Tempo Markings..... why bother!!!

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by MaxPressure, Feb 1, 2007.

  1. MaxPressure

    MaxPressure Member

    Before I begin I must first state that I know we didn't play a winning performance and I congratulate the bands that were placed.:clap:

    Now onto my moan...........

    We were critisised at one point in our performance because the adjudicator didn't like the tempo we took one of the sections in the piece. But we took the section in question, at the tempo marked. (our MD had his pocket metronome ticking away at the marked tempo to make sure.) If the adjudicator doesn't like the tempo the piece is written at surely he should take it up with the composer, and not penalise the band for playing whats written.
    This isn't the only time I've seen this kind of critisism, and it wasn't always with bands I have been playing with.
    If some adjudicators are going to mark bands down because they don't like the marked tempos, why bother putting them in, what I mean is instead of marking 'crotchet=92' just mark it 'andante' and let the band guess at which end of the scale it should be.

    I understand that no one is going to get the exact tempo that's marked, but they should get very close to it, and if the piece has a specific tempo marking then that is how the composer says it should be played, and if the adjudicator doesn't like it at that speed, he shouldn't critisise (unless the band can't play it).

    How many times have you heard a band play a passage alot quicker or slower than marked.... and then seen the same band go on to win, in my mind it is this that judges should be penalising and certainly not rewarding, just because you can play a hard bit faster than marked doesn't mean you should.
    As I said at the beginning of this thread, this isn't sour grapes, as we know we didn't play well enough to win, but if we are to be critisised, let it be for the bits we got wrong, and not the bits we got right.:mad:

    these are my views and not the opinions of my band.
  2. JR

    JR Member

    What was the piece?
    And which passage therein?

    John R
  3. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    John...I suspect I could probably make a well educated guess at the piece and contest in question, but I'll leave it up to Lee to decide how much information to give up! ;)

    He does have a point though, at a recent contest I went to, the winning band played a very conservative (ie slow, basically) speed for a very difficult opening to a test piece. OK, but the opening was supposed to be representing anticipation and excitement (the composer said as much in his score notes) and IMO playing it "safe" kind of goes against that idea, don't you think?

    All this comes back to a fundimental problem with lower section contests - does a band go for the overall "feel" of what the music is attempting to portray, maybe at the expense of getting all the notes in, or does every single note matter, to the point that the overall effect is compromised?

    Personally I'd go for the former, but I know of several adjudicators who'd opt for the latter. Which goes back to something I've suggested before and have got absolutely machine-gunned for it....why not get an overall perspective from the adjudicators as to what they are looking for sometime before the contest day?
  4. JR

    JR Member

    I wish judging was a more exact science, but I'm afraid it ain't!
    It comes down to a compromise in the lower sections, but you cannot get away from necessity at this level of choosing a tempo that enables the band to play the notes comfortably - there's nothing more disappointing than judging bands in the 2nd/3rd/4th sections where the conductor chooses tempi that are either manifestly too fast for the players e.g. last movt of Wilby's Postcards taken at a ludicrous double tonguing lick, or blatantly too slow, exposing the musical frailties of the band to the maximum e.g. middle movt of Alan Fernie's Gothic Dances, 2nd movt of Langford's Sinfonietta at Harrogate last year, or, worst of all 2nd movt of Snell's Images - some bands virtually stopped!
    I have always been in favour of some explanation to help the "lower" sections in advance and Alan Morrison's judging criteria go some way to help this, though, in my opinion, merely reproduce the Associated Board performance criteria.

    John R
  5. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    I think we agree here (sorry a bit sozzled due to wine etc...:oops: ) certainly Alan Morrison's suggestions would be a big step forward. Currently its a lottery - my band's MD will always go for the musical picture (within the range of the plaers of course) - and have fallen foul of that sometimes - knowing that we tried to play a creditable musical performance but we got nailed by the adjudicator because he coudn't hear the detail of the 2nd euph's one bar of triple tonguing is galling. Especially when a band who play a yawn inducing, but notationally correct version played at 3/4 speed win...:)
  6. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Just a brief point: a metronome marking alone is not necessarily going to produce the right effect. You can have two readings, both at exactly the same mark, but sounding very different because of the various approaches in terms of style, articulation etc. Often, a slightly steadier pulse, but with shorter, lighter notes, can feel as if it is flowing much better.
  7. MaxPressure

    MaxPressure Member

    the piece was kaleidescope, and it was the 3rd variation
  8. Pav

    Pav Member

    I was more worried by 4BR describing us as understated on the podcast. Never been more insulted in my life.

    Pav (never knowingly understated)
  9. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    I really shouldn't worry, we are always going to get this type of deserved or undeserved comment - it is only one persons subjective opinion of what they hear. That's it!

    As for the tempo marking - this is unexplainable in my opinion. I would imagine that a high percentage of bands have experienced criticism of a piece played at the wrong tempo, when a metronome proves conclusively otherwise. It would be interesting to read the views and comments of any of our members who are also adjudicators regarding this.
  10. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    I guess it comes down to the same old thing...

    "Good adjudicators put you first..."
  11. Vickitorious

    Vickitorious Active Member

    It all comes down to interpretation and opinion at the end of the day :)
  12. JR

    JR Member

    Interesting that this is about a Sparke piece. I don't know Kaleidoscope well enough to comment specifically but I do know most of Philip's other works very well. He is very precise on tempo markings - the same ones crop up again and again e.g. crotchet = 54 opening to Harmony Music, 2nd movt Year of Dragon - if you take it much slower than this it just doesnt flow
    Crotchet = 138 for last movt Year of Dragon, Partita, opening to Dances and Alleluias.
    Peter Bale is absolutely correct to state earlier in the thread, that music can sound slower (or faster) depending on the musicality of the conductor, lightness of touch etc as much as the rigid pulse of the metronome marking - this is why the great conductors in front of class bands can get away with, on occasions, very slow (or fast) tempos - I'll give you a couple of examples -Dyke from 1985 with the middle movt of Royal Parks - very slow but flows beautifully, Dyke from the 70s playing Epic Symphony 2nd movt - 8 in a bar but still magic.
    Both conducted by Maj Parkes of course
    I have an earlier one - Geoffrey Brand, again with Dyke, from 1968 this time with John O'Gaunt - the first appearance of the big tune after the opening is taken about 20 crotchets below the mark - still works though!

    John R
  13. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Not sure I agree with that comment Tom. The item we are discussing as a purely objective matter, and cannot be a subjective one i.e. that of tempo - it can be accurately measured. So, if a band plays to the temp indicated on the score - apart from electronic discrepancies perhaps in the equipment used (amounting to milliseconds I guess) why is it that some adjudicators have made comment about erroneous tempos?

    It doesn't make any sense, and in my opinion needs an answer from someone whio is an adjudicator themselves.
  14. JR

    JR Member

    I've just given you one

    John Roberts
  15. MaxPressure

    MaxPressure Member

    whilst i agree with all the above comments, my point is....

    when a band takes to the contest stage they are given a piece of music to perform, and the tempo markings tell the MD how quick or slow the piece should go, and yes sometimes it might sound better a bit quicker or a bit slower, but in my opinionon the contest stage, the band should attempt to play the markings that are there. (you wouldn't get away with play ff instead of pp just because you thought it sounded better so you wouldn't do it) and the same should apply to tempo markings. On the concert stage is the time to play the piece how you really want to, but on the contest stage the test is to play as close to what is on the score as you possably can, and the adjudicator ( again this is only my opinion ) should mark the bands on how close they get to what is on the score, and not on how close they get to how they would like to hear it. ( I heard a brass band story but i dont know if it's true, but it highlights this point..... mr Sparke was taking a band on one of his pieces at a contest, and at one point the remarks read 'I don't think this is what the composer was looking for' several people have told this story but as i say i don't know if it is true)

    There are more ways of putting your own interpretation on a piece than changing the tempo's, as Peter said earlier by playing with differences in style you can change how a piece sounds.
    Like I said to begin with, If you are going to ignore the precise tempo marking that are put on the score, why bother putting them there. Composers could save themselves a bit of ink and just put a general tempo mark, and let the band guess at what it should be. (instead of allegro crotchet=132 , just mark it allegro and let the band guess at which end of the allegro scale it should be....... anything from about 120 to 168ish, which is a huge difference)

    Composers put these tempo marking there because that is how fast they want the music to be played, and I for one think it would be nice to honour their wishes, and attempt to play what is written.
  16. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Thank you John, I missed your post when I made mine. Cheers for this.
  17. Pav

    Pav Member

    Point taken JR but isn't that a reason not to criticise a tempo (ie it worked) rather than the original post which asked why you should be criticised for playing the written tempo.

    If the adjudicator wanted to comment on the style (too heavy?) as in Peter's point maybe he should have written that but he didn't.

  18. alks

    alks Member

    Interestingly we were discussing tempos in band the other week. This years 4th section regionals test piece "seasons" is played by Fairy band on this years regionals cd. They take part of the first movement at a completely differnet tempo than is stated on the music. Since many bands may buy the regionals cd how will thiis effect how bands will play it on the day? Our conductor pondered on really what was the best tempo considering that the regionals cd is the official cd. Is then the regionals cd perposely differn't in tempo to throw some bands off the scent ?

  19. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    This sounds like something our conductor says a lot - every piece has a speed at which it sounds - and feels - right. That may vary between bands playing the same piece, according to how they play it (dymanic, attack, style, all the rest of it).

    (If that makes sense!)

    I think slavish attention to tempo is like slavish attention to lines, dots, and all the rest, it won't neccessarily result in a good performance. It may be technically right, but will anyone want to listen to it?

    That's music. And why being an adjudicator is so difficult - they're giving an opinion, not a measurement.
  20. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member


    p.s., it must be remembered that it was rumoured that Beethoven's metronome was faulty and has created much contraversy regarding suitable speeds for his works. That, combined with the Italian tempo markings (esp. for andante) in the 19th Century started to become drawn out and slower doesn't help much when interpreting and using metronome indicators.


    However, with more accurate machines, composers in the 20th/21st Centuries can be more specific with speeds and use exact criteria as metronome marks. If the composers can be a little more flexible with other people interpreting their works, so can adjudicators.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2007

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