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December 1955 Band Tutti, Are we getting the maximum results from our band instrumentation?

We band musicians should not lure ourselves into the false belief that we achieve maximum results with our band instrumentation. If we would examine the situation with an open mind, we could probably find several faults in our techniques. If remedied, the result would be a much improved band performance.
   Laxity may be found in two areas: with the arranger-composer, and with the band director. For example, a crescendo is sometimes intended to lead up to a great climax. It is clearly indicated in the music with conventional symbols, such as a crescendo that builds to a fortissimo. Yet the tendency is to make such a crescendo to perhaps 90% intensity. Seldom, indeed, is the full intensity attained. The few bands (and orchestras) that do achieve the complete crescendo, arriving at its full climax at the proper time, produce right there a more effective and convincing performance.
   The making of a diminuendo is similarly often neglected. Music comes from silence. That is why such composers as Tschaikovsky, Mahler, Ravel, etc. indicated the diminuendo with the usual symbol then  followed it with piu dim. arriving at ppp. Still not enough, they followed this with smorz arriving at pppp followed by a decrescendo mark. Yet most bands and orchestras get no closer to a full diminuendo than they do to a full crescendo. Instead of fading off into silence, the sound is stopped more or less abruptly. While this may not be sabotage exactly, it is not a faithful interpretation of the music.
   This is only one of the numerous details involved in a musical performance. It is pointed out here merely to illustrate how difficult it is to attain perfection in performance.

Power of the Band

   Because of the abundance and great variety of the wind instruments, the band is extremely colorful. The imaginative arranger or composer has an excellent opportunity for striking effects. However, one other resource of the band – and far superior to the orchestra’s – is power. This power manifests itself in a “ff” tutti.
   As we know, a tutti is a reunion of
 all the instruments combined into an
 ensemble intended to produce the 
maximum and most impressive volume of sound. Anyone who has witnessed a composer attending rehear
sals of a new work has heard him
 express his dissatisfaction to the conductor with the traditional complaint. “It does not SOUND.” Seldom does 
the performance sound as powerful
 as the composer has intended, but the fault doesn’t always lie with the 
band. Frequently the fault is the
 composer’s. The orchestration for 
bandstration is deficient.
   In analyzing a tutti we find three necessary elements:

1.  A well-balanced distribution of the brass section, which undoubtedly forms the nucleus of the tutti.

2.  A well-supplied and brilliant high register.
             3.  A strong low register.
   Thus, and only thus, will a tutti really SOUND. Let’s examine each of these three requisites separately.

Brass Section

   The brass section should be combined as for a brass chorale effect, as if the music was intended to be performed by this group alone. Actually, the band is favored over the orchestra by having two brass sections. The stronger and more brilliant brass section consists of the cornets, trumpets, and trombones. The other consists of the more mellow instruments, flugelhorns, French horns, baritones, and tubas. These two brass sections should be in balance, each one harmonically complete within itself. The reunion of these two brass sections provides, as mentioned before, a strong nucleus for the tutti.

High Register
   The extension of the tutti toward the high register is obviously provided by the high woodwinds. While an old orchestration principle is to combine all sections contributing to a tutti with each in good harmonic balance, there must be an exception in the case of the woodwinds for two reasons. First, as many high woodwinds as possible must be used in order to provide the necessary brilliancy: and second, unless the high woodwinds play in the upper register in a tutti the brass will overpower them. Therefore, the distribution of the woodwind section must be devised differently in a tutti than in a woodwind ensemble.
   It is well known that the high register of the band is weak, having only the piccolos, flutes, and the high register of the clarinets contributing to it. The orchestra is more fortunate in that register with its large section of violins. This is the reason why the use of the E flat clarinet is a “must.”‘ In a band of about 60, there should be two E flat clarinets.
   One should keep in mind that the flutes and clarinets sound stronger in their high register. The oboes, bassoons, and saxophones sound stronger in their low and middle registers. Consequently, if the flutes and clarinets are used in a tutti in their middle register, the sound is weaker: and, being in unison with the trumpets and cornets, it is rendered useless.
   Likewise, if the bassoons are written in the medium or high register, they play in unison with the horns or the 1st and 2nd trombones and are overpowered by these brasses. Therefore, they should be used in their low register; and even if they come in unison with the 3rd trombone, baritones, or tubas, they sound and contribute effectively to the tutti. Obviously, the alto and tenor saxophones should be used in their middle register to avoid competing with the brasses.
   From the above analysis it is easy to see that a dozen or more instruments can be rendered useless in a tutti by poor writing.

Low Register
   The low register supplied by the bassoons, bass clarinet, contra-bass clarinet, baritone and bass saxophones, baritones, tubas, and string bass should be written as low as possible, and as much as possible in octaves. This can be done between both bassoons, between bass clarinet, and contra-bass clarinet, and either within the tuba section or between the baritones and tubas. In the percussion department the timpani are very effective bass instruments; and with the added punctuation of the other drums, a tutti combined in   proper   harmonic   superposition should sound very powerful.

Ruining the Tutti
   A properly arranged tutti will sound provided that the band director does not spoil it by eliminating such instruments as the E flat clarinets on the unfounded excuse that they cannot play in tune and the flugel-horns. After all, the flugelhorns are the only soprano instruments of the Saxhorn family. Their elimination destroys the balance between the two brass sections and deprives the band of a very important and unique brass color.
   If the Band tutti is well devised by the arranger or composer and not tampered with by the band director, it should indeed be the most impressive of all instrumental combinations.