Monday, February 6, 2017


Ten Tips for an Effective Rehearsal | Take Care of Yourself

Ten Tips for an Effective Rehearsal
by David Gorham

1. Start rehearsal on time every day. Be ready to give the downbeat right when class begins. Insist that everyone is ready to play at that time. Starting rehearsal with announcements, etc. just takes longer for the students to get "dialed in" and the last minute arrivals use that time to put their instrument together instead of listening. In addition, it shows the other students that being on time and ready is optional.

2. While playing the warm-up scale (or whatever you use), take the opportunity to make eye contact with every student in the band. It's a good first step to communication, and it lets them know that you're expecting an "interactive" teaching experience.

3. When you're talking to the group, insist on eye-contact from everyone. If they are messing with their music or instrument, they're not hearing you. If what you're saying is not important enough for their attention, why bother saying it? Also, be brief. Don't use 100 words to say something that only needs 10.

4. Students asking a director "Are we playing today?" is like asking the cafeteria workers "Are we eating today?". Taking a day off from playing should not be considered a reward.

5. The more time you spend on fundamentals, the faster they'll learn the concert music. Having a skill set that can be applied is much more effective than learning each skill as it occurs in music (and those 'spot skills' are unlikely to carry over to the next occurrence.)

6. If you want students to watch you while playing, you have to insist on it and train them to make it a habit. Don't expect them to look at you if all they see is the top of your head.

7. Teach students to be musicians who can make independent musical decisions. You can't possibly correct every pitch, rhythm, style, and tuning issue. The more they learn to do themselves, the more effective the process.

8. Students should only make markings on the music that give more information than what is already provided. If they miss the key, writing in a reminder accidental is more effective than just circling the note. Just circling means that they have to mentally process the meaning of the marking before applying it. In addition, students should be in a habit of making correct notations (accidentals before notes, not after or above.)

9. Students should learn to be comfortable playing by themselves. It will not be a traumatic event if it's a regular expectation.

10. Get off the podium. Move around the room. It will provide a great opportunity to correct posture, etc. In addition, kids are more likely to stay focused on task when you might be looking over their shoulder at any moment.


Take Care of Yourself by Kale White

No, this isn't a lecture encouraging you to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest. Instead, I'm going to encourage you to be selfish in your next rehearsal and governed by your own needs and development instead of the musical needs of your students. Sound interesting?

The best education in music, for me personally, was a two-week intersession course, Advanced Rehearsal Techniques Through Video Microrehearsal, presented by Dr. Stephen Paul and Dr. William Wakefield. The course presented a number of different rehearsal techniques and allowed the participants to apply them in a 12-15 minute videotaped rehearsal each day. The objective was to focus on ourselves as teachers, not the final musical product. Videotaping the rehearsals was a critical course component, providing the opportunity to reflect and analyze our teaching. Below are some of the rehearsal skills we addressed in the course.

Many of us videotape our rehearsals, but usually to analyze our conducting. Instead of always watching yourself conducting music, occasionally take the opportunity to evaluate yourself teaching music. Videotape a rehearsal and focus on some of these rehearsal skills:

Set / Follow-through / Response
In rehearsal, when you stop the ensemble during a musical passage, observe if you consistently: 1. identify "what is the problem" (Set) and "how to fix the problem" 2. take the necessary time to fix the issue (Follow-through) while exploring ways of conducting the correction into the music, 3. provide feedback (Response) to the students on each attempt and closure at the end. Closure could be simply stating, "that's improving, but more work needs to be done," or "that's was it...wonderful!"

Effective teachers give instruction clearly and concisely, including both "what" and "how," reinforcing with feedback. Watch your videotaped rehearsal and observe how much of your rehearsal time is talking vs. playing. When the space between music making and instruction is short, the pace builds intensity, effort, and limits inappropriate student behaviors.

Musical literacy
I cringe at the words, associating music literacy as the latest catch phrase on state-mandated assessments. However, I would encourage you to videotape your rehearsal and pay attention to your use of colloquial vs. musical terminology. Do you use fermata instead of hold; fortissimo instead of loud; staccato instead of short, etc? Directors that make a conscious effort to use musical terminology are developing musically literate student musicians that will soon associate musical language with appropriate sound.

Stimulus Variation
All of us have commented on our students' short attention span. Consider yourself and your rehearsal situation as stimulus objects. If you vary your rehearsal in a planned way, you can redirect your student's attention and eventually gain some flexibility. Relating my favorite stimulus variation: About once every two weeks, I'd plan a rehearsal so that I never stood on the podium. I "conducted" the whole rehearsal walking throughout the band. Sometimes I used a metronome with remote and other times I encouraged the students to listen to each other. I discovered my absence made the students more accountable for timing, counting rests, and being prepared for entrances. Review your videotaped and observe whether your rehearsal incorporates moments of variety to redirect student's attention or if your rehearsal seems routine and monotonous.

It sounds strange to put the spotlight on ourselves as we prepare our ensembles for upcoming contests and festivals. So much of what we do is focused on our students and ultimately, the performance. Experiment with being selfish every now and then by videotaping yourself. You will have to believe that by taking care of yourself, in the long run, your ensemble will be better served.


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