Nancy Cheng is an English major and pre-med junior at Duke University, where she is also a member of the group Out of the Blue. She enjoys shower-singing, hemiolas, and funk. Nancy writes Members Only once a month for The A Cappella Blog.
I know a lot of groups that fit many hours of rehearsal into one week. I’ve heard of everything from 2 hours for the casual group to 6 hours for the more dedicated. Regardless of how much time you put into your group, putting more into one rehearsal makes your rehearsals fun, exciting, and (most importantly) more productive.
Recently my group elected me music director for the next year, and one of my priorities is making sure that rehearsals go smoothly and as efficiently at possible. I plan on improving things ranging from big to small: from the logistics of running rehearsal to learning music more quickly.
To ease both rehearsals and performance, I’m going to try and wean my group off of getting each starting note for each part for each song. It wastes time and effort on the music director’s part, and the group should have a good enough handle on relative pitch (in fact, it’s part of OOTB’s audition process) so that they only need one note and the tempo to get started both in and out of rehearsal.
Speaking of which, whether members are in or out of rehearsal doesn’t mean they can’t help rehearsal become more efficient. I arrange using Finale, and my university gives each student some free web space, so I plan on putting up MIDIs of each part and the entire score so the girls can listen anywhere they like: they can download the MIDI onto their iPod, listen to them for five minutes before bed or in between classes. They may not be able to learn the whole thing, but simply getting the melody of their part down or the rhythm really speeds rehearsal along, especially if they listen and learn with their part printed out.
These are just a few tips I’m going to try and implement next year, and I hope they improve the efficacy of rehearsals and performance, especially because we have a lot of ideas for songs, and the less time spent on songs means that more can be learned. If you have any ideas or already use some policies that help in terms of rehearsing and learning music asap, please feel free to comment.