Quintet expectations

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hyperbolica
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Quintet expectations

Post by hyperbolica »

In a quintet setting, what are realistic expectations?

-trumpet players can handle transposition (C, D, F, trumpet etc)
-trumpet players have a piccolo
-trumpet players can trade off 1st/2nd parts
-tpt players can improvise
-tbn players can read bass and tenor clefs
-tbn players can improvise
-French horn players can read concert pitch
-tuba can read bass clef and transposed treble
-tuba can walk a bass line over changes
- feel free to add things that should be standard expectations for quintet members...
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by Kingfan »

What level quintet are you talking? I would agree to only one of these criteria as realistic.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by Doug Elliott »

"should be"
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by robcat2075 »

That's a far out set of expectations.

Who are we thinking of?

Other than switching 1st and 2nd tpts, each one of those is something I'd say most college players can not do.

The odds of getting FIVE players together who have all their to-dos down would be slim.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by hyperbolica »

A local working quintet of former pros and semipros that rehearses regularly, plays churches, parties, ceremonies.. I'm not talking Canadian, Empire or Mnozil.

Trumpet players have to back up the talk at some point. Playing in concert pitch should be a given (hymnal). Tenor clef for a bone player is a low bar. I'm not a great improviser

Which are unrealistic?
Last edited by hyperbolica on Mon Jul 04, 2022 6:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by BGuttman »

I don't know. An amateur quintet will most likely have:

1 trumpet player with more than one trumpet (usually a C, an Eb, and a piccolo). Transpose? Probably not.
Trading off parts? Depends on their egos. Our group did trade off.
Improvise? Probably not.
Horn players who can transpose? Probably not. If we can get one to read a bass clef part it's a big plus.
Trombone players reading bass, treble, and concert pitch? Probably not. Bass? Sure. Tenor? Maybe. Mezzo-Soprano (horn parts) or treble clef are big ifs.
Trombone players improvising? Not likely. Sure, I did but not everybody can.
Walking bass tuba? Probably not. Unless you wrote out a part for him.
Tuba reading transposed treble? Probably not.

Note that in my quintet, one trumpet had all the different horns (including a cornet) and either of them could play them. They also could trade off parts. Neither could improvise. Our French Horn player "sorta" read bass clef parts and could read "horn in ..." stuff (he was a super orchestral player). I was able to read 5 clefs (bass, tenor, alto, mezzo-soprano, and transposed treble) and improvise (so we could do the Canadian Brass "Closer Walk"). Our tuba player read only bass clef (and was a great Euphonium player). Again, he could definitely play whatever you put in front of him, but not improvising a bass line.

I put my group out as a better than average quintet, but certainly not Canadian Brass caliber.

Note that when I played tuba in a quintet I was given a transposed treble part and had to play it on an F tuba. The fingerings fried my brain.
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hyperbolica
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by hyperbolica »

For the different trumpets, either transposing on Bb or having horns do it for you counts.

Reading concert pitch is not transposing. As a church playing quintet, wouldn't you get hymnal pages set in front of you as a matter of course?

I get that quintet players are usually from the legit side of the Trax, so improvising may be a bit much.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by robcat2075 »

hyperbolica wrote: Mon Jul 04, 2022 12:13 pm A local working quintet that rehearses regularly, plays churches, parties, ceremonies.. I'm not talking Canadian, Empire or Mnozil.

Trumpet players have to back up the talk at some point. Playing in concert pitch should be a given (hymnal).
Which are unrealistic?
Playing from a C hymnal is a reasonable expect... from someone who has put themself up for that church gig.

But also on that list you have "improvisor". That's a reasonable expect from someone who has joined a jazz band as a lead trumpet.

The intersection of those two pursuits will be less than 100%.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by imsevimse »

hyperbolica wrote: Mon Jul 04, 2022 10:52 am In a quintet setting, what are realistic expectations?

-trumpet players can handle transposition (C, D, F, trumpet etc)
-trumpet players have a piccolo
-trumpet players can trade off 1st/2nd parts
-tpt players can improvise
-tbn players can read bass and tenor clefs
-tbn players can improvise
-French horn players can read concert pitch
-tuba can read bass clef and transposed treble
-tuba can walk a bass line over changes
- feel free to add things that should be standard expectations for quintet members...
My answer applies to professional players of a brass quintet over here and is general (what to expect). If it is an amateur quintet then the answer is NO to everything asked for. Don't expect anything.

trumpet players can handle transposition (C, D, F, trumpet etc) YES
-trumpet players have a piccolo YES
-trumpet players can trade off 1st/2nd parts YES
-tpt players can improvise NO
-tbn players can read bass and tenor clefs YES
-tbn players can improvise NO
-French horn players can read concert pitch YES
-tuba can read bass clef and transposed treble YES
-tuba can walk a bass line over changes NO
- feel free to add things that should be standard expectations for quintet members...

It is possible that a professional player in a brass quintet over here has skills in jazz-improvisation, but I don't think anyone expects it. To read clefs and transpose on the other hand is probably no problem, especially not for french horn players and trumpet players because they do that all the time.

/Tom
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 »

If a quintet claims to have “professional musicians” as members, I believe the OP’s list is very reasonable. I believe the list could easily include many more things that include “doubling.”

My quintet has shown up to church gigs in which the music required three trumpets (fanfare pieces in which the horn was not appropriate to cover it). I would take out my trumpet and become the third trumpet. There have also been several gigs in which the host handed us music for two trumpets and two trombones and did NOT want the horn player to cover one of the trombone parts. Our tuba player always had a trombone in his car for such situations.

I think that transposition training is one of the most important things for preparing to be a flexible chamber musician. When I was in college music education classes, one of my professors was relentless in pushing us to be completely fluent and flexible in transposing. His classes were….you are holding a flute, now play the horn part…..you are holding a clarinet, now play the alto sax part…..and we were expected to do it with every instrument/every part. At that time, I remember thinking “is this really necessary?” Now I see that it was some of the most practical training that a musician could have ever received.

All this being said, I realize that not all brass quintets begin their journey with all five members fluent at transposition and doubling. However, I do believe that every brass quintet can devote some of their rehearsal time to “professional development.” For example….have every member of the group play “concert pitch” from a hymnal and then keep rotating parts. Having the trumpets play the bass clef parts and low instruments playing the treble clef parts is excellent training. Another great rehearsal technique is to have all members play in unison from the three different types of parts….B-flat treble (trumpet), F treble (horn) and bass clef (trombone or tuba). It might take some some additional planning and require some music copying, but it is worth it.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by Kbiggs »

I played in a really good quintet for about ten years. I was fortunate to have colleagues who could:

—Trumpets who could switch from Bb to C and vice versa
—Trumpets who had piccolos, Eb trumpets, and flugels, occasionally cornets
—Trumpets who traded parts
—Trumpets who could improvise
—Horn players who could read most transpositions, including concert pitch and C bass clef
—Horn players who were willing to do limited improvisation
—Trombonist who could read bass, tenor, alto, and mezzo soprano clef, as well as Bb and Eb parts (me)
—Trombonist who could do limited improv (me)
—Tubist who could read all clefs and play a bass line—he doubled on string bass and bass guitar

I now realize that this group, with all its changes in membership over the years, was the exception rather than the rule. In some ways, I regret leaving that group. In most quintets I’ve subbed with since that time:

—Trumpets had difficulty transposing, often had other horns available, and could improvise;
—Horn players who could do common transpositions (Eb, G, D, etc.);
—Trombonists who could only read bass clef (when I played the tuba part on bass trombone), and could sometimes improvise;
—Tuba players who only read the notes.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by Trombonjon »

I do not know if those are realistic expectations, but as far as I'm concerned, they are worthy goals as we labor in the pursuit of a more perfect sound. What's on your music stand today?
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by hyperbolica »

I can't fulfill all of my own expectations, but it's something to work towards.

We have started to work on Christmas music to get some recordings up on a website. Plus some quintet standards, mainly to get the feel of playing together and work on ensemble skills.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by MTbassbone »

I wouldn't focus so much about attributes on paper and would instead start working through repertoire. The right people can develop skills as they go if they don't already have them. It's nice to think about it but the reality is you will unlikeky find people with the entire list of skills. It maybe more beneficiary to reframe them as goals rather than expectations.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by hyperbolica »

Yeah, it turns out that getting people to simply show up is the most difficult part. Scheduling in the summer is the worst. And it looks like you can buy quintet music with improvised solos written out - it looks like I'm not the first to notice that people who play in quintet are on the square side. . You can plan around missing skills, but it takes extra time and effort.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by BGuttman »

A Quintet is a team. Often you have to work around a member's weaknesses. We used to do the Canadian Brass "Closer Walk" which calls for improv by the trombone and lead trumpet. Our lead trumpet couldn't improvise, so I took both solos. On one piece the range was terrible for somebody (I forget who) and we rearranged the piece to put the high notes with a player who could hit them.

As I said in my earlier post, these are kind of big expectations unless your quintet claims to be fully professional (and even then perhaps a little high).

Playing quintet, quartet, or other small ensemble music is a great way to get a group of players working together and listening to each other. And it shows when they are performing as part of a larger ensemble.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by spencercarran »

hyperbolica wrote: Mon Jul 04, 2022 10:52 am In a quintet setting, what are realistic expectations?

-trumpet players can handle transposition (C, D, F, trumpet etc)
-trumpet players have a piccolo
Reasonable only if you've recruited trumpet players with performance degrees, I think.
-trumpet players can trade off 1st/2nd parts
-tpt players can improvise
Yeah, probably, for reasonably enthusiastic amateurs and above.
-tbn players can read bass and tenor clefs
-tbn players can improvise
That's optimistic but not completely unreasonable. IME among trombonists who are not "real" pros you might get one of these two, not both (I can read tenor clef, don't ask me to improvise)
-French horn players can read concert pitch
Wouldn't count on it.
-tuba can read bass clef and transposed treble
If they have British-style brass band experience probably, otherwise no lol
-tuba can walk a bass line over changes
Only if they have unrelated jazz experience.
- feel free to add things that should be standard expectations for quintet members...
Most important expectations - will they show up reliably and on time? Can they listen to other musicians and blend appropriately? Are they self-aware enough to recognize the deficiencies in their playing and disciplined enough to work at addressing them?
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by Matt K »

Many of those things can be papered over with sufficient time in Finale/Sibelius, etc. As a BQ, you probably aren't going to be doing totally fresh concerts like the Canadian Brass are quasi-expected to do so converting the library over to "standard" setups like Bb trumpet parts coming pre-transposed is probably a good investment. Similarly, if someone isn't good or competent at improvising, just write out a part for them to play. I've also had luck with writing out bass lines and if you need to fill with improvisation, make it so that you have like one or two sets of changes that you can swap in to other songs and maybe even transpose into that key. For example, you can add spots in songs with Bb blues, Bb rhythm changes, and maybe F blues. If you have those three basslines written out you just make a quick modulation to that key to improvise, then modulate back in to the "original" key. 99% of the audience won't know the difference and the 1% that do probably will think it's clever or at least understand why!
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by hyperbolica »

It's more about where you live, which determines what kind of talent pool you are pulling from.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by MTbassbone »

Find people who are nice, show up on time, and have a curiosity to continue honing their craft. This may mean choosing a less skilled player in order to find a better fit.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by BGuttman »

I just want to mention that there is no "Lego piece" called a "Brass Quintet [musician]". Every member is unique and finding a replacement or sub can be a real challenge. Couple of examples:

I was out for a medical condition (tore quadriceps tendon). One of the subs for me that the quintet found couldn't read the tenor clef parts in the book (although he could read the transposed treble parts -- go figure!). Another couldn't improvise.

We had a gig where our "lead" trumpet couldn't be there. The sub had limited range and we had to scramble to find enough parts that he could hack. Another trumpet sub couldn't swing (we had a bunch of jazzy numbers). Incidentally, I used Lead in quotes because the trumpets switched parts around and our other trumpet player had pretty good range, transposed, etc.

I had to sub into a pro quintet on tuba. They had to pare down what they rehearsed since I wasn't anywhere near their tuba player's capability (it was Velvet Brown).
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by OneTon »

The expectations are not unrealistic. The musicians who are capable of this level of playing are out there, even in places like Wichita, Kansas. The rain makers, who can generate gigs, paid or unpaid, and make those musicians feel compensated either monetarily or otherwise, are rarer. But they do exist. The making of music depends on good will and discretionary income.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by BurckhardtS »

In a vacuum, I think those expectations are fine, but it really depends on the experience of the person and genres they are familiar with.

For instance, if I'm getting personnel for a big band gig I am looking for people who can sight-read figures well with great style and have decent improvisational skills.

If it's a small group, I need people who are familiar with song forms, and rhythm section members that are good at accompanying/jamming (coming up with endings on the fly, building long solos and comping appropriately).

If it's going to be a trombone quartet or brass group, well I probably want people that know a wide variety of styles and can read, but also have good chamber music skills (good sense of time and adapting to the push/pull of the group)

An orchestra? I want someone who is a good section player, if it's principal someone that can follow the other principal brass and lead when necessary, and know the rep well enough to not get lost in long rests.

In an ideal world, every pro should be able to do most of these things... but most aren't. Music school really pushes specialization which means your network needs to include people who are good in the wheelhouse of the genre/style that you are playing. None of your quintet expectations are unrealistic, but you may need to find people who have spent a lot of time playing that kind of music and are used to those expectations. If you ask someone who is unfamiliar with that genre but is good at another... don't be surprised if they can't meet those expectations.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by MrHCinDE »

As an enthusiastic amateur trombone and tuba player, well below the bar of former pro or semi-pro for sure, I’d be pretty confident to say I’d expect to sign up to the expectations for trombone and tuba to play in a really good quintet. Not at all unreasonable. The one slightly more challenging and unusual aspect to me is for a tuba player to play a walking bass line, which can be learned if necessary.

I would have expected that most former pro or semi~pro trombonists or tubists should be quite comfortable with those expectations, unless they are unusually focussed on legit or jazz.

I know plenty of amateur trumpeters and hornists who I think can meet your expectations also. The transposition side of things is pretty much standard for trumpeters and hornists, especially if they’ve played a decent amount of symphonic and church (hymn sheet) music.

On the other hand, some of the best sounding trumpeters I’ve heard might not be as much of all-rounders so you might have to make some compromise, arguably also for the other parts.

Attitude is probably as important as the various factors above.

For the trombonist, you could have added: can also play an occasional euph part and have some willingness to play a solo.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by imsevimse »

MrHCinDE wrote: Sat Jul 30, 2022 2:15 pm I would have expected that most former pro or semi~pro trombonists or tubists should be quite comfortable with those expectations, unless they are unusually focussed on legit or jazz.
Yes, in these days when work is different and consists of both commercial, jazz and classical music I think that could be a good idea. Over here music education is still devided between classical and jazz so that is the main reason. The classical players here don't study jazz and improvisation. If they have those skills they have learned it outside the music education system. The jazz players on the other hand does not study classical music, not at the level that is needed. This was the situation in the 80ies when I went there and for what I know it hasn't changed. The one's who do both are often the freelancers and they aren't a part of a professional brass quintet so that's why the situation becomes rare. I think most classical players nowdays can read and play jazz and pop music with the adequate feel but that's not the same as they also can improvise at the level that is needed. I know a few brass musicians here who can do both, and a few of them can also improvise at same high professional level. I think the reason why it is not more who do both is "it isn't a lot of requests for situations where both skills are needed". If for some reason there need to be a jazz solo in an otherwise classical setting they will hire one of those who can do what they need for that occation. I've been at concerts like that. The swedish radio symphony orchestra brass section played "Billy May's Big Fat Brass" with guest star James Lowat and then they had a couple of freelancers to take care of the lead trumpet part and the jazz solos. It was a great concert. Great playing from all. Loved the french horn section, it was even better than the original recording that I have, but there are no Conrad Gossi's today even though the trumpets did a marvellous job too, and of course the trombones too with Håkan Björkman on lead.

/Tom
Last edited by imsevimse on Sun Jul 31, 2022 6:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by MrHCinDE »

Tom, could there be a difference of perspectives between those who have studied at college level and those who didn’t?

What you say about the split between classic and jazz/improv rings true with what I heard from many performance students in the UK and Germany (but not all).

For those who played in school, regional youth and university groups without going to music college, I think there is a big overlap between classical/jazz/improv. As an example, both tenor trombonists in my university symphony orchestra, who were not performance majors, played in the big band and regularly took solos.

I appreciate there is a difference between taking a few bars in a big band solo and the craft of small combo playing, I’m not suggesting either of the two trombonists I mentioned would’ve done a good job of that!

Maybe there’s a bit of the aspect of amateurs being prepared to have a go at something and accepting they may embarrass themselves (and learn from the experience for the next time) if it doesn’t work out? I could understand why pros wouldn’t want to do that so may refuse solos they aren’t 100% sure about.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by Matt K »

I’m not sure about that. Seems pretty common for US players in universities to not care about jazz if they’re “classical” players. I’ve surprisingly even known quite a few saxophone players who didn’t do any jazz and they studied at serious schools (I’ve known quite a few NEC players for example).
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by MrHCinDE »

Matt K wrote: Sun Jul 31, 2022 3:38 am I’m not sure about that. Seems pretty common for US players in universities to not care about jazz if they’re “classical” players. I’ve surprisingly even known quite a few saxophone players who didn’t do any jazz and they studied at serious schools (I’ve known quite a few NEC players for example).
I think my point was that I generally agree with this for players who study performance at music college or similar.

The rest of what I was babbling on about was for players who don’t major in performance, or maybe don’t even have any formal musical education post high school.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by Matt K »

Ah, yeah that makes sense
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by HermanGerman »

MTbassbone wrote: Sat Jul 30, 2022 1:25 am Find people who are nice, show up on time, and have a curiosity to continue honing their craft. This may mean choosing a less skilled player in order to find a better fit.
:good:
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by hyperbolica »

After a couple of rehearsals, I've altered my wish-list for members:

- retired
- not strongly affiliated with a particular church
- the less family the better
- frustrated with other musical outlets
- maybe you have to settle for a pool of players for each position rather than fixed individuals

Sounds like I'm starting a cult or something. Retired people have less of a schedule, and are more flexible. People with kids have different priorities than people without. People with strong church affiliations will be unavailable on sundays, when other churches might want you to play. Players frustrated with other opportunities will be more willing to make a real effort.

Some of the new requirements subsume some of the prior requirements. It's just the reality of the area where I live. There are two (and a half) other pro quintets in town, but they cover a wide geographical area, and there are a lot of churches here...

For now, getting rehearsals with at least 4 members (during the summer vacation months) and growing a pool of players (primary with subs) is what I'm going to have to live with realistically, to make this fly at all.

Right now most of rehearsal is spent just reading tunes. Partially to find tunes that fit us, but also to dust off some out-of-practice chops, evaluate the situation, and to try to develop a common style. We have spent some time working through tough rhythms or fast sections. We're not yet to working on entrances and intonation, but that's coming. Matching styles is something one of the weaker players mentioned, and I obviously encouraged that as a mainstay of chamber music. Flexibility moving from baroque to blues is something I'm trying to establish just by alternating styles in the rehearsal order.

We have 3 strong players, with a couple that I think can be practiced into compliance. The first time we play a tune there is a lot of stumbling, missed entrances, and tempos slow down. The second time they are more familiar with what to expect, and can concentrate more on the finer points. A real pro group would be able to read everything with some nuance the first time. I spend most of my energy listening, and less on actually playing, which is good for my ear anyway. Also learning how to steer toward corrections, and reinforce good playing without criticizing. There's little that's worse than getting brow-beaten for musical mistakes.

One unexpected plus is that there are at least 3 of us who have done some arranging, and the arrangements are playable. That's something we can build on, and maybe use to distinguish ourselves.

I approached a couple of area pros who have volunteered to give us coaching sessions. It's going to be a while until we get there, but I think that will accelerate us forward more than just reading through tunes. A long and winding road.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by MrHCinDE »

I’m going to have to borrow this phrase:
hyperbolica wrote: Tue Aug 02, 2022 8:25 am We have 3 strong players, with a couple that I think can be practiced into compliance.
It sounds like you have a good and realistic plan, enjoy the journey.

I was thinking about what you mentioned re. pool of players. We were discussing this for our 7-piece group along the lines of having one reserve trumpet/flugel and one reserve tenorhorn/baritone/trombone. The idea would be to have the reserves get familiar with our repertoire without any specific gig in mind, so that they could jump in with minimal rehearsal time if necessary.

What are people’s views on the best way to integrate reserve players in a pool? Would you have them come to a regular rehearsal and double up on parts, even in a small group? Or better have the regular player sit out when the reserves are there?

All of the group are keen to maintain our original personnel where possible and only call on the reserves when required. How do we manage the expectations of the reserves? They will be really important to us so we have to show them how much we value their support, even if they don‘t play every gig.
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Re: Quintet expectations

Post by hyperbolica »

Here in the US we call them subs, or substitutes. Typically they just play rehearsals and gigs when a regular member can't make it. Even if the regular member can make the rehearsal, if they can't make the gig, the sub will play the rehearsal and the gig.

I think we will require everyone to recommend a sub so the show can always go on. We may even substitute a horn with a trombone, or a tuba with a bass bone, as long as everyone can read the parts. Practicing quintets with 4 people covering parts isn't a lot of fun.
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