Monday, 14 September 2009

"8 Simple Rules" for playing in an orchestra

8. Make sure that you have everything you need with you at rehearsal
That includes instrument, mouthpiece, music, stand (unless supplied by the orchestra, if in doubt bring your own), pencil, eraser, and any mutes needed for the works to be played.

7. Be sure you know whether repeats are in or out, and mark them in the part
You don’t want to bring a rehearsal or concert to a halt because you get this wrong and make a solo entry 40 bars out of place.

6. Check your transposition
It is embarrassing to bring the orchestra to a halt because you didn’t notice that the part is in E and made a solid entry a semitone out. Clarinettists have an equivalent special rule – always make sure you start a piece with the correct clarinet in your hands. For everyone else, the nearest equivalent rule is to check your clef and key signature.

5. Don’t gossip
Music is a small world, and all gossip will ultimately get back to the person you are gossiping about. And that is the end of any prospect of them phoning you to ask you to do a gig. If you can’t say something nice about a person, remain silent on the subject.

4. Keep to the same speed as the conductor
Getting behind or ahead of the beat is far more noticeable than playing a few wrong notes, or even missing a few. Getting out of place like this fosters uncertainty among everyone else – do they follow you or the conductor?

3. Don’t be late
Being late to rehearsal is far more noticeable than merely not playing all that well. It is also very unprofessional. Being late to a concert is even more so! If you are a student, get into a good habit on this right from the start - it will be noticed if you don't, and that can end a career even before it has properly started. If you are an amateur, it is a courtesy to your fellow-players to be on time for all rehearsals.

Occasionally circumstances make it impossible to get there on time. If you know ahead of time that you will be unavoidably late, then try and let somebody know. If you are a student or professional, don't just try, make very sure that you succeed. Make sure you have your mobile phone with you when travelling to a gig, and make sure you have a note of the relevant numbers so that you can call ahead in emergency.

2. Don’t argue with the conductor
Especially if you are right and he is wrong. He will hold it against you for ever more.

1. Don’t play in the rests
Playing when you should be silent (such as in a general pause) is far more noticeable than being silent when you should be playing. There is absolutely no hiding who is responsible when this happens!

And yes, I have broken all these rules myself at one time or another, and have learned from bitter experience how important they are. I try very hard not to do it again.

1 comment:

  1. As a footnote to #2 I'd add: Don't answer rhetorical questions asked of the band by the director. Having been an English major first time around, I often know the word when the director asks something like, "What do you call a two against three rhythm?" In the past I've unthinkingly supplied the answer without missing a beat, then noticed a certain discomfiture on the director's part. Sort of messes up the wisdom being passed from on high to the sponges effect they're looking for ;-)