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Rehearsal Techniques I

General thoughts and principles (adapted from what I give my section leaders) about running good rehearsals:
  • Put your music stand low enough and flat enough that it doesn’t interfere with your conducting pattern (and people can see it!)
  • If you work from the piano, put the music desk down flat (for the same reason)
  • Make sure your own posture is a good model for the choir
  • More eye contact (which means knowing your score better!)
  • Learn to hear more (especially parts not your own)
  • Make sure, when rehearsing one section of the music, to make the transition into the next section or phrase before stopping to go back
  • When repeating the same section or phrase several times, make sure you ask more or give specific feedback—don’t simply mindlessly repeat
  • Remember to take away the piano as soon as possible, even in accompanied music (so that you know whether they can do it independently, and also so that you can more accurately hear what they’re doing)
  • Use modeling/demonstration—a powerful tool (but models must be correct! your singers will copy poor intonation or phrasing!)
  • You can also use choir members to model
  • Think carefully about what parts belong together musically and rehearse them that way (you may choose parts that are in duet, or those that have dissonances against each other—the musical structure will tell you what belongs together)
  • Have solutions already in mind to solve difficult note problems. Know why the problem might be there: is it hard to find the initial pitch? a difficult rhythm? difficult interval? tempo too fast?
  • Pacing is important: not too slow or too fast (psychologically, pace should vary)
  • When you stop the choir, don’t take too long before giving an instruction—make it concise and to the point—then get them singing again
  • Don’t leave one section sitting for too long a period of time
  • If you sing on a neutral syllable, don’t stay on the same one for too long, but vary them (it’s tiring to sing the same consonant/vowel for long periods). The same is true of count-singing
on March 7, 2013 11:05am
What a great list of rehearsal techniques for beginners and seasoned professionals alike!  Thanks for sharing these, Dick.  May I underscore one of your points?
"When you stop the choir, don't take too long before giving an instruction--make it concise and to the point--then get them singing again."
If directors would keep their performers singing/playing for 75 - 80% of the rehearsal time, more work would get done, and less verbiage would be wasted.  My experience is that after about 45 seconds of a director's talking at a group during rehearsal the majority begins to day-dream.
Good rehearsing, everyone!
Richard Hynson
Music Director
Bel Canto Chorus
Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra
Applauded by an audience of 3
on March 7, 2013 6:55pm
Thanks, Rick! Yes, singing a higher percentage of time (especially instead of talking!) is key to rehearsal productivity.
Hope to see you in Dallas.