Grand shield bands slaughtered by 4br for using "silent" or practice mutes

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by JR, May 20, 2006.

  1. JR

    JR Member

    I noted 4br's scathing criticism of a certain band's use of silent/practice mutes - going as far as to label this trend as blatant cheating.
    The use of these devices (and other, dafter or to use a 4br expression - bonkers combinations) has become much more common recently -is it time to ask bands to:

    (a) use only the mutes stipulated by the composer on the score e.g. straight, cup, harmon etc

    (b) refrain from using mutes in passages marked "open"

    Anything else is "mute abuse" isn't it?

    John R
  2. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Hadleigh, Essex
    The criticism was also in this week's BB, and I would agree that something should be done about it.
  3. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    Wem, Shropshire UK
    I don't think I have ever attended a contest where I haven't spotted a 'cheat' being operated by one or all of the bands. It's been going on since contesting began and will no doubt continue for as many years to come. A lot of the Senior Cup bands also made use of the 'cheat' by using the Solo Horn at the start of Harmony Music to play the first Db. Others used yellow dusters to mute the dynamics. One of these bands was awarded a prize! Do we now strip them of that and offer the prize to the next band that didn't operate a 'cheat'? I don't think so.
    I remember back in the seventies when I used to steward at the RAH on Finals Day and would gasp in horror as members of our elite bands used to walk on stage with strips of handwritten manuscript parts sellotaped to their music and more yellow dusters than you would see in a lifetime. It was recently commented on in the Brass Band press that one of Europes most successful bands had 'cheated' at this years European Contest. I could go on, but the question I would ask is "Does it really matter?" Whether its mute abuse or the rewritting of parts or any other form of 'cheating'. And if the resulting opinion is yes, how on earth do you sensibly police a brass band contest to stop it. In my opinion I don't think you can, and I would suggest that we start listening to and enjoying the bands musical performances rather than refereeing individual bands looking for the 'professional fouls.' One last point, if this sort of 'cheating' is to be stopped thoughout the movement, let it be led from the top. I have witnessed respected adjudicators and players conducting bands who have all operated a 'cheat' of some description. The same guys that run and control our beloved movement!

    Excellent thread JR - look forward to the following posts and discussion.

    Last edited: May 21, 2006
  4. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    New Southgate, London
    For me, the use of Silent Brass mutes in the Opera House in Blackpool didn't work. The sound was far too quiet, and made open piannissimo passages sound far too loud. Maybe in another acoustic, or from the stage it sounded effective, but sitting level with the box in the Opera House, it was barely audable.
  5. SuperHorn

    SuperHorn Member

    As with everything, 4BR will pick up on the obvious, would they have picked up on the silent brass issue if they were in the box, I don't think so.

    This again brings up the idea of Open Adjudication - bands will not attempt to use mutes other than one's asked for on scores if an adjudicator can see rather than just listen.

    Additionly, until adjudicators decide to penalise bands for the use of mutes when not stated it's every one for themselves to use what they want, when they want and how they want.
  6. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    For the record...on our parts (the baritone ones) it just states 'mute' not what type of mute....

    We used our straight mutes (peter gane ones) which we modified a little (thanks to our solo cornet/mute modifier extraordinaire)....

    Don't class it as cheating, as mute type wasn't specified....does it actually matter anyway? Some of the quiet chords are muted and pppp....that's what we played....
  7. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I am truly amazed at how seriously people take such matters. Surely the amount of dross we've had to play over the past few years has taught us that quite a few composers don't really know much about the subject in the first place. If it's marked as 'muted' we can use what we like to get the sound we want. A good example of this is, in Whitsun Wakes, the trombone parts are marked fibre mutes. We couldn't be bothered to bring three mutes each all the way up to Blackpool, so used the same straight mute both times. Did anybody notice? No. According to some in the Brass Band world, we should be disqualified from ever playing in a brass band competition ever again and our children should be sold to slavery. These are the same people that frequently say; 'I can't understand why brass bands aren't taken seriously'.

    Give me strength.....
  8. Space Cowboy

    Space Cowboy Member

    Having just played WW in Grand Shield I agree entirely. In some of the pieces we have played over the last couple of years, concert and contest, we have often had more issues juggling all the mutes rather than playing the parts. It can all get just too anal, to the extent of what make of cup mute. I use my own a Jo-Ral which I find really good for tuning but have been asked to use a different one on occasions for the miniscule diference in sound which I'm sure nobody notices.
  9. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Hinckley, Leicestershire
    Cheating? By which we mean a transgression of the rules? OK.

    For the benefit of those of us who don't have a copy of the relevant rules in front of us, could someoe quote the rule which prohibits the use of any mute other than of the type specified in the score? Thanks.
    Last edited: May 21, 2006
  10. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    Jesus, who cares!! Lets worry about getting audiences in before ripping the movement apart from the inside with debates like this. ITS JUST A MUTE!!!!!!!!!
  11. Horny Dentist

    Horny Dentist Member

    MD's Choice?

    Isn't it the choice of the MD regarding which mutes to use as part of his/her's interpretation of the piece? Especially as was the case in Whitsun Wakes as it just said "mute" on the music, our MD decided to use cup mutes with beer towels stuffed in the cups for the horns on this occasion.
  12. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Exactly! If there are no instructions on the score or part to what kind of mute is to be used, it is up to the discretion of the conductor!
    Last edited: May 21, 2006
  13. 2nd man down

    2nd man down Moderator Staff Member

    Surely a bands decision to use a mute type not asked for on the score is just as likely to put them at a disadvantage (for instance in an open adjudication and it gets noticed) as it is to give them an advantage?
    MD's interpretation and trying to guess the adjudicators expected interpretation are all part of the contest fun.

    As far as I'm concerned it's down to the MD to decide, if he gets it right - great, if not, c'est la vie.
  14. tuba_wuba_duba

    tuba_wuba_duba New Member

    My First Post, Hoorah!

    I agree with Horny Dentist. In todays contesting scene there is far too much emphasis put on technical aspects of brass playing after all at the end of the day we are all there to make music. The MD should be left to his discression to use whatever means he deams neccessary to achieve the band sound and contrast in colour that he desires. Countless bands have played with dusters over bells and some have even fashioned their own mutes out of foam packaging (sellers at the last Masters)! I cant see why using a practice mute should prove so contraversial.
  15. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Farnham, Surrey, UK
    If a piece is marked "muted" - then the composer probably doesn't understand what mutes are available - if the band then chooses to use a practice mute, there is nothing wrong with that.
    Without being specific about mute choices, it is entirely open to interpretation - straight, cup, cup with duster, harmon, bubble, sotto voce, practice, whatever you want.

    If a part is specific about what mutes are required - then you could level the accusation of cheating.
  16. andywooler

    andywooler Supporting Member

    I am absolutely amazed that we are even having this discussion!

    If we in the brass band world want to be taken seriously by other musicians then we are going about it the wrong way!

    Does anyone really think that a listener (other than an adjudicator) gives a damn about any of the following:

    - using the wrong mute
    - part being played on the wrong instrument
    - using a tuba in F instead of Eb
    - using an alto trombone
    - use of unwritten pedal notes

    etc etc etc etc

    No wonder people laugh at us and have us only slightly above Morris dancers in the entertainment food chain!
  17. JR

    JR Member

  18. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Isle of Arran and lovin' it!
    I'm not bothered about the 'cheating' aspects of using silent brass mutes. I'm just curious to know whether they were used to get a different and more varied timbre or whether it's further proof that many brass bands these days can't play quietly.
  19. GingerMaestro

    GingerMaestro Active Member

    I am sorry but I have just read through all your comments about the use of different mutes and the use of practice mutes in pieces. If the music states the type of mute required for the passage of music then if the band decide to use a different type I'm sure the adjudicator is clever enough to spot this and if not then what is he doing in the box alternatively if the music just states Mute then it is down to the MD to decide which mute has the right effect for the passage of music.

    A mute is a mute, cup straight or practice etc.

    Who really cares, Did the band in question(who I think I know who you mean) win the contest ...No!

    So what is the problem

    Maybe next time they will try a different mute....Who Knows?
  20. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Mike - I think you are totally wrong, and perhaps a little arrogant too in suggesting... "then the composer probably doesn't understand what mutes are available".

    I am sure the vast majority composers - if not all of them - are aware what mutes are available. If not in specific detail, then at least in enough detail such that they can name them i.e. Cup, Straight, Harmon etc.

    I do agree though that when this isn't specified, it is entirely open to the MD's interpretation.
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