Why don’t bands play anymore?

Topics and polls that cover the overall marching band activity

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Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by Bandbandband » Sun Oct 28, 2018 5:26 pm

Am I the only person frustrated by the trend towards less and less actual playing by the wind section? And when they do play it’s just loud easy block chords. I feel like the majority of top groups in California are drums and electronics with the wind band in a secondary/support role. What happened to a marching band wind section carrying the show?

I feel like the only actual interesting wind parts are short technical passages that feel almost like the composer/arranger was just checking a box on a list that says “1 technique moment for woodwinds and 1 technique moment for brass”.

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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by Bandmaster » Sun Oct 28, 2018 5:37 pm

Yes, unfortunately the style today is that the winds play the part of the orchestra soundtrack behind a movie or MTV video. That music meant to be felt but not really heard. I find it sad as well. :(
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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by KMMusic » Sun Oct 28, 2018 10:51 pm

I'm very lucky that the school I've started writing for this season wants to actually play! I even got to write a 3 voice fugue as a woodwind feature! Much more fun than just swells, hits, and impacts.

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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by ScrapHappy » Mon Oct 29, 2018 8:00 am

I agree! Also, why can't marching bands march and play at the same time for more than a few 8 counts? It seems like there's a lot of "park and bark" going on and not a whole lot of marching and playing for the majority of the show.
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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by JCYS » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:35 am

I'm sure someone will post and say "it is the continuing evolvement of the marching arts."

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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by magicsax22 » Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:38 am

I think this is a combination of things.

First, is it just confirmation bias on the part of the people posting? I have seen a lot of groups throughout the last few years and while I agree some groups are definitely more percussion heavy than others, I don't feel like it is the majority by any stretch. I think some of the perception might stem from more groups having better percussion sections that don't just take a "back up the winds" approach all the time. Some groups might also look at marching band as a "time for the percussion to shine" since they often take a secondary role in concert repertoire, even for top tier level music like Holst or Grainger.

Second, we can't really complain about groups not having enough visual content, but then also complain they don't play hard enough stuff or enough at all. We have to remember these are still high school kids we are talking about and there is always a balance that must be struck. We know that in the last few decades (at least in SoCal) we've seen fewer and fewer areas have elementary music programs and some places have pretty limited middle school / junior high music (my school has 2 main feeder....one only finally hired a music teacher to start this year even though the school has been open for 15 years now), which of course takes a toll on numbers and quality at the high school level. Some of us are working with kids that are in high school but really play at the level that would be expected in junior high years ago, all the while seeing the "evolution of the art" and trying to keep up to some degree.

Just some thoughts to keep in mind as this topic seems to come up yearly or close.

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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by Bandmaster » Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:48 pm

magicsax22 wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:38 am
I think this is a combination of things.

First, is it just confirmation bias on the part of the people posting?

No, I have heard folks comment on it for several years now. It is the lack of melodic content in most of the music that is being chosen for competitive shows. The design parameters have changed... designer want visual and audio hit points in the shows. That is easier to acomplish if you can control musical timing, and to do that you play exciting sounding chord progressions for alotted time in between hits. That is how they score movies... same - same. It is not about being percussion heavy or too much visual, it is about the order in which you priorities when designing a show. Melodic content has lost out to visual in the design process.

One band that I can think of is still very successful and has managed keep their design priorities tilted towards the music... and that is Chino High School. Very good visual design, marching demand, great percussion and color guard integration without sacrificing melodic content. So I guess it depends on how hard are you willing to work to design a show that keeps the music interesting for the audience.
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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by Jblopez16 » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:24 pm

I think the “melody” has been lost in all genres of music in somebody regard. Less melody and more music which creates an atmosphere.
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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by seanrj » Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:15 pm

Soundscapes instead of music. Must be much easier to teach than actual pieces.

Somehow seems as though the music education part is getting thrown out the window.
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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by fidave » Sat Nov 03, 2018 6:35 pm

Interesting comments.

This may just be piling on, but the musical transition that occurred where SoCal field shows moved from playing 3-4 individual pieces to "themed" shows really changed what was being required from the music. I've always thought that there was a lot to shown (to the judges) by playing three or four completely different pieces.

And there are certainly different levels of drill difficulty, with spaces for "stand and play" while other sections complete the intricate footwork. It has gotten to point that you can practically predict where those stand and play sections will happen. A bit boring.

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Re: Why don’t bands play anymore?

Post by Hostrauser » Sun Nov 04, 2018 5:20 pm

IMO, a large part of the answer to this is "what does the local performance circuit demand?" ISSMA in Indiana and UIL in Texas I feel have done a tremendous job of allowing bands to explore new design possibilities while still demanding a certain level of musicality. The SCSBOA has good musical standards, but their field visual expectations are very, very low. Even the best SCSBOA bands I think would struggle competing on WBA or BOA sheets. And WBA basically demands WGI caliber percussion and auxiliary to be competitive. There have been many, many very mediocre bands in WBA that have scored very well due to top notch drums and guard. Which is why the competition decision is always the band director's prerogative: what standards and expectations they have for their ensemble, and which judging style they feel best suits their needs.

People like to blame the judges, but there are plenty of judges who do both WBA and SCSBOA assignments. There are also several California judges who have done BOA and DCI judging. There's always SOME dead weight in any judging pool, but if you go to a WBA or major SCSBOA show you're likely going to get good, qualified judges. It's a matter of what are the sheets telling them to prioritize? Where do the standards lie for that "circuit"?

I must confess that I'm sort of torn between the two styles. I loved the long melodic passages I grew up with in the early 90s. But the show designs are very choppy and awkward. Today's shows have a very different musical "focus," but the transitions and overall flow of show design now is so unbelievably improved I find today's shows more engaging and easier to stay involved in. I don't think either style is absolutely good or absolutely bad.

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