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Old 10-30-2019, 02:57 PM   #1
Aric Johnson
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Default Rehearsal "activities"

What types of things do you do at band rehearsals?

I've been in 2 bands, and done some different things in each, but I'm curious to hear how other bands run their practices.

Specifically, what does a typical rehearsal look like? And, are there any unique things your band does to drill down on a concept. An example of the latter being have the players face out from the circle, so they can't see fingers/feet and are forced to listen to get their cues.
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Old 10-30-2019, 03:03 PM   #2
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

I want to follow this thread for ideas, thanks for posting!
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Old 10-30-2019, 05:09 PM   #3
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

It’ll be interesting to hear some of the more ‘out-there’ practice techniques.
My bands rehearsals are typically 2 hours, with an hour on practice chanters and an hour on pipes.
Once on pipes we start by quickly tuning drones and chanters, then practice competition tunes by marching into the circle, or street marches by marching up and down the hall.
There might be the odd practice where drones are corked - definitely brings out any dodgy fingerwork ;)
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Old 10-30-2019, 06:19 PM   #4
Aric Johnson
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

We've played with drummers spread between the pipers.
Pipers playing eyes closed.
Both to get the pipers listening to the drums.

I've done cutoff drills where the band plays, and the PM points to a person And they have 2 measures to cut off. The goal is to build confidence in cutting off.

I've done the same drill, but with the player only blowing out they're drones as a practice on the event of a double tone.
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Old 10-31-2019, 06:51 AM   #5
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

Go to 5;25 on this video for some astute tips.

"...I think that I will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed..."
Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother
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Old 10-31-2019, 01:12 PM   #6
John Bolt
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

One hour going through the tunes on the chanter, one hour going through the tunes on the pipes and 2 hours drinking beer where the PM finally lightens and I think maybe I'll come back next week!
John Bolt

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Old 10-31-2019, 03:29 PM   #7
el gaitero
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

I hate to see the first 40 min. pissed away bs’ing about baseball, vacation,the last gig, the next gig, yada....such a waste.
Time for all that in the bar after practice.
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Old 11-01-2019, 10:11 AM   #8
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

In my experience, this rests on the shoulders of the band leadership. The leadership (i.e., the PM and DS in particular) REALLY need to be heavily schedule oriented in leading practices.

Though I was reasonably happy with practices with the two pipe majors who led the corps before I was in the job, my one observance that slightly irked me from time to time was how practices were kind of up in the air in terms of agenda.

When I assumed the PM role, (or even when I sometimes led practice as the PS), I was pretty insistent on keeping practices set on an unwavering schedule. Often I was on a commuter train to get to practices from work for about an hour, so I would take full advantage of that time to sketch out on paper the subjects I wanted to address that particular day, and the time blocks associated with each task.

I worried at first that the membership would view this approach as being rather militant/slave-driving ... but to my delight, the more structured approach to practices seemed to go over quite well. Lots of the players approached me to say that they really could see/feel how much more was coming out of practice .. it seems they don't want their time wasted either.

Sadly, this was far too long ago for me to still have an old agenda handy ... but if memory serves, it would have been somewhat similar to the following:

Overall time period:
  • Lessons 6-7pm
  • Practice 7-9pm

6:00-6:45pm (45 mins)
Lesson time with students
... students encouraged to stick around up to 7:50pm or so.

6:45-7:00pm (15 mins)
Band members should be arriving, putting pipes together, setting up drums.
If there are maintenance issues/concerns, these should be addressed during this time

7:00-7:15pm (15 mins)
Individual members pick a spot and play on their own to warm up, as PM (or dedicated tuner [DT]) goes about, listening for any particular issues with chanters, drones, etc., making adjustments as needed.

7:15-7:30pm (15 mins)
Either PS or PM will be "tuning template (TT)" .. TT must have been warming up for the entire period prior. The other band leader (or DT) will fine-tune the chanter and drones of the TT piper, and take a reading of TT's drones. One-by-one, other pipers are brought up to match up with the TT piper. Everyone has a "tuning buddy" or two to watch ... when a piper's "tuning buddies" are being matched with the TT, those pipers should be playing off to the side to keep their chanter warm. Other pipers can talk amongst themselves during this time, provided they are being vigilant, to ensure they are at least somewhat warmed up when their chanter is to be matched. Drummers can be doing their own tuning, and warm-up rudiments during this time.

7:30-7:50pm (20 mins)
Full band assembly, playing simple, massed-band sets and the like. One member should be going around (DT), touching up drones again as needed.
If students are starting on pipes, this is their prime opportunity to get some playing time in with the corps. After a touchup of drones, band should counter march for some sets, and then march into a circle. If time is left, maybe play a simple air in the circle.

((( 10 mins break)))

8:00-8:30pm (30 mins)
Assemble into a circle again, begin going over more complicated sets in more detail, as desired ... or any other subject focuses for the day. Drummers might stay or go on their own, at the DS's discretion

8:30-8:50pm (20 mins)
If practice chanter work is desired, this is the prime time for it. If not, then close out the day with some attack/cut-off drills, ideally with the drum corps present. Also, in preparation for larger competitions or gigs, the prior focused period may be extended into this time.

8:50-8:55pm (5 mins)
Closing announcements and remarks from leadership, open period for questions from the corps. The corp is then dismissed.

8:55-9:00pm (5 mins)
Pack up, head to the pub for reasonably responsible frivolity.


Anyways, that's roughly what we did during my tenure. The more we adhered to this sort of agenda, the more folks seems to really enjoy practice .. and it's AMAZING how fast it all goes.

Hope this helps.

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Old 11-01-2019, 09:37 PM   #9
Aric Johnson
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"

Nate, did you do anything on particular for drills to focus on attacks/ cutoffs outside of doing them repeatedly?
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Old 11-04-2019, 03:23 PM   #10
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Default Re: Rehearsal "activities"


Mostly practice chanters, with a small bit of pipes and drums as a full band as preparation for armistice and other gigs if needs be.

Mostly working on individual aspects, learning to play together (coring) and maybe getting the drummers through on pads to work on medley transitions and things like that (and adjusting as necessary). Harmonies were adjusted and perfected.

Never really used metronomes early on (some bands did later and would include BPM on the sheet music) - would play a part as a band, then the PM and a single piper, then everyone again and repeat. Whole repertoire was covered, with maybe the last half hour on competition sets.


Expectation was pipes were out and tunes were learned. No sheet music. In, pipes out and warm up in the corner, drones on for a while (some lower grade bands put drones off to focus on chanters for half an hour). Early practices were focused on getting the sound together, a good few street sets (Green Hills, 6/8's etc) and getting the drummers in for the last half hour to go onto competition sets.

Later practices (closer to the season starting) would be almost solely competition sets with the massed bands tunes used for setting up for the first 40 mins or so, before taking a break so the PM could request the drummers once they'd finished their current work. usually an hour or so as a full band, twice a week.

Some bands would waste time like you wouldn't believe. 2 hours, once a week isn't enough, never mind when it isn't focused.

General notes
- maintenance is to be done at home
- if you can't/don't know how to fix something, ask
- practice should reflect performance*

*the amount of times we'd have a false start marching and not continue, but be made to walk back to the line like children and told "we'll try that again, but right this time" was astounding.

Pipe bands are military byproducts - and everyone is trying their best to achieve, so don't let others down and keep everybody accountable. As much as some of the eyes closed, and drummer-piper-drummer-piper ideas in this thread may work or might help create more aware musicians - it's not how we perform. Best advice is keep it simple. Learn the tunes, tune the instruments, play the tunes together.
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