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Band Coaching

November 6th, 2019
contra, music  [html]
Recording your playing and listening back to it is great, and is good for noticing ways that your playing isn't where you want, but as a band it can be really good to get focused attention and advice from someone with some perspective. Some sort of "band coaching" can provide this, and the outside experience of someone with a different aesthetic is incredibly helpful.

I've participated in three of these sessions: The Free Raisins had one with Lisa Greenleaf and one with Max Newman several years ago, and Kingfisher recently had one with Andrew VanNorstrand. Each session was different, and we learned a ton each time, but here are a few examples:

  • Lisa told the Raisins that we were being too boring. We would have a way we would play a tune, and we'd just keep playing that tune over and over the same way until we switched to the next tune. She got us to be constantly thinking of ways we could make the set move through ideas and keep things interesting. I remember her getting us to play a tune, taking turns pointing at one of us randomly, and saying "You! Change it up!"

  • Max helped the Raisins work through a new set we'd been trying to put together, Trip to Moscow / Cuñaq / October Snow. We wanted to have three different melodic ideas weaving together, and he helped us think through how we would keep the form of the dance clear for the dancers as we moved through the ideas, what sort of emotional path we were going for, and how we would keep a sense of forward drive.

  • Andrew got Kingfisher to notice that we had been dividing the music pretty rigidly into one person on rhythm and another on melody. He got us trying more flexible arrangements and thinking about a range of new sounds this let us play with.

When the Free Raisins were preparing for our second CD, which Andrew produced, this also involved a lot of this sort of thinking and feedback.

I feel like these sessions were some of the most productive hours of practice I've had, and I'd strongly recommend others try it out!

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