Opening Bars

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by alanl58, Aug 8, 2004.

  1. alanl58

    alanl58 Member

    How does your MD start a piece of music?

    One school of thought is to count a single bar e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4 etc, the other is "Straight in" with no regard to tempo other than that remembered in rehearsal.

    The 1,2,3,4 approach is fine, except where the first conducted bar is shorter for some instruments than others when the MD counts 1,2,3, and thus counting a few bars rest becomes difficult - usually for the bass trombone!

    The "Straight in" approach at least starts the band together, but when the MD conducts a 3/4 piece in 4/4, it leaves the band to sort the mess out - and this happens occasionally when the MD has a "senior moment"...

    I guess the well rehearsed bands will not worry, but like sight reading (on another thread) for more difficult parts, I find it essential to know where and when to start playing! Perhaps I am still a novice after all....

    Bude, Cornwall
  2. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Different MD's different strokes.

    Both the 1234 and straight in on the down beat have their advocates.

    I tend to just give 34 or 23 or 56 etc, rather than count a full bar - this at least gives people a chance to focus their attention on you before the piece starts.

    Neil, our MD, almost always gives a full bar, though he is now starting to reduce it.

    Some of the guest conductors we've had tend to do a straight in approach and, for professionals and very experienced players this is OK as they always give a clear indication of the tempo with the upbeat that you have to give before the first downbeat. People like Roy Newsome and Ian Brownbill seem to have the knack of getting you in correctly, but then they've had lots of practice. :lol:

    I think an MD has to decide how much is right for the band he/she is conducting. It's all very well for experienced players to go on about what is professional, but the less experienced players need more help than they do. IMHO

    IYOUNG Member

    Oh splendid excellent topic i've been waiting for such a topic for ages, this area really gripes me at times....

    As an MD myself nothing irritates me more when i'm playing in other bands to see conductors try and bring the band straight in on the down beat, followed by the messiest start ever and then the MD says ''its not my fault you should all be able to watch and come in properly''

    What exactly is acheived by this approach? if you have experienced quality players who can deal with it then fine but if not the band becomes edgy and peices futher along in a programme suffer as players are not sure......

    When I hear MD's say ''it doesn't look good to the audience if you give a whole bar in.....absolute tosh in my view, I would say the better a band plays the better an audience will enjoy it most audiences won't give two hoots.

    Ian Young
    MD Marlow Band
  4. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    I did 'Comedy Overture' for a conducting assessment last year. The first time through I brought the band straight in on the pick up crotchet and it was a little messy. Elgar Howarth commented to me in his assesment "starting, a bit untidy. When I recorded this with Grimethorpe I just counted them 1,2,3 and it was fine". :D He basically implied in further comments that sometimes counting in is necessary.

    I spent a week playing under Steve Cobb recently and he does virtually all his work on a preparatory upbeat. It certainly speeds up rehearsals and is a great disclipline because the players constantly need to have their heads up otherwise they simply won't keep up.

    I think the latter is a good method because anything you can do to encourage better attention from players is a real bonus. Sometimes it is necessary to count in though.
  5. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I prefer a conductor who brings a band straight in, and usually the up-beat is clear enough for everyone to come in together. If the conductor is going to count in, however, it's important that he indicates clearly to the band what is happening: we had an instance yesterday in one of our song accompaniments where the bandmaster counted us in, but some of the band were expecting a full bar (fast 4), whilst some came in after only two beats. Not too disasterous, fortunately, and we soon picked it up, but rather embarrassing to say the least :oops:

    IYOUNG Member


    Youv'e hit the nail on the head, apart from what I said in previous post, preparation is everything isn't it. If everyone is clear nothing should go wrong.

    At the lower levels of banding in my view in most cases a down beat doesn't give enough clarification for players to be able to cope, there is no shame in a whole bar in which should solve any problems.

    Without wanting to appear contraversial any MD worth his salt will understand whats best for the band in front of him and adapt accordingly

  7. Borfeo

    Borfeo Member

    In my opinion, preparatory beats are a case of "What the situation dictates".
    When I'm rehearsing Newland I tend to bring the band straight in for hymn tunes, I like to do this as it gets the players attention straight away. When I'm rehearsing a new piece I will give a full bar before bringing the band in, simply to familiarise them with the tempo I'm setting. When I'm rehearsing in depth I'll give no more than two beats preperation, as it cuts down on rehearsal wastage! On stage I like to bring slow pieces sraight in and the more involved pieces in with a 2 beat preperation, I like players to be on their toes and the band knows what to expect from me on stage. I think all methods have their strengths, I firmly believe that conductors should always be flexible in their approach, mixing it up helps the band's awareness, and also makes it a bit easier when new conductors come in, as they are then experienced at any of the above methods, making the job a little easier for the new guy!
    Just my thoughts, I can see merits on both sides to be honest!
  8. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    Our conductor also does it like this, indicating the tempo with the upbeat. We've even practised it a couple of times. The conductor would start the piece in several different speeds (slow, quick, very slow, etc...). Some found it a bit difficult in the beginning (especially our young drummer). But now ithe "straight in" approach is working great for us.
    Our conductor also has the strange habit of changing the tempos from one week to the other, or even using a different tempo at a concert then during the rehearsels (most of the time he makes it quicker at concerts :? ). We have grown used to it however, and one of the advantages is that everybody is always very attentive when we are about to start a piece :)
  9. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    Straight in is the best approach... saves a lot of time in both rehearsals and concerts... Like anything, the more practise the band has with this more used to it they'll be :)

    I've seen that happen in contests as well!... Adrelalin... such a wonderful thing.... (unlike my spelling!) :lol:
  10. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah, but one time he almost "lost" half of the band in the 3rd part of Gaelforce... :)
  11. 11 am when the pub opens i love it the the OPENING BARS !!
  12. Liz Courts

    Liz Courts Active Member

    :roll: :roll: :roll:

    Our conductor usually goes with the 2,3/3,4 etc. approach.

    Sometimes during rehearsals he likes to try and bring us straight in, but that never works!!!! :roll: :lol:
  13. Spanky Rear

    Spanky Rear Member

    Opening Bar

    Harold Hind in his 1934 book the Brass Band states ''Before starting to beat,a short preparatory up-beat should be given.The archaic way,still employed by some band-masters,of giving a 'bar for nothing' is quite unnecessary.'' In my view this method-- straight in,if you like, is the most foolproof.
  14. Dave Euph

    Dave Euph Member

    When I played with the Phoenix Players orchestra where I live (an amateur dramatics society) I'd heard a lot of rumours about the conductor bringing the ensemble "straight in" ... and when I discovered the way he did it was very unclear, I was very critical but I kept my silence. I have since learned that despite playing the cornet in the past, at best he is more a stage director and not a conductor and it just suited him to be able to do it that way.

    Sometimes MDs have preferences as well! And in our case, because we had limited rehearsal time anyway, it was probably for the best.
  15. fitzy

    fitzy Active Member

    Depending on the piece and the situation, my conductor (Tom Paulin) gives us 3,4 (or 2,3 as the case may be!) or straight in. A band should always start together no matter what the conductor does.
  16. cornetcheese

    cornetcheese Member

    I have never thought bringing a band straight in could cause tempo problems unless the conductor`s upbeat is unclear. If the conductor has a clear upbeat in tempo, the ensemble should be able to follow it clearly. I often find that in slower music I tend not to give any preparatory beat, but in some quicker music I find giving "3,4" or "2,3" ensures a tight start.

    I guess a lot of it is personal preference! An conducting tutor of mine once said to me "the more preparatory beats you give, the more opportunities players have to come in early"!
  17. ju33les

    ju33les Member

    Hubby (Timbone) is doing the ironing at the moment :wink: and I have just mentioned this topic to him. He is now waving his arms and the iron about demonstrating how he brings in his band. I'm sure he'll be on later to give you his thoughts.............
  18. iggmeister

    iggmeister Member

    I've always been quite fond of the old....

    a 1

    a 2

    a 1, 2, 3, 4!

    Never fails to bring in the band.


    TIMBONE Active Member

    When I was 'learning' to conduct, I went by the rules of a strong preparatory beat and straight in. I used this technique for many years, with varying degrees of success. I was directing a musical in 1996. I was doing the 'band call', an eleven piece containing seasoned semi-pro musicians. I was asked politely if I could give more than a 'staight in'!!!
    Consequently, my technique has changed. If the band are beginning on the 1st beat of a bar, I either give a discreet indication of the tempo before I begin with a 'straight in', or I give more than one preparatory beat, (depending on the piece, or the tempo change within the piece). If the piece begins within the bar, 99% of the time I give more than one preparatory beat.
  20. ju33les

    ju33les Member

    ^ there was a lot of ironing...........