It's good to know your instrument and your limitations therewith. You've got to noodle around, jam with the radio. pick up a couple of flash tricks, and get to a spot that's beyond the scope of your talent. If you've got something that few can do, do it.
But too much rehearsal is no bueno. In order to live and breathe, music has to be interpreted somewhat loosely and in the moment. And if all of the rust is polished off, so goes the soul. Too much practice is guaranteeing a screw-up. It creates a conditioned response.
If you see a band flub a note, a line, or a lyric, chances are it's a band that rehearsed too much, ridding itself of flexibility and spontaneity. On the other hand, if you see a band on stage smiling all of a sudden, then you probably just witnessed a mistake that was handled quickly, with the intuition left intact and unsoiled by too much rehearsal.
So this past Saturday at Abilene Bar and Lounge, I watched Texas troubadour Rosie Flores rehearse with her Rochester pick-up band - drummer Greg Andrews, bassist Brian Williams, and saxophonist Mark Bradley. She was schooling the trio in material from her brand new release "Simple Case of the Blues." This album is rootsy, bluesy, swing-tastic, and for the most part, in a language these three cats spoke fluently.
The session went on for about four hours, with the band emerging confident and ready. There were a few loose ends and trouble spots - as is to be expected with limited rehearsal time - but other than that the band was ready.
All the hard work paid off, and Flores and the boys positively rocked the house that night. But had they rehearsed too much, they wouldn't have packed such a punch. It wouldn't have provided a situation where each musician on stage needed one another. It would have been like the music was playing them.
So I leave you with this: Don't practice. Otherwise, you won't know what to do when someone hits a sour note, plows through a break, or forgets a line. Rosie Flores and her band played an awesome show because they didn't over-rehearse or try too hard. Remember, too much practice is bad for you.