Timing Tears

Okay, it's that time of year again.  Do any of you have any advice on cleaning timing tears?  In particular, our front ensemble is playing by themselves and then the battery comes in on ";and";, all the while playing (naturally) from Side 1 behind the back hash.  The problem REALLY compounds itself when there are layers of horn players between the Battery and F.E.

Thanks!    Any help would be appreciated (even the obvious). 
Sometimes, if it's getting real bad, I get timing :'(  tears.
Thinking more on this topic, I fixed one of these issues at camp this year. We have a drumset in our pit this year, and in a transitional section of the show the battery drops out and the drumset starts a new groove. It's not a tempo change, but it is a thematic and stylistic change in the music.

The original writing had 4 bars of rest from the battery, then had the snare drums snapping while the tenors were playing shells to make a noise to go along with the snapping. Drumline is near the back hash. The result was disastrous, as the majority of the midfield winds were listening forward to the drumset. At first I tried to fix it by having the snares play cross-sticks on 2 and 4 for the entire 8 bars. Even that wasn't good enough because the lack of something on beat 1 was still causing people to listen forwards.

The final solution is to have the snares play rim clicks on all 4 beats of all 8 measures, and play cross-sticks on 2 and 4 of each measure. The snares are absolutely wailing the rim clicks, and it finally works.

Of course, these are the problems you cause when you put a drumet (i.e. a metronome) in the front ensemble. We knew we would have to work around certain spots and we've been doing so succesfully.
Funny...I was just going to start a similar topic. Here's what Ive done, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. Give it a shot.

      I try to think of a way to create a TASTEFUL cheater. Usually Ill use the plates playing a HH part (which Ive been lucky to have one or two every year that are very good) or a light, simple bass part.

        Then, ill take my most responsible pit perc player, and again use a tasteful and easy to play cheater...like a cymbal bell rhythm or something. This person can watch the battery's feet, listen the plates sound, and (Ive recently experimented with this) watch the contact of the plates as a reference.

DM conducts to the battery's feet, pit perc player plays his cheater to battery, mallets play to pit cheater.

Its usually not a magic elixir, but over time and repitition it works. Im very interested to hear everyone else's ideas on this subject. I pull my hair out every year trying to fix these problems with a group that has a fantastic attitude, but limited experience.  Oh, and the drill designer seems to enjoy making me old prematurely.

So, does any one have any steadfast rules when writing the show? Such as ";I never let pit establish a new tempo"; or ";I avoid writing the pit into accelerandos when on-field is playing.";


I agree with everything CMachado said.  I believe some issues are also compounded when the drum major starts conducting with the sound she hears instead of slightly ahead of the beat.  Let's say for instance that the pit and woodwinds are playing together in the front part of the field and the DM is conducting to what she hears.  It will seem to synch up because of the relative closeness of the DM to the ensemble, but if players in the back of the field try to enter on the ";hands"; of the DM (and not even listening to the music in front of them), they will be late due to the fact that they are a significantly farther distance away from the DM than the rest of the group.  Ergo, the DM must always be conducting slightly ahead of the beat. If she does this, then the drumline may use all the timing techniques to come in on the ";hands"; of the DM to make a smooth entrance.  As a caveat, the pit must be aware that the DM is conducting ahead of the beat if they watch and use the hands for timing.  I never recommend that the pit watch for timing unless it is the very beginning or a pit only section.
That subtle rim click is a good idea... I'll have to remember that.
That is definitely a tough staging setup... I think we've all been there. The first thing I would recommend is to establish where the ";pulse"; is coming from in the ensemble and make sure all the players are aware of it. Be sure everyone is watching the drum major (or at least looking up occasionally in the front ensemble's case). I also find it beneficial to explain that in different sections of a piece the pulse can come from different places.. (ie. drum major while the pit is playing, then the battery after they enter.... etc, etc)

I'd stress to the battery that they cannot get their time by listening to the front ensemble and should rely on their feet, counting and the drum major for the pulse. Once the battery starts playing I would recommend having the F.E. listening back to them and do their best to line things up. A great analogy an instructor of mine once said was to envision a ";wall"; or ";wave"; of sound starting back field and moving forward... as the sound gets to a particular section (say the F.E.) they just join in the wave and add to it with their playing. If you have one, try setting up a metronome behind the entire ensemble and rehearsing with it running. This will give a steady way to get across the listening back idea.

As for the offbeat entrance... I'd encourage the kids to ";dut"; or vocalize the time aloud before their entrance (subdividing to the eighth note will help too). This will help make sure all the battery members are counting and interpreting the beat the same way. If things still aren't quite working, I've also tried adding in a subtle stick click or rim hit or two (something that won't really be audible in the overall ensemble) on the downbeat prior to the attack. Starting on a beat is always easier... a clean initial attack will probably go a long way in helping fix the time tear problem.

I'm curious to hear other takes on this too... as its one of those issues that never really goes away. Good Luck, hopefully some of this is helpful.
Login or Signup to post a comment