Leading an Online Sectional Rehearsal

It can be difficult to have an online sectional rehearsal, but there are aspects that you can address through an online sectional rehearsal. Consider the following items in your online sectional rehearsal. It may be that you ask all players to play along to a backing track of the song and send you a video recording. Alternately, you can have all of the players add their single parts into an audio software capture like Soundtrap.com or Bandlab.com.  Be attentive to copyright if recording any music.

Overarching questions for a section leader during each online rehearsal or online recording: What are the areas that your section needs to work on during the particular sectional? Keep in mind that you may not be able to focus on all of these items at once, depending on the level of your sectional players.

What to look and listen for in your online section rehearsal:

Posture/Instrument Position – Correct posture will likely improve all aspects of instrument playing and sound. Is everyone sitting up and on the edge of chairs? Think of “standing” while sitting as a good verbal cue.

Tone – Listen to the sound of players as individuals and as a group. Is everyone playing their instrument with good tone production. To aid this, ask each person to “aim” their sound to a particular spot in the room. This doesn’t mean pointing the bell or instrument to that spot, but to look to that spot and focus your sound to “hit” the spot together.

Pitch/Intonation – How is the pitch as a group? Is everyone listening to the group leader for correct intonation? The leader should be modelling intonation for the group.

Dynamics – Are you as a section leader modelling the dynamics for the group? Take time to go through the music and identify the key dynamic changes and moments that your section needs to address.

Breathing – Is everyone breathing together; should everyone be breathing together? Sometimes a sustained part in the music requires different section players to breathe at different times to sustain a long phrase or note. Ask yourself, “what player is breathing a which bar in the music?”

Articulation – Ask yourself if everyone is playing the correct phrasing and slurring notes as notated in the music. In a fast passage, is everyone tonguing at the beginning of the slur, and ensuring that they are playing through the slur marking? What about staccato or legato markings? Are you hearing the section playing them “as one voice” together? Or, might there be a few players playing a note too long, or too short. Practice what a staccato note should sound like when played together. Practice what a legato phase should sound like when played together. Remember, you are aiming to sound like “one voice” even though you are a section of players.

Rhythm – What are the trouble spots with rhythms in the music played? Is it a particular music section? Why might players have difficulties with this section? Are there a lot of notes? Then slow it down. Is this challenging due to finger positions? Again, try slowing it down. Is it reaching the tessitura of the instrument? Ask players to play it an octave lower to get the sound “in their head”, then to “sing it” and then play as written. Sometimes the higher notes don’t “speak well” because the player is too tense in air flow or has tightened up the jaw or embouchure. Asking players to feel more relaxed when playing the part might be a key for success here.

Take time to assess the overall performance of your section with the following questions:

  1. Has each player provided a good tone with proper intonation during the sectional?
  2. Was our section playing in tune together?
  3. Did we play all of the rhythms accurately?
  4. How would you rate your section’s level of detail for playing accurate dynamic markings?
  5. How productive was your overall rehearsal?
  6. What needs to be addressed at your next section rehearsal?

Level achieved:

  • Excellent (No mistakes)
  • Very Good (A few concerns)
  • Needs Some Work (Several parts issues)
  • Not there yet (This part needs a lot more work)