Copywriting Lessons in Orchestra Rehearsal

Copywriting Lessons in Orchestra Rehearsal.jpg

Learning new tricks is one thing. Putting them into practice is quite another.

As you know, I’ve been giddy all week about my new favorite book, “The Art of Possibility” by Ben and Roz Zander. 

They teach their 12 practices from the point of view of an orchestra conductor which is fun, because I am an orchestra conductor, among other things.

Last night it was my turn to run the weekly rehearsal with our community orchestra. My dad, the Maestro and founder of the group, was out of town on business.

During the course of the evening as I worked to implement several Zanderisms. In the process, realized how applicable they were to copywriting as well as leadership.

As I studied Shostakovich’s 5th symphony to prepare for rehearsal, I had a completely new point of view. 

Instead of studying the notes and markings of the composer to prepare for the rehearsal, I found myself thinking about the people who were going to put those notes and marking in their fingers.

I started asking myself what I could do to empower them. 

What could I do to “give them an A”? Or to “play the long line”? Or help them “lead from any chair”? 

In fact, each of these 3 Zander practices came up during rehearsal.

As we worked through a complicated section, one of the cellists kept asking, “are we right, or are the violins right?” 

I said to them… “let’s not worry about who’s right. I give you all an A.” They laughed. But they also relaxed and let the music flow over them a little more, instead of worrying about who was right and who was wrong.

Giving them an A helped me see a new way to work with clients. Rather than posturing and arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong, giving an A allows for new possibilities and a more smooth relationship.

The 3rd movement of the Symphony we rehearsed is challenging because it’s so incredibly slow. That might sound counterintuitive. But keeping a steady, soulful, expressive tone in a slow tempo, without any speed bumps in the sound, is very difficult to pull off. 

We talked about “the long line.” What was happening was, many players were taking one note at a time. It became a very choppy sound, full of speed bumps. I stopped beating time, which is typically what a conductor does when waving his arms at the orchestra. Instead, I made long, slow gestures to paint an image of the “long line.” I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.

The long line turned our note-by-note approach into a beautiful story arc over a long passage of soft soul-stirring music. 

This reminded me of a gig I’m working on now. I’m one of 4 copywriters working on a full-scale product launch in Ray Edwards’ new copywriting agency. There are SO many moving pieces. SO many individual pieces of copy, like so many notes combining to create a symphony. Thinking about each piece of copy as its own entity is like the speed bump playing of the orchestra. Rather, when I consider the long line with each new piece of copy, the whole arc is much more convincing.

Finally, I was encouraged to see the Zanderism “leading from any chair” in practice in last night’s rehearsal. 

In one particularly challenging passage, the 2nd violins, who normally like to hide behind the 1st violins, have to take the lead. To pull it off, every player, even the 7th and 8th chairs in the back of the section have to play like they are leaders. Just the act of speaking to the people in those 7th and 8th chairs made a huge difference. Usually, when giving instructions to the 2nd violin section, or any other section, the conductor speaks the person in the 1st chair. It’s a practice that ignores the human beings filling the back of the section, which only encourages them to hide behind their leader even more.

Simply by involving ALL the players in the section, and especially the people in the very back, it gave them permission to lead out. The difference in sound was noticeable. Instead of hearing 15 individual players trying to play together, I heard ONE voice. It was fascinating!

So, what’s the point of all this?

The point is… keep your antennae up. 

You never know when you’re going to learn an important new lesson about copywriting, or marketing, or any other important practice that can make a difference in your business and in your life.

Rather than go through life hypnotized by negative self-talk, or by media on your smartphone, or any other mind-numbing practice…

Look for the lessons all around you.

Try out some new things.

Challenge the status quo. 

And then apply it to your copywriting to make it even more powerfully melodic and harmonious.

Have a good one!


P.S. Symphonic Copywriting, my new book, is my way of understanding the complicated strategies and tactics of great copywriting. You can get a copy of Chapters 1 and 2 at the link below to hold you over until the full book is ready for press (I’m getting really close).

I see everything through music. What’s your way of seeing the world? What’s your thing? What can it teach you about running your business or writing your copy? I bet you’ve got years of experience in some area that will teach you new lessons you didn’t realize you already knew. Take a look inside yourself...