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

    I see that my rather 'tonge in cheek' comment got a not too undeserved response ...... and maybe that Jack's Band had an excess of Cornet players. To be honest the practices and attitudes within bands can differ quite a bit between bands; the movement that you talk about is certainly something that I've never seen - outside of learner bands where the bulk of people start on a Cornet- but that's not to say it doesn't happen in a significant percentage of bands.

    Though, in some cases, inflexibility and self-centredness is an issue it can actually be a quite understandable one. It can take some people literally years of practice to become reasonably able on a particular type of instrument (e.g. Cornet). Additionally they very likely have invested not in-significant money to buy their own instrument, accessories, special practice material and not in-significant time to properly understand of their band pieces and to develop friendships/comradery and to gain credibility within their current section.

    The shift to a different instrument can involve, at least partially, the loss of all that investment and maybe leave the individual feeling quite vulnerable. It can take further years of effort to regain ones past level of skill and expertise on the new instrument. Of course (simplistically) the more skilled and experienced the musician the easier the transition, indeed such a person might be returning to something that they played a couple of decades back and so pick things up (again) relatively painlessly.
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
  2. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    2T has asked me to throw my hat in the ring on this topic, so here it is.

    I have two perspectives on this, the player perspective and the wagger view.
    Player: I have had to try to play every instrument in the band (yes, even persecution) as part of my teaching and I know that my ability is definitely limited ot the lower end. I just can't get my big mouth to fit into a pea-shooter sized mouthpiece. One of the reasons I moved back to my current band was that the new MD of my previous one wanted me to play cornet, but next time baritone and then trombone, bass trom and so on. The love of my life is Eb Bass, but due to my continuing and worsening neck problems, it was no longer possible for me to continue playing so I had just moved on to Euph. I was suffering a certain amount of grief already and this was the final straw. Although asked politely, I really did not want any of the upheaval and the constant requests became irksome.

    As someone who has played in a few bands I have seen many different situations and the one that tends to bring out the best in a band is when that band is on its uppers. There seems to be a point at which even the stubbornest "I was born a cornet player" will happily move to BBb Bass if it will save the band.

    MD: My MD experience is that I will do whatever it takes to keep my band happy, playing to the best of their ability and, if they contest, marching up the section(s). Inveigling is good, flattery and bribery also work well. Seriously, so much depends on the circumstances that it would take a small book to describe all the situations. The main thing is to be absolutely clear and up front about what you want, what it will take to do and whether any moves are likely to be temporary or permanent. My first port of call would always be to finesse the score, looking to see if any parts can be covered on alternative instruments. Every band has the players who will help with this. As long as it's not too obvious you can get away with it. Generally, players are more willing to do this rather than make the often considerable effort required to move instrument. You have to know your band - the people - really well. Generally, people will do what you ask if you have a good working relationship with them. You are all friends, after all - aren't you?

    At the end of the day, the band will do one of two things - they will follow your lead and your requests, possibly grumbling but that's ok - or they'll sack you. If you know your band, you'll be able to judge which.
    Slider1 and 2nd tenor like this.
  3. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Not really; as some players moved to different instruments, they were replaced in the cornet section by juniors who had become skilled enough to move up from the junior band - a sort up ripple through effect. Members of the band - from the top players to much younger ones - put a lot of time and effort into training beginners, and as many of them are only 6 or 7 years old when they join, they usually start off on cornets, simply because they aren't big enough to manage anything else! For that reason, there's unlikely to be a shortage of cornet players moving up through the ranks.

    As regards the investment in the instrument, our band is fortunate in having a good selection of instruments to loan to beginners - which must also relieve many parents of their reasonable concerns about shelling out a lot of cash, in case their child loses interest a few months later. It also means that if a player using a band instrument switches to playing something else (as I did recently, for health reasons), they just hand back the instrument the band lent them before, and are loaned a different one.

    I take your point about people might be reluctant to - in effect - go backwards for a while by switching to a new instrument, or to move into a different section and away from the friendships they formed in their original section; but, judging from what I've seen, there don't appear to been any problems like that. Maybe a good part of that is because it is, overall, a very friendly and close-knit band, with people from different sections happily meeting up in the local pub after a band practise for a pint and a natter. For that reason, moving from one section to another is not moving away from people you know well to a group of complete strangers.

    But this one is the only band that I know about, and others may be very different.

    With best regards,

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