Trumpet Discussion Discuss Polka Band! in the General forums; Has anyone here ever played in one?
Weird question, I know, but one of the things I plan on doing ...
Has anyone here ever played in one?
Weird question, I know, but one of the things I plan on doing before I die is play in a polka group (sad, but true), so I was wondering what the experience is like.
Also, what is with the sound the trumpet players make? Maybe it's just the quality of the tapes I have, but its.... Different. Anyone able to explain this as well?
I went to to Fredonia St. Univ. College near Buffalo, N.Y. and worked my way through college playing in a polka band from Dunkirk, N.Y which has a VERY heay population of polish people. The band played mostly weddings, private parties, etc. and I had a ball!!! Those affairs would go 6, 8, 10 hours...depending on how much the crowd had to drink! They'd pass around a "hat" to collect $ to pay the band for an extra hour of OT. After graduating from college I went on the road with this band for about a year and a half. They worked the US and Canada as a show band doing all kinds of variuos material. Great time...not much money...ALOT of lasting experiences...and I learned to eat popcorn and mayo sandwiches while doing two weeks in Fargo, N.D.!!!! After this band broke up I started teaching and began working with the grammy winning Jimmy Sturr Polka band. I lasted about 2 months and had my fill of Rolling Rock beer and kielbaska!!! Besides...Sturr was a real p@#$k and he couldn't play for s$%^t either!! As for sound...I always approached the polka gigs with this band as if I were playing lead in a big band. I did get to work with some good players from Philadelphia, Jersey, etc. The "college" polka band was a little different story because the band only carried two horns...me and a tenor player. This band required a little more finesse (if there IS such a concept in a polka band!) and more of a tighter sound/blend you would shoot for in any situation where there was only 2 horns. As for "strange" sounds coming from the trumpets in polka bands...I've heard some bands that had that sound but I always just assumed it was because they weren't really "schooled" trumpet players...didn't touch their horn all week...and were just blowing the dust off their cases each Sat. night in order to play a gig for fun. All in all I wouldn't trade the experiences I had on these gigs for all the $ in the world! (Well...let me, maybe, re-think that last statement!!!).
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Polka at weddings? Wow, I really need to get out of my region more often!
Now that you mention it, the trumpet players in the recordings also play accordion, trombone, and does vocals. So I guess it's alright if they don't have as polished a sound as I'm used to (I guess!).
I've played in polka/variety bands since high school on both trumpet and bass guitar.
First a little tutorial……
Polka styles can be broken into several basic types.
Slovenian…Frankie Yankovic style with dominant accordion that shares the lead with a sax; plus drums bass banjo and sax.
German…“Oom Pah” style with dominant accordion, drums, tuba or bass, sax and sometimes a trumpet or two. Generally a slower polka tempo.
Polish…This polka style is the most up to date and dynamic. There is a sub-division of Polish polkas call “Push” polkas. The lead instruments are two tightly synchronized trumpets. The drums, accordion, and bass are used for driving the rhythm with the accordion and sometime a concertina taking an occasional solo riff. This stuff is not your grandma’s polkas. (Note: Jimmy Sturr’s style is not push polkas. His is more of an eastern big band Polish polka style.)
I’ve played in Polish polka bands since the early 70’s. Most players are weekend warriors, who do mainly weddings and local dances. Some of the bands get booked for out of town gigs and travel all over the central and north east USA doing polka festivals and dances.
I’ve been fortunate to play with bands that play locally in the winter and do some weekend traveling in the summer to make it more fun and interesting. I live in the Pittsburgh area. In the past few years we made road trips to Pulaski WI, Chicago, Cleveland, upstate Michigan, Buffalo, Erie, Ludlow MA, Bayway NJ, Wildwood NJ, and a load of other more local places within a couple hours of Pittsburgh. I was never in what is considered a traveling band. Some of the bands go on the road every weekend, leaving home Friday after work and getting back late Sunday night.
As in any style of music there are some players that are better than others. The traveling bands have very good horn players that devote a lot of time to practicing and developing. Most of the Polish bands have decent horn players that practice enough to get through a Saturday wedding. Basically you get out of it what you put into it. It depends on your life’s priorities.
I’ve had a ball doing this for the past 30 years. I look forward to every weekend. Some people join a bowling league for fun. I go out and play music.
Here are a couple websites for some the better push style polka bands… There are a lot of other very good push bands out there
When it comes to Polka bands, John Miconi is your man. Where are you Big John?
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