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Friday, March 29, 2013

Rehearsal Techniques II

  • Don’t talk too much!
  • By the same token, in varying pacing, there can be good times to let them sit back and talk about the background of the piece or something similar – it’s also efficient to take “pencil” time to give all markings for a piece or movement, rather than doing it piecemeal throughout your rehearsal
  • Don’t tell them what you’re going to do, just do it! (“I’m going to start at bar 12, then go to bar 16, after which we'll . . .” As opposed to, “start at bar 12”) – use fewer words!
  • Make instructions clear and concise, particularly about where you’re starting: remember to go from general to specific (page/ system/ bar,/ beat . . . or if you have bar numbers: bar 22)
  • A friend of mine has a system for giving starting places when everyone has the same score: 3-2-5 = page 3, 2nd system, bar 5. If you and your choir get used to it, it’s very quick and secure. It’s easy for them to remember 3-2-5 while they find their place
  • Instructions should be active, not passive
  • Careful not to mumble or use non-meaningful syllables (“uh”) – we all have our own habits, but occasionally monitor them by recording a rehearsal
  • Give only a few instructions at a time (too many and the choir forgets them)
  • A corollary to that is if you give an instruction (“don’t breathe after beat 3,” “tenors are late after the dot,” “eighth note rest at the end of the bar,” “subito piano on the downbeat,” etc.), then have the choir sing it immediately – you need to reinforce what you just said in a concrete way (and you’ll also know if they understood it or not)
  • Often with giving markings, you can save time if you plan, for example, consistent breaths with punctuation (“breathe/lift with punctuation,” “honor the commas,” rather than giving each individual breath) – one choir I know simply has the practice to breathe after every punctuation and they do it without fail—in this case, you have to tell them if you don’t want a breath with a comma or period
  • Feedback is important: positive whenever possible, but you also have to express to the choir what isn’t right yet and how to do it correctly
  • Make sure feedback is specific (e.g., “It’s not in tune” versus “when you sing the E to C# the C# is flat,” or “Basses are flat on that passage: the vowels are too dark”
  • And I’ll say it again: make sure that when you give feedback, you have the choir sing the passage immediately, and then check to hear if they do whatever it is you asked! Instructions by themselves (without doing by the choir) are rarely effective!

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