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Confident and Productive Rehearsals – Part 4 – How to Fix What You Hear

Part 4
How to Fix What You Hear

An Effective and Efficient Rehearsal Needs a Warm-up
The director sets the tone and pace for rehearsal with the warm-up. If there is no warm-up, that tone and pace take much longer to develop. It is also a great time to introduce key signatures or problematic rhythms the players will see later in the music.

Tuning – the players need to tune at the beginning of rehearsal, so that everyone is anchored to the same pitch standard. See the blog Intonation: Why and How to Tune Your Players in the Musicians Institute.

This subject was covered in detail in other Musicians Institue blogs:
Warm-ups For Your Instrumental Group – Part 1 – Why? and
Warm-ups For Your Instrumental Group – Part 2 – How?

Recommended Available Resources From JCM – click on a title to see score and description
Instrumental Warm-Ups and Builders
Interval, Melody and Rhythm Studies
Scale Warm-Ups for Orchestra or Concert Band
Studies on Accidentals
Tone, Accuracy and Intonation Studies
Warm-Up Hymns and Chorales

From Part 3, recall the 3 types of musical problems

1. Fix it – you hear many complicated mistakes
2. The problem will get better on its own – you hear a few, simple mistakes
3. The problem will not get better – mistakes are many and complicated. Players may stop playing.

These often deal with complexity of rhythms, fast fingering, or range issues.

A Note About Problems #3
Directors need to know, or at least have a good idea when a part is too difficult for a player. It can be very discouraging when told during a rehearsal to just leave something out because of the playing demands. Parts need to be edited before the players see them. This, of course necessitates the director studying the score and taking the time to make sure the parts are in reach of the players before they are passed out, or uploaded to Planning Center. Using rehearsal time trying to solve problems #3 would be frustrating and non-productive.

Fixing What You Hear
Key Signature/Accidentals

So as the group, or section is playing (limiting the number of players playing so you can tell where musical problems are), and you hear a wrong note, maybe 3 or 3, it is likely a key signature inssue, and a problem #2. The next time you play it, the players will likely correct the mistakes in their own.

If you hear many wrong notes, or if they persist after 8 measures or more, that is a problem #1. Stop and fix it. Remind them of the key signature (a scale in some of the more difficult key signatures during warm-up can greatly help these occurances). Typically, the last sharp or flat in the signature is the one most often missed.

Sometimes you will hear players are not playing rhythms together – some do not match what is supposed to be played. If there are a few, minor mistakes, likely problems #2. If there are many, complicated mistakes, then stop and fix it. First would need to be correctly singing, clapping, or counting the rhythms. Rather then trying to play notes and rhythms together, focus inthe rhythms. Clap or tap them together. Play the rhythms on one mid-range note. Play difficult rhythms slowly at first, and speed up as they can perform them accurately.

Another vital component of rhythmic precision and accuracy is subdividing in your mind. Always think and hear in your mind at least one subdivision of the beat faster than the rhythms generally move. If the rhythms generally move in quarter notes, then think 8th notes clicking by in your head. If the rhythms move in 8th notes, then think 16 notes. Hearing the subdivision in your head gives you the foundation and structure of every rhythm you play. If everyone in the group does this, the rhythms will be played accurately and together precisely, rather than just trying to approximate rhythms at sight.

If the playing is sloppy with mistakes in a faster passage, stop and play the passage much slower. Speed up as the playing improves. Sometimes the part can be edited – leaving out some notes to make it more manageable.

The group can play the notes and rhythms, but it does not sound good. It is sloppy. The players are playing too loudly. They need to listen to the players around them while they play. Teach the concept of
matching the volume of the players around you. If you cannot hear other players, you are too loud. If you cannot hear yourself, you are not loud enough. This will greatly improve the overall sound of the group.

A correct note with a poor tone or with poor intonation can sound like a wrong note. Players need proper tone production techniques, and they neeed to strive to produce their best tone cocsnstently. Players need to know pitch tendencies of their instruments and be reminded to compensate as needed. While playing, players need to listen to those around them and strive to match the pitch, tone and volume.

As the notes and rhythms begin to take shape, all players need to play the correct style – staccato, marcstom legato, etc. Playing in style helps a piece sound polished, together and tight. Players need to listen to those around them and match the style they hear. Don’t play longer or shorter than those around you.

One Last Point
We, as conductors spend a lot of time correcting mistakes – that’s why we have rehearsals. As we do this, we need to remember to compliment what goes well. Our people work hard and give up some things to be in rehearsal. Whatever their ability, they are there to give their best. As they do that, even with mistakes, they need to know we are grateful for their presence and their work and ministry.

Rehearsal Bullet Points
Start with a warm-up
The severity and frequency of the problem helps you know what type it is (1,2,or 3).
Reduce the number of people playing a passage to hear more clearly.
Slow down more difficult notes or rhythms. Speed up as the paying improves.
Players must listen to each other while they play.
Do not play louder or softer than the players around you.
Match the style others are playing.
Fix problems #3 before the rehearsal begins.
Talk about what goes well

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