Archive for September, 2011

September 11, 2011

All Wagnered Out…

Just in from a weekend with the Northern Wagner Orchestra, doing Tannhauser. A bit achey, and work beckons in the morning, so it’s going to be a few days before I can upload some practice notes. But there are a few bits that would repay attention…

September 5, 2011

Rehearsals & Rehearsal Discipline

OK, this is something that’s been bugging me for a while.

Right up, I’ll confess that I’m not the most disciplined person around.  Previous managers from my “real” work will quite happily agree with that assessment; however, I do like to think that I have *some* standards!

However, there are certain basics that really need to be adhered to, and these are quite simple:

  • Be prompt
  • Bring a pencil, a stand, the music.
  • Keep quiet unless you’re dealing with musical issues
  • Be professional

How hard can it be?

Be Prompt

It’s not difficult.  You know when the rehearsal is going to start – you’ve been told often enough, it’s a regular gig, you’ve got emails, phone messages, letters, whatever.  If you rely on Google Calendars or Outlook or whatever, then set up appropriate reminders.  (I generally work on an email first thing in the morning of the day before the rehearsal, and then another one a suitable amount of time before the downbeat.)

By “prompt”, I mean be there on time, ready to sort out whatever needs to be sorted out in order to start the rehearsal on time.  Allow time to park, walk to the venue, schlep your stuff from the car, unpack, set up, meet & greet, have a piddle, get settled without being rushed.  When you rush, that’s when you make mistakes and forget stuff – I know this from experience.

Bring Stuff

Pencil – check.  Make sure it’s got a point, or that you have a means of sharpening it.  Bring spares.  I ran out at a recent rehearsal…  A rubber may also help, particularly if you have to eradicate markings from previous performers / productions.  (For those of you on the wrong, sorry, American side of the pond, I mean “eraser”.  Stop sniggering.)

For those of you who have long lumps of counting to do, bring something quiet and non-distracting.  No, you shouldn’t bring your laptop – it’s noisy, and someone might “accidentally” step on it.  A book is the best bet – small, quiet, doesn’t require batteries, doesn’t make a noise and doesn’t emit light.

Bringing a stand – you should know whether or not you are required to do this.  Personally, I always bring my own stand, because the one I have is heavy enough to hold pretty much anything without collapsing and doesn’t wobble everywhere (unless the floor is uneven…)  That’s not to say it’s perfect – it could do with a shelf for pencils, rosin etc, and a cupholder.  (On a related note, don’t leave open drinks cans, thermos cups etc lying around where they can be kicked over…)

Keep Quiet

The rehearsal is time for people to learn the notes, learn to play (and/or sing) together, to put the spit & polish on the music and production.

It is not a time for you to discuss the curry you had last night, what happened on Coronation Street, Ethel’s new hairdo, arrange a dinner date.  You’ve got time after the rehearsal to sort that out.

Don’t bring anything that makes a noise either.  Make sure your phone is switched to silent (not vibrate – that makes a noise) or – better – switched off.  If you have to have a phone on, get your apology in to the boss first, keep it on vibrate, and make sure you can get out quickly and quietly.  (Bear in mind, I’m not a full-time pro bassist – I do other stuff and that may entail me being “on call”…)

Be Professional

OK, so most of the above could come under this heading too.  However, I’m talking about attitude, not behaviour.  (Too subtle?)  Let me give an example of the sort of thing I don’t view as professional.

The scene: A rehearsal, the only one before a concert.  There’s a new guy in the section – you don’t know him from Adam.  You, as section leader sit next to him.  You spend the rehearsal bitching about the music, the fact that there are so few notes it’s not worth rehearsing.  The way there are so many changes of tempo that it’s hard to keep track.  That you don’t like this type of music anyway.

STFU already.  You’re giving a bad impression of yourself, and, by implication, of the rest of the section.


…I’ve seen all of this behaviour, and not just from amateur orchestras.  The professionals can be as bad if not, in some ways, worse.  Not thinking of any orchestras belonging to a three letter broadcasting organisation in particular, goodness me, no.  Grr.

And if I’ve engaged in this behaviour and it has distracted you from your work, then I humbly apologise.


A big thanks to EW, AP & JR for taking the time to read this before publication and for their feedback, some of which has been incorporated.