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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, March 5, 2007


The PMC Quick Note is a weekly service provided to all area directors.  It is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest.  The weekly Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues.

Effective Score Preparation and Study: Preparing Yourself for Productive Rehearsal by Barry Bernhardt

One of the most forgotten and ignored tasks by band directors in general, is the task of preparing and studying our scores. We tend to learn a new work at the same time as our students. And, to be quite honest, the learning curve is much too steep for us to work this way. In order for us to get the most from our rehearsal time, it is imperative that we do our homework and prepare the score and study it effectively. I would like to share with you, what I have found to be the most efficient way to accomplish this task.......

While this formula may seem, at the onset, to be tedious, I have found that it is indeed “time well spent”. By the time you first read a piece of music, you should have probably spent around 5-6 hours of advance prep-time. This extra time allows one to get the most out of his/her ensemble, even during the initial reading of a new work.

Upon receiving a “new” score and parts, I immediately send it off to our copy center to have a set of parts made for rehearsal purposes, based upon my current instrumentation or the instrumentation required. (If you do not have a copy center, students are always willing to help out!) We destroy these copies at the end of each semester. But, in the process, we have not compromised the original parts for future performances by different conductors. Since music can be so very personal, it is fair to keep a clean set of parts for future use. Who knows? might want to do the work a bit differently the next time.

I also have found that it is beneficial to make a copy of the score that is enlarged up to 11 X 17, copied front and back, with card-stock covers (for protection) and bound on the left side. Not only is the score easier to see, but it lays flat on the conductor's stand. One is able to look at the ensemble more and at the score less, due to the size of the score. The more you can look at your ensemble the better the rehearsal and performance will be.

During my initial study session of the score I “color-code” each dynamic marking, by circling each with a corresponding color: Blue/piano and below; Green/mezzo; Red/forte and above. I use colored pencils to accomplish this task. I also mark each meter change in red by instrument grouping: Woodwinds/Brass/Percussion.

On my 2nd time through the score, I color-code each dynamic change accordingly with Red for crescendos and Blue for diminuendos. During this time through the score, I also highlight each major rehearsal number or letter with a yellow high-lighter. This makes it much easier to find those critical spots for specific rehearsal and detail work.

During my 3rd time through a new score, I then bracket each significant entrance with the corresponding color for dynamics (Blue/softs, Green/mezzos, Red/fortes). In addition, it is helpful to use a two or three letter abbreviation near each bracket to help indicate the instrument(s) within that particular musical cue, using the appropriate color.

This advanced preparation on your part, will make for a successful first and subsequent readings and rehearsals of your literature. Through the use of color-coding, the conductor is readily able to see musical intensity levels, which equate to appropriate conducting gestures. Remember that it is important for us (conductors) to not be “time keepers”. That is the responsibility of each member of the ensemble. Our job as conductor's is to make music through our preparation and conducting gestures. Color-coding also allows the conductor to be much more precise with entrances and color changes within the music , and to make more music from the podium. (Color = intensity level)

One might ask why you should spend this inordinate amount of time preparing the score. Each time you study a score, you should see and hear something new! You will always find something that you have missed in previous time through the score, dynamic markings, nuances, entrances, etcetera.

Now that you have fully prepared your score for study, it is time to really study the music. The study process involves making personal judgement calls and musical interpretations of the composer's intentions. The wonderful thing about music is that it can change slightly from rehearsal to rehearsal and performance to performance. The music becomes a conductor, you are able to interpret and interject your personal feelings at all times. The music becomes much more spontaneous, which is exhilarating!

Remember, 5 or 6 hours of your advanced preparation can make the difference in a memorable musical experience for your ensemble. As you continue to study and rehearse the work, you should try to spend at least 15-30 minutes daily on each work. This process does take an enormous amount of time, but don't our students deserve the very best from us each and every day? The outcome will surely be worth the investment. As music educators, we can only expect from our students, the same degree of commitment that we have. As the old adage goes.........”you'll get out only as much as you put in”. Our students are worth the effort and our profession is worth the effort.

Best wishes as you “prepare” to “prepare”. Make music!!!

Barry W. Bernhardt, associate professor of music, is the director of University Bands at Southeast Missouri State University.  Prior to coming to Southeast in 1990, Bernhardt held positions at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, from 1988-1990; at California State University - Long Beach from 1984-1988, and at Truman State University from 1982-1984.  Bernhardt is a native Missourian from Macon and holds both his bachelors and masters degrees in music education with instrumental conducting and trumpet performance emphasis from Truman State University in Kirksville, MO.

At Southeast, Bernhardt directs the Golden Eagles Marching Band, the Southeast Wind Symphony and Chamber Winds.  In addition, Bernhardt teaches courses in Marching Band Techniques, Jazz Appreciation and Instrumental Conducting.  Bernhardt is a founding member of the Southeast Faculty Brass Quintet and continues to be active as a trumpet performer.  He also is the chairman of the Department of Music Student Recruitment and Retention Committee and is the director of the Summer Music Camps.

Time To Spring Forward!

It's earlier this year....Daylight Saving Time will begin this coming Sunday, March 11th. Don't forget to set your clocks forward one hour.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center

Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


(417) 882-7000
Bob Hopkins and Mike Brown
Springfield North (417) 862-2700 Burl Williams
Columbia (573) 256-5555 Robert Pitts
Joplin (417) 781-3100 Wayne Blades
Liberty (816) 792-8301 Ken Crisp


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