Continued from The MUSIC DIRECTOR’s Job – Part 1
The Construction phase – Turning it into Reality
With music charts in hand, we go into the rehearsals. This part is akin to the ‘construction’ phase, except that it doesn’t take quite as long. Personally it’s my favorite part of the job, especially when you have a band like mine! (Shout-out to all the Cranky musicians… you all know who you are!)
During rehearsals, all the musicians gather in a rehearsal space or studio to play through the written arrangements. In some cases elsewhere, sometimes there are no written charts at all, but having them just makes things a lot quicker and time-efficient. It must be pointed out that often times, the Cranky musicians make changes as we go along, so the ‘written’ parts aren’t always ‘carved in stone’… but we think of it as a suggested road map. If a musical detour offers a better route, we take it. I suppose the reason why better musicians make better music together is the fact that they always have great ideas that contribute to an exciting journey.
And on the rare occasions when things don’t work out, it’s up to the MD to steer things back to its intended course. Make sense?
At some point the Artiste joins in the fun, depending on the preference of the individual. Some like to be involved from the very beginning, others prefer to come in when the music is just about done and some will just come in during the final stages.
This rehearsal phase takes about a week or so. I think there’s a fine line between under-practicing (not practicing enough) and over-practicing (practicing too much). Under-practicing results in everyone being unsure of their parts and prone to mistakes during showtime; while over-practicing on the other hand can be just as problematic when musicians get overconfident, or worse, jaded with the music. This leads to what I would call ‘sterile’ music, when musicians (me included) just go through the motions. A sweet spot is when everybody knows their part well enough that it still has room for some creative spark that can add to the final product.
The Furnishing Phase – Putting the Final Touches
A couple of days before the concert days, the team ‘bumps in’ to the venue. After a few hours of making sure the equipment and sound is in order, we try to run through the whole show a few times more. This is our last opportunity to make any improvements, so as much as I need to play my parts (I play piano!), there’s also a need to keep an attentive ear to the music and of course, what the artiste is doing too. On top of this, we also try to ensure the artiste is completely comfortable on stage. This are also the time when the stage and lights crew get busy, so as you can see there’s a whole lot of stuff going on. Here’s where having a great production team is invaluable, because a less competent team always results in time-consuming hiccups.
Once the venue rehearsals are completed, we are now ready for Showtime. Here’s where the MD pretty much sits back and enjoys the performing part, unless, God-forbid, something goes awry. When it does, it’s again up to the MD to steer the band back to where we ought to be, or at least minimize the damage. As they say, ‘shit happens’ (especially on show day!) but if the MD does his job properly, only the very sharp ears would notice anything amiss.
So there it is… a quick run-down of what a Music Director of Music does. In essence, being a Music Director is so much more than just ‘playing the music’. It does look like fun, but it takes time and skill to do it right.
As always, here’s to Keeping the Music Real!