Ken Tizzard


Who The Folk Is?

Rehearsal - when too much is just enough...

Rehearsal - Does over rehearsing kill the vibe of live music or does it allow you to put off the best show possible with room for spontaneous musical expression?

There used to be a time when the Watchmen rehearsed every day. Sometimes when we were writing or prepping for a tour we would lock ourselves in the studio for 8/10 hours daily. Grinding the same songs over and over. Modifying arrangements, working on harmonies and generally getting these songs so ingrained in our minds and muscles that performance became second nature. 


A few years ago I was prepping for my first Ron Hynes tour. He is known as the Man of 1000 Songs and this legacy created a great deal of anxiety on my part. Of course, I could only find about 130 recorded songs at the time so I spent my days leading up to the tour charting and familiarizing my mind with the material. He refused to provide any set list to learn or even a rough guideline of what he has been playing in the last year. At our first and only rehearsal we played about three songs when he stopped mid-tune and said, "I hate rehearsing."  And that was it.  Ten minutes before our first show he gave me a set list of random songs from his catalogue, informed me of key changes and left me to sit in my dressing room.

There are times when you need to be prepared. And other times when preparation might kill some illusive magic. I have learned that for me the, creation of music as a living entity with all its warts and imperfections is where I feel most comfortable. Keep in mind that with over 25 years as a professional musician, my standards for myself are quite high. I am never "unprepared" for a show, there are just different levels of preparedness.  


I have learned how to use the tools at my disposal. I am completely aware of the tools which might need to be sharpened from to time and as well the old standards which are always in shape.  It took the years of incessant rehearsing to fill my proverbial toolbox with items that I learned to use in a way that suited my personality. This allows me to be creative in a way that expresses who I am and reflects the experiences I have lived through. 

After twenty years of playing Watchmen, Thornley and Big Wreck tunes rehearsals are more like refresher sessions which allow for more spontaneity in the performances while still maintaining the most important thing - delivering the songs perfectly in a voice which the artist who created them speaks. 

Working with Ron Hynes was a different beast completely. No rehearsal, but there is s structure. The songs tell a story. The musicians involved know how to listen. Changes in key, tempo and feel often add to the creation of a living art which is very different from a live band who plays to tracks prerecorded which allows no room for fluctuation. 

Today I sit at the rehearsal hall in Toronto waiting for the rest of the Watchmen to show up. I am always early, blame it on my OCD. We are doing three shows this week and one of them is being recorded for a live album. We will touch on a lot of our catalogue tonight and see what feels right. Some songs we might rearrange or change to fit into a down acoustic section. Will we be under-rehearsed?  Will we play the songs exactly like the recordings?  Will there be mistakes?  I'd like to think that at this point, these questions (although they haunt me while I try to fall asleep) are not as important as they used to be. After so many years of playing music with these guys I know the shows will be great. Maybe a little rust adds character, some nervous energy adds to the show.  I do know that this is an exciting week and I will enjoy every minute of making music with these guys. 


So... How much rehearsal is enough? How much rehearsal is too much?  I have learned it is different for each situation.  After 25 years of playing music, I like to feel that years spent on what sometimes seemed like repetitive routines has allowed me to adjust to each circumstance and be the best I can be.  Thousands of hours of practice by myself and with bands allows me this freedom, and for me the answer to the above question lies in rehearsing/practicing until confident.  Train your mind and body to the point where you can adapt to any gig you find yourself in.  Find what works for you and sometimes you have to put in the repetitive time to get to where things don't feel repetitive.


Interesting point. I'm a musician and I find it there's some songs that are simple and come back like wrote. The other times there are those songs you never played much back when they were new and then to recall them later can be a bit rough. I was at your show in Winnipeg last night. Most of it was great, some of it was good, and a few spots were not so good. Honestly, if felt like there were parts where you guys were having trouble finding the pocket and almost struggling against each other. We've all been there though. But to your point, I think it depends largely on the style of the band/artist that's playing. If you look at the Watchmen - those songs and arrangements need to sound tight and as such rehearsal is required. But then you look at a band like Sloan - where there's a sloppiness that's almost intentional but it lends itself well to their style. I know if I haven't played with a band in a while, a run through of the set list within the week before the show usually makes me feel much more confident heading in.
Interesting point. I could see where no rehearsals might drive a guy batty. Glad to see you fellows take the few shows seriously. I don't think it robs from the energy or spontaniety. In the probably two dozen shows I have seen it never felt programmed......

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