Midlands Area Section Sizes

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by stevetrom, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    For next year the Midlands Area sections will look like this:

    Championship - 13
    1st - 17
    2nd - 11
    3rd - 18
    4th - 22

    Surely some adjustment needs to be done over the next few years to get some more sensible sections.

    Relegate one 1st section band more than 2nd section bands are promoted. It would take 3/4 years but should balance the sections.
    Slider1 and Tom-King like this.
  2. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Didn't they promote some additional 4th section bands previously to adjust the number about 3 or 4 years back?
  3. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Aye, it does seem a bit odd that 2nd is so small.

    Maybe just as well to balance it from both ends - if you put 1 extra into 2nd from each end for 2 years, it'd be done... 1 more down from 1st than up from 2nd and 1 more up from 3rd than down from second (and pull from 4th to replace the extra leaving third... thus shrinking 4th without shrinking 3rd).

    Doing that, in 2 years you'd wind up with 15 in 1st, 15 in 2nd, 18 in 3rd and 20 in 4th (assuming all the same bands are still competing, there aren't any tied promotions/relegations in the meantime, etc).
  4. marc71178

    marc71178 Member

    Tried to do it from 3rd to 2nd a few years back by offering the next 2 bands in the rankings the chance to go up, only 1 took them up on the offer.
  5. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    its quite easy to ask bands if they would like to be promoted, I wouldn't fancy the task of persuading the bands at the bottom of the first section to volounteer to be relegated!
    Tom-King likes this.
  6. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    If one subscribes to the view, like Iwan Fox over on 4BR appears to perennially argue with regards to the Championship sections, that gradings are about ability and not about viable or unviable section sizes, then balancing sections is not so important since competitiveness is what it is about. I think there is something in this view.

    The jump from 3rd to 2nd is significant, as is the jump from 2nd to 1st - there are not many 2nd section bands who could make a good job (i.e. be competitive in the section) on this year's 1st section Areas test piece. And if a band could indeed do a job on "Essay", then "Mermaid of Zennor" would hardly test them at all. If there are only eleven 2nd section bands in the Midlands, then so be it. Mind you, I doubt there are thirteen truly Championship bands in the Midlands either. Maybe a top section of seven would make the 1st section more competitive, and push the bands down, rather than up (i.e. 6 down from Championship, and 6 down from 1st section).
  7. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    "Gradings are about ability" and "viable or unviable section sizes" are not really linked.
    The section sizes are a result of a few factors, and "ability" is not one of them... the gradings are mathematical, automatically keeping the sections the right sizes (with larger sections promoting/relegating more and viceversa)... except that sometimes a few things go wrong, such as:
    - Bands that cease to exist. This happened with Phoenix-WM who were officially in 2nd section (despite having folded a couple of years ago), shrinking the section by 1 band.
    - Ties in points promoting and relegating additional bands changes the size of the section and this happened this year, with 3 going down from 2nd because Long Eaton and Brackley were tied on 25 points (joint 2nd bottom, having already removed Phoenix).
    And you wind up with a situation like this year where 6 bands have left the 2nd section, and only 4 have come in to replace them - the section is 2 smaller than it should be.

    The "jump" is in the difficulty of the piece (and in the bands at the top-vs-bottom of each section), not the relative abilities of the bands at the top of one section vs the bottom of the next section up.
    The bands you're promoting don't need to be competing for prizes - they need to be capable of competing with the bands at the bottom of the section to avoid relegation.

    Do you know the midlands area? Or do you doubt from afar?
    The champ section is actually quite competitive - there are a few standout contenders, but there are easily 8 or 9 that really do belong up there.
    IF your vision were reality and the bands ranked 8-12 after this years contest weren't there, your 7-band championship section would be relegating JLR and Newstead (both competent top section bands).

    On top of that, how on earth would it make sense to shrink a fairly well balanced championship section that's working as it should when you've got very large fields in 1st, 3rd and 4th potentially suffering from the "lottery affect" at results time?
    Sorry, this just doesn't compute.
  8. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    the regional contests are used to find the best bands in the region, it doesn't matter how they compare with the resy of the country, if you are the best (or one of the best) in your region you will find yourself in the Championship section, if not you will graduate to a level where you are suited.

    But the relatively large size of the 1st secion tends to get bands stuck there for years, finish 8,9, or 10 every year and you will stay in the section. A smaller section would help to solve this.

    I think all areas should have a broadly pyramid structure.
  9. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Tom-King, I think you've misread my posting. I said something along the lines of "if you subscribe to a certain view, then gradings are about ability and not about viable section sizes, etc". I did NOT say that this is how things currently are, but rather how people of a certain opinion, a valid opinion in my book, think they should be.

    Like Stevetrom, I think the top sections should be small. The Welsh one only has eight, and I think, pound for pound, they smash most other areas, including the Midlands.
  10. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    The situation back in the UK is a lot better than here and NZ where the top section has the most bands and the bottom section the least when looking at the bands that compete regularly. I find it confusing, especially with the very wide range of abilities in the top section; the top bands would be chasing prizes in the championship section in the UK and the bottom bands would be struggling to stay in the first section in my opinion.

    Economic factors (lower section bands are less likely to have the funds/sponsorship/player commitment to fly across a continent) are clearly a factor but not easily fixed.

    Presumably some of the bumps in the pyramid structure back in the UK are caused by bands merging/folding etc also? It would be nice if there was a general guideline to encourage local associations when an adjustment might help.

    Also, the national contest here is being live streamed at the weekend if you have nothing better to do! The A-grade are playing Albion as a set test and each band is doing an own choice too. Check out www.brassbanned.com, if nothing else then at least the street march, which as a brit, is frankly terrifying.
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  11. midlandman

    midlandman Member

    I'm confused!! Why have the top section only relegated 2 in the midlands and 3 coming up? Have I missed something?
  12. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Just the way the points worked out.

    They sent the two lowest cumulative scores in the 1st section up and the two highest cumulative scores in the championship section down... as usual.

    There were 2 bands tied for the 2nd lowest points total in the first section (Bedworth and Blidworth both on 20), so they send 3 bands up in total. If the tie had been for first place, they'd have just sent those two.

    No ties at the bottom of the champ section, so only 2 bands to send down.
  13. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    I suppose there is a way of keeping it to 2 bands up or down regardless of a tie on the 3 year aggregate. If two bands are tied on points then only the most recent result would be considered.
  14. Or promote the band that came first and then the one at the top of the table.
    The two bands being promoted from 4th section came 7th and 5th in the contest, meaning there are 4 or 5 bands whose performances were considered better, and yet they are still left down in the 4th section. Are these bands (the ones being promoted) going to be able to compete against 3rd section bands if they are only deemed 5th and 7th best in the 4th section.

    3 out of the top 4 placed bands were the ones who were demoted last year from the 3rd section, after previously spending a few years in the 4th section, so they clearly are good bands, but with another good result next year they should be back into the 3rd section. So with this yo-yoing of bands between 3rd and 4th section , what chance do any of the other bands have of making it out of the 4th section?
  15. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    For those of you still interested in this discussion, there is a rather good reflection piece over on 4BR from Iwan Fox: again, he points out how some supposed championship bands fly in talent in order to help retain their status as a "championship band" for the coming year, whilst others, especially in the First Section, simply can't play the test piece or even handle the simple things like tuning, tempo, and dynamics.

    A pyramid structure seems like a good option, even if it means splitting the resultant very large second and third sections into two subsections, with the top band from each promoted to the section above.
  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I think there's a lot more to what was heard in the first section this year than the simple story of technical inability that might read from that article. Essay is not a technical nightmare - but it is a piece of a kind that within banding we've all become thoroughly unused to performing. Bands produced performances that suffered from uncharacteristically severe errors of ensemble and tuning, and tried to cover up the blemishes with the usual razzing. This was a failure of knowledge, not a failure of technique, and a whole tranche of bands represented themselves notably more weakly than they usually do because of it.

    In general I'm not keen on Iwan's idea of shrinking the top end in order to classify more bands away from being set technically interesting repertoire for these contests. It would result in the making of our most prestigious repertoire geographically inaccessible to many; we're not all lucky enough to live in South Wales or the M62 corridor, where one is never that far from a top band. It might suit the highest tier of banding, but it would do so at the expense of the next few tiers down, a much greater number of people. Our contesting horizons would shrink.
  17. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    I am not convinced that there is necessarily the causal relationship that you presume resulting from the action of the shrinking of the top sections and the consequence of having technically uninteresting repertoire in the sections below. If the organizers were to undertake the radical structural change then they could easily handle the repertoire challenge too.

    Again, an articulate argument, but one predicated upon an unsubstantiated hunch as to what might happen if something new were to be tried.

    It might just be that an overhaul of the system could be handled in such as way so that the improvement of playing improves overall (even if it takes a few years) and that therefore more, rather than fewer, of those not lucky enough to live in South Wales or the M62 corridor (not sure they are as lucky as you say!) get to play the best music that has been written for brass bands.
  18. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Minor nit-pick - I'm not sure that much of what the top bands are playing at the moment comes anywhere near what is "best" in our repertoire. But the wheel will turn again, and new musical directions will appear again, and then they will be.

    As I understand the idea, one desired outcome is to match bands to lower levels of technical challenge in the belief that performances will be mastered more. I have a couple of reservations with this idea - 1) it doesn't tally with human nature - my unsubstantiated hunch (;)) is that in the reduction of challenge to be risen to, most will not rise as far as they currently do; and 2) the point of the Area contests is to sort bands out all down the table - a piece that all bands can play doesn't do this job well - in my observation, pieces that stretch the top third a little, the middle third a fair bit, and the bottom third a lot offer the most generally-agreed-to-be-fair contesting table outcomes.
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  19. ari01

    ari01 Active Member

    Just out of interest Stevetrom, why do you think that the sections should be changed? Is it to do with the standard of playing? Or the logistics on Contest day or something else?
  20. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    I don't agree with Iwan on this either - the pieces being set for both championship and first are suitable for the vast majority of the field... as you describe in your other post - the ideal is to have pieces that stretch the top bands a bit, the bands in the middle quite a bit and the bands at the bottom a lot - and I think this is approximately where we are with the sorts of pieces and section structures we have now.

    The most difficult and prestigious repertoire is already reserved for the top bands - at the euro's, nationals and the open (and increasingly grand shield, too) - the regionals aren't about establishing a class of elite bands (that's what those other contests are for, IMHO), they're about separating out the bands in each area into approximate ability groups.

    I think the main problem is that Iwan seems (to me) to see the areas as something more than they are.
    As far as I'm concerned, the areas are a utility - they're a way of making out (on a semi-local scale) the relative abilities of the bands in that area to give people an indication of the level that a band is likely to perform at relative to other local bands (of interest both when looking for a band to join and when potentially interested in a concert) and to separate those bands out fairly for local contests. Does the current system achieve these things? I think so, and I personally don't see why we should look to change it.
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