Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by JonP, Feb 13, 2006.
Why cant you choose to use a trumpet in a contest?
What is the intelligent argument for this?
well, the usual one is that 10 trumpets in a band would destroy the blend of sound that makes a brass band sound like a brass band. As to just using one - you'd probably notice. Salford university brass band had an E flat trumpet instead of a soprano when I was there for one year, and it made the whole band sound very harsh.
why can't you use a cornet instead?
A number of entertainment contests have amended their rules to allow the use of non-standard instruments, with some very effect use of trumpets in solo or ensemble features. I agree, however, that to use them to cover the standard cornet parts does tend to have a detrimental effect on the overall sound.
I have heard a couple of bands using an Eb trumpet in place of the sop and I thought it worked well. Principally it is easier to keep an Eb trumpet in tune with the wobbly tuning of a tired front row. But I suspect the ability of the player to listen and produce a more cornet like tone has more to do with the successful integration of the Eb Trumpet than anything else.
Remember there are recordings of Roger Webster that everyone thinks are him playing a cornet when in fact it is a trumpet. Don't waste your breath arguing the fact that he is an incredible talent etc. The sound you produce out of the bell is closely linked to the sound you have in your head...... I firmly believe that the sound you produce is down to you and the sound you think you should produce and you cannot always lay the blame at the door of the instrument/mouthpiece/general equipment arguement.
Many a cornet player strives for the deeper darker tone changing mouthpieces and instruments only to end up sounding much the same as they ever have after a short honeymoon period with the new equipment.
I'm not arguing that equipment doesn't have any effect just that it is not always as pronounced and lasting as many people like to think.
I for one would like the ability to have an Eb Trumpet instead of a Sop but wouldn't welcome Bb Trumpets unless for specific performances.
I think it is purely a heritage thing, as much as it would improve the sound / fleibility of a band I cant see french horns being let in either. I remember once being docked points at a contest because our trombone player did a bit on alto so show off. Sounded amazing, but the rules said no!! Bit daft.
a couple of years ago, a Dutch band used a Eb Trumpet for the Dutch Nationals. Of course there was a lot of discussion about it (apparently the rules were fuzzy, so the conclusion was that they hadn't broken the rules). But besides that, the (closed) adjudicators either hadn't noticed or didn't mind the use of the Eb Trumpet, because the band was placed 2nd (If I'm not mistaken...)
For a long time Kevin Ashman used an Eb trumpet with the ISB, but it does not seem appropriate for the more mellow pieces. Maybe it would be good to have the choice, but I suppose the question is how far you go. There have been discussions on and off - I seem to remember that Eric Ball favoured using 2 flugels - but I still feel any changes will be limited to concert or entertainment contest use.
So should it bu up to the preference of the player or musical director? A couple of trumpets in a section of 10 cornets surley woud only add a much needed extra tone colour?
I believe so, but Im sure the traditionalist would go mental. Obviously that would be just before they complained about the lack of new players coming into the movement.
Do the majority of bands have access to a couple of trumpets , how much of a difference would it make , when you have a sop player the calibre of Steve Stuart ( vastly experienced trumpet player ) , or Peter Roberts who needs a picc or Eb trumpet? would 2 trumpets add that much colour? having Ian Porthouse "dep" on the NYBBW on Eb trumpet a few years ago , also Chris Turner playing Picc in the last movement of Lowry Sketchbook...yes it was something different , but nothing that a good sop player couldnt do.
Competitions are only a small part of banding , maybe if bands were willing to use Extra trombones / baritones / horns to thicken the sound of the middle of the band and maybe utilise an extra soprano voice in concerts , maybe it might rub off into the competing arena( don't know unless bands try it). but would it help your average 4th section band?do they have the resources to have a picc / extra trombone for a competition? Or would maybe 10-20 "Elite" bands just draw away from the rest of the banding movement?
I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but Besses were using Eb trumpet in replacment of Soprano and (occasionally) Tenor Cors in exchange for horns during the 1970s under Ifor James.
The different in tone colour (IIRC - it was a long time ago and I was, er, rather young and I only a have couple of recordings where they may have been used) was fairly drastic as you can imagine.
To a certain extent, the sound of a Brass Band is historical - it's evolved the way that has due to the blend of the harmonic series of the tubes that we all know and love. IMO there's absolutely nothing like a Band playing in tune with a nice sound. I'm not adverse to augmenting a band for special purposes with trumpets or anything else - I just like them the way they are.
Just to play Devil's advocate with myself for a moment, though, some of my favourite works were scored alternatively and would sound completely different to how I remember them. For example, most of the Alexander Owen selections were scored for 2 Sopranos, Solo Cornets, 1st Cornet & flugel, 2nd cornet & flugel, 3rd cornet and flugel....you get the idea. So, maybe I'm just deluding myself that what we've got now is the best solution.....
Another point, which has been made before in similar discussions, is that the expectation of a "standard" instrumentation not only gives composers the confidence in writing for particular instruments, but it also helps with commercial viability. If you compare the average cost of brass band music with the equivalent wind band score, the wind version is considerably more expensive because of the need to supply parts for any instrument that is likely to be there - and if you are to include "other" instruments, they should be scored for properly, and not expected to "make do" with existing parts that may be anything but suitable.
Another possible argument for saving the other instruments for "one-offs".
Interesting topic this. I can't really see the point of an Eb trumpet as opposed to sop cornet, as a sop will cut through anyway because of it's altitude, but where necessary, will blend much more easily with the rest of the section, without dominating.
As for a couple of trumpets adding more tone colour, I'm sure they would, but what would that do to the balance of a band overall? I'm not sure the effect would be anything desireable, as a shriller, harsher tone of a trumpet will obliterate the softer cornet sound underneath.
A bunch of my friends play in a brass octet, and the two cornet players frequently try using trumpets etc to change the sound. The result is ususally that you hear the trumpets and nothing else. Sometimes, it works, sometimes it doesn't. Usually when it doesn't, the solution is simply to return the part to cornet.
The one thing that is, in my opinion, most important about brass bands in general, is the big, warm sounds they they produce, and the secret to that is in the balance and blend of the various parts, and the standard instrumentation suits that style well. Cornets blend together, and with the rest of the band, very well, and a decent sop player can make themself heard without being obtrusive. I would argue that a trumpet/cornet mish mash would almost always destroy that effect as the trumpets would dominate, and find it very difficult to blend where necessary. Not in all cases of course, but as a lot of the time.
I don't say this should preclude bands from including other instrumentation as a soloist, for example. (How many of us have played post-horn gallop?) But the underlying instrumentation works pretty well as it is. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That would make contesting even more of a lottery than it is already!!!
I hate to sound like a dreaded "traditionalist" but the sound of a Brass Band has a very close tambre (as has already been said) the casual addition of trumpets etc would just spoil that sound. Its fine in the right context for a soloist - several people played trumpets to good effect at last years Butlins entertainments contest for example (though no-one did this year for some reason) but not as a general rule.
And what does that tell you? It tells me that people have lost sight of some of the important things in banding.
Why does instrumentation improve that? It just adds another level of complexity which, in some cases, can be beneficial.
Are you suggesting that people shouldn't start off on a level playing field? OK, for entertainments purposes I'll go along with the occasional discourse - but why don't we change all 25 instruments for something that's non-standard? Is that still a brass band contest, provided they sit in the same formation?
For more formal contests (in this day and age, not in an historical context), you need to standardise instrumentation - it's still a subjective 'sport' as it is and all you'd be doing is loading an adjudicator with preconceptions. Consistent results can be hard to achieve at the best of times and mucking around with instrumentation does nothing but further complicate matters.
So I'm with Ian on this one
Whilst I agree with much of what you say - and certainly wouldn't want to lose the traditional brass band sound - I don't know that it is fair to say you could not have a contest without standard instrumentation. The wind-band movement may not be as competitive in the UK, but in other parts of the world their competitions are treated just as seriously, and there you may well have different bands taking different options in scoring, due to availability or standard of individual players. You could quite easily find the same solo line being played first on oboe, then soprano saxophone, then cor anglais, and it would not afect the judging as each option is acceptable.
I'm the first to admit I'm a traditionalist, Peter
This is quite reflective of the Composer's intentions thread (whatever it was called) - the one where a Band were taking liberties with one of Mr Sparke's pieces. As has already been mentioned, our music is written for a specific tone palette and is crafted by the Composer. In order for the kind of modifications you imply, then to my mind such competitions would need to be around music that is designed to have that kind of flexibility.
OK, so I'm being a bit arcane - it's just an opinion, though
There is one other advantage to a standardised set-up, which hasn't been mentioned yet. Unlike almost every other form of amateur music making, brass bands tend to own all their own instruments, and players generally expect bands to provide them when they join. Without getting into the pro's and cons of this, if we were to go away from a standardised set of instruments, how many bands could afford to perform the latest piece that needs [say] 3 trumpets, two flugels and a piccolo trumpet?
Potentially bands could end up owning all sorts of instruments which lay in the cupboard unplayed for years (see the recent percussion thread about this - it covers much the same ground). At least with a standard set bands know that they can buy music and not have to find suitable instrument owning players, or fork out to buy whatever extra instruments are scored for that piece.
(unless its Dances and Arias...... )
Just to be really silly, and take it to a totally extreme point of view - imagine the British Open and a particular band didn't have a euphonium player. The test piece is Dove Descending....what do you do?
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