Why does the Principal Cornet sit there?

steve butler

Active Member
Back on topic, I think the Grimethorpe formation seems to be the best compromise solution to performance. The overlapping lines of flugel/horns and euph/baris between basses/troms and cornets angled slightly inwards seems to cancel out most problem areas. The flugel playing into the ensemble stops any chance of glare (and contraptions to soften it, e.g., polystyrene boards hooked in front of bell) and brings the horns more into open space (not being drawn into the bass sound). Baris/Euphs are in contact with basses and horns and that, to me, is a good compromise for most variations in compositional/arranging styles. Bass trom has to be carefully placed to avoid this projection glare as well. Facing towards the principal cornet can create unnecessary balance problems, with the sound cutting through the band. My tuppence worth!
:clap:
Did not understand a word of it but it sounds very clever. I must remember to stick some polystyrene over my bell end at the next concert - so as to bring the horns more into open space? :confused:
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Try it - and watch them frolic in that open space. It brings a tear to the eye.

Brassneck's point about the bass trombone is my own personal issue with the standard formation - I have the choice of either i) pointing down and making my neck hurt and airways constricted, ii) pointing out somewhat inappropriately, or iii) not being able to see the conductor at all. A formation with trombones on the other side (n.b. my idea includes that) would mean that a lot of the occasions when the bass trombone comes across too strongly just wouldn't occur.
 

steve butler

Active Member
Try it - and watch them frolic in that open space. It brings a tear to the eye.

Brassneck's point about the bass trombone is my own personal issue with the standard formation - I have the choice of either i) pointing down and making my neck hurt and airways constricted, ii) pointing out somewhat inappropriately, or iii) not being able to see the conductor at all. A formation with trombones on the other side (n.b. my idea includes that) would mean that a lot of the occasions when the bass trombone comes across too strongly just wouldn't occur.
Dave, how about using a periscope, you could then face the attractive percussionist, see the wagger and free up open space for bouncing horns off reflective flugels!
 

brassneck

Active Member
:clap:
Did not understand a word of it but it sounds very clever. I must remember to stick some polystyrene over my bell end at the next concert - so as to bring the horns more into open space? :confused:
- I saw the polystyrene (or something similar) used with a flugel during the Vienna Night's Open contest.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Steve -

I find cultivating a sufficiently large ego solves the problem.

I want to do a Papa Lazarou voice ("Allo Dave! It's my tempo now!"), but I don't think it would quite work...
 

Daisy Duck

Member
I used to play Repiano at my old band and found it incredibly difficult sometimes because I just couldn't hear the Principal Cornet, particularly during little things where there was a quartet style piece of writing (PC, Rep, Solo Horn, Euph) - I felt like I was the only person in the whole band at those moments and it was difficult to know how to balance things.

Now I'm Principal Cornet, I often feel like all I can hear is the Soprano - which is great when we're doing something loud and high! When the back row are feeling confident though, it's great because you get that support from behind, and obviously it's much easier to hear the rest of the band as well.

I quite like being near the MD as well to have little chats during breaks between pieces on informal gigs!
 

Fendall

Member
Thanks for all the discussion to date, I've found it interesting. I'm tending towards the thought that it doesn't probably matter so much in "better" bands as much as bands where the lower cornets need the coaching from the PC.

Personally as a soprano player, I would like to sit where I could hear the PC but so often need to work in with the rep player, so it's hard to do that without splitting up the solo cornets, or having the rep in isolation (and they're usually such delicate souls that it would cause all sorts of unwanted anxieties!)

I remember in the 1970s, our band had the solo cornets front, sop/rep/flug behind, and the 2nd and 3rds on the other side in front of the trombones. The euphos and baritones were always in a middle row behind the horns - but I understand their egos won't allow this anymore, even if it means there bell can face out more :wink:
 

Simon_Horn

Member
May I propose the following variation:

Horns where backrow normally sit ie pointing out
Front row as normal
Back row facing them
Euph bari in middle with bari on left (nr horns) and euph on right (nr troms)
Bass on back row with perc behind
Trom as normal
 

Simon_Horn

Member
this would have the following advantages:

1. front and backrow more equal balance wise (rep sits on end of 3rd and 2nd group)
2. tuba group (euph/bari/bass) close together as a unit directly in front of MD
3. bass trom next to basses
4. horn balance is effective

disadvantages:

tenor/alto group split (horns and troms)
horn sound out to audience rather than into band
rep and flugel split
 

iancwilx

Well-Known Member
In my early days at Imps we had the 2nd and 3rd Cornets sat in front of the troms facing the front row, but Sop, Flugel and Rep still sat behind the front row. As a matter of interest Trevor Walmsley came he sat the Flugel next to the Solo Horn. I think we were one of the first bands to do this.

~ Mr Wilx
 

Bass Bone

New Member
Fendall raises some interesting points re positioning of cornets especially as it is from a sop player of some note, pun intended, and who has obviously played with some decent bands in his time.

Whilst I for one would not profess to know the answer to his conundrum the following are some of my personal observations and gleanings which may be of some interest, then again, maybe not.

Some casual research I did some time back indicated that historically, circa late 1800s / early 1900s the cornet section was led by two Eb, i.e. soprano, cornets and not as is now the case the Bb cornet.

Traditionally they were positioned in the front row nearest the audience with the front row Bb cornets to their left as you look at them. 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] and 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] cornets sat in the row behind as they do now.

With regards to the positioning of the Solo cornet I guess this is to a) leave the audience in no doubt as to who the leader is, and b) to facilitate communication between the MD and the rest of the section.

It is also interesting to note how the use of certain instrument, by composers arrangers have changed over the years and this has also influenced how bands are laid out. In particular I have in mind the role of the Euphonium and Baritone. I’ve seen some bands have the euphoniums in front of the Tubas and there is a certain logic to this as the Euphonium is in fact a Tenor Tuba and for a long time had more of a supporting role for the bass line as a study of early scores would indicate..

At this time the Baritone, or more correctly, the Baritone Horn had the more florid, virtuoso writing which we now associate more with the Euphonium. In more recent times, middle of last century onwards, the Baritone has been relegated to more of a supporting role to the Euphoniums.

Other factors which influence the positioning of the various instruments within a Brass Band is the so called, “Pyramid of Sound.” As it is easier for the human ear to hear the sound of the higher pitched instruments than the lower pitched rumblings of the Bass end it follows that, to maintain balance, even at low volume the Bass end needs to put a little more air through the instrument than the higher pitched instruments.

Taking this a bit further sound is built from the bottom up i.e., balance should be led, under the direction of the MD, from the Basses upwards i.e. Tubas, Bass Trombone, Trombones, Euphs, Baris, Horns Cornets. Following on from this it is logical therefore that Crescendos should be led from the Basses up to the Cornets and Decrescendos be led from the Cornets down to the Basses.

One could conclude that bearing the above in mind it would not be illogical for a band to be set up with the Bass end nearest the audience and the Cornets at the rear. If we think about it that is exactly how a Band is arranged when on the march. Troms and Tubas at the front, followed by Euphs, Horns and Cornets.

Same applies to Big Band where the trombones are at the front with the trumpets behind.

Orchestrally it is somewhat different where it is more right to left, where the String Basses, Cellos are on the right with the upper strings on the left.

As a Bass Trombonist I constantly encounter problems as to the optimum seating position. The bass trombone may be supporting the Basses or it may be supporting the Tubas. Added to this is trying to find a spot where one can see the conductor.

Ideally I like when the band is in tight formation, as some concert halls dictate, as you are close to both the Tenor Troms and the Basses. However, given the opportunity, a lot of players like to spread themselves out and I find that if I’m close to the tenors I cant see past the conductor whilst the Basses are many feet away. Not helpful when trying to support the Bass end, particularly in a quiet passage.

The above are based on experiences and observations and not meant in any way to contradict or detract from any other posts on the subject.

Merry Christmas to one and all.
 
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