1. Prepare a lot!
I cannot stress this enough. The reason is that I’ve experienced several times that I came to rehearsals for Big Bands and the conductor hands out a ton of sheets on the rehearsal. That’s a given, you might think: That I should definitely not go to a rehearsal without having the sheets first. But the truth is that in a busy musicians life, there is never enough time so it is not always easy to cope with things like getting the sheets and putting off time to prepare for the rehearsals. Also, in my experience most conductors don’t bother sending out the sheets unless you ask them to.
So when you get the sheets, try to get the music as well. If it is a new arrangement, you might get the midi file or mp3 file of a recording. It will save you a lot of time to have this first before you go to the first rehearsal. Also, imagine if every person in the band got the midi or mp3 file before the first rehearsal and spent a couple of hours to actually practice the material before they get there. In my experience, most people don’t bother – so why should you, right? No. Wrong! That’s the reason why we should do it.
To be the good example for the rest. Other things to prepare before the rehearsal is that you should definitely put a mic on your piano. If not, you’ll drown in the noise from the rest of the band. Also, you’ll destroy your fine- touch technique since you’ll have to play in FFF all the time. That can be exhausting as well as damaging for your hands/arms. (Been there done that).
2. Play the right chords!
This is also self-explanatory you might say, and I totally agree! However: Even it is true, it is not a 100% rule. If we want to keep alive the dynamic feeling of our role as piano players in a big band, we’d rather listen and get to know the arrangement than checking off the list of how many chords you did «right». If I know the arrangement I’m playing, then I also know what will work an what will not work.