What makes a good top man?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by IJK, May 10, 2007.

  1. IJK

    IJK Member

    Just been having a discussion with some of my players regarding this topic.

    What do people think makes a good top man?
  2. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Amongst other things, self-confidence and security when playing on ones own, the ability to lead by example and to carry the rest of the team along with you, the self-assurance that allows you to farm out solos to other players if they are more suited to their particular skills and abilities, sufficient stamina to last throughout a contest/concert, coupled with the nous to know when to knock off and take a breather.
  3. Texus

    Texus Member

    I would suggest +++++ of steel and a sense of being completely oblivious to how difficult the job can be!
  4. GingerMaestro

    GingerMaestro Active Member

    As a top man myself, I think you need a certain aragance in the playing of solos and as mentioned before the ability to lead from the front, delagate and more importantly have faith in the rest of your section so you can take a breather knowing the parts will still be heard
  5. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    A good second man. Seriously, if you know the player next to you will stick everything in that needs to go in and won't need a breather, you are free to concentrate on your own playing.
  6. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    Mmmm... good topic!

    A lot of what you need relates to the PC being the link between the MD and the band. No player watches the MD 100% of the time, but they will (should?) be listening 100% of the time, and it'll be the PC they're listening for most of the time. In that sense the PC leads the band just as much as the MD does (maybe more so on occasion!). There are times when the PC has to choose whether to follow the MD, the band, or steer a middle ground! (if it's closed adjudication you follow the band, they don't mark MD's doing stuff they can't see!)
    On top of that, confidence (without arrogance) in themselves and their section, reliability and a willingness to work hard. I've seen PC's at contests where the band's only had 3 on the front row leaving out all the tutti parts - I'd get shot If I tried that! Coupled with that is remembering not to blow yourself out so you can't play your solos - delegation is also a vital skill. The cornet section is a team (not just the front row, either).

    Metaphorical ++++s of steel are also required, but that's true of any soloist, it's just that the PC generally gets more solos than most. You have to be a bit thick-skinned as well, because odds are one day you will make a mistake, and because you're the PC everyone will hear it (this goes for sop players too), but if you let it affect you the rest of the test piece/solo/whatever could go to pieces, you have to let it go and make sure you get the rest right.

    I've done it for nearly 20 years, and I wouldn't change, I still really enjoy it. I've tried sop once but as far as I can see that's for the very slightly unhinged........

    Oh, and one more thing, the PC is not the most important player in the band. That honour goes to 1st baritone IMO. Try managing without one and you'll see what I mean!
  7. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    :clap: :clap:

  8. Cantonian

    Cantonian Active Member

    In the interests of political correctness, shouldn't we be describing qualities of a top person. Even more correctly why are we talking about top cornet players when we all know that the horn section is the most important.

    Thus the thread should be described as "What makes a good top person (horn for those who have been misled)?
  9. Leyfy

    Leyfy Active Member

    Confidence - and the ability to back it up!

    Without it, the rest of the section has no confidence - which is a disaster!
  10. brass journo

    brass journo Member

    did you need but look any further!!!!
  11. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    I hope this was tongue in cheek!

    The phrase is "top man". It's a phrase, not a job description. I've known female principal cornets and none of them have been offended by it. If any are I'm sorry about that, but I personally think 'get over it'. If we were actually being sexist, you wouldn't be in the seat to start with!

    Secondly, we can all argue till the cows come home about which section is most important. But the principal cornet is the lead player, a first among equals if you will; those of us who aren't cornet players can't change musical fact just by arguing about it.

    Anyway, to put my thoughts on the original question - great musicianship and big steel ****s. Plus a decent sound and technique, obviously; but not necessarily the best sound and/or technique in the section. If the 'best' player is not the best leader, they are probably better off playing second man to someone with the style and charisma to inspire a band.
  12. Bryan_sop

    Bryan_sop Active Member

    I pretty much agree with what most have said, but another important thing for a PC to have is a steel plate, or other deflective device in the back of their head to protect them from the soprano!
  13. Jasonp

    Jasonp Member

    I agree with most of the above but think that we should refere to the title as 'Principal Cornet', or 'Section Leader'.
    Stamina, confindence and leadership are essential, but communication is vital. The principal player needs to know every member of the section well and should talk to them all one to one and as a team on a regular basis. Doing this will help understand whether everyone in the section is happy, and also gives the section members the opportunity to voice any concernes or ideas that could be relevent.
  14. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    This is a difficult question to answer, but I suppose it depends on your perspective as an MD as to what kind of player you like working with, and the level of control you as an MD like to have. This goes for any "end chair" player.

    I think there are 2 kinds.

    1) Solid technical ability, excellent command of their chosen instrument, use of appropriate sound for the repertoire, intelligent musicianship, knowledge of styles, individual soloist's style, that X-factor that makes a player special,versatile, good team leader, communicator, someone you (as an MD) can trust be on the money 99.99% of the time, someone that other players respect and can approach. They know what they have to do, how to do it, and how they do it (if that makes sense).

    2) Solid technical ability, excellent command of their chosen instrument, good sound, good stamina, will do exactly what you (as an MD) tell them to do 99.99% of the time. They know what to do when told what to do and how to do it.
  15. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    Officially, yes of course Principal Cornet is the right title. But we're talking amongst ourselves here!
  16. Damn...
  17. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    Breathtaking reserves of arrogance and self confidence which are expended exclusively on the sounds that come out of his instrument and not elsewhere in the band room.
  18. englishgill

    englishgill Member

    all the 'top (wo)men' in bands I've played with have been people with tremendous technical ability, unshakeable self-belief, lovely tone and were always at rehearsals - however the person I most enjoyed having in the top seat is the one who encouraged the rest of the band - the one who had the time to tell members of another section that they played well that night as well as the one who would give bits of solos to others - nice to see a bit of humility when others talk of arrogance being a necessary trait!
  19. Di B

    Di B Member

    Although ability is important of course, I think nerve and confidence is required on any corner chair.

    The best soloists in my opinion are the ones who encourage their section to play to the best of their ability, to take a common sense approach to playing - splitting parts up/dropping players off appropriately/delegating the right music and who have style!

    To me, musical interpretation is important for a soloist - you don't really want someone who just plays the notes as they are written - you need a bit of finess.

    If you are very lucky, you will find a principal that can exude confidence, charisma and a strong playing ability (both technical and lyrical) that others in the band respect and look at as a role model.
  20. michellegarbutt

    michellegarbutt Supporting Member

    consistency is impotant. While anyone can have the occasional off day if you're principal cornet makes mistakes it does tend to knock the rest of the band

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