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 phones in rehearsal
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2019-05-15 05:40

Is it normal now for orchestral musicians to have their phones on their music stand and to be checking them and texting during rehearsal, even during rests while pieces are being played? I've recently joined an orchestra (first in 45 years), and have observed this behavior.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: marcia 
Date:   2019-05-15 07:07

One of the groups I play with is a college band. There have been times when the person on either side of me has engaged in exactly the above mentioned behaviour. Fortunately in my experience this is the exception rather than the norm. I find this behaviour to be irritating in the extreme. [mad]

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-05-15 17:05


Just to clarify, we are saying the phone is silent?

I recall running into that once in a rehearsal. I was somewhat amused that someone was willing to be distracted by some news show during a rehearsal. But honestly if that person is accomplishing what needs to be done while WORKING (so I don't condone that behavior) then there is no harm done........unless it offends the conductor.

In YOUR individual capacity, if YOUR concentration is where it needs to be (should be), then someone else's phone, or foot wobble, or weird color scrunchy, or.............whatever, should not matter to YOU. The issue at hand is the sound in the air.

................Paul Aviles

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2019-05-15 17:28

In my former orchestra (I'm retired now) any phone activity during rehearsals/concerts was forbidden, as was any reading material other than the music.

It was, as they say, an "impeachable" offense. (IOW, you could be fired).

Personally, I think it's incredibly disrespectful both to the conductor and your colleagues.

(@Phil - I bet your principal was one of the prime offenders...)

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2019-05-15 18:51

Apparently the phone was silent, texting only. It was the young person on the stand next to me. They played their part well enough.

Without judging the phone use in the rehearsal context, generally speaking I think most of the phone use I see around me in every context is a waste of time, if not subtly damaging on emotional or physical levels to those captivated by it. It's every bit the escape from reality that recreational drugs are.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2019-05-15 18:57

Many players run tuner apps on their phones, which can be a good practice.

A growing problem I've noted in a collegiate ensemble I play in are sectionmates being distracted by their phones, and then asking me what the conductor just said/what piece we're about to play because they were messing around with their phones and missed it. That's unacceptable at any level of performance.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: cms*46 
Date:   2019-05-15 19:19

I see it more often in community bands and feel that it is very disrespectful to both the conductor and band members.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2019-05-15 19:45

Funny story - back in the 70's, I was playing Eb in one of the Mahler Symphonies and there were 1,500, yes 1,500 measures rest! So on play-throughs, I would have a magazine on the stand and read while checking my watch for 30 minutes. There weren't cameras in back of the orchestra in the old days.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-05-15 21:34

See it some, but only with a few people. I've read stuff on my phone in Mozart opera rehearsals during tacet numbers; why not?

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2019-05-15 21:55

Many players run tuner apps on their phones, which can be a good practice.


No, this is a terrible idea.

First of all, does the tuner know which part of a chord you are playing? Will it automatically let you know to play a third in a major chord 14 cents flat in order to actually be in tune?

Suppose you are playing second and the principal player is sharp? Are you going to tell the conductor "my phone says I am in tune"? I actually saw a musician fired on the spot for just this sort of behavior.

A friend of mine once asked Anthony Gigliotti how the Philadelphia wind section played so well in tune. His answer: "We all play out of tune together".

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: Tobin 
Date:   2019-05-15 22:51

If you’re tacet then it’s no different than reading a book.

If you have anything to contribute it’s poor form and shouldn’t be done.


Gnothi Seauton

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: Ed 
Date:   2019-05-16 04:00

I agree that the tuner on the stand is not a good practice. Not only for the reasons rmk mentioned, but also because you need to train your ears and not your eyes.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: davyd 
Date:   2019-05-16 07:28

In the community band I'm in, the conductor writes the playlist for the evening on the whiteboard, and several players take pictures of it. I'm informed that this is because of their vision difficulties: they can't read what's on the board, but they can enlarge the picture and read the playlist that way.

In the community orchestra I'm in, it's not unusual to see wind and brass players on phones or Kindles while the conductor and string players work out bowings.

These kinds of issues with electronic devices are not new. I used to play for community theatrical productions. Once we hit the second or third weekend of the run and players knew their parts, it wasn't unusual to see players plugged into portable radios or TVs, watching ballgames.

What can you do? You can't fire volunteers.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2019-05-16 19:31

Please note that I said using tuner apps CAN be a good practice. I didn't say that it is ALWAYS a good practice.

I don't use tuning aids when playing the clarinet. It's almost immediately apparent to my trained ears whether I am in tune with myself, and with the rest of the ensemble. I am always adjusting tuning on-the-fly, as we all should.

But I also play the tuba. The clarinet axiom that what we hear on stage isn't necessarily what the audience is hearing goes doubly true for the tuba.

With an upward-firing bell that has an exit point above the performer's head, the tubist hears reflected sound and has to base his voicing and tuning decisions based on this reflected sound. The audience, conversely, mostly hears the nondirectional fundamental tone, sans most of the overtones that the tubist is hearing and reacting to.

The overtone series of all instruments by nature consists of certain pitches that are perceived as sharp or flat versus the fundamental. Room acoustics can cause a sufficient proportion of these out-of-tune overtones to be reflected back at the tubist versus the fundamental pitch to cause a perception that the tuba is out-of-tune when the audience would hear in-tune pitches, and vice versa.

I have been stymied by this phenomena more than once, and periodically check a tuner to ensure that it isn't happening.

We also have a conductor in one of my ensembles who has some odd notions about brasswind mute usage, sometimes insisting that the entire trumpet and/or trombone section uses the supposedly-identical mutes provided by the ensemble. Problem is, without carefully adjusting the insertion depth via sanding down or adding bumper cork material, the muted instrument will either be flat, sharp, in-tune, sharp on low tones and flat on high tones, or flat on low tones and sharp up high. Furthermore, the performer isn't hearing the full overtone spectrum produced by their instrument when "uncorked", and, as with my tuba example, may be reacting to a higher proportion of out-of-tune overtones than they would hear from their instrument when played open. Once again, the use of an electronic tuner can be a big help in diagnosing and addressing tuning issues when using mutes.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-05-16 21:16

I do check my phone for texts and, when the Phillies are playing, the game score (not the play-by-play) during rehearsals *if and only if* I have enough time on my hands with nothing to play to manage it. That means a tacet movement, a string passage that the conductor is drilling, a really long block rest in music I know well enough not to have to count measures before my next entrance...

I do think it's disrespectful of the conductor to be checking a phone while he is talking to the entire orchestra, and it's disrespectful of colleagues to try to jam in a quick look when there isn't enough time so that you miss playing something.

More than quick checks for emails and texts, my biggest phone annoyance as the conductor of a local youth band (older middle school and high school players) is playing games on the phone. It's beyond annoying to have a player miss an entrance because he/she is so involved in a game that entrances are completely forgotten. This, I think, is more typical of students than of adults in community bands and orchestras.

You didn't ask about concerts, but I'll add that phones shouldn't be anywhere in sight during a performance. And that includes using them as tuners (which, notwithstanding the possible exception of Ursa's tuba player, I think is a universally bad idea).


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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2019-05-16 21:57

During concerts, my phone stays in my musical instrument case backstage--tuned off. There will be a Korg mini tuner on my stand if I am on tuba, and that's only during warm-ups.

The last thing I want to do is have a conductor enter the stage, spy a phone on my stand, and then have to worry--if even for a fleeting moment--about it not being silenced, or about me not being totally invested in the task at hand: making music.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2019-05-17 00:48

20 YEARS ago at a rehearsal, the Bass Clar. player got up during the piece being rehearsed, answered his cell and walked into the instrument room to talk to his wife. The conductor stopped and mimicked him saying "Hello dear, I can talk now because I have rests and my part in this one isn't very important". They were the best of friends--it drew a nice laugh. 20 YEARS AGO!

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Post Edited (2019-05-17 00:50)

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-05-17 17:57

I'm now an old-timer and consider it rude to use a cell phone during a rehearsal or concert. As a tuba player, I also figure my ears will tell me whether I'm on pitch or not, but realize that varies among people. If it were "my band," i.e., consensus of BOD or conductor, there would be an announcement at the beginning of the year that cell phones must be OFF during rehearsals and concerts. If a player has, for example, some family medical situation that may require their immediate exit, then they should get a sub. As a tuba player, I see nothing wrong with (quietly) reading a paperback during a tacet movement, but do see that as iffy. Older generations have learned the patience to just wait but the younger generations seem to have not learned this and perhaps this is the perfect situation to teach them.

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: concertmaster3 
Date:   2019-05-17 20:19

I play English horn in an orchestra. I often times don't play, or have extremely long rests (as goes with most auxiliary parts). I often have my phone out, or am grading papers on my tablet, and last season, doing work on my dissertation.

I never missed a solo, never missed what a conductor said and didn't distract others (as long as they were doing their job and playing). I think a lot of the issue is a generational thing. I often multi-task during rehearsals, because I'm not as active as other members (although, this just changed as I just won the audition for 2nd oboe/English horn, instead of 3rd oboe/English horn). But if the player isn't making noise, isn't missing entrances, what's the issue? It's no different than reading a book.

Additionally, I don't use paper, I read everything from my tablet anyway (no issues with lighting or pages being out of order, and I have legible markings). This is also becoming the trend, and the screen for that is bigger than the one on my phone. I've even read a book during a concert on the tablet, since I was tacet 3 movements of a Mahler symphony.

Ron Ford
Woodwind Specialist

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 Re: phones in rehearsal
Author: JEG 2017
Date:   2019-05-18 23:45

Reminds me of a scenario I saw too many times in the orchestra I quit last year. The 1st flute turns to the 2nd clarinet and tells him that he is out of tune with her. He immediately pulls out his tuner, plays the note and proclaims that he is in agreement with the tuner. The rehearsal goes on with intonation in the wind section no better than before.

If I was a conductor I would make it a hard and fast rule that nobody other than the 1st oboe would be allowed to have a tuner. Too many people in the amateur ranks use them as crutches to give themselves the illusion that their intonation is good, rather than use them to ear-train. There's a lot you can learn from tuners if you are willing to commit to getting intervals and pitches into your ear and you can learn to better hear what is in tune. Not so much if all you are doing is playing so that the needle on the tuner is pointing straight up.

When I played in the above-mentioned orchestra I played mostly bass clarinet, some saxophone and some clarinet. Things would get tedious due to non-practiced parts and a conductor who was not necessarily in command of his music. Long periods spent listening to the string section being drilled on basic rhythms, etc. made it understandable if somebody would be texting or doing a crossword puzzle. I wouldn't be proud of it but sometimes it's a mental survival strategy. It's another story in a professional situation.

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