I used to play in a latin band that rehearsed every Monday night. As with a lot of bands that have weekly rehearsals, they were not the most productive. We’d play the same songs we played last week and didn’t make any changes. Considering we played three or four gigs each week this rehearsal was clearly not useful.
That didn’t bother me. I would warm up before getting there and treat it like a practice session. I’d try playing extremely loud. I’d try different breathing techniques I’d been working on. I’d try playing with a softer but more focused sound. Pretty much anything I could think of to make the time useful.
The band had a rotating cast. People would be on the gig for a few months. Then they’d get in an argument with the leader, or show up late to too many gigs, or just up and quit. It worked out to an entirely new band about every six months or so.
With the rotating cast there was a process that repeated itself every time. At first the new guy would be a little annoyed at the rehearsal process. He’d ask me if it’s always like this. Then he’d start making some suggestions to the bandleader. Arguments would ensue. Frustrations would mount.
Then he’d do one of two things:
- Start doing what I did. Leave well enough alone and get as much benefit for yourself as you reasonably can. Folks who adopted this strategy hung around for awhile, got paid, and generally had a good time.
- Continue arguing until they quit or get fired.
This played itself out dozens of times. To the point where I could see which path it was going to go on after about a week. And the folks took option 2 would do the same thing to the next band they joined.
I’m tempted to say my approach is the right one, but that’s up for debate. Getting fired might be a good thing in the long run. The real lesson for me was: Decide which strategy you want to take before you start. Maybe you’re not willing to live with certain working conditions. Maybe it’s worth it to take a stand. Or maybe you just want to get your work done and forget about it. There are valid reasons for both strategies. Just don’t mistake one for the other.