Has your band practice become a bit too repetitive or stale? Do you feel like you just do the same things over and over again and don't see any improvement? Dojo student Danny Johnson shared this anecdote in our Dojo University Discord channel (our online community board for Dojo U members) about Payson High School Pipe Band's change in approach that's really worked for them – maybe it could for you, too!
In August, when school was starting back up, we decided that we needed to be better organized for our high school band. This was also around the time that Andrew Douglas was talking a lot about ideal band practice structure in Dojo U classes.
So here's what we came up with:
The last 7 months have been awesome. Having everyone on the same page and understanding what we will be doing when has greatly improved practice.
We start practice by warming up together, the kids take turns leading the band to common marches while we get the drones tuned together.
Then we practice rhythmic clapping (including the drummers) with a metronome while marching. We just take 2 bars of music and see what we can do in 10 minutes. (By the way, the kids can now sight read like 100 times better now that they have a better handle on rhythm.)
For sectionals we split and work on the things the different groups need to focus on. For the pipers we do practice chanter work or work on pipes depending on need. Sometimes we'll workshop embellishments, or we might do some tune building as a group.
The last part of practice is playing together as a band focusing on things we need for upcoming gigs.
Then at the end of practice we have everyone play a line of a tune around the circle. This gives everyone a chance to play for their peers (and learn that it's ok to mess up) and gives the instructors a chance to hear each piper and drummer so we can be aware of their individual progress. There are no comments allowed during solos.
Then, finally, we talk about announcements or band business.
This has been phenomenal for our band.
One of the things I love about working with a youth band is that the kids are willing to try different ways of doing things. I love playing with these kids. My wife and I have had many conversations about the things we've learned from the Dojo and the high school band.
I think the things we've done with kids would work great with adults, if they're willing to try it.
Thanks to Danny for sharing this insight with us – and now with you!