Want to shake things up in your rehearsals? Wish you knew how to get better, or just want make some kind of change? Try any or all of the following.
1. Put your music down.
Get to really know the music. Sing all the parts. Be sure you can find the tonic at all times, and be able to sing starting notes at a variety of good starting points through the piece. Then walk away from your stand. Get up close, wade into the sections. Change your perspective, you’ll change theirs. This is never a bad thing.
2. Make them put their music down.
Give them a little rehearsal on a section of a piece that is going well. Have them run it a couple of times. Then tell them to put the music down and try it again. Some of them will resist – hold it low, close it but hold it – but you can insist. Remind them: what’s the worst that can happen? Nothing about this is dangerous. If it doesn’t go well, it can be fixed. Let them find their faith, in themselves and in you.
3. Record part of your rehearsal.
Every rehearsal, record at least a portion, or even the whole thing. Then, as soon as possible afterwards, listen to it. Not all of it, just dip in and out; but listen specifically for what you missed, what sounds different from what you heard in the rehearsal. Find something that sticks out on the recording, then listen for it in your next rehearsal. This is what will make your ears better over time.
4. Do something that makes you uncomfortable.
Shake things up. In each rehearsal, spend a little time doing something in new ways. Sometimes it’s a warmup – I almost always include a really directed exercise in the warmup. I speed up, slow down, show them different dynamics and ask them for different sounds. I often do this with a short portion of a piece, as well – let’s do that intro this way – now that way – here’s something else. It helps everyone find focus, and sometimes you discover something unexpectedly great.
5. Videotape yourself in rehearsal.
Not that we use actual tape anymore, but you know what I mean. You should be watching yourself on a regular basis. I know, it’s awful. I’ve been doing it monthly for more than 20 years, and it never gets any easier to watch, even when I’m happy with what I see. But if you’re going to be honest with yourself about what you’re doing, its the only way. To make it easier, look past your self to specific things – your gestures, your language. Find something, and work on it until doesn’t stick out on the tape. Then find something else and do the same.
Do one of these a week, one a month, or all in a single rehearsal. When you do, let me know how it went.