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Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby SupremeOverlordNacho » Sun Aug 20, 2017 4:31 pm

So I'm section leader in a high school marching band, and I was wondering what some good exercises for my section of 12 (including me) to do in order to build better intonation and achieve a bigger sound.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby kmorgancraw » Sun Aug 20, 2017 7:01 pm

Playing in tune will produce a bigger sound. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to "teach" or "train" intonation. Players either hear it or they don't. To make matters worse, high school marching band is where everyone typically just blows their brains out playing as loud as possible, intonation be damned. Try to get everyone in your section playing the right notes, that'll be the best you can hope for.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby lost » Sun Aug 20, 2017 7:08 pm

Singing the music line helps intonation...provided the general classroom music teachers have done their jobs on teaching students to match pitch with their voices.

Listening to each other and adjusting-- but that only comes with everyone knowing their parts so that can be the focus.

Listening for the absense of wave/interference beat on long tones is usually a tangible exercise to help students focus on intonation.

Just some ideas.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby bloke » Sun Aug 20, 2017 8:05 pm

Let player #1 use a tuner.
Add other players, but don't allow additional players to enter if there are "beats" in the sound.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby timothy42b » Mon Aug 21, 2017 8:09 am

bloke wrote:Let player #1 use a tuner.
Add other players, but don't allow additional players to enter if there are "beats" in the sound.


Er, beats are good. Beats mean you're getting close.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby thevillagetuba » Mon Aug 21, 2017 8:22 am

timothy42b wrote:
bloke wrote:Let player #1 use a tuner.
Add other players, but don't allow additional players to enter if there are "beats" in the sound.


Er, beats are good. Beats mean you're getting close.


You don't enter if there are beats in the sound in order to allow the person before you to finish getting in tune without adding another variable/out of tune sound to the mix in order to complicate things.

Beats are not good as it means the players are not in tune. The slower the beats, the closer to in tune they will be and the harder it will be to hear the beats.
Last edited by thevillagetuba on Mon Aug 21, 2017 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby bloke » Mon Aug 21, 2017 8:56 am

I suppose, "close" is good for quite a few people in quite a few disciplines.
It certainly seems to be good enough for some who no longer work on my house, car, air-conditioner, appliances, electrical systems, and plumbing...and there are those no longer with us who flew in 99.9% close to ready-to-fly airplanes, helicopters, and rockets.

Image

Via the miracle of digital recording, we are now able to listen to mediocre musicians perform error-free concertos and sonatas on the radio...Sometimes - via autotune, their mediocre intonation is even repaired. Most of the time, though, those same musicians aren't recording...They're performing live.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby timothy42b » Mon Aug 21, 2017 10:14 am

I've played with people who couldn't get close enough to produce beats.

Beats can be a step in the right direction.

Or it could be humor. Just saying.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby timothy42b » Mon Aug 21, 2017 10:16 am

Here's an exercise recommended by Don Lucas, trombone teacher at Boston University.

Play a cello drone. Hum or sing that pitch. Now slowly gliss up one half step, listening to the beats and maintaining a steady acceleration. Gliss back down to no beats, then half step down.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby Voisi1ev » Mon Aug 21, 2017 11:47 am

Always a pro tip for HS Kids, make sure everyone has 2 bit, and that their tuning slides are out at least a smidge.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby Uncle Markie » Thu Aug 24, 2017 6:28 pm

Congratulations on becoming the section leader. I assume you have a section of players with varying degrees of proficiency.
I agree with the previous post - make sure everybody has TWO bits, that they fit together and don't leak. Careful truing with needle nose pliers will do in a pinch if your band director doesn't have the real tool. The same thing goes for the mouthpieces - make sure everybody has round hole at the horn end. Have a horn cleaning party too - the horns will start out clean and working and the new players will learn this task by doing. Lube the slides too (if you're on a budget use wheel bearing grease - Vaseline has sulfur in it and will turn the brass green).
Since you are probably the section's best player, take everybody else's horn to the tuner, and play it yourself. Don't be surprised if some of the notes that should be fingered 1-2 center and play better with just the 3rd valve. Check the open D natural (usually flat) and get the section to use 1-2 for that note. King sousaphones' D-natural below the staff tends to work better with the 3rd valve instead of 1-2. Middle F is usually flat and be brought up using 1-3. Put the horn back in the hands of the student who be playing it and SHOW them the difference if you can.
Have a sectional and tune up by chromatic scales - not just the gizmo. Then tune up using alternate fingerings and reach an agreement on what you'll do as a section. It is possible to center tone and play sousaphones in tune - and the closer you get to this, better projection of sound will result. Tuners are not a substitute for your ears. Plus when it gets cold, the pitch goes out unevenly and using a tuner outdoors is showing off before God.
At all times remember the sousaphone is a wind instrument - as my late friend John Coffey used to say "tongue and BLOW".
Lastly - function as a team; work together - it's a lot more fun.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby Leland » Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:57 pm

been doing marching music for thirty years so far ------->

SupremeOverlordNacho wrote:So I'm section leader in a high school marching band, and I was wondering what some good exercises for my section of 12 (including me) to do in order to build better intonation and achieve a bigger sound.

Marching band?

Run. Go run. Run as a group. Clap in time, do breathing exercises along the way.

And do pushups. Planks, crunches, Supermans, etc. Yoga, too. And squats. Build up your core and your muscular support structure. Heck, throw in some P90X and CrossFit if you guys are up for it.

During visual rehearsals, stop singing as soon as you memorize enough music to not be lost. Blow instead; we call it "air and valves" where I'm from. Do everything besides actually buzzing. Put your face on the horn, articulate, and move the valves. Air is your fuel, and you use it differently while playing compared to singing. You need to get accustomed to managing phrasing and volume while on the move.

All the work you do tuning in the shade won't mean anything if you're worn out and gasping for air in the show. Get in shape and get into a mindset where you can begin relaxing while moving all the air you need to play properly. I'd even say that because the tuba demands so much air already, you'll get all the oxygen your body will need to march your drill effectively.

One of the guys I served with has been teaching at Blue Stars lately, and he's got their tubas doing well.
Preseason:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1CrmtCde1g" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank
Early August:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsVlWzoJ2Wk" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby paulver » Fri Sep 01, 2017 8:56 am

As a former high school band director, I used to tell the entire band to think about how a radio station broadcasts sound. The first thing they send out is a "carrier wave". (You never hear this wave, but for purposes of getting a basic understanding of how sound transmission works, this explanation worked great for me...... and them.) This is the vehicle on which all of the other sound rides. The tubas (sousaphones) should be the carrier wave of the band.The stronger the carrier wave, the better the band's overall sound. The total sound of the band rests on, and is determined by, the bass section. Tune, blow, listen, refine your overall sound, then keep blowing and tonguing. The cleaner the sound, the more power you will have. That also transfers to the rest of the band. "Organized sound" will be louder and more powerful with less effort, and will travel further than disorganized...... sloppy sound. By organized, I mean good intonation, precise timing, precise and solid entrances, tonguing, precise ending of notes, matched volume (dynamics) from each player, and uniformly controlled breathing. This applies to the entire band, but........ why not start with the bass section???

Side note...... I detest listening to a treble clef marching band. Yes, you need the middle and upper parts, but....... the heavy artillery is where it all starts to happen!!!!!! The next strong section would be the middle. The top will follow, merely due to the power down below.

You have 12 basses, so I assume that it's a rather large organization with appropriately sized sections throughout the rest of the band. Most stock marching band arrangements are 4 or 6 way scoring. However, if you think bottom, middle, top, you can start to listen for the prominence of each of those sounds, and how they are interrelated to the part you're playing. Anytime a section is able to hear, then correctly interact with the other sections, you're gonna have a better overall outcome, whether it be sound or marching.

And........... as soon as possible........ lose the music!!!! Memorize it ASAP!!!! This will allow you to play and march better..... not to mention the pride factor. You won't have a small piece of paper right in front of your face, blocking your vision, nor will you have to worry about looking for your next line of music.You will find yourself listening to the rest of the band and taking any needed musical cues from them. All positive stuff!!!!! Be the first section to learn everything. Develop pride in everything your section does. The other sections will eventually follow.
Last edited by paulver on Fri Sep 01, 2017 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby Alex C » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:33 am

bloke wrote:Let player #1 use a tuner.
Add other players, but don't allow additional players to enter if there are "beats" in the sound.

I like this. It is a new approach to me. Well done, Bloke! You score.
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Practicing results in increased atmospheric CO2 thus causing global warming.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby swillafew » Thu Sep 14, 2017 12:13 am

1. don't overblow anything

2. Tune to something useful (pitched percussion would be great)

3. play sustained tones and make people listen. Just getting people to listen is no small matter.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby windshieldbug » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:18 am

swillafew wrote:2. Tune to something useful (pitched percussion would be great)


In my experience, pitched percussion is usually tuned a little sharp to "cut" through the sound texture.
A drone would work well.

https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/40605/why-is-a-442-the-common-tuning-for-percussion-instruments
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby swillafew » Thu Sep 14, 2017 11:26 am

Sharp is what you don't want, and what you're going to become if nobody has a reference. By all means, get the best reference you can.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby MaryAnn » Thu Sep 14, 2017 2:23 pm

I can teach how to play without beats in about five minutes, with major and minor chords. If you want an actual system, Steve Colley's Tuneup System is an excellent one. A person does not need a "musical ear" to learn to play without beats. It's purely knowing what to listen for and what to do about it. Since it's basically never taught, people think it's impossible when actually it's quite simple. If someone has never been shown (easily) how to fix intonation, they will not have a clue what it is even about.
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Re: Tuning and Building a Big Sound

Postby Leland » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:01 pm

windshieldbug wrote:
swillafew wrote:2. Tune to something useful (pitched percussion would be great)


In my experience, pitched percussion is usually tuned a little sharp to "cut" through the sound texture.
A drone would work well.

https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/40605/why-is-a-442-the-common-tuning-for-percussion-instruments

Stack Exchange FTW.

The thing is, nobody in the audience is sitting there with a tuner and thinking, "Hey, the winds are at 440 and the vibes are at 442. FAIL!" All they're going to notice is if it sounds bad. Many in the audience may not even be able to put their finger on it (except for other band nerds like us), but they won't start thinking, "Wow, they sound good," unless the winds are in tune with the pit (aka "pitched percussion").

We started tuning to the pit when I was last teaching, and it made a world of difference in the overall sound. Depending on the weather, we were anywhere between 436 and 446, which seems crazy on paper -- but with the full ensemble, nobody was struggling with being caught between the winds' pitch and the pit's pitch. We didn't have to complain anymore about the keyed percussion going sharp in the heat because the brasses were matching them instead.

However, applying this to marching and playing...

It takes a lot of practice (and being in good shape, like I said earlier) to play easily down the center of the horn while moving around. Many players tend to tense up a bit when they're marching, so what was good for A=440 while playing with a perfect tone in the warmup arc can drift upwards during the show itself.

Back to the BIG sound idea:

I've seen two schools of thought on how to get an ensemble cranking with big volume. Their only similarity is that they take time to do -- but they both work. One has the players go full-throttle on fortissimo passages from day one, and over time, the loudest players get massaged down (like sanding down the rough edges), while the softer players have had time to build power. The other is to have nobody overblow at all at the beginning of the season (like swillafew said a few posts back), then gradually build up the peak volume level as the season progresses, lifting everyone's decibel level together.

Time, patience, and practice. The more you do, the better you get. Practice loud so it's easy, play in tune all the time so it's natural. GO RUN. Do pushups.
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