Being Over-Prepared: Tips for Musicians & Singers

How can you as a musician or artist be heard above the static? How can you distinguish yourself so that you are the one that gets remembered, that gets the call for the next gig and the gig after that?

When you walk into the rehearsal room or recording studio, you will want to make an immediate impression– of professionalism, of precision, of creativity– of all that it is that you do and that you do it well. If you walk in unprepared, there’s simply no way that you can be at the top of your game.

The fix is simple: be over-prepared. Learn everything ahead of time. If you’re a sideman, know every note of your part. Have it charted out. I find that making your own charts helps to memorize songs, as I can later visualize the form in my head. The more time that you take to learn tunes and develop a personal and effective way of notating what you need to know, the more efficiently you’ll be able to learn them.

Tips for Musicians

If you are writing parts to a song that needs a new arrangement, know the demo inside out. Usually, you can hear the outlines of an arrangement even from a bare-bones guitar or piano & vocal demo. What rhythms are outlined in the vocal and accompaniment? Where is the feel half-time, where is it double-time? Where does the songwriter hear a sparse or quiet section; where do they need the full force of the band behind them? If you can hear and realize all of these things, you won’t waste anyone’s time fishing for parts in the rehearsal room when people are on the clock.

Know enough of what the rest of the band is playing to be able to react and adjust if they play something differently. Know where the vocal enters, so that you can react if the singer decides to wait an extra 4 bars before the second verse.

Tips for Singers

If you are a singer, know your parts. Know your lyrics. Have them on-hand just in case. If you sing with other singers, know their parts well enough to adjust or assist them. Know– even in general terms– what you want from the band, where you need them to back off. Learning to communicate your ideas effectively will get better results from the musicians around you and elevate the level of the music.

When you step into the rehearsal room– and the gig– over-prepared, not only do you sound better, you also make everyone else in the room sound better and be able to help them if anyone is unfamiliar with the material. You’ll save everyone time, you’ll save the artist or label money, and as such, you’ll be the first person they think to call again.

In addition, you’ll impress everyone else in the band– and they will think to recommend you the next time a gig comes up.


Next week, we’ll visit more tips for artists and bandleaders to be over-prepared, and later this month we’ll spend an entire series looking in depth at how to assemble and rehearse a band so your music is at its best.

Have more tips for being prepared and professional? Add your comments below– along with anything else you’d like to see on this blog!


Other posts in this series:
Being Prepared: Tips for Artists & Bandleaders
Respecting People’s Time
Learning New Skills For the Gig

Justin Goldner is a bassist, guitarist, producer, songwriter, language junkie and lover of culture in all its manifestations. He hurls snarky remarks into the Twitter-void via @JusBass.

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  1. January 29th, 2013
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