Yesterday my high school marching band had its first competition of the season. I suppose it was really just a clinic, meaning we weren’t scored and placed; we just performed to be critiqued by a clinician. Compared to years in the past, we are off to a very good start. Normally, we only have part of our show put on the field (for those of you who are not huge marching band nerds like myself, this means we have only learned some of the formations made during a show), which requires us to stand still and play out the rest of the music. This year however, we had all but a few sets (another band nerd word which means a single formation) left to add on to the end of our show.
After marching off the field, we headed on in to an air conditioned building to be critiqued (keep in mind, wearing a marching band uniform is the equivalent of hanging out in an oven). Sweaty, and no doubt, smelly, we crowded into the rows of seats in an auditorium. We were then met by our clinician, the same one who we have had in the past. He was really happy to see how far we have already come this early in the season, but he also pointed out that we still have A LOT of work to do. (Pre-apologizing if you have no idea what I’m talking about in the next paragraph.)
Toes need to be pulled up. Bodies need to be facing the sidelines, NOT the end zones. Phrases need to be played through until the end. People need to guide when making straight lines. Pit needs to listen back to drumline. Phasing needs to be addressed. Impacts need to be bigger. People HAVE to march in time. People need to MARCH, not walk…. And of course, EVERYONE NEEDS TO PLAY.
I know this all seems very picky, but that’s what it takes to be good! Something the clinician said that I really liked went something like this: “Musicians understand that it takes a ridiculous amount of repetition to make something good.” This is one of the truest statements about music, marching band, and life in general. Constant repetition of even the smallest things is what it takes. I know this first hand from band camp this summer. We literally practiced taking a single step for a whole day (ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously)!
My dad asked me the other day while I was practicing a particular scale if I ever got sick of repeating the same thing over and over again. My response to that? Of course! I get so bored sometimes that I question what I’m doing with my time, but I never give up. The best performances are derived from the longest times spent practicing, particularly repeating.
Next time you are practicing a song try repeating small chunks over, and over, and over again. It’s one of the most monotonous things in the world, but trust me, it’s all worth it! Even if you aren’t someone who plays music, repetition can make anything better, no matter what it is. I can already sense a band rehearsal full of repetition tomorrow night… And I can’t wait!