percussion provided at contests

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by stevecritchlow, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. Hi folks

    just wanted to gauge opinion out there. Some contests now provide some percussion on stage and insist on it being used. Our area have sent us a sheet on which we must tell them how we want to set up the on stage percussion in advance. I know that they do this with the best of intentions, which I think are to aid bands travelling and to speed up change over times on the stage.

    On the other side of the coin however, would any brass players tolerate being forced to play instruments on which they haven't rehearsed? For instance a set of adams timps have different note ranges to a set of Premier timps, this could cause problems for players without experience of them. And is the time saving not negated by the fact the player has to tune up and familiarise themselves with the instruments on stage, which otherwise could be done back stage? I thought the imposition of a four minute rule dealt with change over times anyway?

    What do people think, good thing or bad thing, or does no one care?:)
  2. stephen2001

    stephen2001 Member

    The 4 minute rule seems an optional extra now in most contests, even when percussion is provided!

    Even so, I don't think many bands would want to take their own percussion to a contest because it will take too long to set up and things end up going missing.

    Whislt the 4 minute rule is more like a 6 minute rule, it's important to get the bands through as quickly as possible, even if the percussionists do have to take a couple of minutes to get used to the different kit.
  3. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    And many contests already seem to suffer from a lack of warm-up space, which would only be compounded if bands had sets of timps or other percussion equipment to move through as they took the stage.
  4. six pints

    six pints Active Member

    At the end of the day, for something like timps, it doesnt work for people to bring their own. You've just got to be able to manage with what you've got on the stage, whether that means practising on 3 knowing that you've got 4 on stage (a bass drum on its side works wonders), or using a different type on stage (not that i mind, the ones on stage are always better then ours- I can change notes without actually stamping on them). But for smaller things (such as snare drums which are usually not supplied anywhere), then it surely doesnt take that much time to set them up.

    One thing that annoys me is bands who spend for ever moving all the percussion from one side of the stage to the other. Could the contest organisers not just say "this is where they are going to be"? fair enough, doing minor adjustments doesnt take much time but moving everything seems like a total waste of time! even if they had to say x amount of time in advance so bands could practise that way, would it be a major problem?
  5. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    I can speak from both sides of the coin here as I am a brass player who muddles his way through on percussion.

    The percussion that is provided on stage is often much better in quality than the stuff I have to practice on. Nevertheless, it takes a while to get the hang of it. I was playing at Butlins last weekend. Just before we went on stage, Ray Payne very kindly retuned the timps (we were the first band playing after the adjudicator's comfort break) but I tune my timps differently so it took a bit of getting used to. Also, because the timps were a different size to those I was used to, I found that where I had practiced hitting the middle timp in bar such-and-such, the note I needed wasn't available so I had to use a different timp instead. That isn't a massive problem, but it does mean you have to improvise as you go along. It's a bit like finding one of your valves is not working properly so you have to false-finger certain notes as you go along - not impossible, but less than ideal. Then there was the physical size of the timps - they were bigger than mine, so I'd been practicing with the glock at the back of the smaller timp with me reaching over. I couldn't do that at Butlins because the smallest timp was too big and I couldn't reach! So I had to come up with a different layout which again puts you on a back foot because you don't feel so comfortable. The glock also felt different to mine - I don't know if the keys were a slightly different size or something but I found it harder to play.

    I've never had a percussion lesson in my life and I make it up as I go along (you see, I'm a natural! :tongue:) so I don't know whether or not if I was more experienced it wouldn't be such a problem. I understand that snare drums are very personal to each player and bands should definitely be allowed to use their own.

    I wonder if we will ever see the day where all instruments (brass included) are provided and all bands have to use the same instruments? That would be interesting.....
  6. MarkGillatt

    MarkGillatt Member

    As a percussionist myself, I find it VERY useful to have the larger instruments provided for us. Ray Payne does a blinding job getting top quality kit to all the venues, and although sometimes the timp pedals work a different way to your own, or the gong needs a bigger smack than the band one, it is something you get used to. Years ago when percussion wasn't provided, it was a logistical nightmare to try and get one bands kit off and another bands on.
    A good way to cope with different placing of the section is to move it around before each rehearsel. Have a couple at the back, a couple behind trombones and then behind cornets. That way the whole band can claim for industrial deafness.

    Anyways, Much respect to Ray Payne. I think you are a star for doing what you do!:clap: :clap:
  7. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    No arguments from me - I love playing his instruments!! :clap:
  8. tsawyer

    tsawyer Member

    I agree with providing large percussion, from a purely logistical point of view, but disagree with smaller stuff. I want to be able to choose the sounds that I make, and that choice is often an instrument choice with percussion, not a technique one.

    Tam Tam's are often a problem. You have to go on stage and hit an instrument you've never seen before at hard do you hit it?

    Why? Swiss Open has set times for bands to start, and so you get lots of time on stage to look at the instruments, get them where you want them, have a go etc. Then you go off when you're happy and come back on with the band. Less stress = better performance, and your set up is better because the band aren't all sat on stage waiting for you to put things in the right place.

    Is that not up to me as a percussionist? If the vibes part is with the cornets most of the time (Journey To The Centre Of The Earth), isn't it my choice to put the vibes behind the cornets to make it easier for the parts to be together? If I (and the conductor) want the bells part to be heard over a loud band, is it not my choice to put the instrument at the front of the stage? Band room shape also plays a part in where the conductor expects to cue the timp player from etc.

  9. tsawyer

    tsawyer Member


    Straightforward for an easy part, a nightmare when you're playing fast semiquavers...

  10. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Another factor is the numbers of percussionists used by each band. A layout that works for three players may be useless for two or four, apart from the fact that each team may well divide the responsibilities differently between them.
  11. horn-girlie

    horn-girlie Member

    I'm not a percussionist, but taking all you're own percussion does seem to take a lot of extra time and space. That said, even if percussion is provided many bands will still take a lot of their percussion to practice with.
    From a percussionists point of view though, they have been used to practicing with their own equipment, and I know I wouldn't really fancy being given a different horn on the day!
  12. tsawyer

    tsawyer Member

    Something I'd like to see is more details about the kind of instruments provided.

    At the moment we just get a list of instruments, with maybe a brand name if we are lucky. It would be useful to have more details, like ranges of each timp, the kind of damper on the bells (push to damp, push to release) that kind of thing.

  13. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    I have no problem with percussion being provided at contests as long as it's good quality stuff. I have to agree with everyone else that Ray Payne does a blinding job not only providing god equipment but being on hand all day to lend his expertise. It should, however, be remembered that percussion instruments do have their own individual sound, so people should be allowed to use their own smaller instruments like snare drums if they choose even when they are provided.

    As to set-ups on contest stages, I think it is dead wrong to dictate a set up to a percussion section. Previous posts have mentioned some very good points about numbers of players, division of labour etc., but to throw one more in - a left-handed player might want things in different positions. Of course there is room for the composer to put instruments in specific groups in order to achieve spacial effects in the same way as can be achieved by sitting the brass differently, but even then there has to be some flexibility within the group.

    The four-minute (or however many minutes) rule is a nonsense. Setting up takes different time for different pieces, and there's the previous band fetching their stuff off as well (and no matter how hard you try, you always end up getting in the way of the band coming on!). Contest controllers thankfully seem to have adopted a common-sense approach as long as a band is not obviously 'playing for time' at the changeover.
  14. radox

    radox New Member

    Use the big gear on stage, Timps, Xylo, Vibes, Gong, BDrum, Bells etc........ insist on taking your own smaller items on stage, they dont take much carrying.

    I used to HATE playing on a snare that I didnt know and hadn't practised on. The gear that Ray provides is top notch, even if you do need to ble check how they work first.... rocker pedal timps, push to dampen bells...... its not rocket science. And as for the size of the tam tam and volume of sound, thats usually controlled with a hand up the back. And if your not sure, you can either suss it out whilst warmng it ready for the hit, or you can have a quick mess before the band come on. Or, if in doubt just batter it and at least get a mention on the remarks.

    Moving stuff around is a nightmare, but it shouldn't really matter where stuff is placed unless the composer dictates. For a good player and a good MD it really doesn't matter where the gear is on the day.

  15. catherine_S

    catherine_S Member

    What did make a difference over this at Darlington was when they started getting the percussionists to submit a plan at the start of the day showing exactly how they wanted the percussion set up! For a start it made our percussionists get their ideas together, and then made all the setting up much easier, when they had a plan to refer to! It cut down enormously on "percussion faffage", for our lot at least!
  16. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    I have a question, I am not a percussionist myself but one has told me about it

    Have you ever found that someone has sabotaged an instrument after they have played?

    My guy claims that someone had moved all the tuning (things?) markers on the timps at Butlins and retuned them all so that Bb was more like an Ab and so on and so forth.

    If you were struggling with set up and had a restriction on time, is't this out of order? Is that trying to make gorce an error out of another band?
  17. MarkGillatt

    MarkGillatt Member

    Percussion, FAFF? Take that back Catherine, immediately! :ranting2: Percussion do not faff. They merely take their time getting their equipment ready,
    . and sussing out the quickest exit to the bar!:guiness
  18. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Same old Radox, like your style mate. I presume that you batter the tam tam with your head for maximum effect?
  19. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    it does happen occasionally, luckily it's very rare though. I've also see all the stands collapse when the band have put their music on it due to the band before having loosened the nuts just enough. Again, very rare.

    I always check the tuning anyway - even on Saturday when I'd seen Ray Payne tune the timps just as I walked on stage. It's good to know exactly where the notes are before you try to find them during the performance.
  20. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    I've never to my knowledge been sabotaged by another band. I did once play at a music contest where I felt I had been sabotaged by the equipment suppliers (not Ray I hasten to add!) - halfway through the first number of a twenty minute own choice set the arm that links the timp pedal to the tuning dial fell off on one of the drums... By the end of the set it was clear the timps were falling apart and should have been scrapped a long time ago because there wasn't a single drum wrking properly. My section colleagues had similar fights with all of the large percussion (including a large cradle bass drum with no brakes so it rolled away from you whenever you tried to play it!). This was at a well-respected educational institution (I won't say which one) and it seemed to me that they just didn't want 'outsiders' playing their better instruments so they had provided the spares out of the store cupboard instead.