Reply To: Seating diagram for small jazz group

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There are several possibilities when it comes to “seating” the band during a rehearsal or performance. Here are a few suggestions that I use:

1) The traditional arrangement you mention is a good starting point, but I would suggest you angle the two sections – rhythms and horns – to create a shallow V. This will help with eye contact and being able to hear across the sections.
2) Set up rhythm in the middle and have the horns behind the rhythm in a shallow V – winds on one side and brass on the other. Helps rhythm hear the horns better, but doesn’t work so well for eye contact.
3) not for a performance, but have the horns line up in a semi-circle across from and facing the rhythm section. You can direct from the center of the circle. Great for eye contact and hearing the sections.
4) set up in traditional arrangement, but have the winds turn around and face the brass. This will help the brass to better hear what the winds are playing and to better understand how it fits into their part.
5) set up in a U with each section taking up one side of the U – doesn’t matter where – try horn across from each other with rhythm at the bottom of the U, etc. You should place yourself at the top of the U and/or in the middle of the U.
6) have them set up in a circle, but change up the order, i.e. tenor, tpt, gtr, alto, trb, tenor, bass, etc. Once again, helps them to hear from a different perspective.

When I first started teaching I used the traditional seating arrangement for far too long. Changing up the placement helps to keep the kids engaged, helps them to hear something they might not have heard before, focuses them on how they fit into the ensemble, etc. From here have them memorize and take the music away. After that turn off the lights so they have to focus on listening…really!

Hope that helps. Good luck!