Percussionist Recruitment

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by essexgirl, Nov 4, 2011.

  1. essexgirl

    essexgirl Member

    So many bands seem to have percussion vacancies, including my own band. Just wondering what advice there is to how to best recruit new players as prospective percussionists can play in a whole range of bands and orchestras, they are not likely to look at brass band websites ...


  2. blue juice

    blue juice Member

    We have 4 percussionists and 3 of them are under 18, try looking round local schools for talent. Or ask around local youth bands to see if there are any players who fancy gaining some extra experience.
  3. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Dalewool have looked in to this, and what puts a lot of good percussionists off is ****/old equipment.

    I also agree, make friends with the good local percussion teachers!
  4. FlyingCrow

    FlyingCrow New Member

    Yes Good percussionists need good kit to play or they'll never get the sound they want. -It's like a forcing a cornet player to play with a bad sound all the time. As a general thing tho, conductors shouldn't forget about the section. Spending 15 mins on hymn books isn't a great inclusive start to a rehearsal, -actually.. I know there's a timpani book, + I'm only assuming there aren't others. If there aren't any, there should be. + If there is then I've never seen any or seen a Conductor ask why the Perc's aren't playing.
  5. tubadaz

    tubadaz Member


    There is a "Drum Set" book in the 120 Hymns series, although it's not the most inspiring parts ever written for kit! :-D

    That said, the Timpani book isn't too bad and I sometimes manage to join in the warm up at Uni Brass Band if we've managed to untangle the unholy mess that the Concert Orchestra have left for us before the MD's finished with hymns! :-D

  6. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Most of the time, the 15-minutes on hymn books is just about enough to allow the percussion to show up, turn out their stick-bags, move everything around to their liking (different to last week, of course) and get ready to play something too fast and far too loud isn't it? ;)
  7. tubadaz

    tubadaz Member

    Drat, rumbled!! :rolleyes:

    In fairness, at Uni I tend to put everything in the same place every rehearsal, location being defined by the mains socket in the floor into which we plug the vibraphone. Everything else is then added to the mix! :)

    *Then* we play too loud and fast! :-D

  8. The poor equipment issue is a valid one to raise. For reasons I have never been able to fathom, so many bands (including my own, untill I put them right on a few things!) spend thousands of pounds on percussion gear, and then abuse it in a way they would never do if they spent the money on say, a brand new top of the range Wrath Trombone. I have on a number of occasions refused to play the instruments made available to me. It sometimes seems to come as a surprise to bands to discover that, for instance, the large black peddle at the bottom of a timpani is not there simply to be used to boot the instrument off the back off the band bus. Or that the unprotected timpani playing surface is not a handy band room shelf to store music stand boxes on, and that the damage to the playing surface (including quite often large holes) means the instrument is useless, and cannot be tuned.

    Cymbals which appear to have been stamped on and hit with a hammer are similarly useless, as they tend to sound like dustbin lids as a result of the abuse.

    I never even bother to try setting up and using any bands drum kit, by the time I have finished carrying out all the neccessary emergency surgery on the battered kit, the rehearsal is nearly over!
  9. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    I am pretty sure I can turn any trombone in to one of these.

    Sorry, couldn't resist, back to topic!
  10. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    Of course you mean SOME bands kit, as some bands look after it, and their percussion players, playing pieces which generally have three parts and having a sufficient amount of well kept equipment to put all of said parts in.

    The main problem with percussion & percussionists in brass bands, is it's still treated as an extra to the band, not part of the band, until that attitude changes perc players will end up getting bored of the 2nd rate citizen treatment and look for somewhere else to play.
  11. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    I think there are two sides to this argument, Gary. There are 25 brass players in a band and usually three percussionists, so repertoire has to be chosen with the majority of players in mind.

    Granted if you have three regular percussion then it makes sense to include items which allow them more involvement with the ensemble, and even a leading role - but as a percussionist you're never going to get away from the fact that - like myself as a bass player - 90% of the time you're the sideshow, not the main event.

    An argument I have heard from some percussionists is that older items - however attractive - should not be programmed any more simply because there's 'nothing in it for them to do' in them. If a percussion section feel they are being treated as 'second class citizens' simply because the MD would like to add Grainger's 'Irish tune from County Derry' or Holst's 'Moorside suite' (both of which notoriously lacking in carpentry) to a concert programme, then I'd argue they need to get some perspective. I will admit that these views are thankfully in the minority though!

    So there is a balance to be struck. Percussion should be treated as a part like any other, and where it's in it's gotta be right! But by the very nature of a balanced programme, a percussion section is sometimes going to find themselves surplus to requirements, in the same way that a bass section or trombone section will often be sat idle for 40 or 50 bars at a stretch. Yes, the periods of inactivity are often longer for percussion in certain styles of music, but I don't think we should abandon those styles because the percussion don't always enjoy them.

    To use a simile I was once told, percussion in a brass band is like a combination of descriptive punctuation, highlighter pen, red underlining and onomatopoeia, and occasionally writes whole sentences by itself. It can enhance immeasurably, bring forward a line or idea, underpin and intensify the music ensemble as a whole and some types of music simply don't work without it - but you can't underline EVERYTHING in red and expect it to work!

    Like everything in music, there's a balance.
  12. blue juice

    blue juice Member

    I think a lot of 'bad/boring' percussion parts come from a lack of knowledge by composers. We had a lecture at uni this week where they demonstrated briefly every percussion instrument at the uni, took over 2 hours. Percussion played correctly can always be used to enhance any piece of music, in my opinion anyway. Can anyone come up with a piece that couldn't have percussion in it?
  13. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    2nd Mvt of Moorside Suite......
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Are we just talking band pieces? Vast tracts of music otherwise...
  15. blue juice

    blue juice Member

    Not even a cymbal roll or something at the loud bit?
  16. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Nope. Frankly it doesn't need it. I'm sure there are loads of band pieces (and even more outside of brass bands as Dave says...) but the one that immediately springs to mind is Heaton's 'Oh The Blessed Lord' which has all sorts of tonal colours and effects without any percussion at all.

    I guess the point is this; a bit like bass trombone and soprano, done well, percussion can make a good band sound great, but done badly can make a great band sound hideous. Its an enhancement not an essential.
  17. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Some things should be left well alone.
  18. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Like each of us in the context of a brass band!
  19. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    [Sarcasm] I know, let's write timp parts for some of Elgar's partsongs while we're at it. That'll work... [/Sarcasm]

    It's about context.

    To stay with the specific example of Moorside, one thing that has to be accepted is that Holst knew what he was doing with a score. Consider 'Mars' from his more famous 'The Planets' if you will. When the guy wants raucous, you get it, in spades. Essential to this is his use of percussion, and percussive writing within the orchestra. So in Moorside, there is percussion where he wants it, and there isn't where he doesn't. Adding - to use your example - a cymbal roll at the climax of the crescendo in the second movement would add a brightness and sharpness that simply isn't there in Holst's original scoring, which is all about warmth. As such, changing the score there to 'improve it' by adding percussion would seem to me a profoundly mistaken notion.

    To provide an opposite example, in the same piece Moomin's previously mentioned a section of the second movement where the bass trombone part follows the same melodic curve as the BBb bass - however the original scoring has it jumping up a seventh for about three notes, and then going back down a seventh where the desired range exceeded the limitations of the equipment available. It's clear Holst wanted the bass trombone to follow the same melodic line, but couldn't actually write it how he wanted and was forced to a compromise. So to me, making that change actually brings it closer to how Holst envisaged it.

    Like I said, it's all about context.

    I'm all for reinventing and revitalising works - but it must be done with great care and primarily through different interpretation of performance, rather than wholesale re-writing. Yes, William Rimmer wrote a lot for side drum, bass drum and crash cymbals because that's all he had at his disposal, but to write yourself a xylophone part that follows some of the existing melodic lines would almost certainly undermine some of the scoring he carefully constructed due to the absence of a xylophone, and be to the overall detriment of the piece. Percussion is not just somethng you can simply add or take away. Like any other part it has to be integral to the music, and if added later it's likely to stick ou tlike a sore thumb.

    However if there's already a glock part for an older piece and you decided to try playing it on a vibraphone for a different effect (as far more bands now have vibes than was historically the case) then we start to reach some middle ground, because you're much closer to a reinterpretation of the part than a re-write of the part or a later addition.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2011
  20. blue juice

    blue juice Member

    I see what you're saying. The point I was trying to make is that sometimes composers could make more of an effort to utilise a full range of percussion than some do at the moment. And relating to the thread title this might encourage more percussionists to get involved with brass bands. Obviously I would be against putting percussion in where it would damage rather than add to the piece.

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