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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPractice Room(Moderator: blast) Forget quality, listen to the volume!
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Hicks
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« on: Jun 08, 2017, 02:20AM »

I apologise in advance, this is a bit of a rant..
Coming from a brass band background, I can say that I was never ever able to play loud enough for the trom section in a championship section band I used to be a member of.
Here's an example: For one contest, we chose to play 'On Shoulders Of Giants'. A test piece stitched, together from bits of other famous pieces. It starts with the awesome low brass passage from Bruckner's 8th. It's magnificent. Except it wasn't, and I knew exactly what would happen when we performed it. You see the MD asked for maximum volume. And that's exactly what he got. Forget about balance, tuning, and ensemble. We ripped it. I said right from the start that no way could the second trombone (me), playing a mid-range concert Gb, balance up to the top trombone, at max volume.
And what do you know, the adjudicator's remarks proved me exactly right, because he faulted us on every single point I mentioned - balance, tuning and ensemble. It simply wasn't controlled.

And that's my point really. A lot of trombonists seem obsessed with producing a loud sound. There's no wonder that we're vilified by other sections of the orchestra, because I certainly wouldn't want to be sitting in front of some of the rackets I've heard coming out of certain trombone bells. I personally always strive to produce as beautiful sound as I can. To me that's more important than decibels. If I have to sacrifice volume to get the quality, and precision, I will. Yes the top players can produce a wondrously sounding, and controlled very loud sound, but my experience is that a lot of amateur players sound either raucous, out of tune, and just not very nice.
Plus, I don't get this attitude from some solo trombone players that they must always be heard above everyone else. It's like a bloody competition to see who can play loudest. FFS you're part of a section, and this means it must sound like three trombones in a harmonious, and balanced complete sound.

Sorry, rant over.

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MoominDave

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« Reply #1 on: Jun 08, 2017, 02:55AM »

I know the work of the conductor and players in question. Every brass band has its own musical and psychological set-up; plenty of those in the championship section do not work this way.

Which is not to say that it's not a problem when it happens... But that it isn't the universal thing implied.
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Dave Taylor

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« Reply #2 on: Jun 08, 2017, 03:43AM »

Quote from said conductor "Are you playing as loud as you can? If not, why not?"
Well to start with, it sounds ****. How's that for a reason?
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hyperbolica
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« Reply #3 on: Jun 08, 2017, 03:50AM »

This is a touchy subject. When you make music a competitive sport, it becomes... competitive, with all the plusses and minuses associated with that. We get the same tendency in marching bands in the US.

On the other hand, the volume is handled differently in different areas. When I lived in Rochester NY, even community orchestra trombonists were asked for full volume when it was required by the music. Where I live now, there is a decided reticence against more than half volume trombone in any situation. Even in the local pro orchestra you'd never even know it had a trombone section unless you sat high enough to see it. I've scaled down my equipment to avoid overpowering other players just out of habit. I play in a big band where some members try to preach that the band shouldn't play above mf. It's hard to convey excitement in dance music at mf with acoustic instruments.

Sometimes the music requires a firm hand, and you should be able to deliver within your limits and the bounds of good taste. A big trombone sound can be glorious, and we shouldn't be afraid to embrace that when the time comes. But it shouldn't be raucous, coarse, out of tune or uncontrolled.

I think you have to have command of the entire spectrum and the judgment to know when to use it.
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Roscotrombone
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« Reply #4 on: Jun 08, 2017, 04:16AM »

Ah, the good ol' British brass band! Where a lot of folk think it's how loud you can play not how well. It doesn't help when conductors don't do anything about it!

A couple of months ago I helped out a 3rd section band for a contest. I tipped up at band room all ready to go...right hymn number....and bloody hell I couldn't believe how loud they played it. My ears hurt throughout the whole rehearsal.

Now at the weekend I played in the orchestra for the UK premiere of the opera Das Lied Der Nacht and the collective forte was so different, with no lack of control.

Different beasts completely and I reckon there are a few brass banders out there that couldn't handle an orchestra.

Ross
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« Reply #5 on: Jun 08, 2017, 04:53AM »

Just to clarify, I'm not against loud playing at all. There are times when the music calls for it, and it really adds colour and excitement to the piece. But what I don't like is inappropriate volume, and volume at the expense of balance and control. You know, all those good things which really make a performance outstanding.
And what tends to happen is that the brass band style of big volume carries over into other ensembles. I also play in a wind band, and you can immediately spot the die hard brass banders, because they are giving it full beans, parping out those sustained notes and obliterating the melody line.
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BGuttman
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« Reply #6 on: Jun 08, 2017, 05:07AM »

Those adjudicator comments were directed at the Music Director.  Loud is good when it's controlled.  Loud for loud's sake is sounding like a buzz saw.  A property once associated with the small bore tenors used 2 generations ago.

You knew there was a problem but clearly the MD didn't (or didn't care).  I know there is prestige associated with Championship bands, but maybe this one isn't for you.   I hope you can find one that is.

I watched 3 weekends of Brass Band championships (Australia, New Zealand, and European) on computer and note that your complaint is common.  My only hope is that the adjudicators prize musicianship over volume.

Btw, how do you play a Euphonium loud?  I don't think it's possible.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #7 on: Jun 08, 2017, 05:41AM »

Btw, how do you play a Euphonium loud?  I don't think it's possible.

I subbed in a local university band a bit ago; sat next to the euph player.  Holy moly can he play loud, but his tone and intonation went right in the toilet at anything over mf, which he did frequently.

It was excruciating to sit next to.  First time I ever went to the MD with some constructive criticism about anyone.

Sorry to derail the thread.
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Matt K

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« Reply #8 on: Jun 08, 2017, 05:56AM »

I believe I understand both where your musical director and you are coming from.  The frustrating part is that it is not a scale where on one extreme you have blend or beauty and on the other side you have volume.  You can have both or neither as well.  The most beautiful thing I've heard in person was the finale to the symphony your piece had some portion derived from, Bruckner 8th.  The beginning brings me to tears every time. It is so unbelievably beautiful. But its also loud.  And the orchestra that I saw doing it was no exception.

With young musicians in particular, you can end up with a timid low brass section at times where it sounds neither beautiful nor loud.  The MD may be thinking about long term.  Sure it sounds like a buzz saw now.  But maybe if they practice at that dynamic their tone quality will improve because they're at least supporting their sound. Then for the next x number of seasons, I'll have a good sounding low brass section. Having an ensemble where the fundamental pitch sounds good may be worth risking it.  The section may may not have responded in a way that the MD could perceive prior to the 'full-volume' remark.  And what do you do when your perception is that your requests are not being met?  Ask for more! 

I'm not suggesting it is the best way to manage a band, but I think its worth considering understanding the MD's perspective.  Afterall, I'd bet that at the end of the day, everyone in that ensemble would agree they would rather sound good than not. The approach to get there is what is really whats different.
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« Reply #9 on: Jun 08, 2017, 05:58AM »

Those adjudicator comments were directed at the Music Director.  Loud is good when it's controlled.  Loud for loud's sake is sounding like a buzz saw.  A property once associated with the small bore tenors used 2 generations ago.

The adjudicator was himself a professional trombonist, and teacher. I was dismayed that his comments were said in a mocking tone about our performance. So it's hard not to take it personally, and particularly disheartening on the day, because the MD hadn't listened to my early comments about balance and control. Idiot.
I'm pretty sure that our poor performance resulted in us being placed 2nd, and not 1st. Shame, because had we taken about 10% off the volume, I think it would have transformed it.

That buzz saw effect you mention is commonly used by the bass trombone in a brass band. I don't particularly care for that sound, but it seems to be required that the bass trom belts out such a ridiculous level of volume.


Quote
You knew there was a problem but clearly the MD didn't (or didn't care).  I know there is prestige associated with Championship bands, but maybe this one isn't for you.   I hope you can find one that is.

No I think I'm pretty much done with brass bands. I did it for 30 years and got fed up with the contesting scene. Anyway, these days I enjoy other stuff like big band. Now if I could just find a quality quartet to play in, life would be perfect.

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« Reply #10 on: Jun 08, 2017, 06:56AM »

Hi :)

I think the volume of ANY instrument should be adjusted to match what the music requires. This is what a great musician should be always able to do.

Speaking of trombone now...

We play an instrument that suffers a lot from various stigmatisations. Among others, it's well known for its ability to play loud - and that is where most of the people make the mistake. If the instrument itself can play loud as ****, that may not be the case of the guy behind the mouthpiece. Some band leaders enroll trombones and expect them to play loud, which can be necessary for the music being played, OR which can also reveal a old-minded and stigmatised conception of music. This is a maturity thing...  :/

Let's make comparison with food ?! Ask a French and a German what they think good food is. The French will answer that good food is some tasty recipies, well coocked and in just right quantity. The German  will only care about the quantity that lays in his plate. He'll qualify a restaurant as "good" if this restaurant serves so much food you can't even finish your plate. Whatever the quality of it.

==> I've played in a brass band where the other trombone players could play louder as me. They were better.
Then we've been jamming in a club, and these guys couldn't phrase a line out of their instruments and just played loud as ****. That was horrible. I could play a nice solo, with ideas, phrasing and together with the rythm section. Then that was my turn to be better than them...  Yeah, RIGHT.

When i play salsa gigs, it's required to play loud with sizzling sound. I do it. And it's fun !!  Pant
When i play a jazz gig, i have to blend with the other guys, and i do it. And it's so much fun too !!  Pant Pant

Some people consider that the only "right" way to play trombone is loud. Well i think that's quite shallow minded. Music is only about having fun, and playing together with the other musicians to create something happening in common. This is the only way everybody on stage AND audience can be satisfied. But well, that's a matter of personnality after all... Some people enjoy to drive really fast and not care about the trafic at all. Some others prefer to drive more aware in the trafic to help keep it as fluid and enjoyable as possible.

The only thing i could say in final is that nobody has the right to tell you how you should play your instrument. If you don't feel like playing loud, don't do it. Quit the band, and let other loud players sub for you. Everybody will be satisfied. You, them, and the band leader.  Hi

Just find the band that matches the way you like to play, in which you'll have fun and be blooming. 





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timothy42b
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« Reply #11 on: Jun 08, 2017, 07:00AM »

Hi :)

I think the volume of ANY instrument should be adjusted to match what the music requires.

And the acoustics of the location.

Well, that's part of what the music requires, but it's a part that many miss.  In a very live echoey room, like the rooms two of the bands I play have for rehearsal, it is not necessary to blast.  Except that it is if you want to hear yourself at all, because everybody else is too loud. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #12 on: Jun 08, 2017, 07:17AM »

NO ONE under ANY circumstance should play louder than their tone quality dictates!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Bad dog.  No Biscuits.

...Geezer
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« Reply #13 on: Jun 08, 2017, 07:35AM »

Let's make comparison with food ?! Ask a French and a German what they think good food is. The French will answer that good food is some tasty recipies, well coocked and in just right quantity. The German  will only care about the quantity that lays in his plate. He'll qualify a restaurant as "good" if this restaurant serves so much food you can't even finish your plate. Whatever the quality of it.

So you want to say the French play better and the Germans louder ?    ;-)
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« Reply #14 on: Jun 08, 2017, 07:59AM »

I don't think it's fair or right to stereotype. That's an extremely slippery slope. Perhaps the analogy is better if one compares a given individual from anywhere who prefers quality over quantity or vice versa and let it go at that.

Otherwise we will come off like a band of Gypsies doing a Chinese fire drill.  Evil

...Geezer
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« Reply #15 on: Jun 08, 2017, 08:16AM »

Exactly yes  Pant
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« Reply #16 on: Jun 08, 2017, 09:01AM »

NO ONE under ANY circumstance should play louder than their tone quality dictates!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Bad dog.  No Biscuits.

...Geezer

Some of us shouldn't play at all then.   :/
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #17 on: Jun 08, 2017, 12:57PM »

Some of us shouldn't play at all then.   :/

Of course we all should play!! Its all about music and have fun. Loud, soft, high, low, etc....There is lot of things we should do, lot of things we should not do. Sometimes we should nearly forget that. The important thing is music, feel its fun to play music both with others and alone. The more we listen, the more we play, the more fun or enjoyable it will be.

Leif
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« Reply #18 on: Jun 08, 2017, 01:39PM »

Ok I'm out of topic now but listen what Bud Herseth tell in this video about 4:41

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZcgV0FLVYA

"its my favourite passage in all music"

Its only three notes! Brahms 1st symphony. But sure three notes can say a lot!

That means we have most fun when we try to do our part to fit in. What others do might be wrong in our eyes but its best if we try our best to do our part of the job, try to fit in, enjoy and not worry so much if the another players are not doing what we want. After all there isn't much that is right or wrong in music. The clue is to play together, and music is obvious a better language for that then words...

Leif
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« Reply #19 on: Jun 08, 2017, 05:17PM »

I've thought a lot about your posts, for the past 15 or 20 years.

I had opportunity to hear lots of brass bands and one experience really stuck out. The bones were seated in the center of the band facing forward. It was explosive. It opened my mind. The lessons I gleaned:

1. Trombones in brass band, cylindrical alone of the horns, should contrast, not compliment.
You want more trombone? Make them of a smaller bore, and use projection, not volume, to carry the day.

2. Stan Kenton summed it up best, as posted by Mike Suter: You want your loud to be twice as loud ?, then play soft twice as soft!

Use any horn smaller than .547, and play pppp to ff, not mf to ffffff.
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