The problem with bands these days

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by mr_anon, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. mr_anon

    mr_anon Member

    I left the banding scene at around the millenium. Main reasons were that the standards of our top bands had deteriorated so much. There had become far too much emphasis on blowing as loud as you can. A band from Wales was winning prizes when the only prize I would have given them was a prize for the loudest band of the day. I certainly would not have credited such a band with prizes for best musicality, nicest sound, tuning, balance...

    Soon this fashion of trying to "blow louder than any band had ever before in the history of man" caught on to many other top bands. Many of our past great players would find it difficult playing in the top bands of today. If you can't play loud, people aren't interested. Bands rarely play quiet with real musicianship, tuning and quality. Dynamics are totally overdone- not just the mf+ dynamics but also cresc and dims are too in your face, very little sublety, very little class.

    The test pieces that top bands are asked to play have probably helped to contribute to this problem. Players have become obsessed with dynamic marks, time changes, technically challenging bits, high notes, playing super tight, speed playing, quick mute changes and have lost focus on the things that really matter such as musicality, emotion, quality sound, empathy, expression...

    Finally, the internet has brought with it fanzines and message boards where certain bands and players are being hyped up far beyond their abilities, talked about as heroes, by inept writers. Again, loud players are the ones who tend to get the hype and the hero tag.

    To summarise: the power and muscle approach to band playing has in my opinion made brass bands sound worse. We need to get back to basics and stop rewarding pyrotechnic bands for their awful performances.
  2. skweeky

    skweeky Member

    test pieces with time changes and mute changes etc are really the best test pieces for bands. Anyone can reel off a good performance of an easy test piece, but bands will find it difficult to produce a musical performance at the same time as being physically tested. Banding in the contests sense has become a lot harder, for example:
    time signature changes
    key changes
    dynamics (ppp<fff)
    parts are written considerably higher (eg euphonium parts sail around top D's)

    As time goes on, banding will always get harder! a few years ago a 3rd cornet part in a test piece was below middle C but now they have to struggle with top A's, B's

    Bands that tackle these problems are good bands, bands who dont manage to overcome these obstacles are not going to be very successful :-?
  3. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    There is some truth to what you say MR. Anonymous, but only some. I belive for a period of time the bands that made the music the most exciting were rewarded by adjudicators. These would typically be the best bands that play the fastest and loudest. High marks at a contest by adjudicators would perpetuated this problem. However, as recent contests have suggested, adjudicators are now looking for mor than just the loud and fast part. I can't remember which adjudicator it was (I believe one at the Open or Nationals - or possibly both since two of the three were the same) but he said he was looking for bands that would take a chance on the soft end of things. If adjudicators follow this approach for at least a few more major contest, I think you will see the musicality you are looking for.
  4. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    Absolute rubbish

    I have heard many bands at many levels. I have played with many bands at many levels. I have heard very few performances that I would class as musical.
    If you had said that anyone can reel off a series of notes, I would agree. Any idiot can play a series of dots on a page, if they have the inclination to spend hours practising. To take these notes and make them musical - that is a serious challenge.

    A recording I have that I really enjoy is of Pageantry, played by YBS. This is not the most technical piece in the world, but it is very rare to hear it played musically. When you hear a good performance of it, the musicality blows you away.

    If you are looking for the greatest musical band, I think that is a very thing compared to looking for a band that can rattle off any amount of hemidemisemiquavers. In the cases of YBS, Black Dyke etc, the bands can do both, but the primary motive behind many bands is to produce technical performances, rather than musical ones.
    This is one of the reasons I left the banding world. Technicality contests (for that is all they are in the majority of cases) hold no interest for me.

    Musicality is one of the hardest things for a performer and one of the hardest things to teach. A musical performance of an easier piece will hold a greater interest for the majority of people in comparison to the pyrotechnics favoured by those who set test pieces.
    If all you are after is a series of technical displays - enjoy them - come back when you have a sense of musicality.
  5. mr_anon

    mr_anon Member

    Agreed. Skweeky is perhaps confusing notebashing with music.

    Spot on. Glad I'm not the only one to have left banding for these reasons. From what I see, things have not improved much either.
  6. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    Mr ANON: I think to be honest you have missed the point,slightly.

    Bands have come on a great deal in terms of sound and techical ability, even over the last 4/5 years.
    I have played in all sections over the years of banding during the last 30 years,in a junior contest i played Suite Gothique, with the junior band i was with, the reaction of the audience when it was announced was they will not play this,the out come was we WON the contest,by 10 clear points the adjudicators were full of praise in the remarks and one of the adjudicators (TED MASSEY) remarked in his speech it was one of the most ambitous choices for a junior band he had ever seen,but it would have taken a 3rd/2nd section band to better the performance, that was in 1979.
    Just to go off the track slightly from what you have said, Have you seen the test pieces picked for the 2005 AREAS? now have a vety carefull look at the piece picked for the 3rd section"TAM O SHANTERS RIDE" this will test and really sort every 3rd section band out in the country.
    I will be playing in the first section on COMEDY.
    The last 2 years the 1st section bands have had 2 GREAT PIECES to play and that as pushed them further, in terms of sound and technical ability,you have got to expect things to move forward or else what is the point,we/ us who are playing now might as well take your attitude and stop playing.
    But we love our banding and get on with it.:)
  7. mr_anon

    mr_anon Member

    The important things have not gone forward. Bands are playing louder, higher, faster... but not better.

    As for more technical pieces finding their way down to the third section, I don't find this to be such good news. Generally speaking, people in the third section are not as dedicated to their instruments compared to higher section players and they take a longer time to learn pieces. Giving them a pyrotechnic piece is a great way to make them lose interest in banding.
  8. JR

    JR Member

    You make some very fair points - but hasnt the backlash begun? - witness the Pontins result where the judges were at pains to penalise the overblowers - could be a new trend?

    john r
  9. Incognito

    Incognito Member

    Over practiced.

    Peaked a week before the contest.

    No adenaline in performance.

    Totally fed up with the piece anyway by that stage anyway.

    "Blinded" to the whole musical sense of it by the time they go on stage.

    That could be any band of course, but I think its a fair assesment.
    And I notice the concert/wind bands seem to be heading in the same direction.
  10. stephen_clapton

    stephen_clapton New Member

    Im affraid I cant agree here. At Chinnor, I think it is fair to say a large majority of the time, the players put in a lot of effort when we are preparing for a contest, and its is very rare to have 4-5 people missing from a rehearsal through-out the year (excluding people on holiday/ill), as we all want to do well. Im sure this is the case in many other bands as well over the country as well.

    As for harder pieces being moved down towards the "lower sections", I think this can only be a good thing, as people wont get bored, and have something to work towards.
  11. sober_phil

    sober_phil Member

    Lower profile than pontins, but I believe over blowing was also penalised at the Malton entertainment contest last weekend.
  12. ScrapingtheBottom

    ScrapingtheBottom Active Member

    Yes I agree. Having listened to Tam O'Shanters Ride I think it is a hard piece for 3rd section, not just because of the "technical" challenges, but also in the expression - for instance after the opening the trombone phrase has to be played in a very certain style (it must 'jig') and there is a definate stylistic change as the second, more romantic, melody takes over, which requires a shift in tone from the whole band. As for the piece we have been given for the 4th section, divertimento, it has many musical nuances that must be played correctly in order to catch the essence of the piece. I don't understand the fact that many people who have had a bad experience with bands tend to seperate technique, tuning, dynamics, ensemble playing etc from what they term as 'musicality', I consider these things an integral part of musicality along with empathy, phrasing, tone, etc.
  13. I very much agree. Bands are playing much louder, with little class. However, it isn't always to say 'it dosn't sound good' or it is not at a good standered. I certainly would not say that all top ranked bands sound bad because they play loud.
  14. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    I think that is the real trick. It really takes a good band to sound good loud. Loud is not always better, but it can be if it is well-balanced, in tune and does not get too bright.

    I would say most bands (even at the Championship level) can't do this that well and should turn down the dynamics to a level that is played well.

    Equally as difficult can be controlled pianissimos.
  15. Syrup

    Syrup Member

    Just cos people play loud doesn't make them a bad player, you have to balance this against their entire dynamic range. The loudest players I have ever heard are:

    Nick Payne (cornet)
    Pete Roberts (sop)
    Kevin Crockford (sop)
    Billy Rushworth (horn)
    Deano (bass)

    They play loud because they can, and its in a controlled way, but they can also play incredibly quiet. They are top players in top bands.

    Overblowing is a different thing, usually done by people who can't play quiet, sound strained doing it, and have a limited dynamic range.
  16. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    So are you saying that dynamic markings, playing tight etc. don't really matter?! I understand what you're trying to get across, though I do personally feel that you're over-simplifying the matter somewhat - what you've actually said in the above quote is effectively that it's ok to ignore the dynamics and (heavens!) even time signature changes because they aren't the things that "really matter". I'm assuming, of course, that that's not what you actually meant....
  17. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Much has been said about the 2nd and 3rd section area pieces being "too hard" but judging from listening to the CD (we have'nt had a loom at it yet) the 1st section (and to an extent the top section, piece will be very playable (technically) and not suitable for the current trend of over loud playing being discussed here - maybe the band with the best sound, tuning, interpretaion, etc will have a chance !

    No hope for us then !
  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the technological advances in instrument design and manufacture that makes playing louder and harder to control! This has been seen to be a problem in orchestras in recent times for the simple reason the brass family has been the only instrumental group that has went through radical change (and become louder as a consequence).
  19. Incognito

    Incognito Member

    Has the design of brass band instruments changed much in the past 10 or 15 years?

    I am not sure that it has, and most of the newcomers to the brass band market are basing their instruments on older designs anyway.

    Even in the trumpet world people ares till playing on the sort of instruments orchestral players were using in the early 70's (Bach Strad, Schilke and their various clones).
    The trumpets which can blow louder without breaking up tend to be getting used by jazz musicians, and usually people at the cooler end of jazz who tend not to play loud anyway.
  20. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

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