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The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformancePerformance(Moderator: BGuttman) Solo Difficulties in Orchestra
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AxSlinger7String

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« on: Jul 23, 2013, 05:44PM »

I'm playing principal for an orchestra this summer and I have a solo in the "Tango" movement of a tuba concerto by our music director.

I can play the excerpt fine, with a metronome, without etc., but this week with the orchestra I was having tremendous difficulty staying with the orchestra.  The group as a whole has been struggling somewhat with the rhythmic feel that is set up at the beginning and maintained throughout.  The bass instruments lay down a 3-3-2 pattern which is pretty good, the problems come from a more complex syncopated figure in the violins/woodwinds. 

I'm sure this movement will get a lot more attention in upcoming rehearsals, but I'd appreciate thoughts on how to approach the situation.  Should I watch the conductor and try to stay with her no matter what I'm hearing?  Or would you try to play where the group is, even though that may be unsteady/unpredictable?  Something else?

Thanks in advance,

Chris
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Thomas Matta

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« Reply #1 on: Jul 23, 2013, 06:31PM »

Is the 3-3-2 figure making a discernible groove / pocket?

That's what I would latch onto.
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Gabe Langfur

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« Reply #2 on: Jul 23, 2013, 06:52PM »

Is the 3-3-2 figure making a discernible groove / pocket?

That's what I would latch onto.

Agreed. If the rest of the orchestra is not yet together, you have to pick the one thing you think is correct and reliable, and play with that. Everyone else will probably figure it out eventually if you can lock consistently.
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Gabe Langfur
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« Reply #3 on: Jul 24, 2013, 05:31AM »

With my conductor's hat on I have to say that you should stick with the conductor and, if there are still problems after more rehearsals, shout for help from the conductor. I am making a big assumption that the conductor/composer knows what she is doing!

Cheers

Stewbones
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AxSlinger7String

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« Reply #4 on: Jul 24, 2013, 09:39AM »

I haven't played much with this group yet but the conductor seems good to me and I haven't had trouble following her in any other places.  We're also playing four movements from Copland's "Rodeo" and the solos in "Buckaroo Holiday" weren't a problem.

The 3-3-2 feel does get a pretty good groove going on sometimes, but there's a bit of a tricky part in the four bars before my solo (I am resting then) and it tends to break down some during that and into the solo section.

Thanks for the feedback everyone, I guess I will just have to practice to be as consistent as possible, and express my concerns to the conductor some time before the concert if things still aren't going smoothly.
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« Reply #5 on: Jul 24, 2013, 10:11AM »

If the ensemble can't nail the groove, that's not your fault (if you can play the solos already).
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« Reply #6 on: Jul 24, 2013, 11:26AM »

If the ensemble can't nail the groove, that's not your fault (if you can play the solos already).

Failure + a good excuse ≠  success
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timothy42b
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« Reply #7 on: Jul 24, 2013, 11:34AM »

I like to be a team player.  But in a case like this, if you're sure you're playing it correctly, maybe just stay with the conductor and nail it.  That might help everybody else get in the groove. 
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« Reply #8 on: Jul 24, 2013, 11:49AM »

With my conductor's hat on I have to say that you should stick with the conductor and, if there are still problems after more rehearsals, shout for help from the conductor.

With all respect for conductors, who have a more difficult job than we often give them credit for, I have two things to say about that:

1. The stick makes no noise.
2. If you're the only one right, you're wrong.


This is something that comes up in my professional career more often than I'd like. Watching the conductor and playing what I see regardless of what else is happening is quite simply not acceptable. Playing together with the ensemble always, always, always takes priority, and any conductors worth their salt would agree.

A conductor does not provide pulse; a conductor provides tempo. Pulse has to come from the people making sound.

If the band is not together, you simply have to choose a part of the band to play with. Or you have to take charge to the point where nobody has a choice but to play with you. Learn to do both of those things at will, and you will go far.
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Gabe Langfur
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« Reply #9 on: Jul 24, 2013, 11:59AM »

With all respect for conductors, who have a more difficult job than we often give them credit for, I have two things to say about that:

1. The stick makes no noise.
2. If you're the only one right, you're wrong.


This is something that comes up in my professional career more often than I'd like. Watching the conductor and playing what I see regardless of what else is happening is quite simply not acceptable. Playing together with the ensemble always, always, always takes priority, and any conductors worth their salt would agree.

A conductor does not provide pulse; a conductor provides tempo. Pulse has to come from the people making sound.

If the band is not together, you simply have to choose a part of the band to play with. Or you have to take charge to the point where nobody has a choice but to play with you. Learn to do both of those things at will, and you will go far.

Very well stated. I heard a story about Bud Herseth. The Chicago Symphony was performing a piece (It might have been Tchaik 4, but I can't remember for sure) that stated to fall apart. The story goes that Bud took charge musically and brought it all back together. Sometimes it is better to find a player or section that you believe know what they are doing and follow them.
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« Reply #10 on: Jul 24, 2013, 12:45PM »

I agree with Gabe. I've been doing this pro thing fr 35+ years. It's like the old joke about the 1st trpt player seeing the conductor after a performance, and asking him where he's been allnight. Go with the ensemble.

Eddie Clark
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« Reply #11 on: Jul 24, 2013, 12:47PM »

Sometimes it is better to find a player or section that you believe know what they are doing and follow them.

I played for a while with a band where the core pitch floated all over the place depending on what section was leading at the moment.  

I expressed my frustration one night, and the guy next to me, a very accomplished player, said, "Tim, you're part of the problem.  Don't follow them, play it right.  If you do it well, they'll follow you.  Maybe."  That was a novel way of looking at it to me and I had to think about it.  
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #12 on: Jul 24, 2013, 12:48PM »

I agree with Gabe. I've been doing this pro thing fr 35+ years. It's like the old joke about the 1st trpt player seeing the conductor after a performance, and asking him where he's been allnight. Go with the ensemble.

Eddie Clark

That makes sense but it sounds like in this case there might not be an ensemble. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #13 on: Jul 24, 2013, 03:37PM »

2. If you're the only one right, you're wrong.[/b][/i]

If the band is not together, you simply have to choose a part of the band to play with. Or you have to take charge to the point where nobody has a choice but to play with you. Learn to do both of those things at will, and you will go far.

With all due respect, there are two linked flaws with this idea.
1)You are making an assumption that everyone else is doing exactly the same thing together. Unfortunately there are far more wrong ways of doing something that there are right ways; which wrong way do you choose?
2)When the band is not together, which part do you choose to play with and how do you make sure that the rest of the band choose the same one as you do?

My original comment was based on the premise that there are still a number of rehearsals for the OP with this particular piece of music and, as there is most likely no recording of it to listen to, the only help he will get is from the composer who is also the conductor. The conductor has the final responsibility for the performance and, as players, whether we agree with the conductor's interpretation of the music or not, our responsibility is to follow them and play it as they want it played.

As regards the "stick makes no noise" I don't think it was meant to; it is there to be seen and to aid the players; it is neither whip nor wand.

I like to be a team player.  But in a case like this, if you're sure you're playing it correctly, maybe just stay with the conductor and nail it.  That might help everybody else get in the groove. 

Yes, Timothy42b, I could not agree more.


If the band is not together, you simply have to choose a part of the band to play with. Or you have to take charge to the point where nobody has a choice but to play with you. Learn to do both of those things at will, and you will go far.

.......but you might be on your own as the conductor may not tolerate someone who does not follow them or who takes things into their own hands and tries to influence the rest of the ensemble.

Cheers

Stewbones
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« Reply #14 on: Jul 24, 2013, 03:56PM »

With all due respect, there are two linked flaws with this idea.
1)You are making an assumption that everyone else is doing exactly the same thing together. Unfortunately there are far more wrong ways of doing something that there are right ways; which wrong way do you choose?

I'm not making any assumptions at all. What I'm saying is that there is nothing more destructive to a good ensemble than somebody who insists they are right and sticks to that regardless of what the rest of the ensemble is doing. You can be playing every beat perfectly in time with the ictus and be 100% wrong. In performance or in rehearsal. The same thing goes for pitch, and one of the best conductors I play for has said exactly those words to a principal wind who would often try to resist the way the pitch was rising in the strings.


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2)When the band is not together, which part do you choose to play with and how do you make sure that the rest of the band choose the same one as you do?

Exactly. That's the question. The OP has suggested that "The bass instruments lay down a 3-3-2 pattern which is pretty good, the problems come from a more complex syncopated figure in the violins/woodwinds." If that's in fact the case, then his responsibility while playing a melody is to go with the bass line. His responsibility is most certainly not to tune everybody else out and play with the conductor's beat pattern, no matter how good the conductor may be. 


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My original comment was based on the premise that there are still a number of rehearsals for the OP with this particular piece of music and, as there is most likely no recording of it to listen to, the only help he will get is from the composer who is also the conductor.

Fair point, and it might very well be worth a conversation - held in private - about the best strategy for the rehearsals.

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The conductor has the final responsibility for the performance and, as players, whether we agree with the conductor's interpretation of the music or not, our responsibility is to follow them and play it as they want it played.

Ah yes, but is it our responsibility to follow every movement they make with their baton? As a conductor, do you truly want that? Or do you want your group to play with beautiful ensemble, listening and adjusting to each other, all guided in tempo and phrasing by your gestures?

I stand by my earlier statement: A conductor does not provide pulse; a conductor provides tempo. Pulse has to come from the people making sound.

I tell my students all the time that conductors often say they want us to follow their sticks, but what they really want is for us to read their minds.

Quote
As regards the "stick makes no noise" I don't think it was meant to; it is there to be seen and to aid the players; it is neither whip nor wand.

Good. I'm with you 100%. I wish more conductors treated it as such.

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.......but you might be on your own as the conductor may not tolerate someone who does not follow them or who takes things into their own hands and tries to influence the rest of the ensemble.

Good conductors know that they often need help from people who are making sound. And if they are really good, they know when to ask for it.
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Gabe Langfur
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« Reply #15 on: Jul 24, 2013, 04:14PM »

take charge to the point where nobody has a choice but to play with you. Learn to do both of those things at will, and you will go far.

I liked that very much! Also the other things Gabe told. Why so? Because we as musicians have to serve the music. The conductor is not music. He can give something to us to serve the music. We as musicians need both eyes and ears to be open. To everything that's going on. We have to give something in to the big "pan" to make things be a hole output. Not be passive. I believe most conductors agree, its a big thing where all have to contribute to make the output a "one voice that is music"
Its about communication beetween all. All are a part of it.

Sorry my English, but Gabe explained it much better.

Leif
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« Reply #16 on: Jul 24, 2013, 04:45PM »

Gabe, it is good that we agree on some things and inevitable that we have our differences. I do see your points of view and am sure we would both aim for the same musical goals even though we might take differing routes to achieve them. Good!

Cheers

Stewbones
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« Reply #17 on: Jul 24, 2013, 04:56PM »

Gabe, it is good that we agree on some things and inevitable that we have our differences. I do see your points of view and am sure we would both aim for the same musical goals even though we might take differing routes to achieve them. Good!

Cheers

Stewbones


Cheers to you as well!

I'm not sure we even really disagree on much other than semantics. I'm not suggesting he take over from the conductor nearly as much as he play in such a way that the time can't be mistaken.

And I would never suggest that anybody play that way all the time.
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Gabe Langfur
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« Reply #18 on: Jul 24, 2013, 07:32PM »

Practice it without a metronome, and don't practice it until you can subdivide the pulse in your head.
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« Reply #19 on: Jul 25, 2013, 06:01AM »

Might I also suggest that whether you follow the conductor or a pulse laid down by another section depends on what type of conductor you have?
If they are the type of conductor that lays down a rigid beat and every beat is always at the ictus then you should follow the conductor and let them correct the other sections. If however, they are what I call the "interpretation type" who direct rather than lead and use flowery arm and stick movements to show how you should play the beat rather than where; then you have to go with where the strongest beat comes from. If it is a solo section then it may be down to you to set that beat yourself but most likely this will be set by the heavy end.

just my take on things

Iain
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