Difficulty Tarrifs.

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Thirteen Ball, Oct 30, 2008.

  1. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    How often have we collectively heard adjudicators question why a band picked a particular piece to play, because it was clearly tooo hard? And likewise, the opposite. How often have we heard that Band A missed out on the prize because band B played a harder test-piece just as well?

    The same issues seem to raise themselves in the post mortem of every own-choice contest I've ever played at or attended. "Oh we'd have won if we'd played (insert piece) .... How can they win on that piece? It's far too easy.... Well they played a harder piece so they won, but there was more music in ours...." and so on and so forth.

    Watching a highligts programme from the olympics a while back set me thinking. In disciplines where there is an element of choice, such as gymnastics, diving etc, each move in the code is given a difficulty tarrif, which is totalled up, and then the judges scores are multiplied by that number, before some other maths is done to get a final result. The upshot being, it pays to do a tough routine. However someone who goes for a little less difficulty but produces a flawless performance still has a chance of a medal.

    Surely this could be something introduced for band test pieces? Each test-piece could be given a tarrif by an independant panel suggesting a multiplier, in a similar way that test-pieces are allocated to sections for regional championships.

    Then if Band A play test piece X with a tarrif of 1.3 and achieve 186 pts from the adjudicator, they receive 241.8pts overall.

    Band B play test piece Y with a tarrif of 1.4, but don't do so well at it, getting only 183 pts. however opting for extra difficulty has stood them in good stead as they receive 256.2

    Band C opt for an easier test piece, Z at a tarriff of 1.2, and play it very well, receiving 194 points - but as they've been heavily beaten on difficulty by the other two, 232.8pts is their final score.

    OK, this is all back-of-an-envelope maths, and the actual mathematical system would need proper development and testing, (The differences between the multipliers would need to be smaller for a start!!) but the theory could be similar.

    Advantages - adjudicators get to assess a band's performance on merit, use objective criteria for awarding points, and it doesn't cause much of an issue if they award the same points to two bands as the tarriff will sort it out. Plus every band is assessed on their performance alone, rather than how it compared to everyone else's on the day.

    Does that sound a reasonable proposition?
  2. DMBabe

    DMBabe Supporting Member

    :eek: Great idea but more than a bit complicated for some to comprehend. Although I'll agree that there's nothing more frustrating then playing your bits off only to be told the piece was too easy. Happened to us a few years back in the 1st section. Played Moorside Suite and were complimented all day, standing ovation (admittedly of the usual audience of 10 men and their dog. Old boy said it was so good it made him cry. Came 2nd, not bad until our conductor was approached by the adjudicator at a later contest and told that it was an exceptional performance but he thought that it was too easy and whilst the winning band were a long way from perfect they attempted a championship section piece! Made him almost want to give up conducting! Nowt like being told it's better to play less well then to achieve what is required from the piece!
  3. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    It would make perfect sense if they didnt have the daft system of giving everybody 1 points difference for each place.
  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    It's unworkable... Different bands have different strengths; what is easy for one band is impossible for another, and vice versa.
  5. MarimbaMan

    MarimbaMan New Member

    i agree i like your idea, but there are bands out there who arent as good as others, unless the adjudicator knows the playing abilities of each member of the band then i don't think he should comment on whether the piece was too easy for you band
  6. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    He's not saying its easy for the particular band, he's saying its easy for the section the band is playing in. Surely he's got every reason and right to say that. You wouldn't expect to see Grimethorpe playing indian summer at an own choice contest.
  7. MarkGillatt

    MarkGillatt Member

    This is actually a great piece of "thinking outside the box". Many publishers already grade their pieces on difficulty, probably more so for Wind Bands, but if the Adjudication panel can produce a tariff for pieces already used at contests then it really shouldn't take that long for every test piece to be assessed and marked. That way, as well as choosing a piece that the band can play, the conductor can also use an element of risk/reward to the performance, go for the safe option to get a solid placing, or risk it all on a difficult piece to go for glory, or crash and burn. I agree with the reasoning behind it as well, some adjudicators mark high on a performance of a piece of a lower standard than the section the band is competing at, whilst hammering a band that takes a chance on a fiendishly difficult piece. and vice versa.
  8. Farmer Giles

    Farmer Giles Member

    good idea
    don't think it would ever happen though
    too many people are "stuck in their ways"
  9. HornMaster

    HornMaster Member

    In theory this sounds like a great idea and with the right structure would probably work well in practice.

    It would though require a significant change in the way adjudicators judge performances, with each band being judged/marked purely on their performance of the piece and no bearing given to the difficulty of it.
  10. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    Outside the box it may be, but all it does is introduce another variable over which there will be even more arguments. It seems to me that, after every contest, controversy rages about whether Band A should have got more points than Band B. Adding tariffs to pieces isn't going to change that by one iota. It doesn't matter how the final tally of points is arrived at, the arguments will continue.

    Sorry to sound negative and I have no alternative to offer, but making the system more complex is not a viable solution.
  11. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    It would rely on the number of points actually meaning something, which it doesn't. It would be helpful if the associations just printed a list of acceptable standard test pieces for each section. That way everyone would be playing something of around the same difficulty.
  12. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Judges should only go on what they hear and how that matches what the composer intended. They can only judge how difficult a piece is for the band currently playing it.. if you are struggling to play the piece, then why should you get a prize for attempting something beyond your band over a band that plays something correct?
  13. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member


    Time to trot out the story about Eric Ball and how he conducted Resurgam only for the adjudicator to say that it was not played in the manner that the composer would have wanted...

    At an own choice contests, judges can only go on what they hear, and how it tickles their fancy.
  14. themusicalrentboy

    themusicalrentboy Active Member

    a slightly less glossy example, but when we went to Harrogate a couple of years ago, we had Peter Parkes to conduct some of the rehearsals of Ballet of the Perfect Fool, we played it like he said and were basically told our interpretation was wrong.

    this idea, although good in theory, would leave many open ends regarding 'well we played ours really well and only came ___' or 'but our piece was so much harder than theirs and we only came____'

    leave well alone I say :tup
  15. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    I agree, Will - but is that a real set of criteria for desiding results on?

    The idea of the proposal was to make things easier for the adjudicator by allowing him/her to concentrate on how well the piece was played - taking how difficult a piece is or isn't out of the equation when allocating points.

    That particular set of criteria must present themselves at every contest, other than a set-test piece - and adjudicators already have enough to think about just by dealing with 15 odd different pieces.

    I've often believed that the criteria used for deciding who wins and loses at a contest are far too subjective. A point I've made many times is that if the adjudicator doesn't like the piece - or as you correctly state, the interpretation you place upon it - then you aren't ever going to win the contest. Your example is a very good one. Had you KNOWN the criteria the adjudicator was going to assess the piece on beforehand, maybe Mr Parkes would have changed his interpretation slightly.

    The problem is, it's generally accepted that you have to take a risk to win - but by taking a risk you also put yourself in line for a slating if the chap in the box doesn't like it and you never know which one is going to come up because there is no transparency in the process - nor anything laid down beforehand.

    Other disciplines have moved away from just a simple judge's decision, with little or no accountability for that decision, and onto a more objective set of criteria - which everyone knows before thay start, and whilst initially unpopular, the emphasis on how well a performer or performers pulls off their chosen showcase has remained the same.
  16. Super Ph

    Super Ph Member

    complete nonsense. the adjudicator will give victory to the band he likes best. adding in extra maths isn't going to change that, it just adds another layer of subjectivity (who decides which pieces are hard).

    what could be more ridiculous and meaningless than saying "we played really well, got 194 pts on moorside suite but just got pipped by our local rivals, they really massacred 'apocalypse'.
  17. DMBabe

    DMBabe Supporting Member

    Am worried that it'll make a mockery of own choice contests with loads of bands blowing the bits off pieces that are too hard in order to get points in the bag before they start, and few bands having the courage to stick to their guns and play music well!

    Not to mention who's gonna grade the pieces in the first place? The same ones that pick the often bizarre choices for the areas and Nationals?:dunno
  18. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    All agreed then? Not a great idea :D
  19. DMBabe

    DMBabe Supporting Member

    Nice idea, but flawed given the current system of administration of such things! Over complicates a system that is already fairly overcomplicated!:confused:
  20. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    What could be more ridiculous and meaningless than getting 187 points - knowing full well that your points score has been allocated AFTER your placing was decided?

    Thanks to those of you who provided some constructive criticism of the idea. I don't believe there is any need for playing a hard piece to automatically equal a win. (I seem to recall the hardest ever uneven beam routine was done at the olympics, and the athlete in question finished fourth overall - so execution can be just as imporant a criterion as difficulty.) But I do believe a band who play a hard piece well deserve more credit than a band who play an easy piece well - and there is currently no influence on an adjudicator for that to be the case.

    Rather than taking points away from a contest, (as has been discussed in the "Pointless regionals" thread) I would argue that the better course of action is to make the points actually mean something.

    Since adjudicators currently allocate places first, then points second, there is no objectivity. The guy could pick the worst performance on the day as his winner just because he likes the piece and hates the rest and there is no comeback, or no criteria on which he has to base his decision. It's entirely down to his judgement, his decision, his whim. This system is open to mistakes at best, and (not that I'm suggesting this happens) corruption and bias at worst.

    If adjudicators could be persuaded to allocate points first and let the places sort theselves out, then the inclusion of a difficulty tarrif system like this could work.

    As for who assesses the pieces, who assesses them at the moment? Any comittee of players, ex players, conductors, adjudicators and composers which was VISIBLE would surely be better than the arbitrary system of cloaks, daggers and secret handshakes which we currently have.

    I will freely admit that until there is a fundamental shift in the method by which contests are assessed, this is not a measure that is practicable - nor would it be likely to get much mileage from a large number of more conservative elements of brass banding, particularly those at the top who tend to favour the status quo "...because that's how we did it at Crossley's Carpets in 1962" etc.

    When I first started contesting, someone summed it up to me with the remark "15 minutes of music and one old man's opinion" which is about right. Is the current system really the best system for assessing a contest?

Share This Page