Rehearsal Planning.

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Mike Saville, Sep 17, 2008.

  1. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    A question for the conductors/MD's out there.

    Do you plan your rehearsals?

    I suspect the answer in most cases is yes. You will have in mind some of the things you want to do in the next rehearsal and a vague plan for the next concert or contest.

    It is my belief however (and please prove me wrong!) that most conductors do not give enough thought to the planning of their rehearsals. Choosing instead to use the same format for all of their rehearsals. How many bands have a rehearsal which starts with a hymn, goes on to a march before launching into a contest piece and finishing with something lighter??

    The worst failing is the lack of information to players about rehearsals. What pieces will be rehearsed, which sections and what will be expected. Without this direction from the MD is it any wonder players are not prepared for rehearsal?

    So some questions:

    1. Do you have a written plan for each rehearsal?
    2. Do you have written goals for your band?
    3. Is your rehearsal plan specific? Which bars, which techniques, which outcomes?
    4. Do you share you plan with your players so that they can come to rehearsal prepared?
    5. Do you share your rehearsal plan with players weeks in advance to give them time to practice?
    6. Do you explain why the band needs to rehearse a specific technique?

    The better/professional ensembles out there have players who are able to do some of this planning themselves. More inexperienced/amateur groups need more assistance from conductors to help them improve.

    This is not just an issue I have seen with brass bands it seems to occur with all ensembles. I'd be interested to hear others view on this topic. What do you do with your band? How do you plan better to get the most out of rehearsals?
  2. Tubby

    Tubby Member

    Well the Bandmaster of the our Salvation Army band always has a note book with him for each rehersal. Within it is everything he needs for that rehersal for example it has those members of the band who haven't been able to attend, the pieces he plans to practise, also sections of a piece that was rehersed the week before that need work whether it be all the band or just a section or 2. At the end of each rehersal he tells us what we will be looking at the following week.

    Since he has taken up the batton the band is much tighter and more focused, the attention to detail has improved 100% and I for one am more willing to practise and be the best I can be because of it.
  3. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Yes, to a degree

    I have a plan running up to christmas of what we are going to be rehearsing when, and have given this to the band, so they know for instance that next Tuesday we are working on concert programmes, or on 14 October we'll be doing the Pontins testpiece. However planning to do specific sections with a specific goal in mind is something I do myself but don't neccesarily share with the band - there's such a thing as too much information! Plus, especially in the lower sections the best laid plans can go awry if players are unwell or have unforeseen work commitments. For instance we've a concert on Friday and I had a specific plan for what to rehearse last night knowing that our top man would be missing, but then we lost the 2nd man due to illness and the 4th man due to work, so the plan has to change "on the fly". So generally I'll have a set of goals for the week and will address them depending on which players are at which rehearsal.
  4. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    Yes it very much depends what we have in the pipeline, I always head to band having a plan in mind, what I'm gonna rehearse and what I'm aiming to achieve, Sometimes I share this with the band "right, this is my plan for the evening" I pretty much always start with some hymn work, but after that I try and vary the order of other work, keep things different for everyone! Sadly almost every rehearsal there's a text message between leaving home and arriving at band so a particular section will be missing a player which can de-rail some of your plans!!
  5. floppymute

    floppymute Member

    Good post Mike.
    To me it's simple : if the MD doesn't prepare rehearsals he/she shouldn't be doing the job - they're not doing the job.
    The only one of your questions I would take issue with is No.3. The danger in planning in too much detail to rehearse specific bars or phrases can lead to a 'self-fulfilling prophecy'. Too many times have I experienced an MD who has obviously thought 'They won't play that bit right' and then wastes time rehearsing it when it is right. I'll hold my hand up and admit that as an MD I've occasionally been guilty myself in retrospect.
    By all means be aware of the potential pitfalls of certain bars/sections, but please keep an open mind.
    It's important for an MD to be flexible enough to go with the flow of a rehearsal. We've probably all experienced those rehearsals where everything seems to just gel for no apparet reason, and equally the opposite.
  6. McEuphie

    McEuphie Member

  7. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    But does he share that with the players?

    Are you perhaps in danger of underestimating your players? Would the extra information not help them be more prepared? Imagine a situation where you share what you intend to rehearse, your players actually practice at home and you turn up and that section is exactly as you want it. That would open up time to move onto other music or issues . . . .

    But the plan is in your mind. Might I suggest that telling players at the start of rehearsal is a little late for them to prepare? That said I do think that outlining what you want to acheive at the start of rehearsal is a good idea.

    Whilst I certainly would not question the results Bob Childs gets - this article is purely a conductors view and does not make any mention of the players role in preparing for rehearsals. I would argue that players do have a responsibility to assist in preparing for rehearsals.

    Thanks for the reponses so far, hope to get some more interesting views on this :)
  8. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Perhaps; we have a "players panel" and I may well put this to them and see what they think. Imagine the reverse scenario, though, whereby I tell the band on Thursday that "next Tuesday we will rehearse the following.....", then due to to absences I decide that time would be more productively spent on something different on Tuesday. Would the players then think "I've just spent my weekend working on that particular section because he told me we were doing it tonight, and now he's changed his mind...grrrr"?

    There are some good points raised though, I may well take some or all of it on board!

    PS the rest of the quotes weren't me!
  9. Good post. Its of course important to have some sort of plan in my humble opinion. But written? Like a lesson plan or a scheme of work? Well the only time I would write anything is if I was going to study a piecee seriously in depth (for example a test piece). In this instance I would obviously listen to my recording of the previous rehearsal and make a note of the bars etc that need work.

    But normally, to be honest, I think a plan of pieces along with how much you are going to rehearse each piece is enough (Ie. Are we blowing through piece A, tidying up the outer two sections of piece B, going to spend a large amount of time of piece C). Also a rough idea of how much we are going to spend on each piece, or collection of pieces.

    Letting players know, well I think its easy to give players too much information. Thats not to be patronising but players have enough to do with practicing etc than to read pages of info on the bars we are practicing. Saying this, when I played I did appreciate an idea of what we were rehearsing for (IE. Prep for contest, prep for recording, blowing through new pieces, concert prep etc). Without being too it would often help me mentally prepare myself for the situation, ie if we were going to prepare for a contest I'd know it would be 'one of those rehearsals'!

    In my former band, the manager of the band often sent out schedules weeks in advance and it would state the conductor, times and roughly what we were preparing for. I know chap now called Mark Quinn who emails his band the week begining to tell the band what they will be doing. I think this is a great idea.

    Saying this, I currently simply tell the band the previous rehearsal what I am doing and what I expect for the next rehearsal. Seems to work. And for my plan, simply a rough list of pieces (or at least an idea) plus a rough time scope. Up to now it seems to work?! I THINK my rehearsals go down well!

    Thats my 2 pence anyway.
  10. Daisy Duck

    Daisy Duck Member

    The MD of Battle always prepares for rehearsals and usually lets everyone know through the Facebook group and emails what pieces we will be rehearsing. Frequently he will draw our attention to specific sections of pieces that we should look at. There's always a list of the pieces we will play, in order, on the whiteboard in the rehearsal room. When preparing for a contest, he will often choose other pieces to play which complement the test piece - for instance, if there's lots of double tonguing in the test piece, he'll choose something lighter to play which also includes double tonguing.

    I really enjoy playing in a band where the MD clearly puts in so much preparation and I think it encourages the players to do more practice at home as well when they see the effort the MD has put in.

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