Chair placement question.

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Zalu617, Sep 5, 2009.

  1. Zalu617

    Zalu617 New Friend

    Jul 28, 2009
    Puyallup, WA
    This is a question mainly directed at band directors/conductors, but feel free to chime in.

    When you have a person play with your band for a few years, do you automatically place them at a certain chair/part, regardless of the improvement or decline of that player's skill? I.E. if they play 1st part when they first join, they will most likely play first part all throughout their time with the band. Or if you're a player, do you ever notice this in the band(s) you're in?

    As of why i'm asking this, we receive chair placement in a week or so, and i'm much better than when I first started with my director & just a little worried i'll be placed at 3rd part as that's what I played the past few years & just wanted to get some info. I know all parts are important.. but one can only play so much harmony lol.
  2. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    Unfortunately a lot of local and community bands use the seniority system , if the conductor and your section mates are fair, they should give you or anyone else, a chance to play a solo or or a first part. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
  3. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    In our band we work to skill level, and necessity. I (as the senior member of the section) dictate who plays where - the BD doesn't get much of a look in - often I play 3rd to ensure the bottom end is strong and to allow the youngsters a chance to experience the 1st/2nd chairs if their skill level warrants. Seems to work.
  4. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    I just recently joined a symphonic band as part of my comeback attempt. It is (they claim) the largest symphonic band in the U.S. There are 12 trumpets on the roster although apparently some only show up for the last rehearsal and the performance. But, the ones that I have talked to so far in the two rehearsals that I have attended have told me that it is a very egalitarian group. The section leader lets players discuss among themselves who will play which parts on each piece. Apparently everyone (except me) is capable of playing lead. So, one player will play lead on one part and fourth on another, and so on. Some of the music has both trumpet and cornet parts and some will play one on one piece and the other on a different piece. In fact, I suppose if I were to say that I wanted to play lead on one piece, they would let me, although I have enough respect for the others and the audience not to push that. But, I am playing second trumpet on some, third cornet on some, fourth trumpet on others. The current practice repertoire includes 18 different compositions of varying genres, from folk ballads to Sousa marches, to modern pop. So, we each assess where we can fit in and just volunteer for that position. It seems to work well, so far as I can tell at this point. We'll see when the performance happens - It's on Veteran's Day at the Nixon Library.
  5. HSOtrumpet1

    HSOtrumpet1 Pianissimo User

    Nov 28, 2008
    If you don't think you'll like your part, I would consider it acceptable to go up to the conductor (BEFORE you start your first practice or whatever) and ask if you can audition for a new part.

    Just keep in mind, others around you may have progressed at the same level and you may still be third trumpet compared to them.
  6. Sanderson Man

    Sanderson Man Pianissimo User

    May 16, 2009
    A lot of times the director will do a chromatic scale "test" and assign chairs off of that.
    Also If you're in the marching band that starts before school then the director will watch people there to see where the people in each section place
  7. The Dutch Guy

    The Dutch Guy Piano User

    Sep 22, 2008
    All I had to do is ask, and wait for the right opportunity.
    I asked for 1st chair, got the sheet music to practise instead. (and remained on 2nd chair).
    a year later, all 1st chair trumpets didn't show up for 2 rehearsals, and I played 1st chair instead of them, and just stayed there when they got back. I'm still on 1st chair now.

    show the guy in charge that you're dedicated enough, and hope for the best.
  8. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

    Mar 25, 2005
    Indianapolis, In
    As a past band director, there are many ways for placing people in a section. Many times for balance there are more people on the lower parts in order to have a balanced sound. Some people place the best player on first, second best player is 1st chair second, third best player is 1st chair 3rd, etc. That having been said the director must work for the best sound and balance that he can get out of a section. Seating people in a band 1,2,3, etc. doesn't make much sense. If you do that you will almost never hear the lower part, as they are the poorer players.

    I don't know how you director does it, you might ask him how he arrives at seating of players in the sections.
  9. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    As a professional musician, I rarely play community bands that don't pay. However, rarely doesn't mean never. Here is the way I handle things , fwiiw...

    There is one local community jazz big band that calls me. Most of the time I'm called to play 2nd, 3rd or 4th. The leader plays lead trumpet. For the gents in this community big band, this is EVERYTHING to them! I have no desire to come in throwing my weight around demanding led parts or solos. So, I just joyfully and enthusiastically play the 4th chair and enjoy the chance to make music and contribute to a good vibe. In virtually every case, they do pass me some lead so they can tackle tunes they normally pass over. They pass me solos, too. All of them know me and what I do, so there is an air of mutual respect always. I thoroughly enjoy this.

    Now, that having been said there are some rehearsal bands that I take a tougher stance with. These big bands play for the door. So there is some pay involved. The leaders call a mix of experienced pros to young lions looking to get their name out. On THOSE bands, if I get called to play 3rd or 4th, they NEVER pass any lead or solos. The less seasoned players are looking to make a mark and the more seasoned players are figuring, I came down here to blow this book, and I'm not passing anything! There is not always an air of mutual respect. So, when these band leaders call, I tell them I'll gladly sub for their lead player or their soloist. I explain, politely and cordially that I don't need to go out into a joint charging a cover charge and a minimum to play 3rd and 4th parts without making much bread. There has to be more in it for me. For all practical purposes, since I don't get a moment in the sun on those gigs, the leaders are asking me to WORK (not just play for the simple joy of it) for nothing. So, that's that group!

    Now on to paying gigs. When I get called to work a real-grown-up-paying-gig, I don't care WHAT chair I play. I'm just glad to be working with a top flight band with pros. There is virtually always an air of mutual respect on these jobs. Who plays lead is determined by three things: who is the first call with the contractor, who is capable and who WANTS to! We all get paid the same so it makes no difference. Also, on a paying gig, unless its a concert, the client has an agenda to keep to and the band is simply background entertainment. Also, as soon as singers appear, the musicians are definitely SIDEMEN! So, this scenario is self-policing in that regard. Egos are usually checked at the door.

    So, to sum up, if I were doing community bands as my sole means of performance, I would look at several things. What are my skill level? What are those of my peers? What are the needs and desires of the folks in the section. If one is only capable of playing third for the moment, just relish the opportunity. If one's skills have evolved to lead level, since you are not being paid or even pay dues to be there, you have, IMHO both a right and an obligation to say something to the powers that be about your needs and desires. You don't have to demand to play all the lead and solos. It's just that you have as much invested in the scenario as anyone else and so have the right to some consideration. All of this can be handled amicably. Your existence and presence in the band is not just to make the lead players look good! It is to share and love music just like everyone else there. So why not get a moment or opportunity to allow your voice to stand out once in a while, if that is what you WANT?

    I hope this makes sense. I do have to run for now. Interesting thread!


    trumpetnick likes this.
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    The general rule of thumb is that conductors like most human beings make decisions based on a wide variety of factors, not all obvious to the players.
    Chairs should be filled according to the ability to lead, ability to motivate, ability to discipline and at the end, the required playing qualities. The first chair is not always the best player for a very good reason.

    If you feel that you may not be on the directors radar, prepare something special and ask him if he has a moment to listen. Explain what you are thinking about and ask what is necessary. Be prepared for the truth if you ask though..........

Share This Page