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An Eye for the Detail

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Rehearsing the ensemble, or smaller groups within the ensemble, can serve many ends. The kind of work you take on should depend on what you seek to produce. Whatever your time frame and/or notes that you are attacking, it’s helpful to identify the specific outcome(s) you are trying to get the group to achieve. And communicating that outcome, that vision, to the players in plain language helps to set the table for success. That leadership from the podium goes a long way with helping to develop the common mindset and approach required for successfully taking on the work.

Sometimes the end you seek is cleaning up specific rhythms or gaining groove. It could be a scaffolding rehearsal to build the capacity to play specific figures accurately. Other rehearsals might be geared toward going over and ensuring that phrases connect from one to another.  Still, others might be simply going from A to Z without stopping to build sight-reading chops. Then, of course, there are also the opportunities to run the chart down incorporating all of the prior work.

My favorite rehearsals were geared toward a specific phrase within a piece. The goal of this practice session was to attempt to build the QUALITY of the ensemble. In short, we were striving to attain a level of performance from each section, and individuals within those sections, that the ensemble could hear live. We also recorded each take and played it back to them. Intonation, articulation, style, phrasing, uniformity of dynamics, ensemble blend, rhythmic accuracy, percussive presence, and emotion were all considered. Getting student feedback on what they heard was the best, most exciting part. That feedback almost always changed the next run for the better. The greatest side-effect of these rehearsals was that each level of newfound Quality tended to transfer to other segments of the piece and beyond.

Whatever your time and content allow, make sure you know where you want the ensemble to go. An eye for the detail helps the student’s experience grow inside of an ensemble that is continuously improving.


To learn more about the composer, Chris Thompson, please visit

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With works spanning the globe, Chris is an accomplished drummer and jazz pianist whose passions are evident in his music.

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