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Do you use a music stand when performing in a combo?

  • Yes

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  • No

    Votes: 16 27.1%
  • It depends

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Discussion Starter #1
When playing in a combo group, how do you prefer/ expect people to play? Do you expect them to use music stands, or to play by memory? I usually use music when playing, but I'm now looking to join a regular combo group, and am considering kicking the habit. If you memorize, do you have any tips for making the switch?
 

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Playing without sheet music is much better in my opinion. I hardly look at the sheet music I do use. Of course I sometime have a tendency to go off on own sometimes too.

But the written music let's us play more music with less practice or even no practice at all. So is it better to have ten songs you can play very well from memory, or instead have ten songs you can play very well from memory plus an additional fifty or more that you can play fairly well reading the sheets?
 

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But not reading lets us play more music.

That said, we play many of my originals when I have a gig, so I do not expect the guys to learn all my tunes.
 

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In a small combo (as opposed to big band or a large horn section) I see no reason whatsoever for sheet music. Learn the tunes so you can play them without reading off the paper. At least that's my opinion. If I have to read a tune, I don't know it well enough to play it in public, period.
 

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Definitely no music stands. It's kind of like the difference between a performance and a recital.

Yopu need your eyes to look at and communicate with the audience and other members of the band. And you need you brain to be focussing on the eras and imagination.
 

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Oh man, I once had a long debate about this on another forum. My opinion was and still is that sight-reading is soulless and anti-musical. Music is about communication and the relationship between the musicians and the audience, and unrehearsed sight-reading is an impenetrable wall that gets in the way. I may be exaggerating, but it's true. What are you communicating if you haven't even heard the piece before? Your awesome ability to wing it? It's not a coincidence that the most expressive players are ones that directly communicate with the audience. Yo-Yo Ma is a fantastic example of this. He never reads sheet music when performing live. The music is embedded into his fingers and his soul, and therefore he can bend it to his will.

EDIT: That being said I fully support the use of sheet music in orchestras. Orchestras would be difficult to keep on the same page (even with a good conductor) if all of the players were playing their own thing. I don't find playing in an orchestra to be the epitome of musical expression, but it's necessary to have some people that are willing to play it precisely as written. I know it isn't really just playing as written, but there's not much you can do to make the performance unique except play it like you usually would. I generally have respect for orchestral musicians but I would never want to play in one personally.
 

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In a combo setting, reading standards is unprofessional, but a lot of pros will read music if the songs are composed by other band members and haven't been rehearsed too much. One of the great challenges to a musician is making sight-reading musical, you can still communicate in music without eye contact.
 

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When playing in a combo group, how do you prefer/ expect people to play? Do you expect them to use music stands, or to play by memory? I usually use music when playing, but I'm now looking to join a regular combo group, and am considering kicking the habit. If you memorize, do you have any tips for making the switch?
In response to "making the switch:"

My combo recently decided to start memorizing our book of tunes(some standards+originals as well). We rehearse once a week, and have made it our goal to memorize at least three tunes, inside and out and in every key, between rehearsals. We still read from our books at the gigs, but we also randomly call out tunes we have memorized. Our goal is to move from one to the other. Eventually calling out every tune in the book, in any key. We have had a great success with this! In our experience, at the kind of gigs we play, the audience doesn't care how you do it... they only care if it sounds bad!

My personal memorization method:
-I record myself playing the tune from a lead sheet(exactly as it is written, and in whatever key its in).
-----------I don't read the music beyond this point.
-I transcribe my own playing from the above recording.
-I find recordings of players I like performing the tune.
-I listen and add the things I like from their playing(Phrasing/articulation/ghost notes, etc.)
-I practice the tune until I get it just like I want it to sound in that one key.
-I extend that practice of the tune to all twelve keys.

-I also use this method to memorize the harmony of a piece by transcribing myself arpeggiating the chord tones, but I never have time enough in one week to get to all the keys.

Let me know if this helps.
 

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all good reasons above but it also depends why your there.

the audience will be more impressed if your not reading your music. its percieved as just opying someine elses creativity(even though your interpreting). So, if you want to impress your audience more, (and maybe get invited back), it seems memorizing plus ad libing is the way to go.
 

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Our band plays around 200 tunes, of which I know about 30, if I am lucky, by heart. We keep adding to the tunes, too. I bet nobody could tell from any of our live recordings which ones I need the music as an aide-memoire for and which I don't. It is easy to communicate while using a music stand with the notes on it, and nobody, apart, significantly, from the odd drunken, usually not very good muso, who probably can't read - not that I read well anyway - ever thinks it is an issue in the audience. (You know: "why don't you just play more freely, follow your feelings" - I'm noted among people who can play for doing just that.) It's not as if one is using the sheet music to play in detail: it just reminds me of chords, key centres and the like, and allows me to vary the melody much more, because I can see what I am varying rather than trying to remember it, when I'm tired. I just don't get the animus against those of us with lousy musical memories. Using the notes certainly has nothing to do with the success of our gigs, which have been going for a very long time indeed every week in a local pub and elsewhere. I know loads of good pros who prefer to use the sheet music for the same reasons. Jam sessions that ban the use of music invariably end up with nearly the same old tunes every week. Rant over :)
 

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Oh man, I once had a long debate about this on another forum. My opinion was and still is that sight-reading is soulless and anti-musical. Music is about communication and the relationship between the musicians and the audience, and unrehearsed sight-reading is an impenetrable wall that gets in the way. I may be exaggerating, but it's true. What are you communicating if you haven't even heard the piece before? Your awesome ability to wing it? It's not a coincidence that the most expressive players are ones that directly communicate with the audience. Yo-Yo Ma is a fantastic example of this. He never reads sheet music when performing live. The music is embedded into his fingers and his soul, and therefore he can bend it to his will.

EDIT: That being said I fully support the use of sheet music in orchestras. Orchestras would be difficult to keep on the same page (even with a good conductor) if all of the players were playing their own thing. I don't find playing in an orchestra to be the epitome of musical expression, but it's necessary to have some people that are willing to play it precisely as written. I know it isn't really just playing as written, but there's not much you can do to make the performance unique except play it like you usually would. I generally have respect for orchestral musicians but I would never want to play in one personally.
Really?

no

You haven't played with a very good concert group ( or you haven't played with one) if you haven't experienced the ability of 45+ people able to translate the emotion of their individual parts to the whole and make the entire piece move an audience.

Music stands definitely have their place. And I've seen accomplished musicians rely on music stands for pieces which sort of surprised me that they would use them.

I'm not trying to be a jerk to you in this response to what you wrote. I'm saying music stands may not be the crutch some people think they are. Not to mention you can have a nice big ol' pc screen right below your monitor which no one can see and still give your audience the show you want them to recieve. Note screens have been around for a looong time.

Harv
 

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i was in a band that had about 75 tunes in the book and guys were writing all the time. We had 35 original tunes and because we worked five to seven gigs a week, we could only rehearse once or twice a month to sort out the new stuff. We kind of learned and arranged stuff on the stand night after night. Even our drummer and percussionist had books and used music stands. It was all I could do to practice on my own so I could know the material.

I came up hearing that it was "cheating" for jazz guys to read on the stand and that you needed to get your head out of the music to really listen to the group and react. Having said that, I have seen the heaviest cats on the planet pull a chart up for a particular tune in a set.

You know I like to tell stories; When I lived in the Bay Area, I would go to Yoshi's Nite Spot in Oakland at least once a week for years. Some years back they lost their lease and had to relocate. Long story short, the city of Oakland helped them build a new 350 seat showcase club that is one of the best venues in the world. On the one year anniversary of the new place, they had Phil Woods quintet. Phil had Brian Lynch with him, who had contributed some charts too.

They decided to celebrate the great acoustics of the place by playing with out a PA system. Both Phil and Brian had two music stands in front of them, because most of the charts they played were like eight or ten pages long and draped off the end of both stands.

What I thought was funny was, they would carefully fold up each chart and put it away, get the new chart and unfold it, get it position it on the stand and kick it off. After a couple tunes, I realized that weren't reading any of it! Mostly they had their eyes closed and were burning on both the parts and solos.

I thought to myself... well maybe they are just using the charts as road maps to remind them where they were in the arrangement. But as the set progressed, I never caught them looking at the charts!
 

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Really?

no

You haven't played with a very good concert group ( or you haven't played with one) if you haven't experienced the ability of 45+ people able to translate the emotion of their individual parts to the whole and make the entire piece move an audience.

Music stands definitely have their place. And I've seen accomplished musicians rely on music stands for pieces which sort of surprised me that they would use them.

I'm not trying to be a jerk to you in this response to what you wrote. I'm saying music stands may not be the crutch some people think they are. Not to mention you can have a nice big ol' pc screen right below your monitor which no one can see and still give your audience the show you want them to recieve. Note screens have been around for a looong time.

Harv
I wasn't saying the players had no impact on the music at all, I said the impact they have is largely decided by their skill and not their expressiveness. It's like being in a play you have never read before and you have to read your lines as you go along. Can a good actor pull it off well? Undoubtedly. But what is it exactly he is doing? He's relying solely on his acting skills and ability to read. Are you meaning to tell me people that sightread jolt through the current sheet of paper, analyze and can "hear" all of their parts instantly, choose how to present it (instantly I might add) just in time for their cue? I really don't buy that, because it's nigh on impossible (if not completely impossible). What then is being communicated? Nothing at all. Someone who takes his time going through a piece and learning all of its nuances can do anything they want with it (within reason of course).
 

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Memorization is highly overrated, IMO.

The dots are just a guide, anyway. The notion of forcing musicians to play without reading is a relatively new one. Some people have less capacity in memorizing. Should they be kept from playing just because of that?

I've played with the same little big band for over five years now. I've mostly memorized the music itself. I use the chart to help me remember how long the rests are, who has which solo, and what sort of coda is used to end the tune.
 

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So is it better to have ten songs you can play very well from memory, or instead have ten songs you can play very well from memory plus an additional fifty or more that you can play fairly well reading the sheets?
I agree completely. Being able to play entirely from memory is a great skill to have, tends to produce better music and cohesiveness from the band, and allows for more connection with the audience. That being said, there's no shame in using charts either. As long as they change sheets and keep the performance moving in a timely manner, I have no problem if a group mixes memorized and read tunes in a show.
 

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Hi Apocryphaltruth,

We rehearse the music and hopefully memorize it no differently whether we play jazz, dixie or some version of concert/classical. And some people who play classical music memorize the stuff just as quickly as people who work at memorizing the great jazz music. But the norm for "legit" music is going to be fourteen odd pieces averaging ten minutes or more in length. The movements are complex and intricate in a different way than jazz might be complex, but that makes it fun for those of us who prefer to play that kind of music.

I play in what I consider an outstanding community band. The St Cloud Municipal Band. For the next six to eight weeks, we'll rehearse ten or so songs on Monday and play them the following Thursday. It might be stuff we've never seen before, but as those who play in community bands will tell you it's a funny thing that more often than not, you may have trouble with a certain score on your one and only rehearsal and then nail it on performance.

In a 45+ member band no, you don't hear all the parts as you would like. But you'll be required to listen for the parts which matter that you're supposed to be listening for. (and it's a funky experience going from a concert band to playing with an orchestra-now your listening skill need to be piqued to different sounds and sectional coagulations Again!)

In either case, legit versus jazz, we need to know the music well enough to do more than just play notes. The difference, some would like to think, is that legit music is harder. I don't agree. I think it may be more complex from the standpoint that the larger group playing the score requires a director to keep everything together. But jazz is just as complex. The similarity is that both groups need solid leadership to play well respectively. And they adhere to that leadership based pretty much on the number of their musicians. Smaller group, leader is playing an instrument. Large group, leader is flinging a baton into the bell of a bari sax.

This really isn't about staring at a page and having sudden total consciousness (Carl Spakler-Caddyshack) of what to do. Pff Every night we play a song it turns out a little differently. Playing with emotion and doing it both as the soloist and sectionally is really no different than what jazz musicians do. Only jazz musicians aren't blending with a line of players playing the same parts. They're essentially making up entire sections based upon what the music requires.


Harv
 

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Memorization is highly overrated, IMO.

The dots are just a guide, anyway. The notion of forcing musicians to play without reading is a relatively new one. Some people have less capacity in memorizing. Should they be kept from playing just because of that?

I've played with the same little big band for over five years now. I've mostly memorized the music itself. I use the chart to help me remember how long the rests are, who has which solo, and what sort of coda is used to end the tune.
Exactly.
 

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When/if going to a jazz performance and you see guys with music stands in front of them the minimum I'd think is they don't know the music. Even if they play their asses off I'd still think "how much better would that have been if they were familiar enough have been playing from thier soul rather than the dots on the page?"

Fair enough if called in to play and you don't know the tunes and have to do the best you can. You've got to have some reference instead of winging it in order to deliver on something.

Classical is different. It's about delivering the notes as written. Great if you can memorize all, but no need when everyone else around you is reading.
 
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