Do you have some long rehearsals but never play on all of the pieces? That’s the life of a piccolo player, so you should learn how to pass the time accordingly.
You can do different things, and you can switch it up based on your other obligations. That way, you won’t feel like you’re just sitting around for a long time.
Review the Flute Parts
One way I like to pass the time during a long rehearsal is to review the flute parts. As a piccoloist, I don’t play in every movement or on every piece in orchestra.
If I can’t leave rehearsal, I’ll download any public domain flute parts to my iPad using the IMSLP app. Then, I can follow along with one or both flute parts as the group rehearses.
This is a nice option in case you ever have to fill in for another flute player who gets sick or something. Of course, you don’t want to play, but following the part can give you an idea of when they may be done with that piece.
Study the Entire Score
Another option for how to pass the time is to look at the score of the pieces you do play on. You can do this with any piece in the public domain by going to IMSLP and downloading the score.
Take some time to look at the score and review how your part fits in with the rest. If you find any significant cues that you maybe didn’t notice by listening, mark those in your part.
Score study can also help you in general. You can learn a lot about music theory and analysis from looking at scores, so you may find you understand theory better.
Swab Out Your Piccolo
Piccolo maintenance may not help you pass a ton of time, but it’s important to do. As you wait around for your next piece or movement to rehearse, swab the inside of your instrument.
This is particularly important because it helps keep moisture from accumulating. If you’ve played your piccolo a lot, there may be more spit and condensation than you think.
When you have a long break, you may even want to put your piccolo away. That way, you won’t subject it to the elements, especially if you have a wood piccolo and you rehearse in a really hot or cold room.
Keep Your Piccolo Safe
Speaking of putting your piccolo away, you should keep the instrument safe. For long breaks, putting it in the case may be the most effective way to do that.
If you have a shorter break, you may want to hold your piccolo near you. One option is to put it in a jacket pocket if you have a jacket with a good pocket.
You can also hold the headjoint of the piccolo or put the headjoint under your arm to keep it warm. When you finally do get to play, your piccolo won’t go from cold to hot in a few seconds, which can affect the tuning and lead to cracks.
Of course, you don’t have to do something music-related to pass the time. You may want to bring a book that you can read or download a book or article on your iPad.
Using your phone is also an option, but it doesn’t always look the best if you have to stay in your seat. You could distract the people around you, so do with this tip what you will.
If you’re in school, consider bringing some homework to go over during your rehearsal breaks. This is a nice option if you have a lot of time or if you have smaller assignments to complete.
I’d recommend moving away from the musicians who are playing. If you rehearse in a concert hall, go backstage or sit in the audience so that you don’t distract people.
Another option for how to pass the time is to take a walk. You don’t want to do this in the rehearsal space because it’s a distraction but also because you may not have much space to walk around.
However, you can walk through the halls of the building where you have rehearsals. You can also walk outside if the weather is nice, so you can get some fresh air.
Find Another Auxiliary Player
Depending on the music you’re playing, there may be an English horn player or an Eb or bass clarinet player around. They may also not be on a certain piece and need something to pass the time.
If you have music that you play together on or if you share some solos, ask if you can work on them. Find a spot far enough away from the rehearsal room so that you can’t hear the orchestra or band.
Then, you and the other musician can work on some tricky spots together. The next time you rehearse those spots as a group, the conductor may be impressed.
Ask to Leave
Maybe you’ve already rehearsed all of the pieces that you play on. In that case, ask the conductor or the principal of the flute section if you can leave the rehearsal.
Sometimes, a conductor may want to review something, so you may need to stay. However, they might have intentionally scheduled the rehearsal so that you could leave early.
This happened to me when I played piccolo on Beethoven Symphony No. 5. We rehearsed the last movement first so that I and the trombone players didn’t have to stick around.
How to Pass the Time: In Review
Deciding how to pass the time during a long rehearsal can be hard. Fortunately, you can do a lot of things to either be productive or simply enjoy your down time.
Be sure to test out a few ideas the next time you have to play the piccolo in an orchestra. Then, you won’t have to feel like you’re wasting time and not doing anything.