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Effects of Marching Band - Good or Bad?


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trickg
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:26 am    Post subject: Effects of Marching Band - Good or Bad? Reply with quote

I thought I'd toss this thread up for discussion because it seems to me, based on SO many of the threads we see, particularly in the late summer through the fall, that marching band creates a lot of chops problems for many young players.

They come on asking questions about how to fix their chops. They don't know what happened - they were always able to play well before in their first several years of playing, but now the chops aren't working - no range, thin sound, endurance is shot....

To me the problem is pretty obvious. They've never had issues before becuase they don't start marching until they hit high school, and marching with a trumpet invites all kinds of things that are detrimental to playing trumpet, and for fairly obvious reasons. I was discussing this last night with the trumpet players in my HS jazz band.

1.) Excessive mouthpiece pressure. This is probably one of the biggest culprits. You're out on a bumpy, grassy field and you're moving all about, so to keep the horn on your face in the midst of all of that blowing, pressure is added. For a player who is already utilizing a bit of pressure to help focus the chops, this is disastrous.

2.) Detrimental body tension. Marching band directors care more about appearances, so they harp on their trumpet players about horn angles. Well, many players naturally play with a slight downward tilt, so in order to bring the horn up to the appropriate level, they crane their head and neck back, and lean back - none of that is natural and none of that is relaxed, so proper breathing goes right out the window.

3.) Mouthpiece placement and pressure shift. When looking at horn angle and body position, there comes a point where due to the fact that it's so unnatural to hold our bodies in that position, fatigue ends up setting in and the player starts to relax a little - the neck isn't craned so far back, and the player isn't leaning so far back, yet the horn needs to stay up for appearances. The natural effect is that mouthpiece pressure gets shifted off of the bottom lip where it's supposed to be, and it places it firmly on the top lip.

4.) Over blowing. With the demand to play louder and to produce more volume as an ensemble, players are blowing much more air than they should. When you combine that with numbers 1, 2 and 3, the average HS player winds up playing loud, spread and blatty, and forcing their chops to do things that overall leads to an open embouchure. In addition to this, often times players are asked to force things that are normally outside of their comfortable range.

5.) Lack of proper practice room routine. So if we combine elements 1, 2, 3 and 4, but we don't do any corrective or restorative work in the practice room, it doesn't take long before the net effects of marching and playing start to take a pretty big toll on a player's chops, which in turn leads us to the many "what's wrong with my chops" threads we see year after year.

I know that when I was working as an Army Bandsman, particularly in my first 3 years before I went to the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps as a bugler, I had to hit the practice room and do some serious corrective work to restore my chops after a run of summer ceremonies on the parade field, and a weekend street parades. I'd go into brass quintet rehearsal and the first one back would be ROUGH - much of the finesse and ability to play softly or delicately were severely compromised, and it happened pretty quickly. Keep in mind, I was someone who had developed enough as a player that I was making my living in the military playing, and playing in several of the band's select ensembles - I wasn't a high school kid with a semi-shaky foundation to begin with.

This is just how I see it. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to add, comment or dispute.
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cheiden
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds about right. My son is a freshman in a pretty decent high school program. And I struggle to guide him because the band keeps reinforcing a bunch of these bad habits. It's almost impossible to get him to play anything but forte. Marching season wraps up soon and I'm hoping to get him realigned then.
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mafields627
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a trumpet playing marching band director there is a lot of truth in your post. I think using improperly sized gear contributes as well. Instead of playing on a mouthpiece size that provides adequate support for the embouchure, students are playing on stuff that's too big, working too hard, spread/open apertures, etc. I also think that a lot of directors don't incorporate soft playing into their marching band warms which, I feels, is necessary to maintain a focused aperture.
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jscahoy
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not to mention having to blast away in sub-freezing weather. I despised marching band. But there are plenty of drum corps guys with great chops, so maybe it's just a matter of proper technique.
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:55 am    Post subject: Re: Effects of Marching Band - Good or Bad? Reply with quote

trickg wrote:
I know that when I was working as an Army Bandsman, particularly in my first 3 years before I went to the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps as a bugler, I had to hit the practice room and do some serious corrective work to restore my chops after a run of summer ceremonies on the parade field, and a weekend street parades.

I don't think I knew you were an Army bandsman. Me too! Who was your instructor at the SOM? Mine was an Army Specialist Bill Maley. The cadre was probably completely different when you were there.

I've always hated the idea of marching. I avoided high school band altogether because of it. My chops were unstable and problematic enough as it was and endless hours learning routines seemed like a drag and still does. And I rarely hear a high school marching band that really sounds good. Even if the players are decent outdoor acoustics suck.

At least in the Army it was far simpler - basically follow the guy in front of you, know when to turn. But it was still the most undesirable part of band duty to me.

One time some high-level officer at our base got it in his head he wanted the band to play on the run for a pass-in-review, our enlisted bandmaster and warrant officer bandmaster had to explain that it was a really bad idea.
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trickg
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just wish more of these kids were aware - I'm not saying they shouldn't march, because that's part of the high school band experience. But, forewarned is forearmed - they could take steps to keep the detrimental effects from piling up.
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trickg
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:14 am    Post subject: Re: Effects of Marching Band - Good or Bad? Reply with quote

Robert P wrote:
trickg wrote:
I know that when I was working as an Army Bandsman, particularly in my first 3 years before I went to the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps as a bugler, I had to hit the practice room and do some serious corrective work to restore my chops after a run of summer ceremonies on the parade field, and a weekend street parades.

I don't think I knew you were an Army bandsman. Me too! Who was your instructor at the SOM? Mine was an Army Specialist Bill Maley. The cadre was probably completely different when you were there.

Well, I went through the Armed Forces School of Music at the Littlecreek Naval Amphibious base between October of 1989, and April of 1990. My personal instructor was Army - SFC Norman Norris - at least I think his first name was Norman. I look back on my time working with him as a bit of a missed opportunity - he was a fine player, but we didn't really connect very well, although he did teach me a good deal about phrasing and playing melodically. Otherwise, I never felt like I garnered too much from him.

I was active at the First US Army Band at Fort Meade from late April of 1990 through the end of August 1992. That was when I went to the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps, which is where I stayed until I left active duty in December of 1999.
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dstdenis
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think marching band is great for kids who have some common sense and a healthy instinct for self-preservation. So when the band director asks the band to play louder or to run through the entire show one more time, a smart kid would consider whether he/she can do that, and if not, how to survive.

I used to blow horse flaps when I got tired. (Actually, I still do.) Smart band directors would notice all the brass players blowing horse flaps and usually adjust accordingly. ("Let's run through the show again, but this time to drum clicks.") If the BD didn't notice, I'd participate in the run-through it but I wouldn't play, or I'd play it softly down an octave--whatever I needed to do to survive.

Some kids don't realize self-preservation is an option, so they destroy their chops. (I've seen adults do the same thing.)
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kehaulani
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The OP askes, "good or bad". In our H.S. system, we eliminated that problem by simply eliminating the situation. None of us schools had marching bands.
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LaTrompeta
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very rarely have I seen marching band / drum corps do anything good for someone's musicianship. Granted, it was a lot of fun in high school. College marching band is a joke; you exist purely to serve the football team.

Regardless, kids can do marching band if they remember to practice real music outside of the band. That should keep them somewhat balanced.

Chris Martin and his brother were in drum corps. It worked out pretty well for them, so I guess it can be done.
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Brad361
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I went to college with a couple of guys who marched DCI drum corps during summers. This might not be the norm, but both of them had incredible endurance and no embouchure damage when school started in August. Granted, college music majors generally had enough experience and sense not to kill themselves during marching season, many high school kids donít. But I believe that if band directors understand brass playing that kids CAN get positive experiences from marching band....the directors have a lot to do with it.

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trickg
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brad361 wrote:
I went to college with a couple of guys who marched DCI drum corps during summers. This might not be the norm, but both of them had incredible endurance and no embouchure damage when school started in August. Granted, college music majors generally had enough experience and sense not to kill themselves during marching season, many high school kids donít. But I believe that if band directors understand brass playing that kids CAN get positive experiences from marching band....the directors have a lot to do with it.

Brad

Two things here:

1.) DCI players, particularly for any of the top 12 corps, have to be a bit more developed to begin with.

2.) DCI horn line instructors know that marching can wreck your chops, so they build in warm ups designed to help.

They also do a lot of soft playing, and you can't do that when you are using two much mouthpiece pressure. Those things are missed by most HS band directors.
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Brad361
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

trickg wrote:
Brad361 wrote:
I went to college with a couple of guys who marched DCI drum corps during summers. This might not be the norm, but both of them had incredible endurance and no embouchure damage when school started in August. Granted, college music majors generally had enough experience and sense not to kill themselves during marching season, many high school kids donít. But I believe that if band directors understand brass playing that kids CAN get positive experiences from marching band....the directors have a lot to do with it.

Brad

Two things here:

1.) DCI players, particularly for any of the top 12 corps, have to be a bit more developed to begin with.

2.) DCI horn line instructors know that marching can wreck your chops, so they build in warm ups designed to help.

They also do a lot of soft playing, and you can't do that when you are using two much mouthpiece pressure. Those things are missed by most HS band directors.


I think weíre basically on the same page here, I said ď....college music majors generally had enough experience and sense not to kill themselves during marching season, many high school kids donít.Ē I didnít mean to imply that someone in a DCI horn line is on the same level as the average high school kid. And I also said:
ďBut I believe that if band directors understand brass playing that kids CAN get positive experiences from marching band....the directors have a lot to do with it.Ē

Brad
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marching band is supposed to be a musical activity? Who knew....
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My marching experience was pretty positive in High School. Our lead director was a brass 0layer as well as our trumpet director. There was also a woodwind director as well. We would only focus on mqrching band stuff either after or befor wchool. During school you were either in symphonic or concert band then had the option to take a secont elective of jazz band. In the other bands we worked on our regular music repertoire and not marching stuff.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jscahoy wrote:
Not to mention having to blast away in sub-freezing weather. I despised marching band. But there are plenty of drum corps guys with great chops, so maybe it's just a matter of proper technique.


I saw a Drum and Bugle Corps performing in a Mardi Gras Parade when I was 12 years old. My Mom registered my excitement and enthusiasm and got the details worked out for me to join. I guess that you could say that I "grew up" in D&B Corps, because I stayed active until I started college. I think that I learned how to channel my air and focus sound to the best effect.

In college, I used the late August Marching Band practices to "supercharge" my chops after a summer break of lighter playing and it worked extremely well. I especially enjoyed playing outside in the stadiums at football games and building serious endurance. I also played in Concert Band, Brass Choir, Brass Ensemble and lead in Jazz Ensemble.

After a 14 year layoff during my 50s and early 60s, I took the same approach to "coming back" that I did in Marching Band and somehow managed to get my chops back in decent form in a matter of weeks. I take a totally different approach to my basic playing now keeping my chops working by practicing everyday and playing many times per week in everything that I can get involved in.

Playing and listening to Brass has always been a thrill for me and I get as much out of it today as I did as a kid! I always thought that it was supposed to be fun, and I plan to keep it that way!
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crazy Finn wrote:
Marching band is supposed to be a musical activity? Who knew....

LOL! I used to be anti marching band but I've altered that a bit in the last years.

For socialization for, sometimes sensitive, adolescents marching band can play an important role. It gives them a place to belong, teaches collective responsibility, and exposes music to a broader range of listeners.

Downside - eats up rehearsal time and can be damaging on the chops, so should be moderated carefully.

When I got to college in Texas, I resented greatly (and still do) one policy and that was "If you don't play in marching band - you can't play in concert band."
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kehaulani wrote:
When I got to college in Texas, I resented greatly (and still do) one policy and that was "If you don't play in marching band - you can't play in concert band."

They have to do that - otherwise they wouldn't have much of a marching band.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

trickg wrote:
kehaulani wrote:
When I got to college in Texas, I resented greatly (and still do) one policy and that was "If you don't play in marching band - you can't play in concert band."

They have to do that - otherwise they wouldn't have much of a marching band.


Many high schools in this area have optional marching band with no ill effect.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my freshmen year of high school you had to audition to get into the marching band and they had no problem filling it up and producing a good show. People were proud to march and liked doing it. The next year the original band director left and the new one made marching compulsory. From that time on the band sucked and most hated it.
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