Boring Rehearsals


Horn players seem to be subject to boring rehearsals. Endless string sectionals...dealing with the English Horn soloist...trying to get the bassons to get the majority of the notes right...conductors do all of this on our own time. Also horn players have an attention span of...whoa, look at that...what were we talking about?

This is what some horn players do when they are bored in rehearsal: Well, in our orchestra the horns can tend to sit out anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour depending upon whether the conductor feels like working with the whole orchestra or making a string session out of the practice time. So yes, I believe in the necessity of "tuba basketball" played with old crumpled-up programs. << This says nothing of the once timid little tuba player who decides it cute to make off with our mouthpieces, switch the detachable rims, and then return them unaware!! : )>> To be honest, if I want to bring along a score to Vivaldi's "Spring", I'll be sure and do it at the concert, not during rehearsal. Games are made to pass time. After all, if there's nothing that I'm being distracted from then, hey, why not? You only live life once.

In orchestra rehersals, the horns and the trumpets, bored to tears with hours (:-)) of watching the strings and the director pouring over every bowing decided that the resulting restlesness and occassional immaturity coming from the back row needed an organization to legitimize it. From this, R.B.A. was formed. R(aging).B(rass).A(s......s). is an organization devoted to the study of string players and how they can manage to need a complete sectional at every full rehersal. We are also devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of brassius comatosis, an affliction unique to orchestral brass players. Please, help us in our struggle.

We tend to read magazines or books, as well as have the occasional game of cards (I have a pack in my case!). Last year, I played the Beethoven Egmont Overture from memory with a copy of 'MORE' ( a magazine for teenage girls that one of our section brought in - the problem page was hilarious!) on my stand!!! In the concert, I used the music of course. Doing Operas are great fun. Then you can play chess or Scrabble. Or football.

One technique I often to deal with boring rehearsals is making fun of the Bassoons. One might notice the foreign term "Fagott" on top of their literature, this provides for a very juicy target. Also, a good kick of the chair while they're playing may prove humorous. Other techniques to deal with boring rehearsals are:

1. Do the exact opposite of what the conducter tells you

2. Sing the violin part

3. Secretly remove one of you're colleagues slides when they aren't aware

4. Pull all of your slides all the way out, thus making yourself horribly flat

5. Artificial flagelence All of these advanced methods may help the student be entertained by even the most dull rehearsals, and remember, these techniques must be practiced intensively before they are mastered, some are even required at auditions.

I learned how to play poker a few years ago during an All-State orchestra rehearsal. I remember one band practice a few years ago that I happened to have a Koosh ball with me. Being the mature musicians that we were, the section began playing a sort of basketball (our bells were the "baskets") It was going fine until the stupid 4th horn player decided to aim for the tuba...

If you're really bored at rehearsals, try playing mellophone for the following reasons:

7. If anyone knows origami, they can illustrate how the thin metal mellophones are made out of can become beautiful artwork.

6. If you by chance have an Eb mellophone and don't realize it, you can add an undiscovered bit of polytonality to any piece. Whoever suggested playing a half step off obviously hasn't discovered the joy of mellophone.

5. If you have an F mellophone, your intonation will be so terrible that everyone will think you're playing in the wrong key anyway.

4. You can watch electronic tuners commit suicide at the mere thought of attempting to listen to a mellophone.

3. The wind players in front of you, and possibly even the string players, may be disturbed enough to notice that something is amuck. The disgusted looks you will get are definitely a Kodak moment.

2. It will require you to eat as many oreos (while playing) as possible in order to plug the holes of the instrument in order for it to produce a decent sound. Note: A large quantity of oreos is required to completely plug the leadpipe, which obviously is your goal.

1. Running for your life being chased by not only the conductor, but the rest of the orchestra is bound to get your pulse going!

Speaking of the devil, we just had one on Saturday... 2 hours on the 2nd movement of Brahms 2, which btw is in H Basso... AS if it wasn't bad enough, he spent 2 hours doing the same parts over and over and over again. The other hornist and I always have a little bit of fun during rehearsals anyways...Here's a few suggestions...

-Stealing each others mouthpieces while they aren't looking...(this one's always good for a laugh or two, and in a section of four, the theif often becomes the victim without knowing it...)
-mouthpiece whistling
-buzzing double stops(careful not to do this too long, as it makes one a bit light headed.)
-playing tricks on the sleeping trumpet players(Pat, wake up, we're at N!!!! we're really only at L, but it's fun to see the look on the conductor's face :) If you try this, I suggest running away quickly!)
-playing cards
-reading books
-lubing up the horn
-sticking our toungues out while we prepare to play
-making faces
-conducting the rests
-counting the rests on our fingers...and toes...
-passing notes to the clarinetists
-making oragami with last semester's music...
-practicing creative uses of oreo cookies...

That's enough to keep us going for three hours...As long as we play in the right spot, the conductor never notices the fun we have...

This is my two cents on the whole 'boring rehearsals' bit. A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to play in the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. As luck would have it, our final concert was a side by side with the ASO. WIth the eight horns already in the orchestra, an extra five made for a whopper of a horn section. We set up the section in a 'professional sandwich' manner; two of us young-uns around each pro. For those of you who don't know, Bruce Kenney is the fourth horn in Atlanta. He is also the "class clown" for the section. During our rehearsal for Tchaik 4, the girl sitting to his right royally goofed up couple of bars; nothing really noticeable to anyone sitting more than a few feet away. In the next few measures, the brasses drop out and only the strings are playing; everything is really quiet. Bruce puts his horn up to his chops and, out of nowhere, lets this REALLY nasty blat fly. He then turned to me, sitting on his left, and with a dead-set face said, "OK, your turn."

My personal approach to boring rehearsals (especially of classical literature) is to take a little journey into horn history and leave the valves behind. An H178 isn't much of a hand horn, but when one knows the piece well and is in an adventurous mood, the results can actually be quite acceptable. Unfortunately, I've sometimes convineced myself during sightreading sessions that some pieces are easy enough to try this... and then horribly flubbed an important passage... Also, you get weird looks from the other players, especially non-horns - often they can't figure out why your tone color keeps changing all over the place. I've seen a couple of "bouncy" passages in wind quintet and dectet literature where playing without the valves really makes the part sound a lot better by giving it more of a "horn" character. Not sure I'll try it in performance though.

First Horn: "I've lost the count, quick, when do I come in"?
Second Horn: "4 bars before I do".

or you can use that old classic:
First Horn: "Quick, where are we"?
Second Horn: "Carnegie Hall".

What I have been doing some recently is counting in different meters than the rest of the section. For instance, if we have 5 bars of 3/4, I will count 3 bars of 5/4. It really throws them off and keeps them on their toes. I wouldn't recommend this for orchestral situations because, as much fun as counting in 121/4 would be, it just is too easy to mess up.

Dave Krehbiel:One time at rehearsal I jumped up and told the trombones they were always too loud. Finally I just grabbed Mark Lawrences's trombone(the 10$ one I had bought the day before) and stomped on it. We had quite a few people going with that one. We've sent letters to orchestra members on a tenure track asking them to bring in a urine sample. I remember doin Mahler 7 with Edo de Waart. There was a high balcony behind the violins, so we propped up a plywood cow during the cowbell part. Of course all the cellos and basses saw it and started laughing. He strugled with it: the laugh came, but it was a struggle !Whenever we do Tchaikovsky No.4 with a new conductr, we start playing the 1812 Overture at the coda of the finale. The conductors are always furious and then wrestling with their emotions-should I laugh? Are they laughing at me? Are the being disrespectful? Are they including me? It's great!

This happened in 1980 while I was playing full time in a Mexico City orchestra. The regular conductor had gone off to get his Master's degree in the U.S., and left us in the care of a rather elderly viola professor from the Conservatory. This gentleman, although pleasant of disposition, had the baton technique of a drum major and the hearing acuity of a heavy metal guitarist.

This fine day, we were 'rehearsing' Mozart's Symphony No. 40, a work which the other hornist and I had practically memorized. "Rehearsing", in this conductor's mind meant playing the piece over and over until the bell rang for recess...

Anyhow, we were BORED. We had gotten tired of sitting in the back row, doing stupid horn tricks like steal the other guy's mouthpiece, unscrew his valve caps while he's not looking, dump YOUR water on to his shoes, telling the filthiest joke you can think of, etc.

So, we decided, what the hell, let's take ol' Mozart up a 1/2 step. We began at the beginning, and persevered through to the end, never once arriving in the same key as the orchestra. This gained the immediate attention of the woodwind section sitting directly in front of us. Our efforts were met with snickers and giggling (and a few missed clarinet entrances), but no one 'ratted' on us throughout the entire session.

Near the end of the last movement, even the strings were beginning to notice that something was amiss in the brasses. Not surprisingly, our beloved Maestro kept on swinging away with his baton, blissfully unaware of our efforts.

By the end, the entire orchestra was aware of what we were doing, yet no one said a word. They all waited for The Maestro to clamp down on (those shameless hornplayers) with an iron fist.

What DID happen? Well, the Maestro dismissed the orchestra for the day, then, as an afterthought, called me up front to see him. My second horn player followed, mostly out of some sort of avid curiosity. "Rachel", he said. "Is there some sort of a problem with the horn section?" "No", I replied (lying through my teeth and improvising on the fly) "It's just that..Mozart is so..very...DIFficult for us. We are working SO hard on our parts, Maestro. (es MUY difficile)...." (using Spanish always worked well in tight situations) (fawningly at the end here-I kicked myself later for this).

Well, he bought it-the whole enchilada (which they DON'T have in Mexico) Now kids, don't try this in YOUR orchestra......

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