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Old 11-04-2019, 09:30 PM   #11
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

Depends on what kind of band you wanted to play in. The last group I played with, I expected people to learn music at home.

All we did at rehearsal was play through the sets on the bagpipes (not many drummers in Lubbock). Chanter tuning was done outside of rehearsal. If you have to retune chanters every time, you’re doing something wrong.

An average rehearsal:
Tune drones against a meter
Play a set
Play a set
Tune drones against a meter
Play until we’re tired

It’s a bagpipe band, not a practice chanter band.
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Old 11-05-2019, 06:34 AM   #12
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

Here’s what doesn’t work. This is / was a real band (I'm no longer a member, so it may have changed).
8:00pm - Pipers start to arrive, have a chat, start to assemble pipes, one or two might start playing.
8:20 pipe major eventually gets pipers into the circle (some warmed up some not) and immediately starts tuning the drones and setting the chanters.
8:25 to 8:45 – play a few parade tunes. Drones and chanters need retuned
8:35 – last piper to arrive shows up.
8:45 to 9pm – cigarette break
9:00 - drummers come in. PM starts to retune the now cold drones and chanters
9:15 - start practicing the competition tunes
9:25, chanters and drones need retuning after warming up
9:35: comp tunes again
9:50 : PM knocks it off early cos his gout is playing up and he fancies a pint

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Old 11-05-2019, 11:56 AM   #13
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

Originally Posted by gisahag View Post
This is / was a real band

This is so accurate it hurts, even though I've never been in this band
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Old 11-05-2019, 01:26 PM   #14
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

Originally Posted by Aric Johnson View Post
Nate, did you do anything on particular for drills to focus on attacks/ cutoffs outside of doing them repeatedly?
Nothing Earth-shattering on attack-cutoffs. Occasionally we'd do some periods of rep drills ... like rolloff into a tune, play first part, cut and immediate rolloff into it again, in time. If someone had a bad start or stop, theyd step out and work on it for a while off to the side as the group continued, and then they'd come back. Sort of like a running game of "Duck Duck Goose" or something.

Really though, the focus stayed on music, tuning and steadiness. Looking back, that latter one is the one thing I wish I'd had us do far-more intensively. Honestly, it would have probably made the most difference in the long term.

A frequent mistake lower grade bands seem to make is making WAY too big of a deal in regard to the attack and cut-off. Tone/tuning is the foundation upon which everything else sits. Without it, you can work on everything/anything else until your dying day, and you're really not going to sound any better. My instructor is a judge for both solos and bands .. and has stated this many times ... whoever has the best tuning/tone .. it's theirs to lose from there .. if they can keep the slips/bloopers to a minimum, guess who's going to win out?

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Old 11-05-2019, 03:10 PM   #15
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

Gisahag aka "Neil",

I too belonged to a similar band which I quit because I just wasn't getting anything out of it. I've played in many bands with many different ideas on "how to lead and how to practice" and I've enjoyed them all until this one pipe major moved into position in the band I quit because I felt like I was spending 4 hours in a band practice but only active with PIPING for 1.5 hours if I was lucky. The PM also took a lot of potential BAND gigs and made them his personal gigs for which he got paid and the band didn't get to perform....which takes all the fun out of practicing!

I need to feel like I get something out of every rehearsal I attend. I like to feel that if I miss a band practice, I missed out on some important information. My time is important.

I like to be told when I screw up and am not playing correctly--my last PM wanted to coddle us and just say SOMEBODY ISN'T DOING THIS RIGHT and we'd have to guess who it was. I like being put on the spot and being asked to perform solo in front of my peers....I get invaluable feedback AND it makes me practice more. Piper's who don't like to play solo in front of their peers are those that hide behind their peers in a performance and hope that their mistakes and issues are somewhat muted and not noticed (ha ha.....jokes on you!). A PM who knows what they want and they have a strict agenda for rehearsal is right up my alley.

Piper's need to be taught pipe maintenance and tuning and there needs to be some sort of expectation that they show up with an instrument that they at least TRIED to get going properly. The PM's job is NOT to adjust every drone reed and every chanter and every maintenance issue on a person's pipes at every rehearsal!

A good PM is an awesome person to have on board. A well run and organized band is an awesome organization to belong to. It takes everyone doing their part to create a well working and well running machine and one should not be sitting back expecting others to do all the work.

First person to complain that they don't like how things are done or run gets to take on that responsibility and fill that roll.

My 2 cents. For what it's worth.

Don't take life seriously! You'll never get out of it alive!
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Old 11-09-2019, 03:04 PM   #16
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

A number of things similar to what Pppiper described. It depends, a bit, on for what we're preparing...a performance or competition. Still, initially chanters and pads. Unless the drummers need time on their own to learn scores, we like to have pipes and drums working together. I've seen far too many bands keeping them apart.

On pipes and drums...may involve full practice on march tunes, competition tunes, or whatever. As competitions approach, lots on marching into the circle, etc. On chanters or pipes, we do a lot of work on shaking out nerves. That means solos around the cirlce; and on pipes and drums, we may team a piper with a side and tenor to run through a set; go around the band with different 'teams'. And, yes, we do exercises on attacks and cuts, as well, when 'on the floor.'
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:53 PM   #17
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

Missed starts and stops are something that drives me CRAZY, but there's a limit to how much time you can spend on it at practice. Depending on the level of the band, that may be something you can expect players to address on their own time.

As a general thing, it's important to be able to do certain things relatively quickly (like set the chanters). You don't want to have a big part of the band standing around doing nothing for any real period of time. If one person needs special attention, or someone's pipes aren't going, the PM should either delegate someone else to help that individual outside of the circle, or ask that person to wait until after the rehearsal for one-on-one time. If you have a big band, split up the tuning so that you're ready when you say you'll be; don't expect the drum corps to wait on you. My experience has been that a small handful of people often end up requiring the most work to get tuned; there has to be a limit to the amount of time they're allowed to take up (and they become candidates for competition-day cuts if it's an ongoing issue).
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Old 12-10-2019, 07:10 AM   #18
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

Like many of you I've been in several bands over the years (my first was 1976) and as a caveat they ranged from G4 to G2 so I have zero Grade One experience (which is why I lurk behind a pseudonym and I've experienced a wide range of rehearsal styles.

I was actually just about to start a thread on the topic, but it fits well here.

(WARNING: I'm a piper and the following is pipe-centric. Sorry.)

Seems to me that there are two sorts of Pipe Majors, the teaching ones and the non-teaching ones.

The Teaching Pipe Major.
I played for many years in a band run by an excellent teaching-style PM. He had a fantastic analytical ear and could hear the slightest detail. Nothing was ever let go; every problem was immediately addressed.

As is typical we worked on new sets on PCs until we got them up on the pipes.

But getting the tunes up on the pipes didn't mean that the learning/teaching stage was over! It was never over.

If he heard, say, a sloppy doubling the whole pipe corps would work on doublings, a doubling drill, as a corps, then and there, on the pipes.

I well recall that at one contest he heard the pipe corps do a less-than-perfect taorluath IN THE FINAL TUNING AREA and then and there, only a couple minutes before we marched over the line, he had the pipe corps do taorluath drills.

He expected every piper to know the music in detail. Let's say we had just run the Medley. If he heard something that wasn't quite right he might call out "second Strathspey, second part, bar 3" and he would count it off and we would all play it. (He never singled out individuals at rehearsal, we always worked on things as a corps.)

He had a philosophy that the band's music should always be of a slightly higher level than the band was currently capable of, so that the band always had a clear goal to strive for and was always improving.

The Non-Teaching Pipe Major.
A couple of the best bands I've played in were run by PMs who lead by the example of their playing. They didn't teach the tunes or break down the tunes or sing the tunes or conduct the tunes or talk about the tunes, THEY PLAYED.

The pipers were expected to show up knowing how to play their instruments and how to play the tunes.

One band in particular, the best band I've played in, was all about TONE. The (unspoken) philosophy was that everything flowed from tone: execution and expression flowed from tone. We did very little PC work.

So practice went something like this: the drum corps was in one part of the building, the pipe corps in another, for the first hour or so. What the drummers did I don't know, but what we pipers did was circle up and play our pipes for an hour, retreats mostly, not the competition tunes, to fully dial in our tone and our blowing. Mind you, the pipes were going at 90% at the start, but 90% wasn't the tonal goal.

As we played and played our pipes and our blowing got dialed in, ever closer to the 100% tonal goal. The PM (who made all our chanter reeds) was a tone master and close enough was NOT good enough.

After around an hour of playing retreats and such we would take a short break and bring in the drum corps and we would run the competition sets.

All of this preparation paid off On The Day because at contests we did very little playing, very little tuning. The pipes were going great, and the PM wanted the pipe corps to be fresh in the circle.

I don't think that either PM style is inherently better, just different. In the end the quality of a band comes mostly from the talent in the ranks.
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Last edited by pancelticpiper; 12-10-2019 at 07:20 AM.
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