Elements of a Superior Band – Routine

What is the routine of the group that you work with?  Some band directors have a specific schedule that they stick to, others have a throw things at the wall and see what sticks style.  Of the groups that I have worked with (some on a regular basis, others for clinics), I have found that the most successful groups have a routine in place where students know exactly what to expect…BUT with the ability to flow the rehearsal and address things as needed.  

So, here are some things to consider:

1.  What is your routine?

  • Do you have an over-arching schedule to follow?
    • Here is an example:  Start in fundamentals arcs (or a block…or whatever your band finds best suitable for musical drills), do some stretching, musical daily drill, run musical needs and rehearse as needed, visual fundamentals block, visual ensemble rehearsal with or without music,.
    • Here’s the thing, especially with younger and/or less experienced groups, have a routine that you follow and can be expected from the rehearsal.
  • Do you allow time to “fix” what needs to be fixed?
    • Some people have such a rigid schedule of routine that the entire rehearsal becomes routine.  Daily drill sounds the same as always (students are not engaged), music is not getting better (students are not engaged), visual looks the same (students are not engaged), show looks the same (students are not engaged).  Do you see a pattern?  
    • Make sure that you are enhancing the student’s ability to address items on their own by creating an environment where they are forced to be engaged in rehearsal.  If the band director steps away during daily drill, not giving comments for success, not giving applicable standards to achieve during segments, the students will not stay engaged in the process.  Create an environment where students have to stay engaged!  No other options!

2.  Do you have a plan of what you want to accomplish in each rehearsal?

  • Create long and short term goals for what you want your ensemble to achieve.  Share these goals with your ensemble!  
  • Share with your students the goals for each rehearsal, each segment, each repetition.  Make the students responsible for achieving these standards and goals each time.  If you go on and say it’s good enough, then good enough will be good enough.

3.  You don’t have to do things the exact same way each rehearsal…but…

  • Have a plan in place.  The more you vary, the more inconsistency you will have.  However, as a group matures, the more variance will allow for more success.  

4.  Focus on small concepts before big concepts.

  • I have met many a band director who try and do visual and musical daily drill all at the same time in a methodical across the field standard.  This rarely develops ensemble cohesiveness or visual prowess.  Students many times are focused on getting through the exercise rather than ensemble perfection.
  • Think pedagogically:  what is the most important thing to your group?  Are you a musically focused ensemble (and I REALLY hope that you are)…spend time working to develop a musical sonority and identity to your ensemble.  Once this is done (in small chunks…once again think pedagogically and sequentially) add more layers.  If you start with the most complex ideas, the most simple details will be forgotten.
  • Accuracy then speed.  Do I need to say any more about that????

5.  Have routines in place for each facet of your rehearsal:

  • What is the sequence of learning for daily drill?
    • What do they need to do today?
    • What do you want them to know tomorrow?
    • What do they need to be prepared for in a week/month/year?
  • What is the sequence of learning for visual fundamentals?
    • Do you have a marching manual that you use?  Write it down…write down every detail of what you want your band to do visually.  If there is a question, you can reference your details.
  • How do you learn drill?
  • How do you clean drill?
  • How do you put music to drill?
  • How do you learn to play together (left to right and front to back)?
  • How do you handle a good rehearsal?
  • How do you handle a bad rehearsal?
  • How do you teach stands performances?
  • How do you teach marching contest protocols?
  • Have you communicated with your design team how these goals will be influenced by the music and choreography that is written?

6.  Anything worth doing well is worth having a routine in place for.  If you want your band to excel, then leave no stone unturned and do not let up until it is the way it needs to be.
7.  Don’t forget to focus on the process.

  • So many band directors focus on the goals instead of the process.  Some processes take YEARS to complete while others seconds or minutes.  Focusing on the end leads to negativity and distress.  Focusing on the process leads to better performers and human beings!

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