What a great tenor saxophone soloist John Clemmer is!
I am very happy with the quality of musicians we are attracting. The three Johns (McKevitt, Clemmer, Mote) are welcomed additions to our band.
Trombones sounded awesome. Boy, can they play!
I appreciate the clarinets working so hard on Mannin Veen.
What a great rehearsal! For the first time, I felt like I was actually conducting for musical expression and meaning.
Wonderful! Thank you.
This makes me very happy for there are two ensemble elements which I have yet to tell you about – Interpretation and Music Effect. Unlike the other elements, these are director responsibilities. And I cannot work on these two things effectively until the other elements are up to a certain level.
To this cause, please review the T-BIPP elements and then please read my comments on the three types of band sound.
REVIEW OF T-BIPP
I think we are making progress on all of the T-BIPP elements of ensemble:
– Balance & Blend
1. Open the throat (use the yawn method)
2. Use diaphragm support (bend over and take a deep breath. That is what diaphragm support feels like).
3. Blow fast, warm air. (Some flute studio teachers do not agree with the warm air part.)
BALANCE AND BLEND
1. Use the Francis McBeth pyramid idea – make sure you use the right volume for your position on the pyramid).
2. For good blend listen critically to other instruments playing your part and try to create a new tonal color (like yellow and blue mixed together forms green.)
Intonation is not a serious issue with this band.
The only thing I might say is that when we tune to the tuner, do not change your embouchure. Let the tuner tell you if you are flat or sharp. Lipping the note while tuning defeats the purpose of tuning. The purpose of tuning is to get the length of your instrument to the correct length so that it is easier for you to lip the notes in tune. Reserve lipping the notes for when we are playing.
Precision has improved greatly.
Get your eyes off the sheet music — especially at the beginning and at the end. If we are playing a sustained note, I promise it is not going to change, why are you staring at it?
Remember to use the clock method to determine your release on the last note. I will conduct a cut-off with an upward circle. Piccolo release at 12:00, flutes at 1:00, clarinet high notes at 2:00 and so forth until tubas release at 6:00. The release changes according to your register – for example, a high F in the trumpet will be released a tad before a low C would be.
- This is another area which has greatly improved.
- Understand how to perform crescendo and decrescendo:
- Stress the first note of a two-note slur.
- Bring out the leading notes (usually they are on the weak beats).
- Phrasing is just not a crescendo to the climatic note and followed by a decrescendo but a series of mini phrases – the difference between a painting of a mountain from a six year old (basic triangle shape) as opposed to one from a professional artist.
- Background parts need to phrase to support the phrasing of the melody.
- Nuance in phrasing is important – it makes the music come alive with emotion.
TONE (Advanced Concepts)
There are three schools of thought concerning how a band should sound:
- Concert Band
- Symphonic Band
- Wind Ensemble
I strongly disagree with the current practice of high school directors (and even middle school directors) naming their top band “Wind Ensemble,” the next band “Symphonic Band” and the third band (if any) “Concert Band.”
These terms are actually classifications of a type of “sound” not ability levels.
CONCERT BAND (also called MIlitary Band in older literature) is the traditional sound — it is basically the sound of a brass (cornet) band softened by the woodwind section. The woodwinds should not compete with the volume of the brass.
SYMPHONIC BAND became popular in the universities in the 1920-30’s. They have large clarinet sections 24+ clarinets with lots of bass and contrabass clarinets. Commonly, these are very large groups – 80 to 100+.
The idea is to replace the strings of the orchestra with a balanced clarinet choir. Therefore this sound is basically a clarinet choir with the other instruments used for “color.”
I was lucky enough to be the middle school/HS assistant at Cartersville in the late 1980’s and where we played nothing but orchestra transcriptions with a symphonic band (4 bass clarinets and 4 contrabass).
WIND ENSEMBLE is the wind section of a symphony orchestra. The concept was developed by Frederick Fennell at Eastman School of Music in the early 1950’s. The smaller size allows for greater clarity and better intonation. The instruments tend to be very soloistic. It should be the sound of a large chamber group rather than a massive band sound.
So what sound are we striving to achieve?
Well, we are very close to the instrumentation of a wind ensemble but I think this group should strive for a traditional band sound given our purpose and repertoire.
Therefore, we want to have a well-blended full-brass section with the woodwinds providing a “glowing halo” to the sound. That is what I have been trying to achieve with the emphasis on balance and blend. We need one or two more trumpets, horns, trombones, baritones and tubas to reach my “ideal” sound.
Furthermore, in traditional band arrangements we want the trumpets to sound like cornets (as much as possible). In popular music, a brighter trumpet sound is acceptable.