Bridging the Gap - Junior Band to Main Band

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jack E, Sep 16, 2017.

  1. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    All good banding is about tactics - if you can spread the workload around and keep everyone fresher then you do it, which allows you to play better for longer (as a group).
    At championship level where you don't have any weak links (you'll naturally have the odd especially strong one, but you don't find any passengers or liabilities) you can spread it around more evenly, and you do... as you go down the sections (and into training bands, etc) you find a greater disparity between the stronger and weaker players, less awareness of the expedience of bandcraft/tactics (and/or less care about them, we all know that over-enthusiastic guy that wants to play everything) and as a result there's a greater reliance on the strongest to keep the whole thing going (at times).

    Funny thing is, I've seen players described as "poor team players" because they take their fair share of breaks when they're the strongest player in the section - at any level, being well organised to work as a team is an incredible advantage.
    4th Cornet likes this.
  2. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    These are so true in a playing context. My comments were more around the non-playing duties of bands people.
  3. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Ah sorry - I missed that...

    I guess to some extent similar rules apply - if the band is well organised and people know their duties (or lack thereof) then there's no reason to be upset at people who can't/don't muck in as much.
  4. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    No worries and I agree :)
  5. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Ugh, naming notes arbitrarily (even though the notes on ledgers above the staff actually are "high xyz")... pet peeve I guess.
    There's enough confusion already between people who name notes based on where they are in their range (bottom/middle/top) vs people who name them based on where they are in the staff... does it make sense to name notes differently for the sake of minor psychological trickery?
    Besides, with enough listening to the right kind of playing (which is an essential part of any musical education anyway) it shouldn't need saying that there are notes beyond ANY note you can play - I guess you could say I have pretty decent range, and I'm fully aware there are notes beyond (and people who can not only play them, but perform them!) and I don't need any language trickery to convince me of that.

    I'd also be very wary of actually practicing pedals - it's not really possible to do them properly without embouchure distortion on cornet/trumpet (low brass is different), so it generally does little good and potentially significant harm.
  6. UncleStreaky

    UncleStreaky Member

    A couple of other points to add to my original reply:

    Usually once a month (except just before a contest) we invite selected youth band members to join the first half of a senior band rehearsal for additional experience. They are given a copy of the music to look at beforehand to prepare for. As well as the musical challenge they also experience the etiquette and discipline of an adult band rehearsal.

    It is also made clear that any vacancies in the senior band are generally advertised. Youth band members can apply and they understand that the position is filled on merit.

    All of that helps to manage expectations.

    I should point out that we aren't putting barriers in the way of progress and in fact we have seen youth band members make the transition to senior band on merit (some depping but others given a seat).

    And whilst there is no automatic route from junior to senior band, our new community band gives an opportunity for all to attend and bridge the gap.
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  7. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    This sounds the perfect set up to me. Well done all involved in working to put this in place.
    Jack E likes this.
  8. Mello

    Mello Active Member

    Re Top C & stuff..Alex Mortimer used to say it was only in the upper middle register .
    Just thought I would mention it as a matter of interest.
  9. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    If it helps a player - then I would say yes. Makes no odds to me - like you I have a reasonably good range (around 4.5 octaves) which allows me to play most if not all of what is put in front of me, however there are plenty of players out there with smaller ranges as well as some with bigger ranges - I'm not in the same league as the Childs family, Steven Mead et al
    As an MD its sometimes easier to identify the note you are talking about by referring to it as "high C" "top C" or whatever (rather than C on the 2nd leger line) but each to their own. My point was purely that if you are going to name a note it should sound achievable rather than an impossible or struggle especially when dealing with younger or less experienced players. But each to their own.....

    Thanks Mello..... whilst I never had the opportunity and privilege of playing alongside or for Alex Mortimer (although I did once appear in a concert with Harry....and I also played for the old CWS Manchester band once it became City of Manchester) I have heard similar comments in the past...... and it shouldn't be forgotten that many trumpet players can go for an octave or more above what many call "top C".

    Probably because you've managed to overcome many of the psychological hurdles around range. I know plenty of players that reach a glass ceiling - often because a lot of the repertoire doesn't require playing above C, especially in lower section and community bands

    I didn't say that I'd "Practiced" them, not did I say I would tell someone else to do them although that may not have been clear - my apologies. However I was lucky enough to be able to play at Championship level on Cornet before changing to Euph and I was able to do them - usually to show off in my younger days. Even middle-lower section banding requires pedalling on the bigger instruments, but I'd suggest that on the smaller stuff - horn upwards - its probably best avoided until such time as you have mastered the basics around breathing and embouchure control to avoid any problems
  10. Chuk_rok

    Chuk_rok New Member

    Must admit, as a trumpet playerI used to think of "top C" as about as far as I needed to go, purely down to repertoire - apart from the Haydn concerto there isn't much above it up to grade 8 standard. But that then confirms the point re grade 8 - there is so much more after it! And then I started liking big band stuff and that blew it out the water anyway..

    On the original point, its an interesting one and I've enjoyed reading the thread. At the beginning of the year I took over as MD of a 4th section band that have really been struggling over the last few years, having gone from 2nd section to virtually non-contesting. They had conceived the idea of starting a training band before I joined in an attempt to draw in new people, however it was literally 3 cornets going through some early "tune a day" exercises. We are now at 13 members, across all instruments and I have got to the stage where I'm thinking that in the future we're actually going to need three bands, a beginners group, training band and main band, purely because I've already got people that are no longer beginners and potentially too good for the current training band (with so many beginners), but not quite ready to sit in the main band (even though it is only 4th section). Unfortunately there is no-one in the main band that either has the time or skills to assist and all I want to do is make some great music, whatever the ability - it has got to the stage where I've started arranging some quintet music to give the strongest few in the main band a chance to do something a bit different, but I read the fragmentation comment higher up with interest..

    Hey ho, will keep plugging away :)
  11. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    The above seems to have captured some of the difficulties quite well. I'm very much in favour of pursuing smaller group playing as an option to use both in support of the larger band and as an expedient or otherwise option in its own right. Ten and five piece arrangements exist for many pieces, they just need tracking down, and IMHO it's a great way forward that's often overlooked.
    Jack E likes this.
  12. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    Sounds like you've got some great plans - are there others in the senior band that could help with beginners? Would be interested to hear how things develop
  13. Mello

    Mello Active Member

    . "I'm very much in favour of pursuing smaller group playing as an option to use both in support of the larger band and as an expedient or otherwise option in its own right. Ten and five piece arrangements exist for many pieces, they just need tracking down, and IMHO it's a great way forward that's often overlooked."
    Well said 2nd Tenor.. Small group playing is a fantastic activity

    Better players in a band , can get great satisfaction in tackling music which extends their capabilities without lesser players ( beginners etc ) being frustrated....For the beginners, it can help their development no end.
    When I used to work with a youngsters group /& elder beginners, I often used a method I called Ring o Roses . I had a set of manuscript books containing 60+ pieces, in basic 4pt Harmony , with increasing levels of difficulty from Baa Baa Black Sheep / Twinkle Little Star ....up to Slaidburn & Radeztky Marches . also easy overtures Impresario etc.. Tho only 4 part harmony , each part /bk had a duplicate . transposed ( Eb & Bb ) so a group may be 4 instruments in the same key, or any combination ( Bb or Eb ) eg. Trom substituting a Hn etc. .

    The stands would be in a circle /square with a book on each 1-2-3-4. The players take a position , and player 1 would take the lead -- choose the piece , set the tempo, listen and stop when things went wrong , try to put it right etc and after the piece was ended , all players moved round to the next stand No2 , then the player who played 1 , would be on either 2 or 4 depending on which direction round they moved. & so on ...The objectives being
    1 As player A is the appointed leader he has to to assert authority by choosing a piece that he thinks the group can play ...specially himself
    2 - - has to listen the Ensemble, whilst playing , for mistakes , ( wrong notes , balance , rushing etc etc ) because he is leader and has that responsibility and authority. He has to try and correct things until the piece ends. Only when satisfied - or stopped by me ( probably to help put things right and explain where mistakes in leadership occurred), do the players move on to the next stand.
    Player A then has to learn to forgo his leadership , and be a secondary but still important player being subservient to the new leader, listening to instructions from the new leader interruptions unless invited..Whilst the new leader (player B ) has taken on the responsibility of choosing the piece -tempo - dynamics- balance etc etc ... and so forth.

    Each player therefore learns the importance of each part, the importance of leadership, and hopefully how to balance, and be PART of a team . Also how to behave ..

    It could be - and often is fun to see the youngest or weakest player , taking control ...there can be no moaning that the choice of music is too easy ( the young new leader is exercising his duties ) . I would be there overseeing that the better players give the same respect and attention that they had received.
    The Weak new leader would usually be quite hesitant to begin and the better players would have to bite their tongue and not interrupt. I would obviously intervene & help when needed .

    To be very honest , Ring o Roses worked very well , even on Summer Schools when I used them with the Horn Section...often 3 adults & and a youngster . As I had twin sets ( Eb & Bb ) two groups in adjacent rooms also worked well . Dont forget that if there were only 7 hns then the missing part could be played by another instrument Cnt /flug Bari etc using the transposed set.

    When I retired , I gave the set to the Kearsley Youth Training band , so sadly I cannot let anyone have them . However it is a simple enough job for most tutors to put pen to paper and create there own. You may be interested to hear that I gave a set to the LSO to use in their Prison Education Scheme , for beginner inmates . That was after I helped them out - along with Maurice Murphy - for a prison concert , directed by Frank Matheson .( Thats another story - but it demonstrates that Ring o Roses works for young & old.

    Just an Idea ....stimulated by 2nd Tenor advocating small group playing is really beneficial.

    I certainly am NOT in anyway trying to teach anyone to suck eggs..and I have no intention of implying this is the best or only method.. I only post it in case some inexperienced player may feel it a useful insight of just one method that works. I readily concede there are many others better and more accessible .
  14. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Far from being the exception, I think that this ought to become standard policy amongst bands, and would be the best way of ensuring that brass bands don't continue the slow decline that they have suffered over the last few decades. You only have to watch that series of programmes, 'A Band for Britain' (now on YouTube), to see what happens to a band with a long history of success in contests and concerts if they just assume that "somebody else will train enough learners up to main band standard for us, so we can just concentrate on winning contests". That decline hasn't 'just happened'; it's happened for a reason, and just carrying on as we are now in the hope that 'something will turn up' to turn things around isn't optimism - it's wishful thinking.

    Once upon a time, many schools did provide free music lessons and loaned instruments as part of their syllabus, but if what I've heard is correct, for many schools (if not most) those days are long gone, and I've no idea when or even IF they will come back. If you look at virtually any other activity / pastime / sport / whatever where high standards are achieved, the people involved keep those activities going by arranging matters so that raw beginners have a series of steps by which they can work their way up to as high a level as they can reach (or as far as they wish to go) - I mean, even contests, with the various sections from 4th to Championship level are designed for that very purpose, aren't they? So I can't see anything odd in individual bands being structured as a small scale version of contest sections, designed to assist such development at a more personal level - not exactly rocket science, is it? :)
    Chuk-Rok; you may have tried this approach already, but, if not, have you thought about asking the younger members of the main band to help?

    This approach was taken by the MD of our band when he found we had too many new learners for the existing team of tutors to manage, and I was really shaken by how well some of the youngest main band players rose to the responsibility - all of them still of school age, and some not long out of primary school! Equally, I couldn't help but notice how effective they were at inspiring the new learners to give it maximum effort, and how much the learners (some of them only about 6 - 7 years old!) enjoyed working with their young tutors.

    Please keep us posted on how it works out for for you and your band, Chik-Rok - I for one am really interested in this matter, and I think a forum like this is the ideal place to share ideas and experiences so that we can all benefit.

    With best regards,

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  15. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Thank you for your kind words. I posted trying to help others and in response your excellent post has given me rather a lot of very constructive comment and ideas to mull over. :)

    For those looking for small group arrangements I have found that Matt Kingston at Big Shinny Brass does do a lot of good stuff and (IMHO) at reasonable prices. | PDF sheet music for brass players - HOME . You receive a download and print out the parts that you need; voices are typically doubled on different instruments so it's designed to allow all parts to be covered - hope that description makes sense.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
    Jack E likes this.
  16. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Thanks for that tip, 2nd Tenor; I just had a quick look at what he has on offer, and it looks well worth digging into :)

    With best regards,


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