I am a ...........?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by marksmith, Jan 19, 2016.

  1. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    Not a rude thread, just an observation on an increasing trend.
    I have noticed a recent increase in the number of players moving around the stands and announcing themselves a "cornet/sop/euph/bari/trom/bass.." etc, player.
    Obviously, they are entitled to do so but are they correct?
    Surely, these are players of these instruments in a technical definition, but not truly individual instrument players?
    I may be losing the plot here a little but surely true players of an individual instrument are specialists, able to perform beyond the basics of producing an acceptable sound/technical standard, to achieve a level that only a single focus can?
    I am a euphonium player, I have played euph for 45+ years and have achieved a standard that I can at least describe as competent.
    I have taken my examinations in this instrument to the highest levels and earned the respect of my peers.
    I have played this instrument at all levels in contesting, both banding and solo performances.
    So, I call myself a euphonium player.
    I have played other instruments, solo horn, solo baritone, Eb bass (in the British Open), but I am still a euph player!
    Jumping from one instrument to another within, or around, bands, does not qualify one to claim a specialism in that particular instrument.
    From experience, there can only ever be one brass instrument that you fully master and constantly moving around the stands, does neither a player, or a band, any long-term favours.
    Stick to what you are good at and show some respect for those who spend a life-time developing their skills and ability as instrument specialists.
  2. euphoria

    euphoria Member

    OK - so is James Morrison a trumpet player or a trombone player (or a pianist, or a saxophone player or a string bass player)???
    james edwards likes this.
  3. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Some people have to change instruments from time either for physical reasons or to accommodate the needs of their band. Some people change instruments in a quest to find the one that suits them best. Some people play more than one instrument. Some people only ever try one instrument their whole life..... and they're all doing what they believe is the right thing for them/their bands.

    Its horses for courses, who are any of us to judge what other people choose to do?
  4. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    I generally describe myself as a trumpet/cornet/soprano/flugel/conductor.
    I believe most who have worked with me would describe me as all of these too.
    Not sure you have a valid point here.
    I also know many former army musicians who are both happy and competent across all brass and reeds. (It used to be a requirement of the bandmasters course to achieve this).
    Many trombone players are also fine euph players.
    Have you ever heard Arturo Sandoval play piano? He's ptetty tasty on that too.
    Slider1 and DS2014 like this.
  5. markh

    markh Member

    I saw the merit of the post until the last sentence. I don't believe people list their various instrumental options to show disrespect to real specialists. People just open up their options by listing several instruments.

    There is also a question of how far you take this. I know of several people that describe themselves as back row/timpani/2nd trombone specialists but I don't think that people who describe themselves as cornet/percussion/trombone players are being disrespectful to them.
    Accidental likes this.
  6. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Sorry, Mark, but in my opinion that is a rather biased/ill-informed view. I think it might be biased because it sounds like you have played in top-level banding where empty chairs are usually only ever a short-term problem and deps and replacements can easily be acquired; similarly, I think it might be ill-informed because, at some levels of banding, versatility is far more preferable (from EVERYONE'S perspective) than expertise. I mean, what's the point in having a stonkingly good cornet section when you have empty chairs in baritone, horn and trombone sections, and only one of each flavour of bass?

    I maintain that versatility at some levels of banding is in everyone's favour because:
    1) if there aren't enough players willing and able to move around the stands then the band won't be able to compete or, sometimes even, perform at paying gigs
    2) if the band isn't able to compete/perform, then what are we doing it for? And the man who says "I only play cornet" might as well play at home in the spare bedroom
    3) if the band isn't competing or performing regularly, then you simply start to hemorrhage members
    4) if the band isn't able to compete or perform, and is rapidly losing members, then it gets harder to attract new ones
    5) if the band isn't able to compete or perform, and can't attract new members, then it'll go out of business
    6) fewer bands in competitions hurts everyone ​
    Slider1 and Accidental like this.
  7. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    I think James Morrison is quite simply James Morrison. A very unique and extraordinary musician. In my opinion, the answer to your question is yes, he's a master of all those instruments (and doesn't just "play" them).

    And marksmith, you've alluded to the answer yourself when you said you've played Eb Bass. You didn't stop there but added "in the British Open" which suggests that you achieved a high standard of performance on that instrument. However, it is your choice to refer to yourself as a Euphonium player; nothing wrong with that either. It appears to me that individuals listing multiple instruments are saying they have played and are willing to play any of those instruments as required and doesn't imply "specialist" status; they just enjoy participating and that's what they're good at, making music.
    Slider1 likes this.
  8. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    The last sentence was included a little tongue in cheek and I certainly acknowledge some very valid points in the recent posts.
    One that I would like to pick up is the contesting/musical chairs point.
    I adore contesting and believe it to be my own driving force and why I love to band. However, I notice an alarming decrease in the number of individuals who feel the same; ok, their choice.
    Their 'just play,enjoy and be happy' philosophy has had a detrimental effect on many bands' ability to compete effectively, as the mind-set enters contest preparation.
    Yes, we all play to enjoy ourselves and provide pleasure for those who prefer to listen but contesting takes that to a higher level.
    As bands have attempted to maintain player numbers, players have been asked to fill seats not always refecting their skills or ability, then sitting less able players in principal/assistant seats, to fill the gaps. How can that maintain playing standards?
    We have constantly bastardised our bands, watering down the general standards and creating make-do and mend contesting units.
    I have even witnessed bands preferring to be relegated from a section, to enable them to compete at the lower level and enjoy success, rather than work to maintain or improve their status at a higher level.
    The more we just fill seats, the bigger the threat to the continued status of a band.
    We need players who understand their instruments, not just players who are doing a favour and filling a gap.
    Most great players, from the greatest bands, have been associated with one instrument. Just a fact.
    ROBTHEDOG likes this.
  9. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    But contesting isn't the be all and end all for a lot of players, or a lot of bands.... and that's ok
    marksmith and mikelyons like this.
  10. Euphman2

    Euphman2 Active Member

    Flexibility can be the essence of lower level banding. I switched from cornet to euphonium from necessity (shortage of players in the 70s) and have considered my self a euphonium player since then (1973), but I have contested on trombone when needed and ONLY ONCE on soprano (sop players - RESPECT).
    Surely just being a musician is enough!
    Accidental and Slider1 like this.
  11. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Granted, but what does this prove?
    Okay, so most famous soloists are famous for playing one instrument... doesn't mean they can't/don't/won't play and even contest on other instruments - take Alan Morrison for instance, one of the most famous brass band cornet soloists of recent decades, doesn't stop him playing sop for B&R does it?

    Even if this were the case with superstar players, what does it even prove?

    In general I agree with what you're trying to make - I've seen people dabble in multiple instruments who fit the "jack of all trades, master of none" and I do agree with you broadly that most players would be more accomplished on their best instrument if they stuck to one seat, but not everyone's priorities lie with the maximum possible personal performance. There are plenty of players out there who would rather move onto different instruments and play in a more balanced ensemble (and thereby better overall performance) than stick steadfastly by their favourite seat.

    I'd like to draw a little analogy - like any hobby that can be competitive, there are lots of different motivations to get involved, and at what level.
    There are parallels you could draw with football - there are people who are paid to compete at the highest levels, spend hours a day honing their skills and travel great distances to compete, and there are people who play in their local park or play local 5-a-side. The motivations are vastly different, as are the outlooks - if your 5-a-side team lacks a goalkeeper, someone will probably be happy to fill in, whereas your premier league team is likely to go out and find a specialist.
    marksmith likes this.
  12. Euphman2

    Euphman2 Active Member

  13. Euphman2

    Euphman2 Active Member

    Like I said
  14. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    I was born to be a bass player, but I'm dying to play euph!

    Read into that what you will!
    marksmith likes this.
  15. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    I think people can call themselves whatever they like, whether they are up to standard is something for band management to consider.

    I consider myself to be a pretty competent trombone player. I will happily declare 'I am a trombonist' (probably in the same way that some people would say 'I am an alcoholic') but there is a definite limit to my abilities. Chris Thomas will not be stepping down to make way for me in the near future.

    I am not a cornet player, but I could probably sit on the back row of a fourth section band and be more than good enough.

    There's not a solid yard stick to measure things like this by - so I would suggest it is not worth getting upset about. Let people call themselves whatever they like, judge them by what they can produce.
    MoominDave, Slider1 and mikelyons like this.
  16. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    I can't disagree with others' opinions, as all have their validity. It is just a little sad that so few people extend their playing on one instrument, these days. Oh well, must accept that the world is a more superficial place now ;-)
  17. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Certainly not going to disagree with that! A few of us were having dinner before band last night and discussing exactly that and the difficulties it makes for bands! Probably for another topic though.
    marksmith likes this.
  18. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    Will future vacancy posts just advertise for Brass Instrument players? Any seat, any standard, must like fun and be ok- average. Forthcoming national finals appearance, would you like the seat? No previous experience on any particular instrument required, as long as you are a team player and enthusiastic. I don't think so!!
  19. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Is Alan Morrison a cornet player?
    I hink he is currently playing Soprano, i wish he would stick to one instrumenet he might become adequate.

    Due to various needs, and a motorbike accident where i broke my jaw ans lost my front teeth, I have played every instrument in the band apart from Soprano & Flugel, over the last 45 years.

    My main instrument now is bass trombone but I have always been flexible to the needs of my band.

    If a player sticks rigidly totheir guns, "I am a xxx player", they risk not being able to find a band to play with. Maybe there are better players in that seat and the vacancy is elsewhere.

    Would rather not play with a band than move chair?
    mikelyons likes this.
  20. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    With all due respect to your ambition, Mark, the kinds of behaviour you describe are typical of the mindset that says "We have to win at all costs and coming second is not an option" and this in itself drives bands to drop down into a lower section to win at all costs. I would much rather win fairly, with the band that is round the stand, regardless of having to shift players round to fill gaps, than win by drafting in shedfulls of 'professionals' who will disappear as soon as the contest is over. This means that some players who have the greatest experience and/or willing ness will be asked to move onto an instrument that is not their normal one for a temporary move (or permanent if they find they enjoy it) in order to keep the band together.

    IMHO, contesting can enhance a band's skills and help them, through extra rehearslas and the need for practice, to become better players across the board. However, contesting is NOT the be-all-and-end-all of banding. Surely, playing good music well for an audience is the ultimate aim of taking up an instrument?
    Slider1, markh, Leveridge96 and 2 others like this.

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