Back to basics

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by skimbleshanks, Oct 5, 2005.

  1. skimbleshanks

    skimbleshanks Member

    No, not a John Major policy, but band-room basics. Hymn tunes to be precise.

    As the only Brit in my band in Paris, I have the role of consultant to the MD on all things banding and British. Some of my first words of wisdom ;) were that all bands in the UK have a set of red hymn books which are used for warming up, developing the timbre, working on the tuning and intonation, listening exercises and ensemble work etc. (Wow! Who'd have thought that a little red book could do all that?)

    I'm sure that I am correct in the fact that all bands do possess a set of red hymn books, but my question is how many of you actually use them regularly at band rehearsal? If so, how do you use them? for what ends? Are there any interesting or different exercises that you do with the hymns? If your band doesn't use them, then why not? (I'm not saying you should, I'd just like to know why.)

    As for the finer things of British banding culture that I may bestow upon the French... :guiness ... I have a lot more work ahead of me!



    We have a red set and also an old blue hard backed set of salvation army hymn books, the arrangements in the blue books are often better than the red ones.

    Sometimes we play a hymn in one breath. Start by taking in a whole bars time of air, then everyone plays their parts at about mp/mf and keeps going as long as they can, once you have run out of breath you drop off and see who is still playing at the end. It builds stamina and helps focus on tuning and supporting the air column etc.
  3. Ipswich trom

    Ipswich trom Member

    We at Ipswich use the red book. Sometimes we play a couple of them through to warm up, other times we play them in different styles, e.g. detached, legato etc and if our MD is feeling especially vindictive it might be played down a tone or two! Gets the brain working.
  4. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Yes we have and use the Red books at the beginning of each rehearsal. Occasionally will be used for dynamic, ppp first time etc, or play each beat as two quavers, then in triplets then finish in semi-quavers all the way through, also ff then pp on each alternate note then pp/ff/pp/ff... etc. Tried once to get the band to play a tone up or down (some could but this was just too weird for a few)

    Isn't there a book out with a 100 things to do with hymns?
  5. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    I've been banding for *cough* *splutter* years, and can only recall one rehearsal, across thirty odd bands whose rehearsals I've been at, where proceedings haven't started with either the red, blue or christmas hymn books.
  6. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Yes, we always start with the dreaded red (well, orangish ) book! Playing as written, then pp, then ff, backwards etc. Even with the top half playing backwards and with the lower half playing normally! Must admit I'm always tempted to turn up late to avoid it, though. ;)
  7. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... you have described the ideal way how to use hymn books to get players focused and listening to each other. Add to that variation in tempo, rhythm and parts to further mix it up and bands should be ready for the slog ahead!
  8. super_sop

    super_sop Supporting Member

    We have to sets, one for the senior band, and one for the youth band.
    senior band we usually start with a hymn(No 43) and play through a couple of timessometimes loud sometimes soft, sometimes we break the bars down into quavers, sometimes we just play each note as a quaver .
    with the youth band we try do do the same , but we always finish off with two verses aswell, it always seems to calm things down (when you have 30 odd kids in there they need calming down after one of my rehursals!)
  9. JR

    JR Member

    I used to spend ages with the red book - players (particularly at Rothwell and the old British Steel Teesside) used to take bets on which number i'd start with - 71, 108 being particularly popular...
    I was very interested to find out though that according to brother Dave, Dyke in their all-conquering 1995 guise (and before) never touched hymns - ever - Jim Watson did not see the point of them and felt they just wasted rehearsal time
    Did the band's sound suffer? - I doubt it
    I was once told in very insistent terms by a typically arrogant pro trumpet player who was (apparently) "helping out" on 2nd man, that playing quiet hymn tunes before the band is completely warmed up is very damaging to the chops
    I still use hymns but not to the extent i used to - I've a feeling they could be a little over-rated - a bit like "dead" bandrooms

    john r
  10. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

  11. eckyboy

    eckyboy Member

    99% of the time we warm up with a couple but in my other band our conductor used one to warm down with too (Richard Sharpe, Sharpy on here). I liked the idea of a warm down and he was the 1st person to do that in any band I've played with.
  12. skimbleshanks

    skimbleshanks Member

    I agree (but don't insist and not in an arrogant way...) When I say warming up with hymns I don't mean get the instrument out of its case and go straight into a hymn tune. Rather, after everyone has done their personal warm up (before the rehearsal start-time) then do some work with the hymns.

    Personally I can't even get a mid-range C out unless I've done a good deal of romping around below the stave.
  13. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    Interesting this - I remember going to a Dyke rehearsal under Jim Watson some time ago and they started straight away with 'Le Roi D'ys' - after a few early spilts and splats he laid into them for not being warmed up. He clearly expected every player to be ready and primed before rehearsal rather than spending rehearsal time warming up. Probably akin to the ideals he has as a pro trumpeter and what he and his colleagues would be expected to do.

    On the flip side - I remember hearing B&R rehearse two days before the Nationals and their MD at the time had them working on a C major chord for approx ten minutes before running the test work through.

    Interesting this - suppose it is entirely dependant on the situation and band involved.
  14. eckyboy

    eckyboy Member

    A good point John.
    Archie Hutchison once came into a rehearsal and asked what happened to players spending at least 15 minutes warming up before a rehearsal. I think he thought the hymn tune was to generate ensemble playing and balance, rather than an exercise to get players warmed up to which I agree.
  15. BoozyBTrom

    BoozyBTrom Member

    We dont bother with them at normal rehearsals Ray Farr just expects as soon as the stick its down everyone is warmed up and ready. It is up to each player to warm up correctly after all. You dont see a 100m sprinter take off his tracksuit and then get one the blocks ready. They warm up and prepare.

    However the rehearsal before a contest in our hotel we do play a hymn. Not sure why tho' unless its so Ray can get his ear in to the accoustics of the reharsal room. which is normally ****!
  16. eckyboy

    eckyboy Member

    On another note - 25 years ago we always started with a March.
  17. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    Every rehearsal starts with 2 hymns out of the red book than a march.

    When our band master does the conducting we often have a 'warm-down' with a couple of quiet hymns too.
  18. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    About 95% of the rehearsals I have been to started from the red hymn books, the others began with a March. I honestly cant remember ever being in a rehearsal that started any other way.
  19. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Indeed. For those contests which consist of a hymn tune and test piece (like SCABA's at Folkestone), it wouldn't be a good idea to go on stage playing the hymn tune not having warmed up first.

    Just going OT for a sec, whilst I'm talking about Folkestone and SCABA, well done Andy Wooler and indeed, all the winning bands/solists/conductors!
  20. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Active Member

    Generally start with 2 hymns at Dronfield (first on varying dynamics, and second one (usually 43) doing quavers then triplets then semis and sometimes dotted quaver/semi quaver) and often start with one at Killamarsh as well.

Share This Page