Why Doesn’t My Band Sound Better? Ten of the Most Common Mistakes Band Directors Make During Rehearsals

Why Doesn’t My Band Sound Better?

Ten of the Most Common Mistakes Band Directors Make During Rehearsals

By NAfME Member David Snyder


Many band directors are frustrated by sub-par performance from their ensembles and mistakenly blame their students for these re-occurring problems. My thirty years of conducting and observing bands has helped me identify some common problems that all directors face.

These problems can be divided into two basic categories:

  1. Poor time management
  2. Critical listening skills
music research
Photo: Victoria Chamberlin | victoriachamberlin.com

Time Management Challenges


Poor time management issues can include wasting time at the beginning of rehearsals, getting drawn to tangents in class, or simply not addressing the main problems occurring in your rehearsal. I believe it’s important that we directors carefully plan the limited time with our bands and use that time in the most efficient manner. Our students joined band to PLAY and make music—NOT to hear us talk and look for lost music.

In my session this November, I will address transitioning properly, effect rehearsal planning, sectionals, and creating effective routines.


Building Listening Skills


Critical listening skills is an area that we all need improvement on regardless of where we are currently with our abilities. The longer we teach, hopefully, the better our ears become, and we can discern more quickly what needs to be addressed in our rehearsals.

I like to record my rehearsals and listen to them with the score in front of me. If you videotape, it’s easy to focus on how you look, so all you really need is a good sound recording. Recording rehearsals allows you to go back and hear the same passage multiple times without 60 pairs of eyes waiting for you to speak. Bringing in colleagues to help you listen can be a great advantage too.

Photo: Victoria Chamberlin | victoriachamberlin.com


In addition to the previously mentioned listening skills strategies, in my session we will discuss providing useful feedback to students, showing students how to recognize their own pitch problems and producing well-supported tone, and other trouble-shooting issues to lead effective rehearsals.

Additionally, we will address how to recruit for and maintain balanced instrumentation in your band.

My hope for this session is to provide at least one or two ideas you can apply immediately to your rehearsals with the end goal of improving the overall sound and performance level of your group.

About the author:

band director

NAfME member David W. Snyder is currently Professor of Music Education at Illinois State University where he teaches instrumental methods courses and heads the graduate music education program. He also has been a member of the Peoria Symphony horn section since 1995. Before moving to Illinois, Professor Snyder completed his Master of Music in horn performance at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a Doctor of Music Education from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Snyder also taught band in the Texas public school system for seven years where his bands regularly received superior ratings and were selected to the state marching band finals. Dr. Snyder has been published in most of the major music education journals and is a regular clinician with bands throughout Illinois.


David Snyder presented on his topic, “Why Doesn’t My Band Sound Better?: Ten of the Most Common Mistakes Band Directors Make during Rehearsals,” at the 2017 NAfME National Conference last November in Dallas, TX. Register today for the 2018 NAfME National Conference!


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