Aug 8, 2016

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How to Lead Big Band Swing Artists

How to Lead Big Band Swing Artists

Being the leader of a band can be difficult. If you multiply the number of musicians, eccentric personalities, and instruments, you get the jazz big band. Swing is one of the genres dedicated to recreating the sounds of the 1930s and 40s, using instruments including brass sections like trombones and trumpets, woodwind sections for saxophones and clarinets, and rhythm sections including bass, drums, and piano. These are some tips for how to lead big band swing artists.

Tune Early On
Before the gig, the bandleader needs to make sure everyone is in tune. Players should be encouraged to bring their own tuners, or simply ask the pianist to strike the reference note. For horns, it is extremely important not to be flat or sharp. If even one horn is out of tune before the start of an arrangement, the audience will be able to notice, because it will stand out from all the other horns and give the overall sound a more dissonant feeling.

Stay in Time
Big band swing artists who cannot stay in time together will appear sloppy, disorganized, and generally unskilled. The bandleader needs to make sure the band is following his or her tempo. The bandleader can either signal the tempo of the composition with his or her hands, or can rely on the drummer to use their closed hi hat to keep tempo.

The bandleader should also dictate which notes are straight (following the beat exactly) or swung (following slightly behind the beat). All players must follow the instructions of the bandleader and play their notes at the right time in order to sound the way the song was written. Going over the chart before rehearsals and gigs is a great way to ensure everyone is playing in time. Bandleaders can also encourage musicians to listen to a recording of the song and practice by themselves at home to make sure their tempo is locked in.

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