That was a wonderful first rehearsal! I am enjoying the music and enjoying you!
How to Practice
I repeat this little essay every term for good reason, I believe: after 55 years of leading ensembles and many years spent in a practice room and giving private lessons, I think I have something of value to say. I have edited it to make it more understandable. I hope it helps.
The reason we are doing so well as a choir is that everyone takes responsibility for learning the music. It might seem that you can hide in the group and follow someone else and it will all be OK. Unfortunately, that means you are singing a little behind the beat and with a little less energy. Your contribution is crucial, whether it seems so or not. Stand in front for a while (or in the audience) and you’ll understand.
Here are some suggestions to make your practice more productive:
- During our choir rehearsal, make it a habit to circle the sections that give you difficulty so that you can refer to them during your next week of practice. Saying “I’ll just circle the whole thing!” is actually a cop out (yes, I learned that phrase in the 60’s). Try to be as exact about your practicing needs as possible. That also saves your time. You can read my weekly Notes to learn those spots that I believe need work, but everyone has their own spots as well! If you ask choir members, they will usually disagree as to which spots in a particular piece are the most difficult.
- The use of Bandlab, an online DAW (look it up), is a far superior way to use rehearsal recordings than the basic recordings I produced in the past and that most choirs still use. There are excellent directions for its use on the website. However, it is NOT a requirement! Many people in the choir have their own practicing routine. Be sure to use what works for you. Be sure that you try this out this week so that you will be able to comment intelligently on the survey that we will present to you on Tuesday.
- Be honest with yourself as to whether you actually know a particular section. Set a goal for yourself that, if everyone else in your section were absent, you could carry the part by yourself (probably not quite as loudly). This means a level of practice beyond guesswork. If you use Bandlab, listen to various combinations of parts. Be sure to do this with the music in front of you and a pencil (or stylus if you are a cool techie using a tablet) at hand. Eventually sing while listening to all the parts EXCEPT yours. If you do not use Bandlab, record yourself. This is a brutally honest way to check your actual progress!
- Concentrate on the difficult sections. This strategy is time much better spent even though it feels much better to practice the easy sections. Also, the process of actually determining which sections are the difficult ones is helpful in itself.
- When practicing a difficult fast passage, practice slowly first until you are so accomplished with it that you are bored with it and then try it at tempo. Usually that will do the trick. I am not a believer in the “set the metronome forward two ticks” approach. I think it builds in tension. Bandlab has a feature which is perfect for this. Above the tracks, click and drag to select the passage you would like to repeat. When you start within that area of the recording, you will hear that passage ad infinitum. The practice recordings also have slow versions for those pieces that move along.
- Finally, sing every day–even if it is just in the shower. Your voice will be stronger and, actually, you will be happier!
Please make sure to write measure numbers into the four pieces that lack them: Ain’a That Good News, maggie and milly and molly and may, At the River, and Of Crows and Clusters. It is silly to think that I should have to name off the measure numbers for you! During next Tuesday’s rehearsal I will be referring to measure numbers, not “page 4, system 2, measure 3”.
See you Tuesday!
The Boy Who Picked Up His Feet To Fly, mm 1 – 23
Choose Something Like a Star, mm 4 – 28
David’s Lamentation, mm 1 – 34
Of Crows and Clusters, mm 6 – 28
No Time, mm 7 – 38
Bright Morning Stars, mm 51 – 72
At the River