Friday, June 19, 2009

The Curse of the Big Heavy Instruments

Since I don't have any idea what I'm going to writing about for my Sociology T1 (named of course after our beloved term 1 project), I've decided to write about what I wanted to.


Like everything else - hierarchy, get-rich-fast schemes, Egyptian burial places - a balanced band is constructed like a pyramid. At the bottom you have the bass line (for all intensive purposes I'm grouping the percussionists in here), and the higher up the pyramid/pitch you go, the smaller the sections. This has something to do with that whole higher frequency gets heard more clearly/they get more solos and less need for a section/who really need more than 2 flutes. If you want that explained more clearly then talk to Chris. However, most (especially younger) bands have an inverted pyramid where a gazillion flutes sitting on top of a few euphs.

Since you would never need that many flutists, streaming occurs. Band teachers subtly poke students that are in the lower echelons of their section to try to pursue a different (lower) instrument. Of course occasionally they aren't even that bad, just no long term potential (I mean, I was solo clarinetist before I switched =p).

With this however, comes the realization that the music we play are not very challenging once we got used to our respective instruments. This isn't like the whole Pachelbel debacle where, OMG, you get 8 quarter notes repeated over and over again. Try a bass clarinet part for Mars; we get one note where every bar is repeating the same rhythm as before; or even worse, I've had a whole page of the same dotted half notes.

Of course, if we reapproach our band teachers, they would do anything for us not to switch back to our original instruments. Of course if you're in the school band, that means only a max of 4 years of the instrument and you're out of there. If you're in a community band, you're stuck there until someone else comes along playing the same instrument. Imagine my shock when the kid I was mentoring quit half way through the year? I mean, the guy I replaced fled the continent ffs (although he has been doing it a LOT longer than I have, and is a LOT more talented than I).

Because of this, people struck by the curse are a lot more prone to settle. I mean, if you don't submit, comments like "Oh, so you play quarter notes" are going to sting more and more as time goes on.


shuup said...

what instrument do you play now? i thought you were still doing clarinet.. T_T i'm a bad friend.. lol

Loluis said...


actually, from what i hear, most timponi/percussionists play another instrument outside of the band/orchestra. u can prob say the same for many other "big heavy instrumentalists" cause the way i see it u can't rly call a percussionist a musician if he/she doesn't know how to read score that arn't tabs