Player movement to balance a Band

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by 2nd tenor, May 4, 2017.

  1. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    The 'lower section' and 'community' type Bands that I've played in have typically had to accommodate less than ideal numbers in each section. To a degree that situation is understandable and goes with the nature of groups who welcome virtually anyone who can play Brass or Percussion. Unfortunately a poor spread of player numbers between sections leaves some not being heard when they should be and others doninating a piece when it would be better if they were quieter. At worst some parts aren't covered at all or played by someone who isn't able to manage the challenge that well (any more or never was).

    Have other players found that situation in any of their bands and if so how were players 'encouraged' (or whatever else that worked) to move to play a different instrument or part?
  2. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    What options have you tried or considered so far?
  3. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    I've never played in a band at any level that hasn't needed to move people around from time to time - swapping instruments as well as parts. Some people will happily try anything 'for the good of the band', others really don't like to move - I guess it comes down to what's more important to each individual.

    Usually its as simple as a person being asked to change and given the reason why - then its up to them to choose.
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  4. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    My experience is the same as this.

    Something else to consider... where players are less experienced as implied by the OPs post, some will not have found their ideal instrument yet (even if they think they have). Suggesting that trying another instrument may benefit both the band and themself. This of course has to be done genuinely and sympathetic to the individual's situation, not just as a section-balancing exercise.
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  5. toptutti

    toptutti Member

    I've always been wiling to move around the sections and in my years played almost every position but not just for the reasons of filling an empty chair. Some testpieces I've doubled on flugel to add extra weight and sop to lighten the load to our resident sop player in a demanding part. At the moment I find myself on 3rd cornet to help and encourage my little girl who's worked her way through the academy and earned her seat in the main band. That move made sense - I was spending more time helping her practice her part that I was spending on mine.

    In my experience some player are a lot more willing to swap seats for the good of the band and others are glued to theirs. Provided I'm asked quietly and sensibly and not put on the spot in the middle of a rehearsal and my views are heard I've never seen it as a problem
  6. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    It's a help to read that the problem is common to bands of every level and to be aware of the approaches that have worked for you, my thanks to you all.

    The 'players glued to their seats' issue maybe dominates the issue in that folk - and the band generally - have to either be at or brought to a point were they are open to change before they can be successfully approached, but the approach must also be right for the individual people involved too - the importance of appropriate delivery is noted too.

    I'd be glad to hear more about how those two issues are broken down by bands. Additionally how do bands get a feel for: who might be willing to consider change; who is capable of actually managing the change and how best to customise requests such that the particular individuals being engaged with give mindful thought to the band's needs as well as their own.
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
  7. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    Talk to them. Explain the situation. Use examples of where people have moved before and the benefits it produced. Assure them that if it doesn't work out, priority will be given to reverting or finding a more suitable position.

    The most important thing is to do it openly and make sure no one feels it's underhand. I hear lots of stories where people have unnecessarily fallen out because they felt pushed out of their seat. If you're a relatively new-comer to the band, make sure you've earned the respect and right to suggest such a change. A new member challenging the status quo will be met with more caution and resistance than a well-known and trusted colleague.

    The ideal, as with any change in life, would be that the affected people suggest the change themselves. State the situation / problem, acknowledge your appreciation that some people won't want to change and that's OK, and ask that any volunteers happy to try a different position to help fix the problem and enable the band to improve and progress should speak to you.
  8. toptutti

    toptutti Member

    In my experience this is best approached by the band manager, the long standing and we'll respected member of the band who best knows the players around him. As for a feel of who might be willing for a change that can often be picked up at the post rehearsal bar
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  9. David Evans

    David Evans Active Member

    This presupposes that a band has a supply of spare instruments to swap and offer. Regrettably our band hasn't, all the players either own, rent or borrow their instrument. The only exception is a couple of weeks ago when our existing Sop player moved on and so we used the entire band funds to buy a decent Sop so that one of our front row could change. Otherwise I would agree with toptottie that the band manager or the post rehearsal bar is the best place to raise the issue and then in private if any interest. I cannot envisage a situation where a player, especially a new player would suggest to another existing player that they move onto a different seat. I suspect they would get a very short old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon response.
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  10. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I see your point but in practice don't believe that that problem is too difficult to resolve and, anyway, the vast majority of bands do have instruments to loan out. Many players own more than one instrument of any type and some own a few different types from past playing or to double on. It wouldn't be out of the question for a player to sell an instrument to help fund a different type.

    That, of course, is your particular band's choice and your band's situation isn't typical of the vast bulk of bands. Whether it needed the band's entire funds to buy a 'decent' sop is another question to which I suspect we have different answers; no disrespect intended but in the past I have been surprised by how a good player can pass their grade eight with distinction on a 'student' instrument.

    It's a sensitive issue and some Band managers will manage it with the expected skill - isn't it part of their role - whilst others will not. The best person in any situation might almost as equally likely be a committe member, the MD, or just another member with the right skills. The right situation for most people is almost certainly in private and in a casual setting, but dependant on the situation I can imagine others working too (like the public call for volunteers after an empassioned speech).

    I can imagine circumstances where an ordinary band member with the both the opportunity and particularly good social skills could discuss and negotiate change. However I think that these things are almost always best left to Committee Members and the like to decide how best to resolve and then for them to take action. The effectiveness of Band Committees is a minefield, some are good and some are less so but mostly they have a few individuals who are easily offended. Tread with care whether on the Committee or just an ordinary band member.
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
  11. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I have always said I am flexible regarding playing positions, particularly when we were moving round the ciuntry every few years. There was only one occasion when I was disgruntled, when a promised move didn't materialise. Fortunately, having had the chance to talk things through with the Bandmaster, he explained the reasons for his decision, and in retrospect it was probably the right line to take. It was just unfortunate that he had not been able to talk to me before announcing it in front of the band.
  12. David Evans

    David Evans Active Member

    Of course 2T is entirely correct when he says a good player can pass Grade 8 on a student instrument. And indeed top players can make good sounds on a hosepipe but in general good players don't play student instruments by choice. Perhaps unusually 75% of our players have their own single instrument, the rest play on instruments borrowed or rented. We couldn't attract a replacement Sop but the MD felt that one of the front row had the experience, ability and personality to move, they discussed it in private, took advice from an outside adjudicator/player and having agreed then announced it to the band. The MD obviously felt that it was a worthy use of band funds as the finals are on the horizon. This mechanism worked to everyone's benefit and didn't involve a committee decision but obviously bands differ in their hierarchies. I played in band where several players were happy to move wherever needed and it was wonderful but again it was decided by the MD and player rather than anyone else's involvment.
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  13. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    This is a very good point to make. It's equally important to keep the communication channels open from the initial proposal through to implementation (or cancellation in your example) and indeed afterwards to check that the affected people are still happy.
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  14. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    That arrangement sounds entirely logical to me and obviously worked for your Band.

    Bands do indeed differ in their hierarchies so no size fits all. Typically the MD and the Committee work in a balanced partnership, but the latter normally appoints the former and the point of balance differs between bands.

    The Musical Director or MD must be 'on-board' with any change as it affects how they do their job. However, IMHO, it's the Committee's responsibility to support the MD in her/his work and to also take overall responsibility for the direction and the direction of travel of a band. As I said above, balance (and associated actions) differs between bands - no one size suits all.
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  15. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    It's been particularly interesting to hear what the Ladies have had to say on this thread as their approach (all three) has highlighted the use and relevance of 'soft skills'. Thank you.
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  16. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    Our solo Euph player suffered a heart attack on Friday morning (he's going to recover, thankfully). Two players moved instruments that evening to cover for him and we went to Buxton Contest today. No moaning, they did it for the team and did a wonderful job. Renaissance by Peter Graham.
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  17. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    That's a wonderful attitude and positive outcome for the band, glad to hear that your Euphonium player is headed towards recovery too. A band can be a very special group when its members gather around to support and help out.

    Various seats in the band can be hard to fill at all and some hard to fill reasonably well too. I've seen bands unable to get Solo and Bass Trombones, the Sop seat is sometimes empty and Bass players seem to be often in short supply too - that's just my experience and might not be that of others. Each of those seats is important to the band and each of those parts enjoyable to play in their own way yet, for one reason or another, players don't seem to be keen on them. I wonder how best to promote the positives of those hard to fill seats and show how the negatives can be managed, what are people's experiences of being involved with that?

    Touching on just one example: BBb seats are, in my experience, often vacant. The instrument isn't light, doesn't transport easily, does take some filling and doesn't obviously have the most exciting of parts - seemingly a lot of negatives. However, in answer, I've seen modestly sized ladies play them and move them about, they sit on the back seat of an otherwise empty car, sections of what they play are complex, the sound produced by them forms a very needed foundation of sound for the band and those playing them often have chance to listen to the music around them rather than constantly focusing on their own part. BBb's are expensive when new but they are normally supplied by the band, and if you want to buy your own then older ones are available at not too un-affordable prices. The quality of music that it is possible to play on a large Tuba shouldn't be underestimated, if in doubt then listen to this man:

    Part of the process of getting players to change must be to understand their reasons for sticking where they are. Perhaps I've misunderstood the elelments of the problem and solution to overcoming inertia and reluctance to change, what do others think that they are and how do they suggest that they are managed?
    Last edited: May 8, 2017
  18. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Very much so - and that 'family' feeling is so important at all times, not just when an emergency hits.

    Maybe part of it is down to 'does the player like the sound of the instrument they're being asked to take on?'

    What drew me to baritone was the wonderful sound! It suits me to a tee. I also admire the sound of trombones, both tenor and bass - but, having watched them being played through a fast run of notes, with the players' left arms whizzing in and out at a rate of knots, I find it hard to believe that I could ever get that movement as fast and as accurate on positioning as they need to do it.

    Euphs - I'm a bit 'yes and no' on them; a bit too mellow for my taste.

    Tenor Horns - I like the sound, and having switched to Tenor from Baritone for the time being (until the docs get my breathing fully sorted) I'm getting on pretty well on the lower notes - tho the high ones seem to need about 500 pounds per square inch of air pressure! :D But, when I get it right, it does sound very, very nice.

    Basses - I prefer the EEb to BBb; that rise of pitch seems to give them much clearer delivery, and I do like the richness of their sound.

    Flugel Horn - yes; lovely sound, but the parts are very demanding, and it's not like you can start as '3rd Flugel' and work your way up, is it? ;)

    Cornet . . . hmmm . . . they can sound very melodic - especially when played in multi-part harmony - but the top notes required from Solo and Sop players I find almost painful to listen to; I couldn't see myself being willing to play such parts, even if I had the ability (a bit of an academic point, as I don't! :D )

    As for those stridently screeching piccolos played by military bands - why is it they always sound as though the players are trying to set a world record for the number of notes they can play per second? I wouldn't play one if I was offered free beer for life for doing it!

    With best regards,

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  19. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Yes, I think you might be right there although I'm not certain that players fully appreciate the sounds that other instruments normally do and otherwise can generate. One of my reasons for posting the Tuba video link was to break down preconceptions. If bias and lack of information is the problem then I'm not sure how a band would engage with its members to overcome that.

    Unfortunately these days players would walk out of the door rather than accept being told to change instrument but inflexibility - perhaps its self-centredness - does leave bands with some difficulties. In times long(?) past perhaps things were simpler when the man at the front told you that the Band was short of a player in seat 'X' and that you were the man who was going to fill it ........ you'll be able to play it by the end of tonight ready for the Concert next week.
    Last edited: May 13, 2017
  20. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    As to that, 2T, I can only speak as to what I know about the band I'm learning with - and I've not known them that long - but I know of one player who was asked to change from cornet to tenor horn, and did so, another who switched from cornet to euph, and another who went from cornet to trombone, and another who switched from cornet to flugel horn; and I've not heard of anyone in this band who was asked to change, and walked out. That, of course, doesn't mean it doesn't happen in other bands - and I suspect that your experience is far wider than mine - but it seems a great shame that it does.

    With best regards,