Whether you are a trumpet player in an orchestra or a tuba player in a brass quintet, you will want to maximise the time that is spent in rehearsals with other musicians.
Here are some tips to make the experience of rehearsing more productive, worthwhile and enjoyable:
1) Make sure you arrive to rehearsal on time. There should be enough time before the rehearsal starts to make sure that you have had time to warm-up.
2) Keep important stuff with you for all rehearsals. Make sure that you have a pencil/rubber, valve oil, mutes (as required) etc. Make sure that you have your pencil to hand during the rehearsal so that you can mark any important points made
3) Try to make sure that you look at your music ahead of the rehearsal. Checking changes of time signature, speed or any tricky passages will save lots of time during a rehearsal and allow more space for developing ensemble. (Remember the key difference between practice and rehearsal)
4) Set-up your chair and music stand so that you have the best possible view of the conductor, or other musicians. It is good to raise your music stand so that the conductor is in your eye-line without needing to move your head too much. This will mean that you may be able to keep the beat or pulse in your peripheral vision as well as reading the music
5) Try to make sure that you sit properly. Try to avoid allowing your back to sink into the back of the chair as this can restrict breathing. Remember that the lungs need space to move as you breathe in and out and sinking into the chair will cause restriction. Move forward on the chair, imagining that the upper part of your body is falling upwards *
6) Sit in a relaxed way, making sure that there is no tension or pain in your body. This is all part of Alexander Technique for Musicians and is very useful to help avoid all the niggling illness and problems that can befall a musician and prevent things like an RSI developing
7) Focus on the conductor at the start and ends of pieces. Try not to look entirely at the music at these times, as these are important times to focus on ensemble. Other times that require more focus on the conductor include rallentandos, ritardandos, accelerandos or ends of phrases for example. (Focusing like this during rehearsals will make the time pass more quickly and can help stresses, strains or concerns disappear)
8) Make sure that you keep an eye on the conductor to see what is happening in terms of phrasing, dynamics, style, mood etc.
9) When you look at the conductor remember that it is only important to focus on their conducting hand (usually the right hand) for a sense of pulse or beat and the left hand for style mood or genre. It isn’t really ever so important to see their faces!
10) Keep your focus when playing and try to make every rehearsal count by playing the best that you can play. There is definitely no point going to a rehearsal making the same mistakes week after week (or even making different mistakes through lack of concentration!)
* Imagine you are being pulled upwards gently by the hair on the top of your head. This will allow you to sit up in a natural way without forcing or causing additional tension. Try to build this habit into your way of practicing at home or during rehearsals.