Tubacabra and Playing in Ensemble

“I’ve never liked playing tuba alone. It’s just one boring phrase after another. But when you play in an ensemble and hear all the other parts, it becomes music. It becomes harmony. You can really tell you’re carrying the piece. I’ve liked tuba ever since.” -Gotou Takuya

I’ve mentioned quite a few times in previous posts that I grew up playing the piano, having started at a very young age, but I don’t know if I ever mentioned that I also picked up percussion at the wise age of ten. The choice was a simple one: I took one look at the mallet instruments–glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba, chimes–and saw my piano keyboard. And when I joined the concert band, it was easy to shift into the role of mallet player since all the boys wanted to smack the drums and auxiliary percussion. It wasn’t too long before I realized that to continue on would require I learn the other percussion instruments, as boring as they seemed.

I cannot recall what piece was my first on a drum, but I do remember the excitement that filled me each time we played a march and I stood at the snare, bass, or cymbals. Even though none of them played the melody, or even the harmony, they carried the beat of the entire group. They were the life blood of the music. There’s no way I would have understood that so completely without having played as a band–practicing a bass drum line alone isn’t fun unless you’re seriously dedicated to the craft, and usually not even then! I also have an impossible time finding a non-percussionist who appreciates the triangle or tambourine in the ways they deserve.

Hazuki’s frustration with her slow growth as a tuba player is completely understandable. It’s not too often you pick up an instrument for the first time in high school–most either start music at a very young age, or later in adulthood. High school is that awkward time where many of us just wanted to do as we please, but also fit in. Not only did Hazuki start late, but she also ended up with an instrument of little glory, or as Takuya bluntly puts it, “The best thing about tuba… is that it doesn’t have anything. It doesn’t have anything going for it, but we try really hard.” Playing in sectionals and practicing alone are necessary to improvement, but lack the thrill of feeling invaluable to the big picture.

An interesting opposition to Hazuki’s experience is the situation involving many of the band’s seniors. They have seniority and some experience to back their involvement in the large group ensemble, but little appreciation for sectionals or self-practice. They become upset about not participating in events like other schools, and don’t understand the reason for their exclusion. I would venture to say this attitude towards music is more common for students who first begin in the school environment. The band becomes more of a social gathering than a rehearsal; the instruments become props instead of cast members.

I’ve been involved in ensembles like this and have friends who prefer this approach to music performance. At times, the relaxed atmosphere is relieving as a change of pace, but it doesn’t take long before I yearn for something more. It isn’t until I bring together both a devotion to the self and a passion for the group that I feel truly complete and ready to shine like a star.

9 thoughts on “Tubacabra and Playing in Ensemble

  1. Other than the “he’s dreamy” moment, Hazuki and Tubacabra rocked. Also it amuses me how all of a sudden some of the bloggers come up and share their “This one time at band camp…” stories so to speak.

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  2. I was in concert band for a long time as well (and I don’t care for orchestras, really) and played clarinets, moving from soprano (the ‘normal’ one) to Bass to Contra-Alto clarinet for my last year in HS. And I have also grown to like that supporting role, although I have to agree that practicing bass parts is the suck (I play bass guitar in a band now, and never practice).

    I do like how they’re moving Hazuki’s character along, and how she isn’t just the bubbly friend to Kumiko. Being a beginner in high school has to be something really difficult (I started in band in 4th grade and played for 9 years, and piano for 8 years) but Hazuki is actually sticking with it pretty well. I like that she’s able to find interest in anything, to find a ‘hook’ for herself in almost anything. Hopefully her rather obsessive nature won’t undo her, although she might be better in music than in tennis, because it’s a lot more of a cultivated sense, rather than outright athletic ability.

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    • I really, really love the sound of the clarinet and bass clarinet–particularly in jazz. Did you ever play in jazz band? I also find the bass guitar as second coolest after the drummer in rock bands😉

      Hazuki has been an interesting character to see evolve these past weeks, and I’m surprised she was the choice the first visible romance of this show. I really hope that if any sort of confession gets denied or misunderstanding in love arise, that Hazuki doesn’t take out her frustration on the music and quit. I’m also wondering if Sapphire will receive some backstory and development, since right now she’s just a moeblob lusting after tuba-kun.

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      • So far, Midori has just been the exposition device for the show. It would be nice if she was able to move up into more of an equal friend role. I’d really like if the main romance of the show was the non-PoV character.

        I tried out for jazz band… on bass guitar (I wasn’t particularly good at the time, but probably would have been a better choice than the guy who passed the audition, since he kinda flaked out). Our HS jazz band didn’t have clarinets, and the guy who was better than me at Bass Clarinet switched to Tenor Sax to play in jazz band.

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