Frail and faltering follower of Jesus

Agile band rehearsals

By Gavin Davies

Recently I had the idea of running a band rehearsal on Agile principles… Did it work…

I was joking a while ago that “hey, you could run a band practise on agile principles!”

Then I thought about it a bit… And it made a lot of sense. After all, what are the problems with most band rehearsals?

  • Disorganised – everyone playing at once
  • Wasting time – lacking an agenda causes everyone to noodle around
  • Stuff gets lost – nice little riffs and ideas often never resurface

I figured that having the songs on the wall, like a scrumboard, would be a good way of knowing what we’d done and having a sense of progress.

I tried some parts of agile in a band rehearsal with the unnamed blues/rock band I play with, and it was helpful, but we didn’t really do planning, more just had “tickets” representing songs up on the wall. Even that was helpful, though, to see what we’d covered.

On Thursday 25th July, I’m doing a gig with Jo Tidy at Gwdihw in Cardiff. Tonight, we just ran a rehearsal agile – basically, by writing the song titles on post-its, deciding which ones we were going to play, playing through them, and moving the post-its to the right when we were happy with each. Then, at the end, we had a retrospective, sorting the song titles into a setlist. It worked really well!

It was really useful to have the songs on the wall – we were able to look over and see a sense of progress as we went along. Also, having a “retrospective” at the end was good – a lot of band rehearsals just kind of end, they just stop when everyone’s had enough! It was good to be able to look at what worked and what didn’t. We know exactly what songs we played.

So, agile band rehearsals – a good thing? Yeah, you can definitely adapt agile principles of short-term planning, tight feedback loops, and retrospectives. I don’t think it’s worth going TOO crazy over it though and squishing creativity and the loose fun of getting together with the guys and making some racket! You know what, though? A lot of people don’t like to admit it, but truly great software relies on inspiration just as music does. Much like in software, applying Agile principles won’t make you more inspired as such, but it WILL help to keep the band pulling in the same direction. Like coders, musicians tend to be a disorganised bunch, so a flexible, lightweight touch of process is no bad thing!

And that’s worth having, every time!