When it comes to running a musical rehearsal for beginning bands or choirs, you may run into some chaos every once in awhile. For these less experienced students, learning to work together as an ensemble is a new challenge. Even more challenging, is teaching this concept to new musicians. When running your next rehearsal, you may want to consider the Silent Rehearsal.
The Silent Rehearsal is an exercise geared towards getting students thinking and acting as an ensemble. It will also force students to come up from their music books and have all eyes on you, their conductor. Here’s how it works:
Assign the Music
Prior to the Silent Rehearsal, assign the music you would like your students to practice and prepare at home. The Silent Rehearsal will work far better with students who already have an idea of what they are to play that day.
On the day of the Silent Rehearsal, have the rules for that day written out on the whiteboard/chalkboard. This is simply a way to let the students know how the day is going to run. Make sure the rules explain that they are not to talk, and that you are not going to talk either. Also let them know that they are not to play out of turn. If you have a particularly rowdy group, you may also want to list a ensemble wide consequence if one person breaks these rules.
Conduct rehearsal! Use your whiteboard to give simple instructions. This can be as easy as telling them what note to play, or what page in the music to turn to.
What you will hopefully find is that your rehearsal was far more efficient and productive than usual. This is because the exercise naturally forces the students to pay attention. They cannot talk over you, nor can they drift off and then play catch up by asking the person next to them what they missed. Equally as important, this exercise also strengthens your ability to communicate with your students. You may not be speaking, but you will learn how to use your whole body to let them know what you need from them. Lastly, it allows the students to be present in the rehearsal room. They are not getting bogged down by the notes on the page, nor are they getting distracted and playing over each other. Instead, they are using their eyes, looking to you for guidance. They are also using their ears to listen to their fellow musicians. They are focused and ready to rehearse!
Sometimes, when it comes to making music, silence is the first step!