Rooms Venues & Acoustics

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by yoda, Oct 5, 2010.

  1. yoda

    yoda Member

    Hi everyone.

    Been having a few rambling thoughts recently and thought I'd stick them on here for discussion and possibly personal therapy ;-) (its my age I think)

    At many of the recent contests, which have been discussed to the point of nausea, there seems to be a common theme of the venue/room/acoustic cropping up and "influencing" the result :D

    From the adjudicators side of the fence, they seem to want (expect) bands to adapt their performance to the venue. While I agree that this is something that the bands should be doing, I am not sure that in all cases this is a good thing or an achievable thing.

    For example, I have conducted top quality bands in the past where we have turned up at a venue (contest or concert) and found it to be a little on the small size to host a performance by an ensemble capable of reproducing the same noise as a jet airliner taking off. I have in these cases been able to say to the band, just drop (take off) 10% of all the dynamics (volumes) and they have been able to do that across the dynamic range, and still perform at a consistently high level throughout the performance.

    I am not sure that (with much respect) many bands outside the top 2 sections can do this, and I'm not sure that there are many bands outside the top 60 in the country who can do this without in some way compromising the performance.

    With a concert venue, (assuming the band has not played there before) this is possibly something we have to live with, as not all concert promoters are exactly aware of what they are getting when the book brass band :) but with a contest which is organised by people (usually) with knowledge of what is coming, then maybe it is a little naive of the adjudicators to factor this aspect of the performance into their adjudication.

    I know all about the logistics and cost of putting on a contest, and have nothing but admiration and thanks for the people who do. This is not a go at anyone. But i do feel that maybe more consideration should go into the selection of a venue, especially where size is a factor, and especially for the lower section bands, who in my experience will try to do exactly what they have been told to do in their bandroom, and maybe don't have the capacity (yet) to adjust their dynamic performance at the drop of a hat.

    Putting my flame proof coat at the ready, i look forward to reading others thought

  2. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    It's an interesting one. We got badly burnt by an adjudication the other day on the grounds (the only grounds, apparently, judging by spoken and written comments) that we'd taken the roof off the hall in a rather incautious manner. Without wishing to cast aspersions on those who fared better in the adjudication, with whom a number of old friends are involved, it must be noted that it was a surprising contesting outcome.

    Playing to the room is one of the set of musical skills that we should all acquire - but the contesting technique of the modern brass band is hamstrung by being shoehorned into too small or resonant a space. If in an orchestra, I give serious consideration to selecting a smaller trombone if asked to perform in a boomy small room - one that doesn't need pushing so hard as one's usual equipment does in order to get a bit of life into the sound - but bands don't tend to have that luxury, being heavily financially invested in a single set of large-bore instruments.

    The other side of the coin is that venues that acoustically, logistically, and financially suit a brass band contest are few and far between...
  3. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    So, in a nutshell, the vast majority of bands would be far better off playing on smaller bore equipment more suited to the types of venues they play in, rather than copy the big boys.....
  4. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    if some bands can adjust to the room, then why can't all? If it comes down to the standard of playing, then there isn't a need to change instruments, maybe just practise playing in different acoustics.

    I know of bands who, before any contest, rehearse in a variety of different venues so to get a feel for each sound that different venues produce. You can also get a good idea of how sound travels in a venue by listening to other bands and asking your conductor for guidance.

    Since we are there ultimately to entertain people (i.e. not in contests, but in concerts I mean...although contest pieces should fulfill the entertaining category as well, as least for some of the audience)...we should be prepared to alter our style to fit the venue. No-one wants to sit listening to a band that make your teeth rattle with their harshness do they? eeek.
  5. DMBabe

    DMBabe Supporting Member

    But then would we all be criticised for having no dynamic range? If we all reduced our upper dynamics to accommodate a venue (which I agree we should all be able to do) then we're obviously reducing the range we use. So then we get criticised for having a range of ppp - f? Or if it's such a dry hall then our ppp becomes p hence we lose range that way..... Personally I think there must be better halls in some areas than the ones which are used which cost less....*cough - Harrogate - cough* :confused:

    The other consideration is that if bands should "get to know the hall" then local bands may be able to hire it for rehearsals (which I know happens) which then irritates other bands based further away causing more cross band sniping.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2010
  6. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    that's not true...if you reduce your overall dynamics (including the quiet ones) then you shouldn't be penalised......and why is it all about contesting anyway? Are you saying that if you play in a church at a concert one weekend, then an outdoor gig the weekend after, and then a concert hall the week after that, and then a small school don't alter your dynamic range?

    I wouldn't like to be in an audience (contesting or not) where a band played the same dynamics in a small school hall, that they do in a concert hall....ouchy!!

    Then again, I like dynamic range, and one band's p is another's mf....;)
  7. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    Actually, while I think of it, its not just about dynamics either...sometimes you'll have to adjust how you play certain phrases. For example in a 'boomy' room, then a lot of detail can be you could have to come up with ways of bringing out detail....whereas in dry rooms, its sometimes feels that you are the only person you instinctively start playing quieter, where you should be confident to carry on, getting your cues from the conductor about whether you're too loud/quiet etc....
  8. Simon Preshom

    Simon Preshom Member

    Its not always about decibal level, its the type of volume. One would hope that a 'Blitz' FF is different to that of a hymn tune FF........
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Although I do take your point about quality of sound, a hymn tune ff actually doesn't have the same decibel level as a full-out nasty rip-the-backside-out-of-it ff...

    We're talking about contesting because that's what the original question was about. Contesting is ultimately about music as sport, and so preventing bands from effectively displaying elements on which they are traditionally judged seems counterproductive.
    Of course all sensible bands take the top off their dynamic range when giving a concert in a confined space - after all, they want the audience to come back...
  10. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    Why is it different for contests?

    Are you saying that you're happy to play an ff the same way you would in the rehearsal room? Without any consideration of the acoustic of the hall? Are adjudicators not also marking on musicianship? Just because you CAN play something that loud, doesn't mean you should.

    I don't think bands are judged 'well' for playing too I wouldn't have thought that it would have been in any band's benefit to ignore the acoustic qualities of a hall...regardless of whether its a contest or concert or whatever.

    Don't forget, adjudicators are after good performances, overall performances I mean....and if you have to drop the sound level of your ff, then you should drop the sound level of your pp as well...making your dynamic range relative to the quietest and loudest you want to play.
  11. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I direct the honourable member to my earlier response... ;)

    Nic, I think you are arguing against a point which has not been made. People are not arguing that it is good to overload a hall, but rather that a hall that is easily overloadable is a poor choice of venue for a band contest.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2010
  12. davethehorny

    davethehorny Member

    As both a player and a contest organiser I can sympathise with your thoughts, however (yes you knew there would be a however) as a movment we can only continue to hold contests in venues with decent acoustics if we can afford to pay for them.

    As Hon Sec of the GBBA the task of organising two contests every year falls on 'yours truly' and I suddenly find that the cost of holding the contests in the same venue from one booking to the next has doubled. As we struggle to break even we cannot absorb the extra costs unless we increase the entry fee for bands and audience or encourage twice as many bands to enter our competitions.

    Our choice is therefore simple a) pay more for the venue and lose money b) change venue to one that we can afford but may not be as good to play in c) not hold a contest at all or d) increase prices to bands and spectators.

    In the end we get what we pay for. We would love to hold every contest in the Colston Hall or equivalent but it is fantasy to expect the Association to be able to afford the crippling cost of hiring the venue. We therefore try to put on the best contest possible in the best venue possible and hope that everyone feels that it was an acceptable place to play in and that they have not been ripped off to take part.

    The reason for the soaring costs have been the reduction of finance that is expected to be received by the venue by the government and therefore they have no choice but become a more commercial operation and try to cover their costs from those wishing to hire the venue.

    From a players point of view, I just want the best place possible to play in after weeks practicing for a performance of less than 20 minutes. Prior to getting involved in contest organising, I had no idea of the amount of effort that it took to put on a contest on the day and leading up to it.

    Please don't knock the organisers - they are all unpaid brass band enthusiasts tryign to do their best for the movement.

    Climbing off soapbox!!
  13. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    But I don't agree that the choice of the hall IS the poor choice that's made. Okay some of the halls are better and easier to play in than others, but it is up to the BAND to make the most of the venue.

    Other than that, there is no point in moaning...unless you are willing to put the time and effort into looking at alternatives....and maybe paying a bit more to enter contests. I dread to think how expensive an acoustically fantastic venue would cost (such as Symphony Hall etc).....
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    That's pretty obvious. We're just talking past each other, I think.
  15. davethehorny

    davethehorny Member

    Or perhaps our Musical Directors should take time to think about the acoustics so that we can ensure our sound suits the venue.

    We spent a lot of time taking the edge off our sound when winning at Wychavon because the venue had a very low ceiling. Well done MD!
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2010
  16. DMBabe

    DMBabe Supporting Member

    Easier said than done if, as was mentioned before, contest organisers keep changing venues or as can happen one year to the next hall providers change acoustic effecting decor such as use of drapes/stage exension platforms etc. I don't get how a band can be expected to turn up at a venue and play and adapt knowing exactly what the stage will be like without hiring the hall prior to the contest. After all we've all played on stages which feel and sound completely different to the band onstage as to the audience. you know the sort..... the sound falls out of the end of your bell and hits the floor so you think you've got to work harder to project when in fact the audience can hear everything fine, so the band ends up overcompensating for a poor acoustic. Also I've played in venues where the back of the band can hear fine but the front can't.... we're on stage for less than 15 minutes so how do we find this out? Oh yeah, after we come off stage. :roll:
  17. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Surely that's where the MD plays his/her part by listening to a couple of bands before you play and reporting back to the band. I'm sure most players are sufficiently musical to be able to adjust if given the right guidance, and as has already been said it isn't only dynamic levels per se, but also issues such as attack and articulation.
  18. davethehorny

    davethehorny Member

    :clap: Well said that man!
  19. DMBabe

    DMBabe Supporting Member

    Not if its a contest where going to listen to any bands prior to going on is near impossible due to bands being kept far away for registration and warm-up (if there is any) and bus parking as often happens at smaller venues. And also I made the point about many venues being completely different on stage than in the audience so how would listening to other bands help?:confused:
  20. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I should have thought most MDs would be experienced enough to be able to judge how hard the band on stage seems to be having to work in order to get the results the audience is hearing, and should be able to at least give a few pointers - not ideal, clearly, but better than nothing!