Playing things through

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Rambo Chick, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. Rambo Chick

    Rambo Chick Member

    Auckland, New Zealand
    I've been to a few band rehearsals in my time and one of the main things that really makes me enjoy a rehearsal is when a conductor allows the band to play the music through from top to bottom, as well as efficiently rehearsing the music.

    On the opposite side of that, I find it quite frustrating when a conductor stops a lot. By this I mean you might start playing, then after two bars the conductor stops you all to mention a minor detail to be improved. The conductor starts the bars again, then stops again to mention another small detail to change. This can happen maybe ten or eleven times!! An entire rehearsal can be spent in this (IMO) unproductive frustrating way. It really irks me.

    A conductor should allow the band to play and stop fewer times and mention the things s/he wants changing all at once. At which point pencils should of course start scribbling away to write down the conductor's instructions. Plus a lot of things can be indicated whilst the band is playing i.e. louder, quieter and the way they hold themselves in front of the band to indicate style etc.

    I conduct a junior band and I ALWAYS play things through, select a few bits to work on and then put it together at the end. It really helps them because a lot of the time at ANY level, just going through it can help people figure out a lot themselves. Plus the extra blowing really makes a difference.

    So to all conductors out there, let us play!! It really helps!

    Anyone else?
  2. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    A pub, Surrey, UK
    From a conductor's perspective, it's not quite as simple as you make out. Of course it can be frustrating to spend a whole rehearsal rehearsing something in stop-start mode, and in general I would try to avoid that by ensuring that at least part of the rehearsal is dedicated to having an uninterupted run through something that has ben rehearsed.

    But from my side, running through long passages of a piece that is in the very early stages of preparation in unproductive, simply because as the band plays, I will notice so many things that need attention that by the time we get to the end of the piece, or even just a section or movement, I will be hard pushed to recall even half of the items. Unless conductors are to use some sort of secretarial service and dictate memos as they go along, things are going to get missed.

    Also, bear in mind, the whole principle behind rehearsing/practising is based on habit-forming; if you allow someone to repeatedly play something incorrectly, they will simply get better at playing it incorrectly, and it will be harder to undo that further down the line.

    Having said all that, I am sure you are right in that there are conductors around who overdo the stop-start approach, and don't make any effort to balance it with more extended run-throughs. I would like to think I'm not one of them, but my band might have other ideas ...

    But if you're trying to prepare a piece at the highest level, sometimes it's unavoidable, IMO.
  3. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    The engine room
    In our bass section we run sweep stakes on which bar number, or rehearsal letter, the conductor will stop at. This alleviates the boredom, and keeps us on the ball :biggrin:
  4. popmills

    popmills New Member

    High Wycombe
    I knew one amature conductor who obviously looked at scores before rehearsal and noted parts he expected to go wrong. On several occasions he stopped the band and then had no criticisms to offer.
    A balance is needed between letting to much go and repeated stopping.
  5. cockaigne

    cockaigne Member

    Kirklees, West Yorkshire
    Detailed work is essential, of course - but it's pointless stopping every couple of bars to fiddle about with things, if the band isn't warmed up (either playing-wise or mentally switched-in to 'rehearsal' thinking) or familiar with the piece in general.

    Players at every level find it frustrating if they aren't given the chance to play a piece through, before the dissection begins - it's futile trying to fix things bar-by-bar if they don't have an overall sense of how the piece goes, what form it takes etc. - a lot of small blips and mistakes will sort themselves out as players get a feel for the piece, and identify these errors and correct them themselves.

    A number of conductors I've played under - particularly band conductors, it must be said - WILL stop at EVERY chipped/split note, and deliver a small lecture on the matter; this is frustrating for all concerned, as players go cold, don't get a chance to play through the piece, warm up properly (which will solve 99% of splits etc.)... in short, it can generally be called a bad rehearsal technique.

    Agreed, sorting out the detail is important - but ultimately the band is there to play, and a good conductor should be able to show what he wants (with the stick) rather than have to explain everything verbally.

    What the OP describes as her rehearsal technique sounds pretty effective - but I'm afraid we're probably all more familiar with the scenario she's complaining about... conductors, please take note!
  6. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    The OP didn't say repeatedly. Let the band run through a piece from top to bottom once and then go back and break it down. Maybe, when they've all seen and heard it through completely once, there may be less work needed? :wink:
  7. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Brighouse, Yorkshire
    Nine times out of ten it's about half a beat before the basses come in isn't it? Let me relay what must be a familiar scenario for bass players up and down the country.

    Instrument picked up off the floor four bars in advance and several breaths introduced to add some temperature, water emptied, lungs filled, correct valves down, poised and committed to form embouchoure and produce note, mouthpiece touches lip....

    "Right just stop there a minute."

    Expels air in disappointed sigh, returns bass to resting position where it rapidly returns to non-playing temperature as the conductor repeatedly rehearses figures on the leading parts. (This can repeat several times in a row before next step.)

    Vaguely hear.... "Everyone from D with a pickup."

    Scramble bass to playing position and snatch half a breath, miss first note, split second note as instrument now stone cold, pick up pitching find rhythm by 2nd bar. Realise conductor actually said E and realise in the same instant that you're playing from D, and one of the other basses is playing from B. Conductor stops band again.

    "Basses, you're all over the place!"

    Conductor rehearses basses for seven or eight bars, which now go perfectly because we're all up and prepared.

    "Why wasn't it like that last time?" Refrain from informing conductor of the flippin obvious.

    Repeat from top for duration of rehearsal.

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2011
  8. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    Stopping the band is all part and parcel of good rehearsal technique, the problem comes when conductors stop the band but spends too much time talking/getting a certain section to practise a phrase. Stop the band, make your point, blow through the trouble area once, maybe twice then move on...if the individuals/section can't do it, then they know what to practise for next rehearsal ;)

    I agree totally with the OP's last comment, familiarity of playing the whole thing or extended section will benefit the band more than a lot of time on smaller, bitty sections.
  9. Brassbones

    Brassbones Member


    Class!!!!! Applies equally to bone section, but without the effort of lifting the thing on and off the floor!
  10. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    Leeds - Yorkshire - UK
    I've played under one of those guys.
    Slightly amusing to observe, but a waste of valuable rehearsal time.

    - Mr Wilx
  11. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    the other favourite is when the conductor says "everyone from letter C", you get your trombone up (preferably muted) and then the conductor goes into a 5 minute analysis of the piece followed by a single downbeat and "troms where were you?"
  12. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    New Southgate, London
    Stopping and starting is essential to solve problems, as is running a piece from start to finish (warts and all) to get performance practice.
    The key as a conductor is to get the balance right...
  13. sjs

    sjs Member

    I love it! :clap:

    Much MD-type soul-searching, self-analysis and navel gazing now going on here!
  14. Kofi

    Kofi Member

    I'm a pretty inexperienced conductor, so it's pretty interesting (and funny) reading this. I generally try to get through the piece top to bottom first before going into detail so that we get a feel for the whole piece first. As said before it's a bit of a balancing act like so many other aspects of banding.

    One hellish habit that I have is when, in an attempt to not stop and start, I talk through the bits that need talked about. I then bring my hands up ready to start, then remember 'one last wee thing' that if I don't say it I'll just need to stop at some point (which is what I'm trying to avoid)... so I drop my hands and say that one last wee thing! The basses love it ;-) The horns can see me still thinking as I raise my hands and sometimes don't bother preparing to play as they can see what's coming!
  15. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Hadleigh, Essex
    Its usually the bar before the end of our rest :mad:

    Edit: apologies to Andi - posted before reading his much more elegant and refined offering :oops:
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2011
  16. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    Brisbane Australia
    I can Identify with that. Happens a lot.
  17. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    Brisbane Australia
    usually preceded by much pointless counting that you end up doing again. the time you forget to count is usually the time the Band keeps going and you miss the entry!!
  18. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    near Dublin
    Reminds me of the old saying "Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect."

    @thirteenball...nail on the head. I often think some mistakes are made simply from starting and stopping to much (no sense in wasting rehearsal time on those really). Rehearsing a longer section, getting feedback and running again would offer much more continuity.
  19. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Brighouse, Yorkshire
    MDs take note, the Bretheren of Tuba have spoken..... ;)
  20. Zappa

    Zappa Member

    It also helps from an MD's perspective when a player actually takes his/her instrument home and I know this is known by some as a dirty word but ... PRACTICES!

    Running a passage through with no stops is great when everyone can play their part, then the MD can just direct the music. If people can't play their part, then there are going to be stops to note bash. Don't blame the MD, blame the people that can't play their parts, keep playing the same mistakes and don't write things on their music.
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