"Balance" in a band

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by ABERDEEN LOON, Jan 28, 2008.



    I have just posted a reply in another thread that got me thinking. (I know, it is possible for a tuba player to think.... I am sitting down!:biggrin: )

    With the regionals fast approaching, bands will be thinking about the crits for last year, and the year before etc. For lower section bands, there are two thinks that will be mentioned for almost every band...

    Tuning and Balance.

    Now, we talk about tuning a lot at band rehearsals, and a lot of time is spent with the tuner trying to get the C's, g's and Bflats in tune (I am not getting into that arguement just now!) but I have found that not everyone knows what is meant by balance. This is certainly the case with younger members of the band who just seem to take it as one of the things that they get shouted at about! :eek:

    I thought that this would be the Ideal opportunity for people to pass on their experience and knowledge of what is meant by balance, and the best way that a lower section band can improve this aspect of their playing.

    My understanding (and I really hope that I am right or I will feel like a real ejit) is that a lower pitched instrument should always play that little bit louder than a higher pitched one. I remember when I was in Clydebank Burgh being rehearsed by Nigel Boddice who managed to get the band to sound 10 times better simply by working on this premice.

    Any way, I now leave the floor open to any comments. :)
  2. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    For me, it means the band is accurately reproducing the sound that the composer intended.

    Harmonically: chords all balanced and recognisable (so often the third is weak)
    Soundwise: voices blended or otherwise, as indicated on the score.
  3. Nigel Boddice's theary is definatly correct.

    Top heavy bands (cornets) tend to really struggle with tone and generally can sound quite scrappy.

    The most important aspects of any band is the middle section (horns/bari's), bass trombone and bass's.

    Too many times have I heard over-powering euphs/solo cornets. That is not the way to go.

    Without a powerful bass section, of course, none of this would work.
  4. Ruthless

    Ruthless Member

    We were always made to think of it like a pearl sat on a cushion. The pearl is the cornet section, and the cushion is the rest of the band. If you do not have a big enough cushion which provides the right amount of consistent/even support, even the best pearl will be rolling around struggling to be shown at its best. But if the cushion is too big then it swamps the pearl and you loose the beauty of the overall effect.
  5. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    In any musical group, the inside parts tend to be the ones which are lost. There was an excellent article in BB a while back by Chris Thomas, where he made the point that, in a trombone section, it is often the second trombone who is the key to getting the balance right.
  6. Robhibberd29

    Robhibberd29 Active Member

    I'd agree with Peter's comments above with regards to the 2nd trom. The reason is because, as with other "2nd" parts, they tend to be the ones that get lost as the players are, more so in the lower sections of course, less experienced or less confident. Sometimes maybe just not as talented dare I say it. I also agree with the theory of balance coming from bass/bari as a post to overpowering cornet/euph parts.
    The exception I would argue is the "colouring" parts from Bass trom, Sop, Rep and Flugel which should be able to be picked out over the band at the right time to add that touch of flair. After listeining to certain bands at Butlins, I was amazed I couldn't pick out the sop part in one of the Champ section bands and this part in particular is all too often lost in the sea of cornets, which is such a shame for such a gorgeous part.
    I'm not going to comment any more on the Bass trom part seeing as I play it! ;-)
  7. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    As far as i know "balance" at KSB is making sure all the fat blokes dont sit at the front of the coach on the way to the gig.
  8. Robhibberd29

    Robhibberd29 Active Member

    I think you'll find balance at KSB is more to do with how many pints are being carried at any one time.

    Funny how no one has mentioned how percussion fits into the balance of a band...hmmm ;)
  9. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    Well as far as the majority of adjudicators are concerned its very easy, if they can hear the percussion, its too loud. I know from experience that all I have to do is play more quietly than any other band and the adjudicator will call it "well balanced".
  10. Robhibberd29

    Robhibberd29 Active Member

    That's that one finitely answered then Shaggy. It's a revelation! ;)
  11. MattB

    MattB Member

    Think you've all said it right there. Get that bedrock of sound from the back, lower cornets, horns and baris, and then there's something to build on. No point playing a chord if you can hear two thirds of it because the top of the chord is out powering the rest is there!
  12. hicks

    hicks Member

    Absolutely. In addition to balance across the whole band, it's important for individual sections to get the balance right. When playing the 2nd trom part, I am constantly listening to the two guys on either side of me. It's easier for the 1st trom to project those higher notes, and well, the bass trom needs no encouragement!
  13. johnsop

    johnsop Member

    There are some fantastic opinions voiced here, and I don't think I can disagree with any of them.

    To add a bit of imagery to the thread, when I am conducting and working on balance, I like to think of the band as a cake, a Victoria Sponge, to be specific. You'll soon see what I mean...
    • The basses are the base section, i.e. the bottom layer of sponge.
    • The euphoniums, baritones and horns are the creamy middle "butter cream" in a good sponge - i.e. a little sweet and interesting.
    • The trombones are the jam, adding that little bit of extra sweetness - but not too much!!
    • The cornet section are the top layer of sponge, just sitting nicely on top of all the firm foundations listed above
    • The soprano cornet and percussion then become that light sprinkling of icing sugar which just finishes off the perfect cake
    I'm not trying to make anyone hungry, but it is another analogy to add to the "mix" (excuse the pun!)
  14. hicks

    hicks Member

    That's a good analogy, except I rarely hear the term "extra sweetness" associated with trombones :)
    I once read that in a brass band there is a constant battle between cornets and trombones, which is obviously a pointless argument because we know who will win there don't we?
    I would say we're trying to paint a fine picture, with the individual sections each adding their own colour. You have to get the blend just right to achieve the perfect overall effect.
  15. johnsop

    johnsop Member

    I only use the term "extra sweetness" in terms of colour, within the thick testure of the middle of the band (or cake?!).

    We all know trombones are far from sweet!!!
  16. Robhibberd29

    Robhibberd29 Active Member

    Absolutely!! :)
  17. Completely agree with regards to trombone section - and I did read that article a while back after recommendations from a few mates.
    The key ingrediant to any trombone section is for every player in that section being able to play to the same ability and dynamic - otherwise it leaves the MD with more work trying to lower the volume of the solo/bass trom in order to achieve some balance, which then leaves a less powerful and less effective trombone section ;)
  18. JimboFB

    JimboFB Active Member

    Nice point there, plus there's at least 3 times as many cornets in most bands!

    Come on the trombones!

    Regarding balance etc, we did a CD recording on the weekend where it was decided that for recording purposes the trombones and backrow cornets would be on raised staging so that the sounds could be projected above the sections sat infront.

    Now, much discussion/laughter ensued when we forst got there but serious discussion soon followed as to the pro's and cons for this being a permanent fixture.......

    This was hastily cast asside for saftey reasons. (i think it was more to do with the fact you might fall off, rather than the razz that was soaring over the rest of the band like a red arrows fly past!)

    On listening to some immediate feedback of the recording it seemed to work well in that you could distinguish certain parts that you wouldnt maybe hear as clearly in normal formation.

    However, it did get me thinking - who decided originally on the band formation and how could you change it, for example: Who's idea was it that the Trombone's sat on the conducors right and cornet section on the left? And what would happen if you swapped?

    The list is endless of weird and wonderful moves - some of which have been used in concert and contesting, sometimes directed from the score, sometimes not, all of which is supposed to change the balance of certain parts!
  19. cornetcheese

    cornetcheese Member

    Definately - this is always the approach I've always used with every ensemble I've conducted, whether a brass band, orchestra or otherwise! I may have even used it with Turriff?

    I always use the example of a pyramid, with every individual part balancing to the one playing underneath it (for example, 3rd cornets louder than 2nds, 2nd's louder than front row) - it usually works!

    Incidentally, I'm quite sure I've picked that up off Nigel Boddice....
  20. eanto

    eanto Member

    2nd Cornets louder than frontrow? I'd like to play in that band!

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