Test Pieces? Take a "cue" from Ice Skating??

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by DocFox, Jan 23, 2009.

  1. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    Almost every musical competition (except maybe Drum and Bugle Corps) has a similar problem - test pieces. Now test pieces are helpful to the adjudicators -- it helps them compare Apples to Apples. It has a drawback also, it can get just boring after awhile.

    I am not taking this post lightly. I have been thinking about for quite sometime. Perhaps those who have gone before us can provides some lessons. First I want to look at Ice Skating. Remember Figure Skating? It is no longer (except as a slip of the tongue) called Figure Skating. Why?

    Well it used to be that the skaters for about 30% of their score did figures. It was basics. Figures 8's, etc. Even at the Olympic Level, no one would pay to watch the figure portion. It was boring. Now it helped the judges (much like test pieces) but it didn't move anyone.

    Dorthy Hamel doing her figures in 1976. See the grove in the ice from others doing their figures!

    Ice Skating eliminated the figures and put in a "short program" with required elements. It became 40% of the scoring (if memory serves me right). Instantly the short programs sold out. Admittedly, it made it a bit harder to adjudicate, but not that much.

    How about the top music competition in the US, drum and bugle corps. They play only one 11 1/2 minute show, but have about 10 adjudicators. Each adjudicator has a speciality - drums, choreography, music, general effect, etc. The percussion judge could care less is a trumpet play plays rotten note. But if the drums are not in perfect sync, now they get involved.

    So I would like to have a discussion on test pieces with the above as a backdrop. I'll give my thoughts in the next post.
  2. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    I think the marks "we" would be more interested in would be "artistic impression" Jim.
  3. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    I have some thoughts. More experience and brilliant minds could probably build upon this or tell me why it would not work.

    First is the cue from Figure Skating. Instead of a test piece per se, have about 10 to 20 piece list all of about the same difficultly for each division. Each band picks a piece from the list. Yes, they would hamper the adjudicators some, but if they all were about the same level in difficultly -- would it be too much for the adjudicators for overcome?

    Then of course, the band would pick a piece of their own choosing. A time limit would be necessary. But perhaps the audiences would come back. Perhaps the bands that played in the morning would spend more time in the concert hall and less time in the pub (I know, what fun is THAT?).

    Seriously, you can have a pint anytime with your bandmates.

    This is what I favor.

    Butlins, using more adjudicators and having heats could be worked into the solution also (taking a cue from drum and bugle corps).

  4. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    Well, both Drum Corps and Ice Skating that is a big part of the scoring.

  5. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    Another thing Drum Corps do is have standard scoring sheets. General Effect (interpretation) is around 40% of the scoring. This has the adjudicators placing the same weight on the same element.

    Just another thought.

  6. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    Do the drum corps get marked on intonation Jim?
  7. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    Absolutely. Because of that, they work on intonation all the time. 150 on the field and about 80 brass. Yet they can play the classicals while on the move. Unlike Albert Hall, wherever they have finals, very expensive tickets are always sold out and they show the Pre-Lims in theaters across the nation.

    Top corps sell "souvies" (shirts, CDs, and other stuff) to the tune of about £4000 every night they compete. I knew a Senior University trumpet major who didn't make the Blue Devils Bugle Corps because they said he intonation would not cut it.

    The thing is, if you developed a score sheet, you could put what you think is important on it. DCI (Drum Corps International) and DCUK (Drum Corps UK) have changes their sheets over the years until they got what they think is fair.

  8. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    There are some contests in the UK where you choose a march, hymn and test piece, and some where you just choose a short programme, with some rules to govern what pieces can be chosen. The same issues come up though. People say they got slated because the adjudicator didn't like the piece, then there's always the possibility of rumours of bands being more identifiable due to unique programme choices and "fixing".

    It's just the nature of contesting that, no matter how it's done, there's only 1 winner, and so everyone else feels they have to justify how they got a wrong result. Human nature ;).
  9. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    Those are excellent points. Music is one of the few "contests" done blind (the adjudicators don't know who is playing). They did a poll (I looked, I couldn't find it) of judges if they knew who was on stage. Over 60% of the time they did. How? Cues. They way the band came on, but usually whispers from the audience.

    Now that begs the question, if they know, is the box doing what it should? Ice Skating and Drum Corps the judges know who is up. They use enough judges and scoring sheets to keep good check and balance to avoid "fixing".

    Our high school concert band contests had 7 judges. They sat out in the open. Narry a complaint. The previous year they had two adjudicators in boxes. Lots of complaints.

    With that many judges, "fixing" would stick out. You can also take another cue from skating and throw out the high and the low scores.

    Drum and Bugle Corps has I think 10 judges at finals. Any bias or fixing would be noted. In fact, this year was "special". They Pre-lims on Thursday. 24 championship level corps start. It is cut to the top 17 for semi-finals on Friday and down to 12 corps for finals on Saturday.

    Let me tell you, in the little time in-between, they practice like crazy, trying to get an extra 1/10 of a point! This year, at pre-lims, Phantom Regiment finished 3rd, and back a bit. At semis they marched "out-of-their-shoes" and moved up to 2nd. Then at Finals they won by a decent margin. They just kept marching better and better and better. Bam -- they won. 3rd to 1st in 3 days, and it was well earned.

    All this "in the open."

    Now these are not "solutions" -- just ideas.


    BTW, DCI Finals tickets average $50. They seat about 30,000 (half a football field). That is 1.5 Million in sales for one day. Plus, for $20 you can pay to watch it streamed live on your computer. DCI splits the money with all the corps so the top corps don't keep getting richer and richer and pull away. The Finalist corps get a tad more.

    When Albert Hall fills up and people pay to watch it on their computer or "buy as you view" (sorry Cory) something will be right.

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