Bringing in a Brass Ensemble
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In summary, here are the five most common mistakes the Leaders of brass chamber groups make when bringing in their group at the beginning of a piece.




1 Assume that because their cue has worked thus far there is no reason to make it even more decisive Never make assumptions about the level of your competence when others depend on you—take responsibility for becoming the clearest Leader possible
2 Showing only one prep beat Give two beats, each containing some degree of vertical motion
3 Not giving the cue at the correct tempo Count off silently in one’s head until a strong enough sense of the tempo is established to seamlessly transfer it into physical movement
4 Not emphatically showing where they’ve place their ictus Use an audio-visual cue with a sound placed squarely on the ictus of each beat of the cue (i.e., grunt—breath)
5 Making the sound of the inhale too long Make the inhale audible for no more than half the time between the second beat of the cue and the first note of the piece

Look at the cue given below on the trombone. It is only one beat and totally silent.

A cue such as this could work...but may take some getting used to—a luxury seldom afforded in professional situations.

The cues below are clear, efficient and leave little room for doubt—characteristics of good leadership.

Going Over the Wire

There are so many intuitive moments in a performance that musicians quickly become accustom to using instinct and educated guesses to achieve good ensemble.  However, the very start of a piece should never leave room for misinterpretation or miscommunication—a bad start is too memorable and psychologically difficult to recover from.  Performing is hard enough and brass players tend to enjoy working with those who make their job easier and less precarious (How many times have you rolled your eyes when faced with a vague conductor?).  For this reason, you may want to ensure that you and your soon-to-be-freelancing brass students practice good leadership with cues that are efficient, flexible and, most importantly, indisputable.

A special thanks to our models, Marc Reese (trumpet) and Mark Hetzler (trombone).


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