Band Director
Close this search box.

Middle School Band: Tips for Effective Rehearsals

by Mike Pearce

Whether you’re just starting out or have many years under your belt as a band director, there are daily rehearsal tips you can add to or use to refine your inventory of techniques for band practice.

    Since every rehearsal stoppage often translates to behavior problems and requires that you restore order and restart, there are some things you should have on or near your conductor’s stand. Included on the list are a tuner/metronome, pencil, hall passes, demonstration instruments-drum sticks, piano or wind instrument, a small trash receptacle, chalkboard, and so on. You may also want to devise a system for dealing with the inevitable call slips from the Main office or counselors. Some teachers have a student greeter who collects call slips and intercepts student aides and other potential interrupters. Other teachers store the call slips on their stands and deliver them at the end of rehearsal. Individual school situations have varying expectations, but a concerted effort to minimize interruptions and the starts/stops that accompany them can lead to smoother, more trouble-free daily rehearsals.
    Instruct your students that you want them to set up to play immediately when they come to band. Two minutes gives you time to check roll, then start your warm up. Individual school situations may dictate modifications, but the practice of starting promptly can eliminate “messing around” or horseplay and other undesirable behaviors and help you accomplish more during your allotted class time.
    Though legally necessary and helpful for keeping track of students, checking roll shouldn’t be a time-consuming task. Usually, a quick glance can tell you that you’re missing a clarinet or trombone. If it can be done during the two-minute setup, you can be ready to start rehearsal at the time bandsmen are ready to play. An everyday verbal roll call is an open invitation to boredom and behavior problems.
    Writing the daily rehearsal plan on a chalk board helps your band understand that you are organized and have a definite plan for teaching rather that filling time. You can also train your percussionists to look over the list of pieces to be rehearsed and have the needed equipment and accessories ready to play. Even if you have classes meeting back to back, it will be worth your time to write the plan on the board as students arrive. If students are accustomed to entering the room and checking the board to see what’s on the day’s schedule, you may find that the irritating question, “Are we playing today?” will disappear.
    Locating and passing out parts to students who’ve lost theirs can occupy inordinate amounts of rehearsal time and unnecessarily invite behavior problems. One way around the problem is to locate a “Missing Parts” clipboard in a prominent place. Train students to write down what they’re missing so you can have it for them the following day. There are exceptional times when you must stop and get a part if there’s nobody for them to share with or if the part is too vital to play without. The clipboard also helps track which students are losing parts so you can call home and ask for help in locating the student’s music and, if you have to make special orders for replacements, assigning the appropriate fines.
    When possible pass out new music by having it on stands or chairs as students arrive. If you have responsible section leaders, you may be able to put each section’s music on the first chair player’s stand. Look for compact, effective ways of issuing new music, unless you enjoy using up large blocks of your rehearsal time and dealing with the behavior problems that often accompany idle time for young players.
    When it’s possible, drill technical problems as part of your warm up. For example, if your band is having trouble playing legato, design a legato exercise to be played as part of your Bb concert scale. You can also work on chromatic scales, accents, sforzando, dynamics, etc., in the same way. The benefits from embedding technical work in warm ups is that you can avoid over rehearsing your concert music to address those technique issues.
    You can accomplish more and keep yourself and your students more content if you maintain a fast pace. Work a couple of problem spots on each piece, then play through or move on to the next piece. If there are particularly resistant problems, pass over them and spend time later reflecting how to best attack them. Try to find a way to improve them during warm up or schedule section rehearsals if the problems are section specific. Sometimes, you need to spend longer on a single piece of music, but, as a rule, attitudes and behavior improve if you keep things quick and compact.
    Try to end rehearsal with something the students like to play, especially on day you’ve really worked them hard. It’s nice to hear students say, “I was humming that song the rest of the day after band.”
  10. CLEAN UP
    In addition to the obvious need to get things put away, the clean up period can be useful for hearing make up tests, bonus scales, and challenges. Listening to bonus scales can be good modeling, like when your whiz 1st clarinet or flute zips through a 2 or 3 octave scale and shows the rest of the section that high notes and fast fingers are things they can also master.

Your effectiveness as a teacher and relative ease in achieving excellence in your band’s performance can be enhanced by streamlining your daily rehearsals through the following techniques:

  1. Tools at your fingertips
  2. Two minute rule
  3. Visual roll check
  4. Daily rehearsal outline
  5. Missing parts clipboard
  6. Plan for passing out new music
  7. Technique drills in warm up
  8. Fast pace
  9. Finish with a favorite
  10. Clean up activities