Five Priceless Phrases for Rehearsals

Have you ever stumbled on a word or phrase you’ve been searching for all your career? It seems lately that’s been the case for me, and I couldn’t be happier. Here are a few gems:

1. “I’m not taking questions right now.” A huge time saver! How often to we fall into the trap of taking a question and then getting distracted from our teaching goals? By simply stating that now is not the time for questions, I’ve been been able to make a straight path to my lesson plans.

2. “Take 30 seconds to practice those notes.” Challenging musical phrases are often difficult to rehearse in a class setting. I’ve found that sometimes it’s helpful to give students a moment to work out the notes on their own. This means there will be 30 seconds of perceived chaos, but it often produces better results than repeating the passage over and over as a group. This is also helpful when you need 30 seconds off the podium to tend to another issue.

3. “I like the way [the flutes] are [sitting].” Or the way the Haley played staccato, or the way the clarinets are ready to rehearse, etc.. The idea here is to motivate the entire group to do better by praising one person or section. Those being praised feel rewarded, and the others become inspired to improve.

4. “I don’t expect it perfect today, but I want us to keep playing.” This is especially applicable when young groups are learning new music. It gives the students permission to make mistakes, but makes clear your goal to work through the music.

5. “You did it! I’m proud of you!” Who doesn’t like to hear an exclamatory word of praise from time to time? Celebrating even minor accomplishments can work wonders.

Have a good phrase of your own to add? Share it here!

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5 thoughts on “Five Priceless Phrases for Rehearsals

  1. Awesome stuff. I don’t use the 30 seconds of individual practice enough. The “I like the way the flutes are sitting” thing works every time. Much better than “Trombones, sit up straight on the front edge of your chair!”

    Who wants to be told what do? We all like to feel like we’re coming up with our own ideas. “Hey, I bet he’ll see how straight I am sitting up if I sit up straight now.”

    It’s golden advice there. Thanks!

  2. Hey Steve,

    This one is a little out there, but this was an exchange between myself and my seventh grade band and my wind ensemble students after several weeks of trying to improve preparatory breaths…

    “Look, if we are going to continue to contribute to global warming then let’s make sure the carbon dioxide going through our instruments makes some beautiful background music as the glaciers begin to melt.”

    I love praising good modeling by students to their peers. It sets them apart, and encourages good things to which others should aspire. I will not take questions at certain times either. I will sometimes ask them to explain to other members of the ensemble. Great post Steve!

  3. I should note that I’m more likely to use the “no questions now” tactic in my 3rd grade general music class than in my 8th grade Symphonic Band. One particular group of 3rd graders has asked questions like “My cat had kittens” or “I can play that music from Jaws.”

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