacted and make the necessary adjustments.

The band members should be sure to save the link to their web browser favorites -- both on their computer and on their smart phone. That way they can view it whenever they think about it.

Make the most of a bad situation.
There will be times when a band member can't attend. It could be due to a family crisis, sickness, or other legitimate reason. Think ahead of some activities the others could perform to make the most of the time. Poker players call this "playing the hand you're dealt."

You could go over a list of potential songs and reach tentative agreement on some to learn before the next rehearsal.

If you have a drum machine, or a PC or tablet with a drum machine app, you can run a simple beat at the proper tempo through the PA system to practice the basics of a particular song. Tip: write the tempo (and sequence name) on a copy of your master set list, so you can quickly use the drum machine again for that song, should you be without a drummer again.

You could have a meeting to discuss items of mutual interest, or help band mates work through a problem.

You could do as the band in this article did, and use the time to practice some "Unplugged" songs, where the vocals and harmonies are in the spotlight.

Perhaps one of the other members can also play the drums, so you can rehearse some of the material anyway, admittedly without the use of that band mate's main instrument.

Talk it over.
Being in a band should be fun, but your band mates still need to take responsibility. If it becomes a pain because one band member doesn't take it as seriously as the others, then it's time to have a talk. Is everyone on the same page? Is it time for a change? Or can it be as simple as finding a more convenient day of the week for rehearsals, because one band member has a prior commitment on a particular day due to work, family, reglious, or other obligations.

The band in this article dodged a bullet. The drummer could have missed an actual gig, instead of a rehearsal. Improve your communications by checking in during the off weeks. Make sure every member has updated contact information for all band mates, including home, work, and significant others.

Talk it over. Work it out. Then get back to making the music that your band is capable of. Don't forget to have fun along the way.


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