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Breaking Down Sectional Time

Sectionals are a great time to improve habits that lead to increased clarity in your section. For instructors and section leaders, trying to fix too many things during your sectional time can often frustrate the players. The members are only human and can only absorb so much information during a period of time.  Setting a goal of 2-3 improvements per sectional has proven to be effective. One method I like to use to help do this when I teach RCC is reviewing the “baseline”. Let’s dive into this method below.

Let’s say you are working with your high school’s quad line on their feature for 45 minutes before full ensemble. They have had the feature for a few weeks, but there are multiple issues with the 8 bar phrase which hasn’t improved much since they first learned it. Below is a sequence of events I would conduct:

  • Ask the quad line to play the feature all the way through for 3 repetitions

  • Notate in detail the issues for each repetition

  • Review the issues and group them based on similarity. For example, you notice they rushed their triplets all 3 repetitions after the 8th note roll

  • After grouping, identify the 2-3 issues that constitute for a majority of the dirt

  • Isolate these 2 -3 items, build primers, and focus on successfully improving those 2 -3 items

This method will not magically fix the entire feature. But if this method is implemented each rehearsal, you will see steady results and improvement. At the beginning of the season, focus on issues that can benefit the entire feature, such as tempo issues and overall approach. Later in the season you can dive more into the details such as the 2 count flam phrase into the last bar.


There are multiple methods to clean music outside of this approach and that’s okay. Most of these successful methods incorporates a specific game plan and goals everybody understands. Fight the temptation to “chase the error” for each repetition. Study the commonalities of poor habits that led to the dirt, break down those commonalities, develop correct habits, and slowly fix the section over time. 


Author: Matthew Regua

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