On the spot

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Queeg2000, Feb 20, 2018.

  1. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Don't know if you've ever played parts with really long amounts of rest in - it never really happens in brass banding - but knowing who comes in where becomes an indispensible survival skill. Confronted with pages of long rests, is it better to spend your time counting them when you could simply identify an unmissable cue towards the end and occupy the time more profitably (reading a book is how I tend to go...)?

    Many parts to operas force this on the player by writing "Tacet until..." and then a cue. There are orchestral parts that are similar - how about the 4th trombone part to Mahler's 1st symphony (doubling the horns and an extra trumpet also), which comes in at figure 56 in the 4th movement after an hour of rest? It's a one page part - no need to write out a whole movement of rest, let alone four. The player sits, listens, knows the cue - and when it comes wakes up. And be damn sure that the conductor will cue you - again, there's no sin in expecting cues at the highest levels.

    So - no, it's no kind of sin to calibrate your rests against other entries. But equally be alert to the possibility that the cue player gets lost and fails to play their entry...
  2. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Performed Carmina Burana a few months back... except the brass band version leaves out several of the movements and the choir wanted to perform all of them - so piano played those movements, and we had to be ready (with zero marked rests, etc) to come in in the right place with no warning other than cues... we didn't even have tacets written - simply jumps from the number of the movement we'd played, to the number of the next one we were due to play.

    Not a sin at all...
    Heck, my part for areas is covered in other-parts cues - it's not that I need them, and I know the piece pretty well by now, but I put them in there all the same... and if it's still appropriate for us to be doing that in top section, it's fair to say you never grow out of it.

    (And I still, to this day, count up to five on my right hand as I go through rests... 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, etc...)
  3. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    And of course, cues are just that, cues to help you know when to come in - not really designed for you to play them because you do a better job than the person who has that part!
  4. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    Yup, do that all the time!
    And forget carmina, try 2nd trumpet for an opera gala!
  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Yeah, that wasn't my meaning... Rather, if they're lost and don't play, have a back-up cue in mind from someone else. If all else fails, pray to the conductor to give a good direct cue to you with a gesture!
    Tom-King likes this.
  6. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    Yup - I pointed it out because of the earlier comments about cues being played in contests - that's not always why they are on the parts! (although useful when the sop isn't there for example).
  7. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Same here, except I count in 4s, not 5s.
  8. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member


    Fair enough - it's a useful thing to do regardless, as long as we're consistent... if nothing else, I don't seem to get that "now how many bars was that?" moment that I occasionally get if I don't count through them in 5's on my hands :p
  9. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    It's 5s for me too, but 4s does fit the usual meter. This brings to mind another bad habit in publishing these days... Consecutive bar rests that don't split according to the the meter, making them awkward to count.
  10. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Dave, with due respect, Queeg2000 posted above about a piece with a 14 bars rest - and I've seen a 2nd baritone part with 14 bars rest, so though it might not be commonplace, it does happen. That might not be exceptional as compared to - say - orchestral works, but it's certainly enough to throw you unless you've worked out a method of keeping tabs on it.

    I don't know how that length of rest compares to other sections; I've noticed several solo players who seem to have quite long rests, such as solo horn and cornet, sop, and flugel - and they are dwarfed by the lengthy rests that seem commonplace for tymps.

    With best regards,

  11. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    The thing is - 14 bars rest is nothing in the wider musical context... Really nothing... That's why I said it never really happens in brass bands - we think 14 is a lot. Not sure what the longest period of rest I've run across in banding is - I remember the area piece in 2002 (Whitsun Wakes) had the bass trombone resting for five minutes through the whole slow movement - I forget how many bars that would have been. 50 or so at a guess, for that slow tempo. That was a boring contest to rehearse for. I'm sure percussion parts contain many longer examples.

    Sad to find that the internet doesn't seem to contain a photo of the extra brass parts to Shostakovich's Festive Overture, that dispense with the whole Allegro meat of the piece with a single 308 bars rest notation... It's in copyright, I suppose.

    Of course, if one isn't accustomed to something, it seems exceptional. One doesn't bother to acquire long rest survival habits if one only plays in brass bands because there's no need to. But it's still always a good musical idea to know exactly what's going on in other parts through your rests - as suggested by various people above. Keep eyes on other people's parts around you that are playing. Calibrate your counting with neighbours by moving your hand on rehearsal marks. Explicitly check the bar number with them as you go.
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Ah, found an even better example! This one courtesy of Kidlington MD Duncan Wilson, taken of his stand the other day on a pro gig in Scotland, playing the euph / bass trumpet doubling part to Janacek's The House of the Dead (and yes, it's as uplifting as it sounds...)

  13. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    From an MD perspective you cant give EVERYONE individual cues, but I generally will cue sections and important entries - usually by turning and facing them, but sometimes a finger point or a hand gesture

    Know your players is the absolute key. What is their note range like - can x player comfortably hit a high C or (in the case of lower brass) a good range of pedals. Is that at all dynamics? What are individual dynamics like - I know in my band player a cant play confidently below what I'd call an mp, but player b can - but often will make excuses not to. Player c can play quietly - but are usually too quiet regardless of dynamic. Result? Getting them to increase or decrease volume until they hit the right amount and then asking them to make the appropriate amendments to the paper. Rewriting parts to mitigate high notes or semiquavers. And knowing who is capable of being made to play on their own and who isnt

    The mental side of playing is as important as the physical IMO - anything that induces stress from the passage which is difficult to play because its all hemidemisemis in 5/16, to the top C at ppp, counting a large number of rests, or for many the "simple" instruction to stand and play something on your own, affects the physical side; often in a negative way, but for some it can be a positive (I'd suggest the latter are more likely to end up in the upper sections). A good MD will minimise the stress especially for the lesser experienced or confident players so that the total band is greater than the sum of its constituent parts
    2nd tenor, Tom-King and Jack E like this.
  14. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Euphonium Lite - a really clear and well argued post; bravo!
    Euphonium Lite and 2nd tenor like this.
  15. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Typically stresses induce (extra*) tension - either into breathing, embouchure or posture, all of which affect intonation adversely and make playing harder.

    I'd argue that it's not that players in the upper sections benefit from such stress induced tension - it's that they're less likely to feel stress (or to feel it to a lesser degree... and/or know how to cope with it), and therefore less likely to experience tension related problems (or to experience them to a lesser degree).

    (Perhaps it could be said that contest/concert adreneline rushes are more likely to be harnessed in a positive way due to lack of stress, I could certainly relate to that...)

    In general though this is absolutely spot on correct - if you get stressed, it will create tensions which make it more difficult to play... and you're absolutely right, a good MD will know how hard they can push the player to practice and how much error they can point out while keeping the player positive, I'm sure this is a balancing act that's very difficult to achieve (a very subtle opinion for a sop player, if I may say so myself lol)

    * I say "(extra)" because most players play with a certain degree of unwanted tension at the best of times - either playing "high on the pitch", effectively lipping everything up to pitch; taking breaths which are uncomfortably large; playing with tense posture, right down to silly things like playing with the head excessively far forward or back out of line with the neck (creating tension in the throat area... etc etc etc).
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
  16. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    I'd disagree with that slightly as I'd suggest the adrenaline rushes are actually a stress-related response, but a positive rather than a negative one. BUT..... having said that, every player is different. Some genuinely don't appear to be nervous at all, but I'd say thats fairly rare. I've seen all sorts of behaviours from players over the years before contests and (usually major) concerts. Personally I go into a bit of a "zone" - its me, my music, my instrument and any other stuff that I take on stage (mutes, water bottle, etc). I may interact with others, but not really consciously - I'm there to do a job. I dont start becoming aware of my surroundings until midway through - and any nerves that may have been there have gone. Oddly I'm the complete opposite when wagging - I'll usually talk to others, will look in the audience for familiar faces when I go on stage, talk to the man or lady who is there to collect registration cards/announce the band etc. - walk round the band and check everyones ready. THEN I go "into the Zone" once we're under way.

    Further to my comment about sections, I'd also qualify further by saying I know lower section players that dont appear to get nervous at all (or can handle it) - and upper section players that appear to be an emotional mess before going on stage. But generally I think we are both agreed that the higher up you go, the more likely you are to encounter less negative issues (which is probably why those players are playing where they are)
  17. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    It could well be stress related, a kind of fight/flight situation - if you're confident that you can "win", you stand and fight and the adreneline helps... if you're not confident, you'd rather be anywhere else but there, you can't focus properly and your adreneline is anything but a help (and you become tense and that makes it even more of a battle).

    You're absolutely right that there are players at all levels that suffer with nerves, and players at all levels that don't - a lot of it is how you manage yourself and finding ways to become comfortable (if you're not) or to keep focused if you're over excited.
    Euphonium Lite likes this.
  18. Mello

    Mello Active Member

    [QUOTE="Jack E, post: 875537, member: 48755"]I've noticed several solo players who seem to have quite long rests, such as solo horn and cornet, sop, and flugel .
    I couldn't help smiling ....Long rests for Solo Hn players ?.......I didnt get many , specially in James Shepherd Versatile Brass.. !!
  19. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I suppose it depends on your definition of a long rest. Compared to a rest of an hour, 14 bars is not much at all - but still plenty long enough for you to lose count if you don't have a reliable way of keeping tabs on where you are.
    Mello likes this.
  20. Mello

    Mello Active Member

    I wasn't criticising the methods or reasons....reading about long rests for solo hn players in my situation I found pretty amusing....

    However I do have the experience of extremely long rest passages ...the most extreme being well over 100 bars continous rest...playing Cantata for the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution by Prokofiev with the Philharmonia Orchestra.

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