Watching and listening

Post Reply
ttf_Hicks
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Hicks » Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:36 am

It's one of those days when I just have to get things off my chest. Well if you can't rant on an Internet forum, where the hell can you?

It is amazing how many people don't do the two basic things which would drastically improve the quality of their ensemble. These are:-

1. Watch the beat: It's not hard is it? Play the right rhythm, at the right pace, and together with the people around you. The only hope you have of doing this, is to watch the guy in the middle waving the little stick. I was listening to a recording of a band I play in, and the trumpets were loud everywhere, as usual. But worse than that, as a section, they were just not in sync. It absolutely ruins the effect of a big band swing number, to have people not playing in time. Even a slight discrepancy can spoil things.

2. Listen: I can't tell you how many times I've sat next to trombonists who don't play in tune. With an instrument which has infinitesimally fine control over dynamic tuning, it should be possible to get every note smack on, with relation to the people around you. The fact that so many times, players don't get tuning right, leads me to conclude that they aren't listening to what's going on around them, including the person sitting right next to them. It actually gives me a headache sitting next to someone who has poor tuning and doesn't listen. It just grinds me down.

So what I'm saying is, players should stop playing in their own little bubble. Concentrate less on their own sound (or volume), and just divert a little bit of attention to a) the conductor and b) other players around them. This I feel, would improve the quality of most ensembles I play in. But hey, I'm not in charge Image


ttf_Geezerhorn
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:59 am

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Geezerhorn » Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:41 am

Quote from: Hicks on Today at 06:36 AMIt's one of those days when I just have to get things off my chest. Well if you can't rant on an Internet forum, where the hell can you?

It is amazing how many people don't do the two basic things which would drastically improve the quality of their ensemble. These are:-

1. Watch the beat: It's not hard is it? Play the right rhythm, at the right pace, and together with the people around you. The only hope you have of doing this, is to watch the guy in the middle waving the little stick. I was listening to a recording of a band I play in, and the trumpets were loud everywhere, as usual. But worse than that, as a section, they were just not in sync. It absolutely ruins the effect of a big band swing number, to have people not playing in time. Even a slight discrepancy can spoil things.

2. Listen: I can't tell you how many times I've sat next to trombonists who don't play in tune. With an instrument which has infinitesimally fine control over dynamic tuning, it should be possible to get every note smack on, with relation to the people around you. The fact that so many times, players don't get tuning right, leads me to conclude that they aren't listening to what's going on around them, including the person sitting right next to them. It actually gives me a headache sitting next to someone who has poor tuning and doesn't listen. It just grinds me down.

So what I'm saying is, players should stop playing in their own little bubble. Concentrate less on their own sound (or volume), and just divert a little bit of attention to a) the conductor and b) other players around them. This I feel, would improve the quality of most ensembles I play in. But hey, I'm not in charge Image


Yes you are in charge; of yourself! So set the example for your section mates. Even explain to them what you are doing. That is not the same thing as telling them what to do, which they may resent. But I see no harm in casually relating to others in your section and at large as to what you do. Maybe it will catch on! Maybe the whole ensemble's performance will rise up! Maybe the conductor and other influential people in the group will notice and get you higher level work! Nah...

Nice rant, though!

...Geezer
ttf_Hicks
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Hicks » Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:09 am

Yes of course, I always strive to set an example and do these things myself, otherwise I'd be a total hypocrite Image But I have neither the diplomacy, or social skills needed to point these things out directly to others, and well, it's not really my place to do that, and I imagine it wouldn't go down well. I have on occasion suggested things to the conductor, with mixed results.

ttf_tbathras
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:57 am

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_tbathras » Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:22 am

Quote from: Hicks on Today at 08:09 AMYes of course, I always strive to set an example and do these things myself, otherwise I'd be a total hypocrite Image But I have neither the diplomacy, or social skills needed to point these things out directly to others, and well, it's not really my place to do that, and I imagine it wouldn't go down well. I have on occasion suggested things to the conductor, with mixed results.


Yeah, I played in a group where this was a bit of an issue.  I don't really play there much anymore other than to sub in when it's convenient.  Sometimes that's all you can do - move on.

I'm fortunate enough to have two other groups that are high-caliber, with one of them having the members being "hand-picked" by the director; now that's a great group to play in. Keeps me on my toes, too - I always want to make sure I'm invited back for subsequent concerts.
ttf_Hicks
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Hicks » Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:28 am

Quote from: tbathras on Today at 08:22 AMYeah, I played in a group where this was a bit of an issue.  I don't really play there much anymore other than to sub in when it's convenient.  Sometimes that's all you can do - move on.

I'm fortunate enough to have two other groups that are high-caliber, with one of them having the members being "hand-picked" by the director; now that's a great group to play in. Keeps me on my toes, too - I always want to make sure I'm invited back for subsequent concerts.

Sounds lovely. I appreciate that there are a wide spectrum of musical abilities, but what I'm pointing out here doesn't require an extraordinary level of skill. I feel that if the conductor were to hammer on about points like this and focus the general rehearsals on these basics, I'm sure that overall standards would improve drastically. That's what I mean though, I'm not in charge, so can't do things my way. It's frustrating at times.
I would dearly love to play in a high quality ensemble with musicians on a pro level ability. I'd love to do a play day with one of the top orchestras, but I guess a lot of aspiring amateur players would love that.

ttf_harrison.t.reed
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:58 am

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_harrison.t.reed » Wed Jun 21, 2017 11:55 am

There are two solutions to when those around you play out of tune, in addition to going on a rant:

1. Adjust to everyone around you who is out of tune. As the ensemble spirals further out of tune with itself, split the difference so that you are smack in the middle of the average of the players who went the sharpest and the players who went flat. If you are playing the root of the chord, adjust to the players moving above you to eliminate beats - a moving root is better than beats. No one else adjusts or listens, so it's up to you to move the root around.

Or

2. Refuse to adjust -- everyone else HAS to be wrong, and the clip on Snark doesn't lie, so play exactly in tune with the Snark, AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE. Complain even loudlier that the band is out of tune.
ttf_BGuttman
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:15 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_BGuttman » Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:04 pm

I'm sure #2 will make you incredibly popular with the rest of the group Image

One of the things you learn playing in conductorless ensembles like brass quintet is to learn to listen and adjust to the rest of the group.  In quintet (or other small groups) you may often stop and decide HOW you want to approach a part of the music so everybody is on board.

I had my low brass section in my orchestra play some trombone quartet music during sectionals.  It forced us to listen and adjust to each other.  The results showed -- even the conductor noticed.
ttf_harrison.t.reed
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:58 am

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_harrison.t.reed » Wed Jun 21, 2017 1:12 pm

I think #1 is even worse!
ttf_blast
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:15 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_blast » Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:02 pm

Quote from: Hicks on Today at 08:28 AMSounds lovely. I appreciate that there are a wide spectrum of musical abilities, but what I'm pointing out here doesn't require an extraordinary level of skill. I feel that if the conductor were to hammer on about points like this and focus the general rehearsals on these basics, I'm sure that overall standards would improve drastically. That's what I mean though, I'm not in charge, so can't do things my way. It's frustrating at times.
I would dearly love to play in a high quality ensemble with musicians on a pro level ability. I'd love to do a play day with one of the top orchestras, but I guess a lot of aspiring amateur players would love that.


There are occasions when even the best orchestras in the world can have tuning and ensemble issues. The higher you go, the more picky you get. I suspect that it is not the musician's lot to be happy with their work.  Image

Chris Stearn
ttf_JohnL
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:59 am

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_JohnL » Wed Jun 21, 2017 3:14 pm

Quote from: blast on Today at 02:02 PMI suspect that it is not the musician's lot to be happy with their work.Or, if this thread is any indication, the work of others. Image
ttf_Rockymountaintrombone
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Rockymountaintrombone » Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:03 pm

Bruce touched on this in his reply - bringing chamber music skills to large ensembles makes all the difference. This includes the rhythm - not just the pitch. It's important to try to get everybody to watch the conductor, but also use their ears at the same time. Don't just change notes when the baton hits the next beat, but listen to melody, moving passages, rhythmic ostinatos, etc. to try to coordinate with them. This is also, in my opinion, a major reason why we have conductors - to unify these various elements. Just be aware that sitting in the back sometimes means that low brass have to play on the front side of the time, but there are very few situations where your ears aren't part of the equation.

Hard to make all of this happen in an amateur group - people have their concentration tied up into their individual efforts. The conductor can help this by rehearsing some fundamentals. Have a few minutes of scales/arpeggios where sections hold the tonic pitch, and others move, and perhaps rhythms are played by the group to unify approach.

Jim Scott
ttf_Hicks
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Hicks » Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:13 am

Quote from: harrison.t.reed on Jun 21, 2017, 11:55AMThere are two solutions to when those around you play out of tune, in addition to going on a rant:

1. Adjust to everyone around you who is out of tune.


Well that's completely irrelevant and a stupid suggestion isn't it, because where did I say that *everyone* was out of tune? I'm talking about someone sitting next to me, who has tuning problems. I'm hardly going to adjust to their tuning (if that were actually possible, as they are so all over the place), because then I'd be out of tune with the rest of the band.


Quote2. Refuse to adjust -- everyone else HAS to be wrong, and the clip on Snark doesn't lie, so play exactly in tune with the Snark, AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE. Complain even loudlier that the band is out of tune.

Don't be bloody ridiculous. If you don't have anything sensible to say, then go away.


ttf_Hicks
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Hicks » Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:29 am

Quote from: JohnL on Jun 21, 2017, 03:14PMOr, if this thread is any indication, the work of others. Image

Ok well take that attitude if you like. My desire is to improve quality, and I feel that with a bit of effort in the right place, it can be done.
I just don't understand what is so hard about following the beat, and counting half notes to play on the off beat correctly (as an example). All I'm saying is this does not require a fantastic level of musicianship, we can all count to four, and subdivide the beats, right?
It seems like people are happy with a mediocre level, whereas with just a little more attention, awareness and concentration, it could be so much better. Is wanting to improve, a bad thing?



ttf_bigbassbone1
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:34 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_bigbassbone1 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 2:31 am

Quote from: Hicks on Yesterday at 01:29 AMOk well take that attitude if you like. My desire is to improve quality, and I feel that with a bit of effort in the right place, it can be done.
I just don't understand what is so hard about following the beat, and counting half notes to play on the off beat correctly (as an example). All I'm saying is this does not require a fantastic level of musicianship, we can all count to four, and subdivide the beats, right?
It seems like people are happy with a mediocre level, whereas with just a little more attention, awareness and concentration, it could be so much better. Is wanting to improve, a bad thing?





I dont know what kind of ensemble you are talking about, pro, ameteur whatever.....

But.... even in top level pro ensembles you hear people complain about things EXACTLY like what you are describing. Being able to deal with it professionally is part of being a professional. It sucks but if you play in an ensemble that you think DOESN'T have those issues, chances are you are the one who is obliviously causing issues for those around you.

You can always improve the situation though. Perhaps try talking calmly and in a friendly way to the person you think is causing the issues? Always remember, in an emsemble setting no one TRIES to play badly. They might not be giving their best effort, but chances are slim that they are trying to sabotage the ensemble from within. Give them the benefit of the doubt, talk to them as though you understand they are doing their best, but you think together you can improve with a change in approach. Just don't point the finger.... even if you are in the right the reality is people just dont respond well to that.

If its an ameteur ensemble..... thats a different thing. Yes, there is absolutely no problem with you wanting it to be the highest standard it possibly can, BUT always remember in those kind of ensembles there will be players who are turning up solely for the purpose of having a good time, and do not want to turn it into "work". If its that situation, leave. Find a better ensemble with people who sit next to you that meet your standards.
ttf_bigbassbone1
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:34 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_bigbassbone1 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 2:33 am

Quote from: Hicks on Yesterday at 01:13 AMWell that's completely irrelevant and a stupid suggestion isn't it, because where did I say that *everyone* was out of tune? I'm talking about someone sitting next to me, who has tuning problems. I'm hardly going to adjust to their tuning (if that were actually possible, as they are so all over the place), because then I'd be out of tune with the rest of the band.


Don't be bloody ridiculous. If you don't have anything sensible to say, then go away.



If you cant say stupid things on an internet forum then where the hell can you?
ttf_Hicks
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Hicks » Thu Jun 22, 2017 3:12 am

Quote from: bigbassbone1 on Yesterday at 02:33 AMIf you cant say stupid things on an internet forum then where the hell can you?

 Image True, and where would we be without people misinterpreting, reading things into what you've said, or generally getting the wrong end of the stick.
Ah the Internet, don't you just love it?  Image


ttf_svenlarsson
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:35 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_svenlarsson » Thu Jun 22, 2017 3:37 am

I guess you are playing in a bigband. Amature bands I guess? If the bass is in tune, play with the bass, if not play with the piano, if you are playing basstrombone try to play with the baritone if possible. The drums are hopfully right on the beat, if not there is not much hope.
If the trumpets are to loud, dont compete with them, try to play the nuances that are "right", you dont have to be heard when the trumpets take over the soundscape. If the band gives you headache quit and find another band.
There are bands I do not play with because of their loudness. I wish I did not play with some band years ago that I still have ringing in my head.
ttf_afugate
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:01 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_afugate » Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:42 am

Quote from: bigbassbone1 on Yesterday at 02:31 AM
snip...
But.... even in top level pro ensembles you hear people complain about things EXACTLY like what you are describing. Being able to deal with it professionally is part of being a professional. It sucks but if you play in an ensemble that you think DOESN'T have those issues, chances are you are the one who is obliviously causing issues for those around you.
snip...


Okay, this made me chuckle...

--Andy in OKC
ttf_blast
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:15 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_blast » Thu Jun 22, 2017 5:02 am

Quote from: afugate on Yesterday at 04:42 AMOkay, this made me chuckle...

--Andy in OKC

Me too.... and it's true  Image

Chris Stearn
ttf_harrison.t.reed
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:58 am

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_harrison.t.reed » Thu Jun 22, 2017 5:09 am

Hahaha wow.
ttf_Hicks
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Hicks » Thu Jun 22, 2017 5:20 am

Quote from: afugate on Jun 22, 2017, 04:42AMOkay, this made me chuckle...

--Andy in OKC

Why's that?
ttf_afugate
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:01 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_afugate » Thu Jun 22, 2017 7:38 pm

Quote from: afugate on Jun 22, 2017, 04:42AMOkay, this made me chuckle...

--Andy in OKC

Quote from: Hicks on Jun 22, 2017, 05:20AMWhy's that?

As Blast said, because it's so often the truth...  Image Image

-Andy in OKC
ttf_JohnL
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:59 am

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_JohnL » Thu Jun 22, 2017 8:22 pm

Quote from: Hicks on Jun 22, 2017, 01:29AMI just don't understand what is so hard about following the beat, and counting half notes to play on the off beat correctly (as an example). All I'm saying is this does not require a fantastic level of musicianship, we can all count to four, and subdivide the beats, right? Not necessarily. I've heard more than a few people who take lessons from competent teachers, practice regularly, and still do thing that make me cringe. That guy who is out of tune? He may not realize he's out of tune; he just doesn't hear it. Sometimes a conductor will work a part to death until it's right, only to have it be back to square one the next week - and the players involved just don't realize that they aren't playing the same rhythm that the conductor is singing to them.

They're doing the best they can - even if it's not as good as others would like. That's pretty much the way things work in an amateur group, particularly one that does not require auditions.


ttf_Hicks
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_Hicks » Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:29 am

Quote from: JohnL on Jun 22, 2017, 08:22PMNot necessarily. I've heard more than a few people who take lessons from competent teachers, practice regularly, and still do thing that make me cringe. That guy who is out of tune? He may not realize he's out of tune; he just doesn't hear it. Sometimes a conductor will work a part to death until it's right, only to have it be back to square one the next week - and the players involved just don't realize that they aren't playing the same rhythm that the conductor is singing to them.

They're doing the best they can - even if it's not as good as others would like. That's pretty much the way things work in an amateur group, particularly one that does not require auditions.



Absolutely, I respect that. There's a wide spectrum of musical capabilities in amateur ensembles.
But my view is, when I hear an instrument way out of tune, like a euph playing a mile too sharp, I think - why does the MD not stop and sort that out? I don't like to speak up about these things, because I'm not in charge, and I'll probably come across like a smart arse.

And your comment about rehearsing things to death, then going back to square one prompts me to raise another issue - I'm practically the only player in the band who brings a pencil to rehearsals, in fact it's permanently clipped on to my instrument. Whenever the MD says something about the piece - dynamics, tempo, or anything I need to remember, then I note it down. Virtually nobody else does this! So they must all have flawless memories. But of course they don't, so next time we rehearse, the band makes the same mistakes. I would recommend that every player in the band brings a pencil to rehearsals. This doesn't require any musical ability whatsoever.


ttf_FlamingRain
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:59 am

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_FlamingRain » Fri Jun 23, 2017 5:44 pm

Heres my soapbox:

The best sections that I have played in have been the ones where we are working to do our best and are ALL trying to be team players. This means listening down for pitch, and up to the lead player for style and trying to match it 100%. The worst sections I have played in are the ones who just check out and play their own part, or with players who can't throw their ego out the door and adjust accordingly because they believe they are already playing the best way they can.

Most orchestra/wind ensemble/big band charts I have ever played are nearly all sight-readable for me, so why would I check out and not pay attention to what's going on around me and make sure I'm fitting in stylistically and pitch wise? And if I'm the lead player am I doing a good job at putting down the style consistently every time, so that my section mates can latch onto it without issue?

This goes regardless of what chair I'm in. If I'm playing lead, I need to be putting down the style and cut-offs so it's easy to be together, and playing in tune with everybody else. If I'm playing 2nd I'm listening to the lead player and the rhythm section so that I'm matching completely both pitch wise and style wise. If I'm playing 3rd I'm listening to my lead player for style and listening to the bass trombonist for pitch. If I'm playing bass trombone I will listen over to the upright bass for the pitch and hopefully the 3rd player is matching style well enough I can pick up on it. Generally (not always) if it falls apart it's going to be the 3rd player. If they can't keep up, usually the rest of the section will not sound very good, especially if they can't play in tune because they generally have the color notes. I have played every position in a big band before.

What do you guys think?
ttf_FlamingRain
Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:59 am

Watching and listening

Post by ttf_FlamingRain » Fri Jun 23, 2017 5:44 pm

Heres my soapbox:

The best sections that I have played in have been the ones where we are working to do our best and are ALL trying to be team players. This means listening down for pitch, and up to the lead player for style and trying to match it 100%. The worst sections I have played in are the ones who just check out and play their own part, or with players who can't throw their ego out the door and adjust accordingly because they believe they are already playing the best way they can.

Most orchestra/wind ensemble/big band charts I have ever played are nearly all sight-readable for me, so why would I check out and not pay attention to what's going on around me and make sure I'm fitting in stylistically and pitch wise? And if I'm the lead player am I doing a good job at putting down the style consistently every time, so that my section mates can latch onto it without issue?

This goes regardless of what chair I'm in. If I'm playing lead, I need to be putting down the style and cut-offs so it's easy to be together, and playing in tune with everybody else. If I'm playing 2nd I'm listening to the lead player and the rhythm section so that I'm matching completely both pitch wise and style wise. If I'm playing 3rd I'm listening to my lead player for style and listening to the bass trombonist for pitch. If I'm playing bass trombone I will listen over to the upright bass for the pitch and hopefully the 3rd player is matching style well enough I can pick up on it. Generally (not always) if it falls apart it's going to be the 3rd player. If they can't keep up, usually the rest of the section will not sound very good, especially if they can't play in tune because they generally have the color notes. I have played every position in a big band before.

What do you guys think?
Post Reply

Return to “Performance”