Our rehearsal time is finite, so finding ways to maximize rehearsal time can be extremely important.
Many of us have great lesson plans and know exactly what we hope to accomplish and yet we end up wasting time on things unrelated to our goals; sometimes we might not even be aware of all the time we’ve wasted away.
Here are 10 Ways to Gain Rehearsal Times
1. Start rehearsal on time
I know this sounds obvious, but many of us have reasons why we wait. Here are some reasons: students need to get their music from the cabinet, students come from the other side of the building, attendance needs to be taken first. It is imperative that we start immediately. When the bell rings (or precisely when the class is scheduled to begin), it is your signal to start the warm-up. Let the latecomers join in as they enter. It’s amazing how starting on time tends to get more students to arrive on time.
2. Start each rehearsal with one opening pitch or chord
Skip the back rubs, and physical warm-ups; this tends to be a time of fooling around and wastes time. By initiating the beginning of class with one pitch or one chord on the piano, it creates an immediate beginning to the warm-ups. Beginning the rehearsal with a focused hum on one-pitch for 30 seconds or on a descending sol-do sliding pattern that moves up or down by half-steps is a way to get them started immediately without any talking. There should be no more than 5 seconds from the opening pitch/chord until the groups begin singing (and absolutely no talking).
3. Place all announcements on the board prior to students entering the room
Most things don’t need to be said if the group is trained to look at the board. Depending on your physical set-up, you may be able to leave the announcements up for the entire period, or if using a smartboard, you may leave up the announcements for a particular length of time until the board needs to be changed. Additionally, the same announcements could also be sent via the remind app or email.
4. Transition immediately from warm-ups into Sight-Singing
Sight-reading should be ready on the board daily. I have a Smartboard, so I choose to have the announcements on the board and have another window ready with Sight Reading Factory examples ready to go. The last series of warm-ups we sing is a scale, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, and triads in the key of the sight-reading exercise, and/or an aural training sheet. By connecting the warm-ups directly into sight-singing with no stopping, there is absolutely no complaining. Sight-reading daily improves their skills, and only takes up 1-2 minutes most days.
5. List the order of songs for the day on the board
I would recommend having this posted on the same screen as the daily announcements. By listing the song order, students will be expected to put the music in that order. This will allow them to jump from piece to piece with no wasted time. It’s perfectly fine to be ambitious and list more songs than you actually get to. In fact, doing this will allow that last 60 seconds of class to transition into a bonus piece of music, since their is no prep time required.
6. Give any necessary verbal announcements after the sight-singing
Students will likely be at their most focused point after warm-ups and sight-singing. They will know the order of the songs and this is the moment where they will be opening up their folder to look at their music. In my class, students enter the room with the daily announcements and/song order on the board. I then switch the screen to the sight-singing. When this is complete, I switch back to the announcements/song order. This allows me to verbally elaborate on any written announcements when necessary. When I’m finished, students are automatically ready with the first song.
7. Immediately move from one piece to the next
If singers have their music in a set order, it’s quite easy to say, “next piece”, give the starting pitch, and immediately begin. I’d rather have some students who enter late than let the the group dictate when they are ready to begin.
Valentine’s Day Rehearsal Assignment – an effective, introspective written choral assignment
8. Have a place for late passes
Do not have students interrupt you when they are late or let them distract you in any way. If they have a late pass, they can place it in a box and you can officially excuse them at a later time. If they did not place a late pass in the box, they are simply not excused. There is absolutely no reason to stop the flow of rehearsal to deal with them. That is wasted time and every time you as a director need to stop, ruins the group momentum.
Valentine’s Day Round (4 parts) – a fun round that focuses on specific articulation – .45 per copy!
9. Have someone else handle the attendance
There are many different ways to handle attendance, but the most important thing for me is that taking attendance does not stop my rehearsal flow. Having attendance taken by section leaders or a secretary taking attendance from empty numbered seats are two ways to prevent attendance-taking from losing rehearsal time and stopping flow.
10. Have bathroom visits, nurse visits, and guidance appointments handled by someone else
Minimize and/or eliminate the amount of interaction you have with students who need to leave the room during rehearsal; there are many ways to have other people handle this. A red/green card is effective for students who wish to go to the bathroom; if it’s green, they may leave. If students need to go to the nurse, there could be a permanent pass for them to take; any individualized action should not take away your attention from rehearsing your students.
Perhaps the biggest rehearsal time gainer of all:
Less talking & more singing. Many of the rehearsal suggestions above allude to this, but generally speaking, cutting down on what we say will allow for more rehearsal time.