How the first practice should go – What to expect and the Do’s and Dont’s

You’ve booked the night up, you’re in the car, headed to a new place to jam with someone for the first time. Then it hits you,

what the hell are we going to play?

I ‘ve been playing for a long time, and I can adequately tell you that the first practice/tryout is usually is pretty uncomfortable. At first, it’s exciting. Then you pick up the instrument, and you look at each other, and it’s like you’ve never touched the thing before. The problem with the practice, the first, the tenth, hell the hundredth practice, is that we don’t do a proper job planning how we’re going to utilize our time. We might think, “oh, we’ll play this, then that.” But when you get there, it all goes to shit. You get nervous when you realize this person is judging you and might not like you or want to play with you again. It can be messy. No, to really make this work, you need to write down what you want to work on. Never is this more important than the first practice.

  • I think the best way to keep everyone happy is to set up one or two songs from each of the musicians playing. That way one party isn’t having to learn multiple songs while the other is just playing old jams that they’ve been playing for years. This isn’t limited to covers, but covers will be more a little more comfortable to pick up than an original. When you give them a song to learn, send them the key you’re playing in, if you can send the chords or tabs, do that as well. The more information they have beforehand, the better the practice will be.

  • Don’t make it a long practice. Sometimes we feel like we have to jam for 3 hours everytime we met up. If you plan on it not taking up a large chunk of your day you’ll avoid that unfortunately all too common feeling of, why did I come here to play with them, they’re not very good.

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  • At the end of the practice, dedicate a few minutes to some jamming. See if you gel, it doesn’t mean much in the first practice. But it can be a great exercise between you.
  • Before you meet up, write down a quick itinerary. You don’t have to share this with anyone, it’s just nice to get your thoughts together before you get there and start playing. I HATE looking at another musician and saying, “Well…. what do you want to do now.” and they respond “I don’t know?” It’s a waste of time and not a good feeling. It makes you feel like you’ve failed or that it’s going poorly. But you haven’t, and it isn’t. You just feel anxious because you’re human and it happens to all of us. But it doesn’t have to, not if you take things into your own hands. Don’t wing it here. You will feel anxious and make mistakes and waste time.

  • Do take time and speak with them about themselves before and after you play. To really groove with someone you have to get a feel for them.

  • Do talk to them about what you’re looking for, what you’re plans are. Ask them what they have planned for this, what they want from it.

  • Be yourself, even if it’s loud, but also if it’s quiet. Just have fun, remember that this is fun!

  • Don’t be late. For the love of GOD, don’t be late.

  • Don’t bring everything you have, bring the simple version of your rig, or drumset. Chances are, it might not go well. If you can make it with a few things, you can make it work with everything.

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  • If you have fun and want to work together more, do set up a solid follow up practice before you leave. “We will meet again on Saturday at 4pm! We will work on ABC before we meet, we will practice this together then!” If you’re working, or going to school and practicing and/or jamming with someone else, it will save you so much to do this simple thing.

  • Go easy on yourself and them. It takes time to really get on the same wavelength, it’s ok if it isn’t immediate. Hollywood makes us think that our favorite bands have been killing it and found their sound on day one. This is a vicious and horrible lie! Haha! All of these bands suffered through thousands of hours trying to find their sound and mesh together.

This stuff is common sense, but it took me a fair amount of time to make the first practice/try out go smoothly. With a little bit of planning and patience with others (and especially yourself), you will eliminate most of the anxiety you feel with change and performing with a new musician.

Picking bandmates can be tricky as well! Take a look at this post I made a little while ago. Coming Together – Be careful who you pick to be in the band

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