Sousa is kryptonite to my chops...

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by gbdeamer, Jun 15, 2009.

  1. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

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    This is probably more of a rant than a question, but how do folks in old-school brass bands keep their chops fresh?

    I recently joined a community band that plays a mix of pop's tunes and traditional marches. This weekend we had a repeat performance at an outdoor venue and in the interest of not boring a similar audience with the same songs from last month the director took out most of the pop's charts and added (you guessed it) extra Sousa marches.

    I normally have nothing against the man, but the combination 5 Sousa marches and 3 or 4 other similar style marches mixed in with a couple of pop's songs really beat the life out of my lip. We only played for a little over an hour, but it felt like I never had a chance to rest.

    Range and volume aren't really an issue with the pieces, so I'm obviously doing something wrong when I'm playing. The other guy that splits the lead book with me wasn't there, so that compounded things, but when the balance is the other way (more pop's than marches) I have plenty of lip left at the end.

    I'm looking on-line for a "10 Weeks To A Perfect Sousa Embochure" book but it doesn't look like anyone has written it yet!!!
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
  2. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

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    The problem with playing cornet on most marches is...there aren't hardly any rests! The only way to get better at it (and most other trumpet-related skills) is practicing that way. Take copies of a bunch of marches home and play them one after another, with very little break in between. Good breathing and air support will help, too, as will pacing yourself. It's endurance you're needing, but playing 1st by yourself doesn't help, either. At least with another player, you can drop a phrase here or there if you need to.
     
  3. richtom

    richtom Forte User

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    Sousa had some pretty good first cornetists to work with. Clarke, Simon, Bellestadt (I think) to name a few. When you are writing for the best there was at that time, endurance issues weren't in his thoughts. I suppose that was like Rachmaninoff writing his 3rd Piano Concerto. It was not a problem for Rachmaninoff himself to play it.
    We start our summer concert series tonight and it always ends up with a Sousa march with any kid or adult in the audience coming up to conduct a few bars before the next person come on. Talk about repetition! We might play Washington Post 5 or 6 times before the last "conductor" comes up.
    The little kids really get a kick out of the chance to conduct the band so it is all worth it.
    Dale gave you some very good advice. Follow it as best you can.
    Rich Tomasek
     
  4. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

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    I agree Dale. I actually thought I was pacing myself pretty well, but then we hit a stretch where we played Liberty Bell, King Cotton, High School Cadets, and Washington Post back to back! I think it was at that point that I realized I was in trouble.

    I also appreciate the point about practicing the music. I was pretty much sight-reading a couple of the tunes, so it was a bit harder to know where I could or could not take it easy. At least I have a week to blow through them before we play them (all) again.
     
  5. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

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    Good luck with it. I know exactly what you're talking about - I used to play 1st cornet in a local concert band and one season the director got on a Sousa kick. We even did a few "Sousa only" concerts, and it does wear you out. Now, playing the Bb cornet part in a 7-man Civil War brass band (5 brass, 2 percussion), I get the same workout - constant playing and I'm the only one on the part. Doing it all these years, I've built enough endurance to play a couple 1 hour concerts and a 2 or 3 hour evening ball in one day and not be embarrassed at the end.
     
  6. ChopsGone

    ChopsGone Forte User

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    I hate to suggest it, but maybe you just weren't raised right. A steady diet of Sousa, Fillmore, and Fucik for all your school years makes a lot of difference. Even after 50 years, I'm pretty sure I can still play those four from memory and still whip up on "Stars and Stripes Forever" as the inevitable finale. For all the years since I left high school, whenever I'm hiking, there's a Sousa or other classic march running through my mind and pacing me.

    There's a book you might enjoy having, "March Music Melodies" by Norman E. Smith. It contains the "complete first cornet parts to over 600 favorite concert marches", and it has just about all the best ones. One complaint: since it was published as "a purchase guide for band directors, a reference guide for record collectors and band literature students..." it was printed with some pieces just a touch too small for some old geezers like me who would appreciate such a resource. You may find yourself needing reading glasses, or scanning and enlarging a piece here and there, but for a mere $35 or so, it's quite a book.

    Keep at it. Your chops will adapt, with enough practice, and there's not much of anything else you can do in public that's more fun than playing a good Sousa march with a good band.
     
  7. tptCarl

    tptCarl Pianissimo User

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    As one who has played way too many Sousa marches in his life, allow me to add some insight into how Sousa performed his own marches. Almost all of his marches are overscored to some extent or another, allowing for entire groups of instruments ( cornet, first time through the second strain) to lay out. This gives much more color and character to the march while still maintaining the full impact of the score. Many of the trio first strains can be played with a bare minimum of forces: Bullets and Bayonets with bass drum, saxes, and piccs, if memory serves me. If the conductor will study the score and be creative (opps, that ain't gonna happen often) 5 Sousa marches won't hurt any more than 2, and your audience will have a new appreciation for the musical nuances the band has given them.
     
  8. MFfan

    MFfan Fortissimo User

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    Amen to Chopsgone an tptCarl. Some years back, under our previous conductor, we did a couple of "Grand Sousa" concerts, on one he even wore an old Bandmaster's jacket and whitened his hair. In addition to Sousa marches, we did some of his symphonic pieces, and some with a female vocalist. Just about covered everything. They were well received.

    During our upcoming outdoor shell concerts, we will surely play Stars and Stripes and some other Sousa offering. Read the biography of Frank Simon, Music Man to wallow in the era of the early 1900's band world and the human side of the famous and not-so-famous.
     
  9. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

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    LOL!!!!! You're probably right Chops. I grew up listening to Maynard, Bill Chase, and Herb Alpert albums (yes albums) so I'm FAR more comfortable playing big band charts (and soloing in church) than I am with Sousa. I primarily joined this group to improve my sight-reading and to have an excuse to build my endurance, but it turns out that I'm being exposed to LOTS of marches and patriotic music as well.

    While I doubt that Sousa will ever be in my iPod, I definitely have a new appreciation for what he created.
     
  10. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

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    You'll be a more well-rounded, if not better, player for playing that style of music. I'm more into the "band" type of music, primarily playing in a British brass band and a Civil War brass band. I also play in church (lots of hymns will wear you out, too, if you don't skip a verse in each ;-)) and sub occasionally in a couple of big bands, which I enjoy, too. Played about 5 years in the local symphony orchestra and didn't care too much for that, though, but it was a good magnet for other gigs...:shock:
     

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