October 5, 2012 at 11:00 am #13373
Anyone ever set your flutes on the left side of the band and the clarinets on the right side (as you are looking at them from the podium)? Any problems?
Have you ever set your saxophones on the left, instead of on the right?
I know these may seem like weird questions – I know there is not a set way you should seat your band. I will have 6-7 flutes and only 3 clarinets this concert season, but will have 3-4 alto saxophones. I may switch one of the altos to tenor. I’ve typically put my flutes on the right, and clarinets on the left – but I usually have more clarinets. I’m thinking I want my alto saxes behind the clarinets, with two rows of flutes, then put all my brass in the third row.
Just wanted to see if anyone else has tried that setup before.October 5, 2012 at 3:27 pm #13389
I like to have my altos on the right so I can have my horns on the left. If I have no horns, having the saxes on the left isn’t an issue. I think your idea sounds fine.October 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm #13416
No, I have not seen the flutes set on the left side of the band, and clarinets set on the right.
I have never seen altos on the left side of the band but I have seen them in the middle…
One important concern is the placement of your strong players and weak players. I like your idea of two rows of flute players. This gives the second row a chance to model after the row in front of them. This would strengthen your flute section rather than weakening them by spreading them out in one long row. When choosing sides, I would not recommend putting your trumpet players behind the flute players as the sound can overwhelm them. Altos behind the clarinets sounds like a fine idea. Your ideas seem they will work in theory, but I think you will know once you put it into practice. Does the ensemble sound balanced from left to right? Can each musician hear the bass line from the tuba players? Which way do the french horns have their bell facing? Does the arrangement promote students to pay attention?
I have never personally set up a band before, but I hope some of this helps.
Current Music Ed. Major KSUOctober 9, 2012 at 11:51 am #13427
Thanks to you both.
I don’t have horns or tubas, so no concern there. I’m thinking now I may keep the flutes and clarinets where they normally are, and move the saxes over to the other side. Like you said, I won’t really know until I try it out.October 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm #13458
If you do end up trying it out, I hope you’ll let us know how it went! I’d be interested to hear if it changes anything.October 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm #13459
I move my seating around all through the rehearsal process, the only thing I make sure of at performance is that the horns are on the left. Also, I went to a local festival with the question in mind. I sat all day and mapped out each group and made comments regarding the sound. I have not figured out why exactly but bands with 4 rows regarless of size had a better, blended, more intune sound than bands with three. My current band of 40 has 5 in row two, but it always works.October 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm #13460
I did some research on this as a piece of my master’s project. From what I remember, Sousa, Leonard Smith, Begian, Goldman, and many others were consulted in articles and other research. These guys were obviously successful and their opinions were all different. What it basically came down to is that we should seat sections in a manner that will aid the students in listening across the ensemble to other sections and parts and that projects the balanced sound to the listeners. No seating arrangement is/was universally agreed upon to be right for every circumstance. It doesn’t matter if the horns are on the right, left, or center or the flutes are on the right or left, or if the clarinets are on both sides of the flutes (Leonard Smith by the way). Whatever is going to sound best for your group, do it and don’t be afraid to try new arrangements.
By the way, Schoonoverj541 is correct. It was noted several times that a better balance and blend is usually apparent with 4 rows or more.October 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm #13466
I have seen many different set-ups in my days as a musician and I have seen positives and negatives for each. I have seen trumpets and trombones in the center and i have seen them on opposite sides of the ensemble. As far as the woodwinds go, there are just too many to describe. Is there any one set up that you find work better than all of the others?October 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm #13631
I teach Beginning Band and I actually switch my seating up quite regularly. I started doing this a few years ago because my low brass was always complaining about being in the back. I now give everyone a chance to be in the front row, and depending on my instrumentation that year, other instruments go to crazy places. It really helps me get a chance to see everyone’s fingers and work more one-on-one since they’re right there in front of me. For concerts, we go back to a more traditional order to focus on balance and tone. However, this year, for my 6th graders, due to room constraints and instrumentation, the alto saxes are on the front row, on my left with the flutes on the right. Clarinets got moved back to the second row. It sounds just fine. I absolutely recommend changing up your seating for a rehearsal or two every now or then. The kids like it and it keeps me on my toes because I’ll go to cue a section and sometimes they’re not where they were yesterday! 🙂October 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm #13636
I wish I had enough kids for four rows. 🙂 Interesting fact.October 15, 2012 at 11:43 pm #13770
Kate’s response was the most interesting I read. I never thought of having the stronger players in front to serve as a teaching example. Of course when experimenting with set ups, you won’t know what the sound of the band will be, and this could be both a good and a bad thing. A certain set up can either enhance the sound of a band ten fold or could even do the exact opposite, so of course experimenting before a performance is critical. And as Brian said, there is no real way that is set in stone for a band to be set up. Have you found any suggested set ups for a band with similar instrumentation since this was posted?
KSU Music Education StudentOctober 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm #13835
Nothing specific for that type of instrumentation. It not only depends on the number, but also proficiency (and for some kids what might be on the lunch menu). As far as modeling, sometimes a “spinal column” of your best players with your first chairs all lining up through the center of the band works well. Other times is doesn’t, I think it’d be hard to model to those behind when the sound goes forward. Some technique might be picked up on, but really an A/B type of setup would probably be better for modeling both.October 18, 2012 at 1:53 pm #14006
I have a small group (20) with flutes on the left and clarinets on the right. It works well for us. I have a friend who puts his trombones in the front and with that thought, I have my bass clarinet player in front as an experiment – not sold on it yet, but I’ll give it another week.October 23, 2012 at 8:08 am #14136
Here’s what I’ve tried so far:
1st rehearsal – Flutes across the front row, Row 2 (from left) – Clarinets and alto saxes, Row 3 (from left) – trumpets, bass clarinets, bari sax, tenor sax and trombone
2nd – 4th rehearsal (up to yesterday) – 1st row (from left) Clarinets and 1st flutes, 2nd Row – Alto Saxes, Bass Clarinet, Bari Sax, 2nd Flutes, 3rd Row – Tenor Sax, Trumpets, Trombones
My only gripe so far with that set-up is that I can’t hear my trumpets all to well – but that might just be them not being that strong of players anyway (as far as volume goes – they are pretty good players, just not loud).
Since I first posted, I have had 3 kids want to join band (one tuba, one baritone, and one horn). Now I have to find a place to put them.
I’m thinking using my second set up, but adding the horn to the left of the saxes and the baritone and tuba between trumpet and trombones.
I didn’t realize this topic would take off like it did. Thanks for the replies.October 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm #14325
I have seen the flutes on the left side, but it is not ideal. Flute players hear best the person to their left so assuming that the best player is to the left the next person in line can than hear the better player. Most people also want their best players on the outside of the ensemble visually for the audience so having the flutes on the directors left is not ideal.
That being said in my 5th grade, 1st year, band I put the flutes where ever they fit best because they all pretty much sound the same at this time of the year.
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