6: Learning your role


Wow – It been eighteen months since I picked up the Horn for the first time after an extended break…so what’s happened. Well firstly the passion for playing still remains but the horn has been replaced by a Baritone. I graded on a Baritone when I was younger and I received feedback relatively quickly that it may suit me better than a Horn (I tried not to take it personally). The horn was swapped and they were right I feel much better playing on a Baritone. I have played in Concerts and park gigs; and I have even deputised in two other Brass bands in Bedford and Inverness. So a friend was right: being able to play brass does certainly open doors.

I talk confidently about playing brass and its okay to play an instrument; I have talked with my wider circle of friends and they respond positively about it. A lot of them have even been in the audience from and have enjoyed listening. So there you go obviously a good decision made eighteen months ago…but what next…

Well the past months have not only been about playing again but also about getting better. I always strive to be as good as I can be and in music there is no exception. I have asked for support from other band member and have lessons when required. I continue to practice and have learnt “how” to practice – something I was never taught in my early years of learning. I also strive to play harder more challenging music and am trying to get through the Arban – probably easier said than done. I feel my tone and musicality improving on a regular basis and it’s always nice to get the “well done” from fellow bandsmen. But what am I trying to do…

It is not so surprising that each person sitting on a chair in a Brass Band has a specific job; whether it is the Basses driving a piece of music or Soprano Cornet sitting on top of the tune hitting super high notes – everyone has their job. I hadn’t really thought about it like that until I heard someone say “you’ve got to learn your job within the band!” There are obvious jobs – the front row Cornets play the majority of the tune for example and the Basses the majority of the bass line but other jobs are more subtle…

“You’ve got to learn your job within the band!” I have been pondering this statement for a few months now and I am starting to get it. Easiest explain using a rugby analogy – I used to play rugby and knew the job that each position had on the field – forwards backs etc.; and brass banding isn’t much different (except for the tackling!!)

So as a Baritone player what is my role? Well sat in the middle of the band it is, and needs to be a very flexible role. Playing with the Basses, Euphoniums, back row Cornets, horns and Trombones, I play in numerous different support roles. Great, “variety is the spice” and all that (I hate clichés) – but I wondered how to go about learning my job…Well it starts with supporting the principal. They are the most important part in the section – they have the solos, the high stuff and the harder rhythms, so anything to make their job easier is going to benefit them (and therefore the section). Being able to give them a good platform for their part can only be a good thing.

I used to play in a youth wind band where one member of the brass section used to whip his music off the stand if he saw you looking at it – the “this is mine” mentality. Probably would be frowned upon now but that memory got me thinking that you are part of a larger ensemble and you need to be able to fit into the team. I am trying to understand where I fit into the bigger picture within the section and within the Band. Especially that the harder the piece and the more musical variation there is in the way it is played: the jobs I have to do within the section and band.