“Practicing can be fun, but it’s also serious business,” says Joe Satriani. “The same goes for band rehearsals. Sure, it’s great to hang out and be a part of the gang, but the fact is, rehearsals are about getting stuff done.”
Joe Satriani performing with Chickenfoot, 5 September 2009. Image: © Tim Mosenfelder/Corbis
With this in mind, MusicRadar asked the Chickenfoot and solo star to share his 5 tips for band rehearsal success. “Some of these ideas are fairly subversive,” says Satch, “but I’ve learned over time that sometimes the best way to get something accomplished is to not let people know what you’re doing.”
The guitarist thinks for a second and laughs. “Of course, that might be a problem now!”
1. Speak up
“Can you imagine being in a small room with Sammy Hagar and Chad Smith? It can be ridiculous! Obviously, they’re great guys, but they’re larger-than-life personalities, as musicians often are. Between the joking around and the constant changing of ideas – ‘Let’s do this!’ ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we…? ‘You know what I think we should do…?’ – it can get overwhelming.
“Meanwhile, you’re standing there with your guitar on and you’re thinking, Have we even played anything yet? So you have to finally stand your ground and say, ‘Guys! Yo, it’s time to get to work.'”
2. Start playing the song you want to play
“This is another way of speaking up, I guess, but it can sometimes be more effective than just going ‘Guys! Guys…’ Whenever things get boisterous and out of control, just turn up your amp and start playing the song you need to work on. It won’t take long before people get the hint. Repeat as often as necessary.”
3. Show up really late
“The reason being, the band can’t rehearse without you. So let them have their time to do whatever. Then you can walk in, unpack your guitar, look at everybody and go, ‘Are we ready?’ You might get these ‘Well, we’re waiting for you’ looks for a few seconds, but chances are they’ll be glad you finally showed up and they’ll be more than fired up to start playing.”
Chickenfoot, not rehearsing. Image: © Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis
4. Give everybody their time and space
“It’s not always joking around and goofing off at a rehearsal; oftentimes, people actually do need some time to take care of their own worlds. If it’s Michael Anthony, he might need to talk to his bass tech and fix something with his strings. Or if it’s Chad, he might need to change his drum heads or adjust his kit.
“While all of this is going on, you can’t be making noise and cranking your pedals if they’re doing what they need to do. So yes, it’s important to speak up and keep things moving, but it’s just as important to know when to settle back and wait for 10 minutes. It’s just a little thing called ‘respect.'”
5. Make sure your singer is the last to arrive
“Even though I said to arrive late, the truth is, you really want your singer to be the last guy to walk in the door – especially if that singer is Sammy Hagar!
“Singers get bored very easily. And if they’re not playing an instrument, this compounds itself. If you’re still setting up your gear, before you know it your singer is going to be in another room, he’s going to making phone calls, he’ll be outside…You don’t want to be roaming around saying, ‘Now, he was just here a minute ago…’
“So have your act together. Have your gear set up and ready to go so that the minute your singer walks in the door, all he has to do is start singing. And as soon as you think you’ve had enough rehearsal, let the singer leave – because he’s going to get bored again when you start fiddling around with your equipment. And trust me, you’ll definitely fiddle with your equipment!”