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 Post subject: Midwinter Brass Musings
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2004 9:14 am 
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New Recruit
New Recruit

Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2003 11:43 am
Posts: 6
Location: flatlands
I have a set of Bose Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. They are really quite amazing. When I put them on, they are a really good set of "muffs" like people wear on construction and in other noisy situations. Then, I switch on the noise cancelling and the noise really drops. From what I understand, there is a parallel sound produced which cancels out the unwanted noise. They also have ability to let me hear music from CD player, tape, etc. I plan to use them mainly when mowing during the summer.

"So What!" you say. Well, since it is in the middle of the winter, there is no drum corps to hear, there hasn't been a post to the hangout for some time, so let me hypothesize.

Is it possible that 2 or more brass instruments playing the same note with absolute pitch could somehow cancel each other out? I don't think that I have ever heard (or not heard) this happen. But could it? The only evidence that I can think of is the really good and in tune brass lines often don't seem as loud as some of the lesser in tune lines. I'll admit that this may be only that they are more "pleasing" to listen to, so it may only seem that way.

One would think this would even be more true with strings, say violins in a really good orchestra. But, I also note that the violinists always use vibrato so that there is never a steady pitch. Could they use the vibrato (is that what violinists call it?) to keep "cancellation" from happening? I know nothing about strings, and it probably shows.

A very qualified guy with Phd in music once talked about the "wave" theory in tuning brass, in this case mellophones. He said that if you untuned them that the end result would be a louder section, and very difficult to tell that they were out of whack. I didn't buy it then, and don't buy it now, but could he have had a point given my hypothesis.

How about some of my learned compatriots getting in on this. Releive the winter boredom.

Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft, and I'll show you A flat minor.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2004 4:44 pm 
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Soloist
Soloist

Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2002 8:11 pm
Posts: 437
Location: Washington, DC
It's exceedingly rare that an entire section will play in tune, let alone a whole hornline, so this topic is *almost* moot.

But, they do say that there gets to be a point where adding more players won't make much difference. This isn't so much acoustic cancellation as it is diminishing returns -- just as there's not a lot of difference between 700-watt and 800-watt amplifiers, there's not going to be much audible difference between a 60-person and a 70-person hornline (that is, if the talent and instruction are similar).

The loudest hornlines I've ever heard simply play louder than anyone else. OF THOSE, the ones that stand out and project like mad are the ones that play almost completely in tune. Out-of-tune instruments will produce "beats", which are peaks and contribute volume -- however, the opposite of those beats are valleys of cancelled sound. Play them in tune, though, and the sounds will reinforce each other, creating a total output louder than each individually.

This is difficult to discern, though. When out of tune, a hornline appears to be more numerous, and therefore psychologically "louder". But, when they're in tune, like how Madison was at many points last year, or SCV's bari line in '99 during their loud-as-hell unison note in the ballad on Finals night (wasn't as good at Semis), the combined sound comes flying all the way up stands.

What about, say, Star '92? Well, yeah, they tuned extremely well, but they were noticeably softer than practically anyone else in the Top 12. They simply went for intonation without trying to open up on volume.

For volume, there's no substitute for playing loud, but good intonation will push a hornline into OMIGOD territory.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2004 6:06 pm 
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All Star
All Star
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Joined: Sun Dec 15, 2002 6:38 pm
Posts: 529
Location: Weddington, NC
I don't wish to make light of this discussion, but I think modern brass instructors have put WAY too much energy into this "science". There's a reason symphony orchestras, concert bands, rock bands, pianists, and virtually every musical entity in the world begins each performance by tuning. ONLY drum corps people could come up with the crazy idea that ALMOST being in tune is better.

Sorry, I don't buy it either.

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Mekel Rogers
Director of Bands
Weddington Middle School


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2004 2:26 pm 
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Soloist
Soloist

Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2002 8:11 pm
Posts: 437
Location: Washington, DC
While some would say that it's an idea, I think it's an excuse, attempting to say that playing out-of-tune is okay after all.

I've seen hornlines that deliberately don't tune before a show, and they sound like a bunch of players on a field. The ones that do tune, whether it's through a tuner or calibrated tuning slide marks, sound much more like a cohesive unit.


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