Four Simple Habits That Can Transform Your Rehearsal (Before It Even Starts)

Ever had a rehearsal tank?

I have.

I won’t bore you with the story right now. Just suffice it to say that most anything that could go wrong did. (Except an earthquake. I can thankfully say we didn’t have a massive earthquake at that rehearsal.)

Doing a post-mortem on that rehearsal, and others like it, I can point to several factors that made things go sideways. But inevitably, I find that often it’s what didn’t happen BEFORE the rehearsal that contributed to the mess.

I’ve learned that four pre-rehearsal habits can make a big difference. They can redeem a sub-par rehearsal from completely tanking. And they can also elevate a good rehearsal into a great one.

Now, there are always other factors that can affect rehearsals: things like unforeseen sound issues, or team members’ attitudes, or the band’s level of personal practice. Or an earthquake. (It could happen. Ohio has had a few…)

But even if all these things are working against us, when I practice my four pre-rehearsal habits, I’m able to shore up against those events.

So what are they?

Four Pre-Rehearsal Habits

1. Get My Stuff Together

I know, that sounds like a no-brainer. But there have been times that I’ve been busy helping other people or troubleshooting sound issues that I never took the time to set up my gear and tune my guitar. Then, once we finally got the rehearsal going, we had to wait another five minutes for me to throw my stuff together.

I liken it to what airline flight attendants always say when they’re talking about the oxygen mask: “Make sure you put your mask on BEFORE you assist someone with theirs.”

When my rig is ready and tested, my guitar is tuned, and my various wireless units all have fresh batteries, I can then freely help others. I find it’s better to ask someone in need of something to wait a moment rather than leave the setting up of my stuff last.

2. A Personal Run-Through

Another pre-rehearsal habit that makes a big difference is my personal run-through of the songs. Most of the time, I’ll have already practiced the songs before that. So this time is just a live run-through by myself on the platform with the sound system on.

This personal run-through does three things.

First, it helps me to have the extra bit of confidence as I lead the team in rehearsal. This is important. If I don’t know MY stuff as I lead the rehearsal, I’m not going to be able to focus on the team’s stuff. That is, I’ll be so focused on getting my part right that I’ll miss opportunities to help the team play better.

Second, it helps me to be the most prepared person in the room. And why is that important? Because I’m the leader, and I should be modeling what great preparation looks like. If I’m only 50% prepared, my team will be 40% prepared, at best.

And finally, third, it gives me a chance to worship and prepare to lead worship. I can use that run-through as a personal worship time. I also can mentally prepare to lead people on Sunday as I’m running these songs.

But I’ll be honest, I neglect this one more often than I should. I just don’t intentionally make the time. But when I do, I can usually expect a more effective rehearsal.

3. Double Check The Tech

I’m in a church that can afford a full-time worship leader but is not yet able to employ a paid tech person. And that’s OK. We have great volunteer techs. But a couple years ago, I had an epiphany:

My church was paying me a decent amount of money to spend an afternoon setting up our stage each week. While I didn’t hate the work, I began to see that it wasn’t the best use of my time or the church’s money.

So I got approval to pay someone two to three hours of work (at a lower hourly rate than my salary) to set up the stage. I trained a young tech in our church and BAM! He loves having a few extra bucks of spending money. And I love having my Thursday afternoon back.

But I realized something. My set-up guy can miss things. We have a fairly complicated set-up between the ghost mic, click and enhancement tracks, and soft-patching the board and Avoims for a different band configuration each week.

I used to get so frustrated at the beginning of rehearsals when Aviom channels weren’t working, or mics weren’t patched to the right channel. But then I realized that I had two options: 1) I could either get my undies in a bunch, or 2) I could take 10 minutes before rehearsal and double check everything.

So I went for the “non-bunched undies” option. It’s amazing how low my stress level is while fixing a mistake twenty minutes before rehearsal starts versus ten minutes after. And it also gave me the frame of mind to recognize areas of improvement to talk to my set-up guy about.

His mistakes are now few and far between. Almost to the point that I’ve been tempted to stop my pre-rehearsal check. But then I find the occasional mix-up, and I realize that this is a good habit to have.

4. Get Alone

There’s something about getting away from the stage and instruments and being silent before the noise of rehearsal kicks in. It gives me a chance to quiet my brain, pray and get focused.

Whenever I try to do this in the auditorium, inevitably someone comes early. So that’s why I’ve learned to go somewhere outside of the worship center to do this habit.

It’s also important to note that for me, I can’t do this one first unless I’ve done the other three. If I don’t, I’ve got too much bouncing in my brain. I need to make sure the stage is set (literally and figuratively) for rehearsal. And once I get that done, I’m able to quiet my mind.

I mentioned earlier that I neglect the personal run-through at times. Same with this one. It’s too easy not to start early enough to make the time for this.

With all these habits, I believe they go deeper than just getting me ready. I believe, as the leader of this ministry, that I can carry peace and confidence into that rehearsal space, which then spills over to my team. Or I can transfer turmoil and timidity. And that also spills over.

That sounds a little woo-woo, but as a leader, your demeanor and attitude are contagious. And these four pre-rehearsal habits can help you carry peace and confidence into your rehearsal.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments: What are your pre-rehearsal rituals or habits?

Jon Nicol