Conducting question

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by maria, Dec 1, 2005.

  1. maria

    maria New Member


    I conduct a band and have recently been rehearsing a piece for a contest. The problem is that, due to the wide range of ability and experience in the band, there are some players who are finding the piece difficult and some who find it easy and can almost play it with their eyes shut!

    Are there any other conductors out there who have a similar problem? Does anyone (conductors and players) have any suggestions as to how I can keep rehearsals of the piece interesting for the 'more able' players that can already play their parts?

  2. Matt Lawson

    Matt Lawson Member

    If you're a dab hand at arranging, perhaps give the more able players a more challenging line.

    Maybe put some of it up an octave or write a countermelody here and there, depends what sort of piece you're talking about.

    If it's a typical rock/pop arrangement you should be fine.

    Only thing I can think of.

    Also depends which sections are strong and which are weak. The swapping of parts or editing of parts could well be a viable option.
  3. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Hi Maria

    I'd say that most conductors at some stage in their MD'ing careers have come across similar situations as you find yourself in now. This isn't unusual I feel.

    I could suggest that you don't spend the largest part of rehearsal time conducting the particular piece in question, and that you might perhaps consider rummaging around in the library to bring out a piece of music that would challenge everyone. I found that starting a pseudo project that introduced the whole band to a new piece of music - and a challenging one at that - gave everyone a chance to attempt to learn and play on a level above their current standard. The less able player will struggle at first, but as will the more able player.

    Also at first most people might be suprised at bringing out a piece that is obviously above the standard of the band, but if you were to practive short sections within it, regularly, and encourage everyone in the band to have a go at those sections... you will see that the players will eventually believe they can play the piece, and it will start to come together. This is encouraging to all players, and helps progression.

    You do of course need to rehearse the specific piece such that you attain the required standard for wherever you are going to play it, but as long as in general, you give show everyone that they have an opportunity to contribute to the performance regardless of playing position or instrument, then most people will understand.

    Having said that, it is a balance of trying to find the best combination of pleasing most of the people most of the time as we all know you can't please all of the people all of teh time eh.
  4. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    Yes, this is not uncommon by any means. As has already been suggested, try rewriting some of the parts to balance it out a bit more.

    Or, you could be more drastic. Suggest to those people who are bored to try to play the piece (or at least part of it) from memory. I used to sing in a choir which had a lot of children and the conductor used to suggest that quite often to the adults as they learned the music rather quicker than the children did. It does help - the players watch the conductor a lot more and makes them much more responsive to any direction you give. It also shows the stronger players how much they don't know, which is always useful at helping to curb complacency!

    Another suggestion would be to ask the players who have learned and can play their parts to sit with somebody who can't for a few weeks. OK, probably this will mean you have parts missing for a few rehearsals, but the added strength on the weaker parts can help boost the confidence and ability of those who are struggling. It also means that the better players have some more sightreading to do which keeps them entertained!

    Hope this helps, good luck

    Last edited: Dec 1, 2005
  5. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    I used to conduct a youth band that often had this problem. I took some of the better players aside and told them these sorts of peices were there chance to practice their teaching skills and to scatter themselves amongst their section to give some guidance. They always rose to the challenge and made rehearsing this music more enjoyable for all involved.
  6. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    When working with mixed abilities, there is generally something for everyone to be working on - It wil lbe notes and rythmns for the weaker players and Style and Precision etc etc, try and push different players in different ways!

    Hope it's some help!

  7. maria

    maria New Member


    Many thanks for the suggestions, particularly regarding asking the bored players to help out the weaker ones. I will try them out and see how I get on!
  8. the answer is sectional rehearsals. Blow through the piece once or twice with the full band so everyone is familiar with it, then don't touch it again until you have had several sectional practises with the struggling players, to bring them up to speed.

    As a player, nothing is worse than working on a piece rehearsal after rehearsal, but spending most of your time with the instrument on your knees while the bassess mess it up again. If you loose players interest at this stage you'll struggle to get it back again.
  9. persins

    persins Member

    I agree. Sectionals will certainly allow you to concentrate on the major issues with those involved. It also allows those who are not directly involved to work on other areas which they need to improve.
    The idea of getting the stronger players to assist the weaker ones will certainly help too.
  10. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    You're heading for a danger award, pal!

    In our band it is nearly always the cornets that make a mess of things.

    I agree with what John said and expand his advice by choosing pieces that have similar passages in to the ones your poorer players are struggling with. A lot of contest pieces seem to have similar sections.

    The teaching idea is also a good one. Not only will it help the weaker players, but the stronger ones might learn a thing or two as well. The best way to learn how to do something is to try to teach it to someone else.

    What generally happens in our band is that the stronger players take sectionals as well as the MD. We have been lucky to have a lot of rooms to use, so extra nights have not usually been a problem. Being able to spend half the rehearsal on sectionals and then bring it all together for the 2nd half is a real benefit.

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