4 Quick Tips to Prepare for Orchestra

As our orchestra seasons start up for the year I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways I prepare for rehearsals and ultimately concerts. Here are 4 quick tips to help focus your practice!

  1. Listen – This one is critical. If you don’t know what the song sounds like, you may not play with the correct style, notes, rhythms, tempos, etc. If you are unsure of which recordings to listen to I highly recommend asking your teacher, director, or other musicians in the group. Bonus – Make a playlist with your repertoire for the entire season or school year.
  2. Metronome – Much of my individual preparation for orchestra is making sure I can play difficult or fast passages. I practice almost exclusively with my metronome when preparing for orchestra. Typically I start with a slow tempo (around 60 BPM). I use this slow tempo to get the passage under my fingers and improve intonation, as well as correct notes and rhythms. From there I use my metronome to speed up the passage as needed. Bonus – Use the subdivision function on your metronome.
  3. Scales and Arpeggios – I recommend practicing scales in the keys you will use for your orchestra repertoire. This will save so much practice time as many passages in your pieces are essentially scales and arpeggios. Practicing scales will also lead to better sight reading (a must when the librarian is unable to give out a part ahead of time!). Bonus – Use a drone to tune your scales and arpeggios.
  4. Mark it! – This is not only one of the most important parts of rehearsals, but a huge time saver when it comes to individual practice. I mark an “x” at the end of each line that includes a measure or measures that absolutely need to be practiced. This helps keep practice focused on the passages that actually need practice and saves time locating these spots. Once the passage is learned I erase the “x”.  During my first individual practice for each piece I mark every fingering, shift, dynamic, or bowing that I missed. This helps me focus on what to improve as I practice and is a quick reminder of what I’m supposed to do! Bonus – Put a few pencils in your case and music folders so that you never miss a note!