Most important things to work on in a test piece?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by flugelbeth, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. flugelbeth

    flugelbeth New Member

    We're in the fourth section for NW areas, we still have some final tweaks to make with our test piece (English folk songs) but the notes are all there with dynamics (to an extent) etc.

    Any ideas on the best way to approach improving a piece for a contest? Key things that will separate top bands from the others?
  2. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    In my own experience conducting in these grades, if you are together, in-tune and with good dynamic range and balance you are likely to come out with a good result.

    One thing often missing at this level though is an 'understanding' of the music. If your conductor can work to build consistency of phrasing (almost story-telling!) throughout that should lift the performance and make things stand out to a good adjudicator. It's very easy just to hammer the first of each bar, much more difficult to phrase musically with every player on the same page.

    Sorry, that probably doesn't help much, good luck though!
  3. flugelbeth

    flugelbeth New Member

    Thanks, also, how to achieve this? :)
  4. tkhbss

    tkhbss Member

    Then, you have to play louder, softer, faster and slower than the other bands. Easy.
  5. boourns

    boourns Member

    I would add rhythmical accuracy to that list, but otherwise agree entirely.
  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Completely agree. I would also point out that it is a vanishingly rare performance at any level that doesn't fall down on accuracy, intonation or balance at some point in some way - and that such performances get much rarer as you travel away from the highest level. The key is for your group to collectively never be satisfied with the level of accuracy that they have so far achieved; everyone needs to be on board, because just one loose player makes the whole ensemble sound imprecise.

    Musicianship doesn't usually have a lot to do with winning contests, sad to say. And when it does, the results are often very controversial.
  7. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    In my experience, the main thing that makes a band stand out from the pack in the 4th/3rd sections is better tuning and intonation.
    It may seem really obvious, and simple, but I can't remember the last contest at that level when the tuning/intonation of at least a couple of bands didn't make me wince, or when an adjudicator didn't talk about it!

    Long term, as a band you should try to get into the habit of thinking about tuning all the time and individuals need to learn what the 'bogey' notes on their particular instruments and how to get round them (changing intonation or use of triggers and alternative fingerings).
    In the short term, listen critically to the tuning in this piece, particularly on block chords and quiet lyrical passages, and think about how they could sound better eg. by changing peoples' basic tuning, playing with triggers and alternative fingerings and maybe even swapping notes about.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  8. Martin Cordy

    Martin Cordy Member

    as mentioned above, the key to a good result is to stand out in relation to intonation / tuning etc. In the fourth section a band can really stand out by getting the basics rock solid. The next step is to tell a story throughout the piece - if there isnt one there then make one up or at least set the scene for each piece so that the band have an image in mind to set the mood / style of the movement / section. works wonders and can come up with some amusing interpretations from people in the band!
  9. welsh_tenor

    welsh_tenor Member

    Having never conducted I can only give you a view from a players perspective but having played in Championshgip section banding a number of years I can tell you what works for me as a player.

    It is always a given that notes can (and will be!) be played, we always focus on the performance, making sure that everyone is committed to their parts and are comfortable with dynamics, understand the music/the motifs/the style of music and of course as pointed out above, the tuning and intonation.

    For me personally the final few weeks of a well prepared contest involve multiple run throughs of the piece. Conductors who record the run throughs have the ability to hear the whole band rather than perhaps the cornets or euphoniums over-powering when standing in the middle. We work on elements that the recording has shown then run the piece through, at least twice a rehearsal. The run-throughs really ensure that everyone understands the piece, when time signatures change etc and are confident in their playing and how they fit in.

    When we've had great rehearsals and everything "clicks" we've done well! When there is uncertainty around the stand and people don't feel as prepared... well....
  10. Bungle

    Bungle Member

    This often happens when trying to play too loud. Bands often try for a 'big sound' but end up just playing out of tune.
  11. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    At that level, play together, play in tune, get the style right, and that's more than half the battle. Add to that not blwing notes out of shape by playing too loud, or trying to play too quietly, and you're a long way towards a creditable performance.

    I must stress my own conducting experience is quite limited, but the real difference between a good performance and a properly good one for me is in the balance.

    The difficult thing is to ensure that players have a fluid idea of dynamics, and realise when they are/aren't the important. So if a player has the melody/countermelody for four bars, then a black chord for four bars, both marked at MF, they need to be aware that the two are not played at the same volume just because they have the same dynamic marking - and that's a difficult enough thing to get across even at higher levels!

    If you can get the band into the habit of letting the tune and counter-melody come through, bringing out interesting parts and easing off long notes, that'll certainly be something not all bands will achieve.
  12. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Fair point, and you hear that in the top section as well.
    Sorting out the fundamental tuning helps a lot though, and makes the quieter stuff sound better too...!
  13. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    I always found getting a note slipped under the adjudicators door saying that you had their family held hostage worked well. Works even better if you actually do have them, obviously. :cool:
  14. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Have a good conductor who communicates well and a receptive band!

    Someone mentioned run-throughs, a lot of bad conductors (and even some good ones) forget the benefits of arriving on stage having run the piece all the way through a few times without stopping. On more than one occasion I have played a test-piece on stage having never played it or heard it in its entirety before... Not good.
  15. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Quite true with some judges!

    Most of us with ears though can distinguish that 'good dynamic range' is not necessarily equal to 'biggest dynamic range'.
  16. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    2006 areas Marc? Yeah, that was a bit of a mess weren't it. Best opening of the day, and then all the corners went wrong.....
  17. Chris Lee

    Chris Lee Member

    I raise this as a topic for you to appluad or rhubarb, but quick analysis of a couple of regional results a while back showed a very high degree (80%ish) of bar count correspondence between the band results I was able to examine. This indicates to me that the adjudicator has in mind a very specific set of check points - dynamic changes, difficult entries, highlights etc.) that will influence or even determine the result. Is that the case? If so, then time spent analysing the score as a band, to try and identify and develop a strategy for these check points (from the perspective of the ajudicator) even before the first practice session would be time well spent. Or maybe you all do that already?

    Very Best, Chris Lee
  18. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately, different adjudicators will often have different "check points", as you put it; in my experience, time spent attempting to "second-guess" an adjudicator is rarely time well spent ...
  19. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    ....but entirely necessary given that adjudication is an entirely subjective process and there are no objective criteria to observe except the score.....

    In truth I'd expect any decent adjudicators to have similar 'checkpoints' in mind as it's mostly very obvious from the score where things will go wrong balance-wise, or where rhythms will rock etc. What will differ is how much emphasis they place on each of these factors.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2012
  20. stevesnowy

    stevesnowy New Member

    spend a few hundred pounds and bring in a pro for a days rehersal, give everyone a pencil , youll be amazed at the things they notice that nobody else does

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