Runnin’ Down A Dream: Reps and 14 hours of Rehearsal

The key to success in any performance oriented activity, whether it’s ice skating, football, music, or basket weaving, is repetition. As a young man I learned the phrase “repetition is the mother of skill”, and have since applied it to everything I do, especially teaching.

My private lesson students are expected to endure hours of scale, chord and arpeggio practice each week. To determine whether or not they are keeping up with the daily routine I demand, I have a simple system. If they are practicing regularly and correctly, they are getting better… It’s as simple as that, because I’ll tell you what – repetition is a fool proof way of improving.

Of course, the student needs to be sure he or she is repeating the correct action. The neural pathways formed in our brains through repetition don’t distinguish between correct and incorrect. So practicing a part wrong over and over again, still leaves you playing the part wrong. All that practice just guarantees that you will play it “perfectly wrong” every time. If you want to fix it, you are required to create a new pathway to override the old one.

When we approach rehearsing for a performance like Runnin’ Down a Dream. I aim to get as many repetitions from each group as possible in the time given. Group repetition works the same way as individual repetition, the more you repeat the same part correctly together the more you form the group consciousness required navigate the form together, and to successfully mesh your parts together to create a tight groove, and build the ability to rise and fall dynamically as a group.

Unfortunately, individual mistakes, lead to group mistakes, which then require individual repetition of the correct part, followed by more group repetition to reinforce the correct action for everyone. So if you ever wonder why Uptown Music Collective rehearsals often go on for 14 hours over two days like this past weekend. The number of repetitions we get on each song, leads to success or failure on stage.

As you can now probably imagine the repetition of the music is only the beginning. There are staging assignments, choreography, instrument switches, constant movement of performers on and off the stage, song introductions, segues between songs, introductions, and crowd interaction moments. All of which need to be reinforced over and over again until they become automatic in the mind of everyone.

 What this all leads to is the music becoming a reflex, finding the groove turns into an unconscious action, and this allows the players to focus on infusing the music with their passion, their love and their energy. It allows them to play and execute choreography, to look out at the crowd and smile while they play. The concern over what is going on with their instrument, vocal chords, and its place in the group fades, and they find freedom in the music, and the stage becomes home.

After a long weekend of rehearsals tomorrow we move our operations over to the CAC for the first of two nights of rehearsal. Wednesday is the Tech rehearsal, where after going over a few problem songs and getting a few good repetitions in on areas we’ve struggled with, we will dial in the sound and lights by going through all of the songs in show order. Then Thursday night is the full dress rehearsal with all of the elements. 

It’s going to be outstanding, I hope you can all be there.