instrument section that commonly has multiple parts. See Effective Performance of Band Music by Francis McBeth for a more detailed explanation of the pyramid of balance concept.

Once the preferred fundamental sound concept has been established, a plan should be devised to enable the ensemble to develop that sound. The early phase of a rehearsal is the most logical time to work on sound development. It is important that an adequate amount of time be given to the “developmental” portion of the rehearsal, and additional time for this type of ensemble work should be afforded to younger ensembles. At the high school level, I typically dedicated 20- 25% of each rehearsal to fundamental work, which included refinement of sound, scales, articulation, intonation, technique, etc. With the Iowa Symphony Band, I use approximately 10 minutes out of a 90-minute rehearsal to establish the band’s sound and tune the ensemble.

To begin, excellent playing fundamentals must be in place. These include a properly working instrument, exemplary posture, effective breathing, adequate airflow and the production of a characteristic tone by each individual member of the ensemble. In experiences with my own ensembles and as a guest conductor of honor bands, I find that I must frequently stress and reinforce the importance of excellent performance fundamentals. I believe most would agree that the success of an athlete, athletic team, musician or musical ensemble is largely dependent on the development and application of strong performance fundamentals. If I notice students sitting improperly during rehearsal or if the ensemble is not utilizing breath support to their fullest, I will quickly identify the problem and will make necessary adjustments. In fact, in recent years I have begun incorporating a few minutes of focused breathing exercises at the beginning of rehearsals. Such exercises serve to “warm up” the students’ use of air and clear their minds so they can focus their attention on the rehearsal. I will reinforce the importance of breathing during the course of a rehearsal if I feel the ensemble is not fully utilizing breath support. The Breathing Gym by Sam Palafian and Patrick Sheridan provides some outstanding exercises to improve breath control and airflow, and these exercises can easily be applied to individual as well as large ensemble settings.

During the first part of the rehearsal, after greeting the students, I will typically have them stand as I lead them through a few


breathing exercises, which I vary for each rehearsal. I will then have them perform some non-notational long tone exercises such as those that are commonly referred to as “Remington patterns,” which begin on some predetermined unison pitch (often Concert F) and are performed in descending and/or ascending minor seconds in increasing intervals. The Remington pattern can also be applied effectively to chordal work. Additional non-notational exercises include major, minor and chromatic scales, scales in various intervals such as thirds, fourths, fifths, etc. and scales performed in a round by instrument group (Always start with the low voices! See Diagram 1 for group assignments) to name a few. These types of exercises will enable your students to focus their complete attention on their individual sound production as well as that of the entire ensemble. Incorporate singing to encourage the students to be active listeners and more completely engaged throughout this process. You may want to have them sing a note within a scale (“Sing the next note in the scale”), or a chord tone (“Sing your note within the chord.” “Now, sing the tonic.”). There are many techniques that can be implemented that will create variety for you and your students as well as enable them to develop important performance concepts. Refer to the end of this article for an illustration of the Remington pattern, which was extracted from an article by John P. Paynter, A Daily Warm-Up Routine, which appeared in the September/October 1984 issue of Band.

It is important to keenly monitor and assess the sound the ensemble is producing at all times. Tendencies are that, as the students perform at stronger dynamic levels or in higher tessituras, the quality of the sound will brighten. In establishing the base ensemble sound, it is essential to eliminate these performance tendencies, and achieve consistency in all ranges at all dynamic levels.

If you incorporate technical work such as scales, arpeggios, rhythm studies, etc. within your full ensemble rehearsals, the second phase of the developmental section of the rehearsal is an ideal time for that material. Remember to constantly monitor the band’s use of air and sound production as they begin to perform more technically challenging material. This is exactly the time when young musicians may begin to back off on their breath support and thus start to produce poor, unsupported tones.

The culmination of this portion of the rehearsal, which is often referred to as the “warm up,” should be the performance of a

chorale or a slow, lyrical composition. Ensemble members should be given opportunities to apply developmental concepts such as tone production, balance, blend, phrasing, dynamics, etc. within a musical context. To create some variety in this part of the rehearsal, I will often have the woodwinds play or sing their parts while the brass buzzes their parts of the chorale on their mouthpieces in order to open up their sound and to work on their listening skills. If I find the band’s attention lacking, I will often have them (a) sing the chorale to become more aware of intonation, (b) transpose the chorale up or down a given interval to increase their focus, (c) “bop” (perform all notes in short rhythmic values) the chorale to illustrate precision problems or the importance of some inner part movement, and/or (d) slur the entire chorale to improve airflow and phrasing.

There are many outstanding collections of chorales available for concert bands at every performance level. I have enjoyed using Sound Training: Twenty-Six Chorales of J. S. Bach, arranged by Wayne Gorder, published by Ludwig Music, for my chorale work with the Iowa Symphony Band. Of course, the Sixteen Chorales by Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged by Mayhew Lake is an excellent, time-tested collection of chorales. These are but two of many fine chorale books that are now available for bands of any ability level.

Instead of utilizing a chorale at the end of the developmental portion of the rehearsal, you may want to have the band perform a slow, lyrical work or selected passages from that work. Compositions such as Salvation Is Created by Tchesnokov, Nimrod from Enigma Variations by Elgar, Come, Sweet Death by Bach/Reed, Amazing Grace by Himes or Ticheli, Shenandoah or Loch Lomond by Ticheli, Llwyn Onn by Hogg, Ave Maria by Biebl, Air for Band by Erickson, etc. work beautifully during this part of the rehearsal. It is through the performance of slow, sustained music that students have the best opportunity to refine their sound production as well as their overall musicianship.

Once the first phase of the rehearsal has been completed, the ensemble is ready to begin work on their current concert repertoire. However, the developmental work must continue. As the band performs various passages within compositions, they should ultimately apply the concepts introduced and reinforced at the beginning of the rehearsal. Be sure you assess their sound production throughout the entire rehearsal, along with

October/November 2018

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