problems vs. symptoms

R – The tenors are flat. Is that a problem? No. The altos still miss the A sharp on measure 32. Is that a problem? No. The choir doesn’t watch very well. Is that a problem? No. None of these are problems at all.

They’re symptoms.

One of the profound traps we fall into in rehearsals is mistaking symptoms for problems. When there are “problems” of intonation, I would argue that 98% of the time the real issue is not the intonation. Rather, it’s what’s causing the symptom of intonation issues, i.e. the real problem. And the cool thing for a director in rehearsal is that the solution to the problem is rarely the same. The tenors are flat… is it a posture issue? Address THAT. Is their tone the cause? Address THAT. Are they aiming for the note instead of just above it? Address THAT. Are they singing high notes with neck tension? Unsupported breath? Perhaps a difficult interval to hear? Address that!!!

I have a conviction that one of the primary goals  – perhaps even the primary goal – of a rehearsal technician is not just to hear symptoms (intonation, missed notes, watching, etc) but to be a round-the-clock sleuth and identify the problems that are causing those symptoms. And when those problems get continually addressed in an ongoing process through both thoughtful rehearsal and warmup practices, then the symptoms begin to disappear. This is not only the great challenge in any rehearsal but also among the most fun things a director gets to do in running an effective rehearsal! Don’t forget: symptoms are not problems, and fixing symptoms brings only limited returns at best. Identify the real problems, address them, and then watch your ensembles blossom further!

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One Response to problems vs. symptoms

  1. Pingback: chopped | Goober Music Teachers

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