2.1 Plan Your Rehearsal

Plan Your Rehearsal

Usually the conductor will decide what music is to be rehearsed, in what order, and for how long. There are two important factors to consider in making these decisions: personnel and time.

The first factor to consider is whether everyone in the ensemble plays in all the pieces to be rehearsed. In most bands and choirs everybody is usually involved in the full programme, but with a lot of orchestral music there will often be wind, brass, percussion, harps, celeste etc. who are not in some pieces or movements. Sometimes it will be impossible to keep everyone happy but do think about this when you decide the rehearsal order – your musicians will respect you for taking them into consideration. Perhaps this means doing the only movement with the trombones at the beginning of the rehearsal or giving them a specific time to attend. With an amateur orchestra with several rehearsals spread over many weeks, you might give the brass and percussion a night off if they don’t have much to do. This is often better than having them sitting around not doing much other than creating mischief! 

You then need to think about how much rehearsal time each piece will need in relation to the others. This will partly come down to duration but also the difficulty and level of familiarity. A good starting point is to work out the total amount of rehearsal time and allocate it pro rata to each piece. In other words, assign an amount of rehearsal time to each piece based on the duration of the music. You can then make adjustments for difficulty and familiarity. Remember that a 3-hour rehearsal doesn’t contain 3 hours of rehearsal time – announcements, welcomes, tuning and breaks all need to be factored in. We will come back to this in more detail in later chapters, but here is a simple example:

You have 4 rehearsals of 2.5 hours – this does not mean you have 10 hours/ 600 minutes of rehearsal time! Let’s deduct 15 minutes for a break and 5 minutes of tuning and announcements, so that’s 130 “actual” minutes per rehearsal and 520 in total.

Here is a sample rehearsal schedule which illustrates the sort of detail that professional and aspiring professional musicians expect to receive.

Time Management in Rehearsal

(Allow 10-15 minutes for this activity)

You have three pieces to perform in the concert, an overture, a symphony and a concerto, and four rehearsals of 130 ‘actual’ minutes each. How would you plan and allocate your rehearsal time?


Here is one way of managing time that we suggest. You have three pieces in the concert. After you’ve worked out how many minutes each piece gets according to its duration, you decide that is fine for the Symphony, but the Overture is tricky so you grab some time from the Concerto.

 DurationPro rata rehearsal minutesAdjusted rehearsal minutes
Overture10 minutes6590
Concerto30 minutes195170
Symphony40 minutes260260
Total80 minutes520520

During the rehearsal, always try to stick to the schedule and make sure you can always see what time it is. Many conductors prefer not to wear a watch when conducting, so be sure you can see a clock or have an app on your phone showing the time. In a professional context you will simply not be allowed to keep going after the rehearsal should have finished, but it is courteous in all situations to stick to the agreed timescales. A good tip is to aim to finish what you need to do 5 or 10 minutes early. If things don’t quite go according to plan you have built in some catch-up time, if all is good you can always finish early and win some more friends!

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