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Old 10-15-2017, 09:26 PM   #11
Kenton Adler
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Location: Batesville Arkansas
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Default Re: Playing with a band

I'm with Pppiper. The Pm's foot, and play on the beat. If you try to follow the PM's fingers, you will be slightly behind. Keep the PM's fingers in view, but cue on the foot.

Kenton Adler

For best results - PLAY LOUD
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Old 10-17-2017, 10:35 PM   #12
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Default Re: Playing with a band

Originally Posted by Steve Law View Post

Sadly if “ everyone is playing just how they feel it” it’s not a band, it’s a group of individuals....

Greetings to All,

I am suddenly minded of an in-person conversation to which
I was privy these now many years back... and which may... to
some... have direct bearing on our subject at hand... :)

There was a bit of musical chat given by several symphonic
musicians... and some of whom were also... upon occasion...
striving to establish themselves... as conductors.

One young fellow... just a year or so into his career conducting...
related his then recent story... which to him... proved to be quite
invaluable... in giving him some much-needed perspective...
(He later became internationally well known and respected.)

The scene:

An internationally well-known northeast U.S. symphonic orchestra.

This is his second time being a guest conductor.

The first rehearsal, on a mid-afternoon, and his introduction to the
musicians. (He is... and understandably... a bit nervous.)

Having been introduced... now standing before them... and looking
out over the orchestra... he is suddenly struck by the self-evident
fact... that most of these musicians... have been playing this music...
longer than he has been alive!

Viewing the score... and aware of a sometimes tricky portion in the
second movement... and wishing to give due credence to their great
experience... he posed the following question to them:

"In regard to this (and he named the tricky portion) particular section
of our score, does anyone have any suggestions as to how we might
approach it?"

And a tired-sounding voice came from one of the back rows:

"Why don't we play it... the way it was written?"

And he immediately found his footing... and his place... amongst them.
(And their performance was a great success!)

He told this story with some embarrassment... but also with firmness...
as there was a rock-solid lesson in it for him... both then... and in the
times to come...

Our written "scores"... are sometimes... a great jumble... and in need
of some Rosetta Stone... for a proper understanding... and somewhere
in this bit of musical history... I am sure... is a lesson... and a moral...
though perhaps... in some slight disguise...

And perhaps each can determine it... on their own... and for themselves...

Trusting that this may be of some small assistance, and with

Regards to All,


My friends all know,
With what a brave carouse...

Last edited by Pip01; 10-17-2017 at 10:40 PM.
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Old 10-18-2017, 09:30 AM   #13
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Default Re: Playing with a band

Originally Posted by 3D Piper View Post
It is hard to not respectfully speak up to keep the whole band's practice/rehearsal from going down the wrong track..
Hi Matthew,

I understand how you feel, and we've (probably) all been there. I certainly have. We're not lemmings afterall, no one wants to willfully go off what appears to be a cliff.

But I've also been on the leadership side, it's an honor in some ways, but a burden in others. Directing the band and working with players, seeing things blossom was one thing, but being forced into the occasion of reiterating orders was a challenge that I really hated.

When people speak up while in the corps, it becomes chaos, and fast. Regardless of intentions, if there were problems that caused you to want to bring something up, chances are those problems will amplify when you then have player after player questioning, second guessing, etc. It's madness, and frankly, that's not a band. Or at least, not a successful one.

I'm reminded of a situation which occurred when I was pipe majoring a band for a parade. We were tight for time, and with this being a lower grade band, tuning and tone were an ever present issue. To some degree, unsteady blowers and nose-blower reeds make it so that there's only so much one can do in order to get the corps well tuned. We had a system in place though, which did a pretty decent job .. but it's time consuming, and stressful for the tuner (me) as time seems to wither away while trying to get everything nailed down.

So time is very precious, and it's difficult getting everyone in tune with their pipes in a warmed up state. As such, I was feverishly working to get them tuned and ready in time for stepping off. I'd also already gone to the marshal, advising them of this, and said that any amount of leeway they could afford us would be in everyone's best interest. The parade marshal was very accommodating, and said they would have other groups bypass us a little if needed.

All the while, one of the more pestersome (by reputation) members of the corps was constantly interrupting my directions, disturbing me whilst tuning, etc. This person was on the board of the band organization; so his intentions were always good, but he always had a very difficult time taking direction when part of the corps (without comment/question that is).

I'd let it go for a bit as I tried to keep my mind on tuning. But finally I lost my patience, and I had to tell him that if he couldn't "shut it and heed my direction" then I need him to leave. Thankfully, though clearly angry, he fell into ranks and I didn't hear another peep from him for the reminder of the event.

Which went fine, by the way. We were right up against it, but we got going in fine form.

After the gig, he and I were able to step aside over some beer and chat in a civil fashion. See, he saw the other groups starting to march past, and thought we were in trouble (we weren't). He thought I was too engrossed in preparations to know the time (I wasn't).

Point is, whether it was in the fashion he'd have liked or not, I had the situation in hand. But I didn't have the time to explain my decisions and direction to him for his own peace of mind. Nor should I have needed to do so. When it comes down to it, his interruptions served nothing more than to cause more stress, and erode more and more precious time.

I told him that if he had a problem with my direction, then he needs to bring it up at a board meeting. He didn't.

And to be clear, I felt awful ... AWFUL at losing my temper. It made me sick to my stomach. I made that clear to him, and we both apologized to each other. But still, I made it clear that if he wanted to be part of the corps, then he needs to be "part of the corps."

I can't say that he never spoke up at practice/events ever again, but God I wish I could, though the above situation was the most severe occurrence. From then on, I usually only needed to say "my directions are clear," and he would generally desist.

If the band rehearsal/practice is "going down the wrong track" ... then the responsibly must fall solely on the pipe major ... not on "whoever didn't speak up." Nothing can be gained by speaking up there on the spot. It'll only serve to make a bad situation even worse.

So this comes back to what's been said. When you're in the corps, if you want to do what's best for the group, and if you want to be apart of it ..
  • take direction without question
  • If there's something that doesn't sit right with you, ask in private.
  • If you then don't get the answer(s) you like, either accept it and go along, or look for playing opportunities elsewhere. Not every group is a good fit for some, and vice versa.

Last edited by Pppiper; 10-18-2017 at 09:35 AM.
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Old 10-18-2017, 12:48 PM   #14
3D Piper
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Default Re: Playing with a band

Kenton: great point, in our last few practices we have literally put the metronome down in the middle of the circle and watched it for timing. It's amazing how much the tempo can drift! (or: dang this metronome won't keep steady BPM!)

Pppiper: Those are great examples of understanding the leadership hierarchy in the pipe band and when not to speak up. I think my situation is different though. Think of being at a practice and getting in the circle and being directed to 'everyone look at a different place or even close your eyes and feel the tune, it will help us really lock in and play closer together'..

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Old 10-18-2017, 01:10 PM   #15
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Default Re: Playing with a band

Originally Posted by 3D Piper View Post
Think of being at a practice and getting in the circle and being directed to 'everyone look at a different place or even close your eyes and feel the tune, it will help us really lock in and play closer together'..
Glory ... well, if that's the case, honestly ... my last on the order of operations (seek out a different playing opportunity) would come into play for me. Not exactly a wonderful option, but worth exploring. As much as I want the players to "feel" the music ... the feeling should still be led.

As such, if people start dropping like flies, it should be an indication to leadership that something is wrong ... and hopefully at that point, issues are addressed or new leadership is installed.

One aside, personally, on the music side of things. I'm a proponent of people using their ears and following the drums. With the drummers following the pipe major, this (ideally) leads to a situation where the ears are supporting what the eyes are seeing (the pipe major's foot direction). As such, I worked very closely with the drum sergeant and bass player to coordinate our efforts. Within reason, if the drum section pulled ahead a bit in tempo, I would end up following them in the interests of maintaining good ensemble. The more the three of us worked together though, the less such a thing would ever be an issue.
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Old 10-19-2017, 02:03 AM   #16
Steve Law
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Default Re: Playing with a band

Ppp.....excellent posts....fully agree with both.
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