Quintet Fundamentals

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by MahlerBrass, Oct 13, 2006.

  1. MahlerBrass

    MahlerBrass Piano User

    Oct 1, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Howdy all, I have a quintet that I've been playing with for about a year now, and we do regular gigs at churches and weddings with the occassional festival here and there, but we'd like to put on a full recital at our school this year. Something the musically inclined can appreciate, and of course for our own sake, so I was wondering, does anyone here that has a quintet, or has played with a quintet have any suggestions for good fundamental exercises to do as a group, something to get the ball rolling on matching pitch, energy, and all those little pesky details? Any help is appreciated, thanks!
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I have found the fastest results when you get qualified non-brass help like a good singer or choir director to coach the group. They are sensitive to "voicing" and "color" and not as interested in "range", "brilliance" or "attack". Many cross discipline advantages in intonation and phrasing also come out of such ventures.
    The accent here is on outside opinions from people that are not sucked into the coolness of brass playing and who describe what an audience would experience in non-brass terms.
  3. TangneyK

    TangneyK Pianissimo User

    Nov 10, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ
    I have a GREAT excercise for this!!!

    Everyone in the group picks a random note, and you all play it at once. Hold it for a while, and try and tune and balance it. Then, start from the lowest voice (usually the tuba), and tune upwards. So... Tuba and trombone match pitch and balance, then add french horn, then trumpet 2, then trumpet one. You will also learn how to tune individual chord tones, because by the time you are done adding Trumpet 1, you might have a different chord then what you started with. For example.

    Tuba plays : E
    Trombone: B
    French horn : G
    Trumpet 2 : D
    Trumpet 1 : C

    You would at first have an E minor chord, but at the end, you'd have a C major 9 chord, so the tuba (now playing the major third of the chord), would have to lower his pitch for that chord tone tuning tendency.

    It has worked magic for my quintet.

  4. MrWho3421

    MrWho3421 Pianissimo User

    Jun 1, 2006
    At ASU, Sam Pilafian always had us do scale excercises and bach chorales at the beginning of rehearsals.

    The scales exercises I always liked were:

    1. Pick a major or minor scale, split the group up into 3 groups (we normally started with tuba/tbone, hrn,tpt2, and tpt1. Then we put did different combinations for different scales), figure out what the order of the groups will be and do a round on the scale chosen. If you haven't heard of doing a scale round, you simply play the scale in whole, half or quarters notes, have group one start, when group one gets to the 3rd scale degree group two starts, group 3 starts 2 notes later so that you form triads with the group. This makes you really listen because your role is constantly changing, unless you are in the second group, then you just have to tune the thirds of the different chords. that's the fun group to be in. OH, and go to the 9th which each scale.

    2. Pick a scale, lets say C Major, split the group into 2 groups (3+2) Have one group play a C major scale and the other group play a Db major or a B major scale so as you go up the group is playing in minor seconds. Now the only way this works is if you are actively listening for the other people in the group who have the same scale as you and trying to match and blend perfectly with them. If you just simply play the scale and think "Oh god, this sounds like ass" then it is an excerise in futility. The exercise is meant to make it difficult to lock in with your parteners because you are constantly hearing a minor second which is not pleasing to the ear. When you get back to the bottom of the scale, you have one of the groups switch their pitch so the entire group is in unison. This exercise will help you guys open your ears!

    3. You can also do an exercise with chords. Pick 2 people to play the root, 2 people to play the 5th and one person to play the third. Lets say we are in C major, your metronome is set to 60 BPM and you are in 4/4. (Note: the root and the fifth always move on beat one and the third always moves on beat three) Have the group play the C major chord, on beat 3 have the person on the third move up a half step. On beat one of the next measure the root and the fifth move up a half step. Then you have a Db major chord. Then you have the third move up a half step again and have the group move up to meet him on beat one again forming a D major chord and so on. While you are doing this you should be working twords hiting each downbeat perfectly in tune everytime. This helps groups hit "in tune" chords while playing in a performance situation.

    After doing these 3 exercises I would have you do some chorales. Robert King publishes (at least they used to) a set of easy chorales arranged for multiple brass instruments. These are really good because they put the trombone and tuba in octaves when you play them in a quintet.

    Another thing you should look into is Sam Pilafian and Pat Sheridans Breathing Gym series. My quiintets have always done better when we have done 10 - 15 minutes of breathing before we start rehearsing. This will get your sounds going and help you play with a fuller group sound. I know you can get it from www.hickmanmusiceditions.com There is a book and a DVD. GET THE DVD AND THE BOOK! Sam and Pat do a great job of explaining how to do the exercises properly so you can maximize your results. It is really a stellar book!

    You can also plan your breathing with the group. Say you are playing a bach chorale together and everyone starts on beat one. Count out a bar ahead of time and have everyone breath in on beat 3 and 4. This will help you come in together. Eventually you will want to be able to just look at each other, breath together and start. The way my group got to that point was by planning out every breath we took at the beginning of pieces.

    Contact me if you are looking for some chorale-like pieces. I have a bunch of great 15th and 16th century works which can help with group sound.

    -Andrew Kissling
  5. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Find some Bach chorales and get them transcribed for your group. You could do this yourself, quite easily. Play them. Alot.

    Record your rehearsals. Digital recording is now as easy and readily available as tape recording was when I was in college. Spend some time at the beginning of each rehearsal listening to the last rehearsal. This will help really focus things and develop goal setting for the ensemble during the rehearsal.
  6. CJH

    CJH Pianissimo User

    Mar 15, 2005
    Boston, MA
    Go right now and buy five copies of this:

    Have everyone bring their copy to every rehearsal, and spend some time with the book at the beginning of every rehearsal. Pick a chorale, and work on it for 10-15 minutes, or longer if you can afford the time. Strive to make it impeccable, perfectly in tune, with perfect time and every chord perfectly together. Have everyone in the group practice leading a chorale, it can be a challenge leading the fermatas effectively and it's great exercise. Mix it up a little, try different orchestrations. Try having the tuba play the soprano line (in an appropriate octave) if you want, and see if you can still make the chorale sound balanced and blended. Try playing them in different styles, legato, staccato, boldly, sweetly, you get the idea. Have the whole group memorize a chorale and then close your eyes and play it together, try to learn to read each other entirely by listening, always striving for perfection. The possibilities are really endless and you will never get bored of working with such great music!

    These chorales are all in concert pitch so transposition is necessary, which may be an issue for the horn -- if he/she does not (yet) transpose well on sight then writing out parts ahead of time is ok.

    I also love the scale exercises, etc., mentioned above. This stuff really will make your group better.

    Bala Brass
  7. Hags888

    Hags888 Pianissimo User

    Aug 31, 2006
    Corpus Christi, TX
    I 2nd (wait...3rd? 4th?) the Bach Chorales. They work wonders for tuning, balance and general ensemble playing.
  8. MahlerBrass

    MahlerBrass Piano User

    Oct 1, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Wow, these are all great ideas, thanks a lot!

Share This Page