Rehearsal Etiquette

Adapted from the Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra

Arrive early—at least 20 minutes early, or with enough time to both get your instrument out and warm up. If you are late (it happens), try to avoid taking your seat while the musicians are playing; if you can, wait for an appropriate break in the action to slip in.

Come prepared. This means three things:

  • Come having thoroughly practiced your music. Rehearsing passages ensemble members didn’t practice wastes limited rehearsal time.

  • Before you head to rehearsal, double check that you have your music, instrument, music stand, reeds, mutes, and any necessary accessories.

  • Bring a pencil. Mark important directions or changes, rather than trusting you'll remember them at the next rehearsal or concert.

Be courteous to your colleagues. Position yourself so both you and your neighbors have enough arm and leg room and can see the music comfortably. Don’t be afraid to ask the people around or behind you if they can see the conductor or if you can move a little to give them more space.

Warm up at a soft or medium volume. Don’t bust out personal solo concertos and performances pieces just to show off—everyone will be more annoyed than impressed. Also, don’t practice another player's solo to demonstrate that you can play it better.

Tune softly so the players around you can hear themselves as well as the tuning note.

Stop when the conductor stops. If you keep playing, it’s a sign that you’re not paying attention. Also, don’t noodle around or practice while the conductor is talking. Personal practice and group rehearsal are two separate activities.

Don’t chat. If you need to communicate something to your neighbor, do so inconspicuously and quietly. Save personal conversations for break time.

Tap your toe inside your shoe, or gently tap your heel, if you need to keep time. Loud or obvious foot tapping distracts other musicians and the audience.

Pass down instructions or comments from the section leader. Don’t be the break in the chain.

If at all possible, don’t miss any rehearsals leading up to a concert. Inform your section leader as soon as you know you can't make a rehearsal


Don’t question the conductor or treat him/her with disrespect. Trust in their artistic direction. Don’t argue with the conductor or you’ll likely find yourself packing up and sent on your way.

Lastly, enjoy the music! Don’t take rehearsal so seriously that you lose your connection with the piece or with your instrument. Playing music in an ensemble is a real treat; don’t forget that you’re taking part in a meaningful cultural tradition that will edify your audience.