Um-Chucks - and getting simple stuff RIGHT

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jack E, Nov 27, 2017.

  1. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I found it using Google (search: from umchucks to cadenzas), it was at the top of the first page of results together with a supplier.

    The book is available from the beginning of December. I haven’t included details as that would give Mello’s real name here, and I don’t believe that he would wish to promote his book by diverting this thread either. The book’s about a tenner and I would guess that it’s some form of biography.

    Edit. Looks like Dave was responding as I was researching and preparing my own comment. I’d like to think that great minds think alike, but compared to me Dave’s rather clever so I’ll just think this coincidence instead.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
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  2. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Interesting thread to read and an interesting title.

    Perhaps to extend the concept folk get hung up about having the best instrument possible, so that they are the best player possible, and then don’t get the stuff they put into the instrument right. Hence it’s the man or woman behind the mouthpiece that makes the difference and this thread illustrates how what they do makes that difference. I’ve said before that student and intermediate instruments aren’t properly valued, that comment isn’t popular but folk refuse to understand that they rather than their instrument are (the biggest factor in) what holds back the quality of the music they produce. The OP understands the value of a good student instrument, I think he’s very happy with his Regent

    By way of further illustration of the importance of player input: I normally play a nice Sovereign but a visitor and dep to the band plays an old worn Imperial; though I’m not a bad player (I make a reasonable job of ‘The Acrobat’) when compared to them what comes out of my bell is rubbish. Getting the simple stuff right, the more complicated stuff right and interpretation right does make a huge difference.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
  3. AMbrass1

    AMbrass1 New Member

    My suggestion is to fill the gaps (rests) with a silent note in your mind. keep all of the bar (measure) occupied with played and silent notes. a metronome would be useful. when I conduct I often find that most players usually do a fair job of playing the notes but give them rests all hell can break out. Dizzy G. was absalutely right a silence is just as important as a note!
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  4. David Broad

    David Broad Member

    I think the OPs post is flawed.
    I have long held the view that some parts are un-practicable when played in isolation, and most of them counter productive, thinking about "Um Chucks" in particular.
    Horns, 2nd Cornet, Baritones practising playing "Chucks" is counter productive as the emphasis goes on the wrong note . Da, -Da,- Da,da,Da instead of da,-da, da,Da,da.
    Exercises are different, play them, record them, pay them back. Better still put the exercise into Sibelius or as I do Musescore and play it through the speakers while you record yourself and the tape. However its not quite that simple as written music defines clearly where the note starts but not where it ends, there is always a gap between consecutive notes while you end the first and strike the second. The gap varies, a 7th to 1st position Trombone sequence takes longer than two consecutive G's on 2nd Cornet so the anticipation time of the next note is greater. With Um Chucks the Bass notes often need trimming back to 75% of the length of a Crochet in 4/4 to sound right, writing in Musescore and trying to replicate a sound track I often find myself using dotted quavers to get the right bass sound when the original has crochets in 4/4. Crochets, Crochets with a dot over, Quavers, dotted Quavers are all used by composers in different eras to write that same Um Chug beat
    Generally it matters not whether the notes are a full crochet long, or three quarters as long as everyone playing that rhythm in the ensemble plays the note to the same length. Generally Solo Horn in older music will lead that "Rhythm" section and if you want a good sound only the instruments on the Tonic will be playing a straight even tempered note as defined on the electronic tuner. With all music hitting the beat is what matters, that is the point my stick stops when I'm conducting, there are few things more annoying than when the Basses (Drums in some bands) get their heads down and charge into some great Bass Rhythm too fast (Bridge over troubled waters is an excellent example) and ruin the whole piece. Jazz, swing, all require that underlying beat and sometimes it is a lop sided beat, Much waltz music has the second beat in 3/4 advanced by a demisemiquaver or so compared to 1st and 3rd if you listen hard to old records. It is that phrasing from following the section leader who is following the Conductor which determines which bands are pleasant to listen to and those which are not.
    I don't like metronomes. Quite often mechanical ones don't beat at the speed they are set to and don't beat regularly unless dead level. I use the second hand of my watch or sometimes a stop watch to check rhythms, remembering to count "Nought" as the timing starts, in 2/4 Five down beats in 5 sec = 120 bpm, 4.5 = 108 (a speed most bands seem to think is march time) etc. However as an exercise I listen to a record, hum along and then turn the sound down, I keep humming and then when I turn the sound back up hopefully I am still in time. It needs practice but I find it well worth it.
  5. GER

    GER Active Member

    I think we should be talking about two different things: At home the practice should be regimented, and as precise as possible, to gives you a fuller understanding of the importance of timing and counting correctly. It should also give you the confidence to be able to partake in the second part, a band situation, where the situation may be a bit more flexible, but surely, home practice of 'accompaniments' must always be as exact as you can make it, if you don't get the basics right, how can you realise your potential.?
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  6. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    I agree with this. I guess the controversial (for want of a better word) element is how do we become 'exact' with our home practice...

    Using the analogy of hitting a nail with a hammer, we are taught that simply looking at the nail head is the best way to get an accurate strike. We're not taught to "ensure that the hammer face strikes the nail within 1cm of its centre" or similar.

    Shouldn't we apply the same logic / advice to music (at least initially), "feel the pulse and play with it"?
    I wonder if over-analysing and measuring to the extent suggested in some posts here could be counterproductive and cause an unconfident um-chucker to become terrified.
    Jack E likes this.
  7. GER

    GER Active Member

    Whilst I see your point, isn't 'feeling the pulse' what happens when you start to learn an instrument?. When you become serious about it, at some point, I believe it is of utmost importance to learn the basics, they are the foundation or' building blocks' for your progression, don't get that right and at some stage your foundation gives in and you collapse. To use your analogy Yes looking at the nail is the best way to get an accurate strike, but if you wanted to hit the nail so it achieved the desired result constantly, and with the least effort, the better answer may be to hit within 1cm of it's centre, and that should be the aim of both the teacher and the student. Once you have mastered that, you can do all sorts of tricks, because you know that as long as you hit that nail correctly you will not fail.
    Please don't get me wrong, there's nothing I like better than using rits, ralls dims cresc's etc etc to bring a piece of music to life, I just think that the most important thing that allows us, as musicians, to do that is a sound knowledge of the basics
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  8. Slider1

    Slider1 Active Member

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  9. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    So, if I shouldn't be "playing my part in isolation", exactly how do you propose that I practise it between band rehearsals?

    It would help me follow your argument if you'd explained what you mean by Da as compared to -Da, and da as compared to -da. I thought I'd made it clear in my initial post, but in the pieces I'm currently rehearsing, I have a number of consecutive bars where I play (in 4/4) crotchet, crotchet rest, crotchet, crotchet rest. I don't know whether you'd call that um-chuck or chuck-um, but if you'd explained the point you were trying to make in terms of crotchets and rests, instead of Da's and da's, and -Da's and -da's, it would be a lot clearer.

    I don't have either the equipment or the software to do that - and I'm working on a very limited budget.

    I don't play a trombone; I play baritone horn - so I fail to see the significance to me of that second sentence.

    But , if I don't have the skill required to "trim the note back to 75% the length of a crotchet in 4/4", accurately, every time, just HOW am I supposed to do that?

    So what? You've obviously completely missed the point of my original post - which was NOT about the different variations of um-chuck, nor really about um-chuck beats at all. The OP was about my realisation that I could use the um-chuck bars in my current concert pieces to help me develop the skill of getting the start and finish of each note and rest exactly where I want them. Once I can do that, if the MD asks me to advance or delay the start or finish of a note or rest a little bit, to achieve a required effect, then I'll have the ability to do it.

    But, as I've said above, if I don't have the ability to start and finish each note at the exact right time, we WON'T all be playing the note to the same length, will we?

    Now, you've gone completely off-topic, and into a personal rant.

    Your choice. Some people find them helpful, and so do I.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
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  10. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Don't shoot the messenger! I just posted the link - TMP automatically added the text that drew your attention.
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  11. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    At least initially, I couldn't agree more - if you can't feel the music, even if you play all the right notes, in the right order, and follow the notation exactly, it will still be lifeless. In contrast, I've heard singers and musicians who are definitely lacking in technical ability on many levels, yet still have what it takes to bring their music to life and stir your soul.

    Nonetheless, having listened to a video clip of Bert Sullivan playing with GUS (thanks again for that tip, Moomin Dave!), with crispness of articulation that I'd give my eye teeth for, I can see how that precision can allow you to play pieces superbly well, which without that skill would be quite impossible.

    For me, 4th Cornet, it's all about stepping stones! :)

    With best regards,

  12. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I'm with you on that, GER. It was pointed out to me, a while back, by one of our Bb basses, that if you have to put too much concentration onto the very basic stuff when playing with the band, sooner or later you will miss a vital piece of music notation, or a cue from the conductor, and may well make a right muck of a whole phrase. So, he said, it's essential to get the basics off so pat that you don't need to think about them at all.

    I remember when I was learning to drive, the part I hated the most was reversing round a corner. But now? When I'm reversing out of a parking slot in a supermarket, and having to watch out for not only parked cars, but also cars coming in and going out, and people (and children!) with kamikaze trolleys, I know that without that early training, I'd be a menace to public safety.

    With best regards,

  13. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    I believe the OP is a relative learner hence my inclination to try and bring the advice back to basics. Equally, I would guess that most people looking for advice on um-chucks will be early on in their playing career.

    I disagree. Hitting within 1 cm may be the output from a scientific study, but sharing this advice as an "aim to" will almost definitely cause the pupil to over try and be less effective. I'd maybe share it as an incidental fact, but only if qualified with "but don't try for this, just look at the nail head".

    Thinking back to all the things we learn throughout life, seldom are the technical details behind what you're doing useful until pretty advanced; until then they usually become distracting, confusing and counterproductive.
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  14. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I've definitely still got 'L' plates up, 4th Cornet! Though I got started about two years ago, with time out for heart surgery and ensuing complications, my total effective time is probably about a year in all.

    That's pretty much the approach taken by my tutors in the very early stages, when they suggested that I concentrate on a good sound. Only when I could get a decent note, reliably, did they start encouraging me to think about such points as the shape of notes, and how a march, a children's dance and a hymn needed different shaping to fit the type of music it was.

    Later, they picked up on my erratic rhythm, and pointed out that my flaky sight reading was one of the main causes. They suggested playing with a metronome, and picking a new piece out of the Red Book every day, and doing my best to play it straight through without stopping - and both my accuracy of tempo and my sight reading have come on very well.

    I agree - but I think I've been very fortunate in the tutors that I've had, in that they've always known how to find the balance point, where they are always giving me fair appraisals and helpful suggestions, but never blinding me with science.

    Considering this was the first band I ever approached about playing, I think I've been very fortunate!

    With best regards,

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  15. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    This is the trick! :) The smartest people are those have knowledge and know when and how to use it.
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  16. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Whilst broadly agreeing with you (I think it's worth practicing things you need to improve, including offbeats), and whilst I largely disagree with David Broad (as usual)...

    I guess there are some interesting questions here to take in isolation and answer from my perspective - hopefully atleast some small snippet here is useful.

    Two possible ideas...
    1) With a metronome
    2) Playing along with a recording (I do this regularly, and I know quite a few other players that do)

    I suspect this is a distinction without a real difference.

    Musically and contextually there are subtle differences between how you'd play onbeats and offbeats, but the technique is the same - same breathing, same focus on note production and control over note length (etc).

    I don't know for sure, but I've always presumed (probably incorrectly?) that the name "um-chuck" comes from the way lots of players make an unpleasant grunting sound in the rests preceding offbeats (and the way the "um" is sung to emphasise that the "chuck" isn't on the beat).

    If you have a working computer, you can get the software to do that for zero cost:
    - "Musescore" is a perfectly functional open-source (ie: gratis) Sibelius alternative which would allow you to write in a musical line and play along at the written tempo....
    - "Audacity" is a free program that would allow you to record and edit yourself as long as you have a microphone that works (you can get USB microphones for your computer - for practice purposes, it doesn't need to be expensive or perfect reproduction).

    The sarcastic answer would be to say that 75% of a crotchet is a dotted-quaver - so just play a dotted quaver (count 3 semi's).

    The more diplomatic answer notes that the technique to do this accurately isn't as simple as just knowing what to do, it takes practice.

    I guess it's interesting background, but it's not what you were originally asking...

    I would personally err on the side of caution and practice starting and and ending longer notes (semibreves, maybe) exactly as you want them first - leave longer rests/gaps for breathing, focus on starting the note exactly where you want it to, then hold it long enough to settle and then focus on ending it... once you can do that, start to shorten the notes you're practicing and bring the two together - and then start shortening the rests and practicing these on/off beat lines (which absolutely shouldn't be between every offbeat - stay set whilst playing a long line of them until you need to breathe, and only then take a breath).

    Ofcourse not - and bands at most levels don't... heck, there are many players who don't even consider it - they play their own part in the right place and somewhere near in tune and consider their job done.

    I know this is probably slightly patronising (and probably almost entirely unnecessary) but keep it in perspective - yes it's important to get control over where your notes start and finish (regardless of their length), but don't practice that to the exclusion of other areas that also need development.
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  17. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Many thanks for your detailed and constructive reply, Tom - there's a lot to take in, there, so I'll read through it carefully before responding.

    Though, re. your last paragraph; no, I see it as "Coo! I can practise getting note length and rest length right at the same time as I practise for our Christmas concert - a win/win!" - but thanks for the warning, all the same (getting over-focused is a recurring failing of mine :( ).

    With best regards,

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  18. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Since it's easily lost in the whole, I'll re-state that (IMHO!) it can be very helpful to break things down into simpler chunks and build up - so I would start working on that precision with longer notes and longer rests first, then gradually work down towards the shorter ones (while maintaining the precision)... this allows you to work on one thing at a time and build each habit individually (starting the note cleanly and in time, closing the note at the right moment, breathing in time).

    (Fwiw, over-focusing is one of my faults too... the past couple of years I've wound up working a lot more on range than on full control during quiet playing (tone, style, etc - playing quietly is the hardest of all to control these things) - as a result, I have some crazy range that I almost never need... and my quiet playing doesn't completely satisfy me at times)
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  19. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    It’s unlike you to make an error of judgement so perhaps it’s just me that thinks a slightly different message would have been more appropriate. It is in your power to edit your original message .....
  20. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    To be clear - I'm happy with that post. Though I'll drop Mello a line on FB to check that he is too now that it's been raised, and remove his name if he wants me to. Was just slightly aback that the bit that TMP added automatically was taken as me being pedantic by slider1, and so wanted to clarify. So here we are, clarifying a clarification on a point totally tangential to the thread... :)
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