Rehearsal Preparation, Part One: What To Prepare?

A young girl group who has chosen to rehearse with headphones and hairbrushes as their equipment.

Part One: What To Prepare?

BY MEGHAN VANCE • November 6, 2023

Rehearsals with other musicians can sometimes feel like group projects at school: you may see frustrated leaders trying to get the job done, socialites just wanting to talk, jealous want-to-be leaders protesting every suggestion, and dead-weights that everyone has to carry in order for the group to receive an “A.” How can you keep from being the dead-weight musician in rehearsal? Visible Music College states that “The primary importance for rehearsals is this – for the band to get the parts they have practiced in sync with each other.” Given this manifesto, what do you need to prepare for a rehearsal?


Make a list of everything you might need to play, and make sure you take it with you. Think about the following items in particular:

  • Instrument and music, obviously. Make sure you have everything you need for your instrument to work properly. If you have electrical equipment, it’s also a good idea to take both an extension cord and painter’s tape.
  • Tuner. For rehearsals, invest in a tuner that clips on (so it won’t pick up the sounds of the other musicians) and doesn’t require an internet connection.
  • Pencil. Make sure you have a pencil not only with you, but at hand, so you can easily mark any changes in the music or notes you’ll need for practicing later.
  • Metronome. Many groups rehearse using a metronome or click track, but if your group doesn’t, use your metronome to figure out the speed of each song, so you’ll know how fast to practice later.
  • Music stand. A folding music stand is always good to bring. If you’re sure the venue has stands, feel free to leave yours in your car. You can go back to get it if there aren’t enough stands or if you happen to get the one that won’t stay in place.
  • Notebook or recording device. This can be as simple as a spare sheet of paper, but make sure you can keep your notes organized. Jot down the date so you’ll know which information is most current. If you like to record your rehearsals, make sure you get permission to do so from the rehearsal leader.
  • Clothing. Wear clothes easy to rehearse in that won’t distract others. For dress rehearsals, wear everything you will for a performance, including makeup and accessories.
  • Any other equipment you’ll need. Consider the rehearsal space. If you’re performing in an under-lit room, you may want a small stand light and batteries to power it. If you’re performing outside, you may need stand weights or music clips.
A cellist at a rehearsal who chose to prepare by bringing a folding stand.

To prepare music for rehearsals, it’s great to start by listening. The Church Collective recommends listening two ways. First, “listen to the source without focusing on ‘your’ part.” You want to understand the piece as a whole. Identify the form, melody, tempo(s), time signature(s) and regular rhythms, along with any other regular patterns. Think about the lyrics and feel of the piece.

After you’ve listened to the song several times, listen to the song while watching your music. You want to know how your part fits into the whole. As you practice, prepare your music by clearly marking measure numbers and sections. Indicate any other important changes, especially those that remind you of how the parts fit together. Write down the tempo you can play the piece at, so that you know what you’ll be comfortable with in rehearsal.


    Rehearsal time is for rehearsal. It is not for setting up your instrument, tuning, or warming up, so arrive early enough to do all of these before the rehearsal begins. One of the easiest ways to annoy your fellow musicians is to waste their time by being late. The Wichita Symphony Youth Orchestra’s guide to rehearsal etiquette states that “Many professionals arrive thirty minutes early to orchestra rehearsals.” Leave plenty of time for travel. If you’re ready early, you can always study your music, practice quietly, or help others.

    A young woman choosing to prepare for rehearsals by planning her schedule out in a notebook.

    Before rehearsing, think about why you’re there. Do your best to stay on task; listen to the leader; and keep a humble, creative, and positive attitude. While you rehearse, try to help the group by thinking through potential problems and suggesting solutions. Be a group member that everyone values and wants to work with in the future.

    Next week, learn how to prepare for rehearsal if you do not have adequate practice time.