How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you have 10 minutes to rehearse? Maybe some musicians arrived late, the previous Mass ran long, you had technical difficulties…whatever the case, you find that you are crunched for time. When I find myself with this dilemma, I always think back to what my piano teacher at GSU taught me for times like these: “Don’t practice what you can easily read, or what you already know.”
Really consider it when you’re short on time. You need to make the most out of your rehearsal.
1. Flip through the music and ignore the songs you’ve all played a hundred times. Only worry about the new songs.
2. Focus on the most difficult sections of songs, not the parts that are simple. Point out that spot in the verse where the rhythm is a little different, or where the chord change happens on an off-beat, or where the alto note is ‘weird.’
Even professional musicians do this all the time. A lot of pros are great readers, but will really appreciate a ‘heads-up’ for something that is a little unusual, different, or unique. Help them out, too, when they are sitting in with you.
3. Make sure everyone knows the ‘map’ of the song. How will you begin? How will you end? How many verses? etc.
4. Maybe you’re doing a song in a new key this week? Have everyone ‘put some eyes’ on those notes and chords before you play it.
5. As the director, you are hopefully already familiar with the music. I know, for me, when we haven’t gotten to run over a piece at all, I’ve looked at everyone in the group and said, “I’m gonna play this through one time as an intro so you can ‘learn it.'” You’d be surprised how that can prevent a lot of musical issues and trainwrecks, especially when everyone just listens and doesn’t try to play or sing along right away.
6. Ask for help; assign tasks. If there’s someone in your group that is always prepared and knows their music, ask them for help in solving any last minute issues. (more music copies, cords not plugged in, extra mics and stands, replacing bad cables, etc.) Everyone will gladly pitch in when needed so you can focus on other things.
Think of it this way: do you practice the Mass parts every week? Probably not. Instead, you rely on the fact that everyone is really familiar with them; you know them; there is no real need to rehearse them. When they come up in the liturgy, everyone will be able to play them well.
The same can apply to the songs we know well. Instead, use your limited time (if, in fact, that is all you have) to ‘hit’ the spots that are troublesome or difficult. Don’t spend the precious time you have reviewing what is already familiar, or simple.
Oh yeah, then you might be able to pray your music!