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Thread: Ok, I just need to be told one thing. (Notation related)

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    Member Praine's Avatar
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    Default Ok, I just need to be told one thing. (Notation related)

    Usually I try to find answers to simple questions out myself before I would come here and ask the question, but this time, it seems like the only place were I can actually get an answer. I have recently obtained "The Essential Dictonary of Music Notation" written by Gerou and Lusk, and after scanning through the whole book, I couldn't even find an answer.

    Spread throughout a score, a common occurance that I find are boxes that include a number that start at one and go up by one that are placed above the staves at any given time (there is no apparent pattern). I'm thinking that these are inserted to indicate a change of direction within the particular movement of a composition, although I do not know for sure, so I have instead come to ask if any of you can help me figure out what these boxes mean. Please see this picture for exact clarification of what I am asking for.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. I know this may be a relatively simple question, but since I intend to compose music on paper, I would like to understand all of the notation techniques used by other composers.
    Last edited by Praine; Sep-12-2009 at 03:08. Reason: Picture too big.

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    Senior Member andruini's Avatar
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    Oh, I think those are rehearsal marks.. They're just simple indications to aid the performers during practices and rehearsals.. It's easier to tell everyone else "Start at rehearsal 4" than "Bar 143", you know? Sometimes they're done with letters of the alphabet, too..
    Life is a long lesson in humility.

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    Member Praine's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot, adruini. Yeah that makes sense and it follows the mindset that I had while viewing it as a change within the movement.

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    Senior Member danae's Avatar
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    Exactly what Andruini said. This occurs in orchestral pieces, or concertos, in this case, the Ravel G major.

    Sometimes you see numbers in solo pieces too, which indicate the number of bars. These may be in boxes too, depending on the edition.

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    Default Rehearsal marks

    How does the compser decide where to place rehearsal marks? What is the method for making such a decision? At first sight these marks seem to be arbitrarily placed. However, I prefer to assume that there is a good reason for placing the rehearsal marks on specific measures. I would think that there might be a good reason for the conductor to prefer each mark here but not there.

    Looking forward for a clarification of this enigma.

    Thanks in advance.

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    Junior Member Herr Direktor's Avatar
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    Generally rehearsal marks are at intervals in the music that make it easy to count before or after. For example, the conductor will shout "start 4 before rehearsal 1." or something. It is really up to the composer or engraver (now an almost obsolete job) to decide where these marks will go - usually at the beginning of a new section, a key change, or just every 20 bars or so.

    For the record, I hate when parts have rehearsal numbers. I much prefer letters so there is no confusion between bar numbers and rehearsal number.

    HD

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    Quote Originally Posted by Herr Direktor View Post
    Generally rehearsal marks are at intervals in the music that make it easy to count before or after. For example, the conductor will shout "start 4 before rehearsal 1." or something. It is really up to the composer or engraver (now an almost obsolete job) to decide where these marks will go - usually at the beginning of a new section, a key change, or just every 20 bars or so.

    For the record, I hate when parts have rehearsal numbers. I much prefer letters so there is no confusion between bar numbers and rehearsal number.

    HD

    Like yourself, I prefer letters to numbers in the rehearsal marks. However, I am still puzzled about the positioning of these marks. You suggest an "easy to count" consideration. Well, The human eye/mind system can handle groups of up to four items without counting (groups of five or more items needs to either be counted, or split into smaller subgroups). Therefore, your "easy to count" suggestion implies a rehearsal mark every eight measures, for ease of counting four measures on each side of the mark. This is not what I see in scores.

    I would like to suggest that you might further help by looking at the quintet which I composed and posted in "Today's Composers" to be critiqued, and indicate on which measures you would prefer the rehearsal marks. It would help even more if you could explain the reasons for you preferences.

    Thank in advance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmateurComposer View Post
    Like yourself, I prefer letters to numbers in the rehearsal marks. However, I am still puzzled about the positioning of these marks. You suggest an "easy to count" consideration. Well, The human eye/mind system can handle groups of up to four items without counting (groups of five or more items needs to either be counted, or split into smaller subgroups). Therefore, your "easy to count" suggestion implies a rehearsal mark every eight measures, for ease of counting four measures on each side of the mark. This is not what I see in scores.
    Clearly, you've not played in an orchestra! I would advise using letters not numbers, for the reason mentioned (confusion with bar numbers) The 'easy to count' really means - don't be too mingy in your use of them - if a conductor wants to start rehearsal from a particular place in the score, but it's 36 bars after letter D, but 42 bars before letter E, then perhaps you shouldn't have had 75 bars between letters! It's just a way for people to navigate their way around the score - in an administrative sense, not a musical one.

    For instance, there's no need to put a rehearsal letter at marked changes of tempo. If the band is playing Andante, and then you write Allegro on the parts, and the conductor just wants to starts from there, he'll say "From the Allegro everyone". Other things that are common to everyone are easy to find: double bar lines, key changes (if they are in all parts - I believe traditionally horns have no key signatures just accidentals, so a conductor saying 'go from the key change' will leave the horns scratching their heads.) Sometimes dynamic markings will do; "can we start from the tutti ff passage we just passed". That's fine, but it doesn't help if the strings are ff and the brass are p

    Take something like the start of Mahler 1. For about five minutes there's bugger all happening, even though quite a number of people are playing. If a conductor wants/needs to rehearse something about three minutes in, he needs something to guide people to that spot without everyone having to count every single bar from the start of the piece. Use your musical judgement to put rehearsal letters in places that look like obvious spots a conductor might want to 'pick things up'. When all the woodwind come in, somewhere near a musical transition, a few bars before an accelerando, that kind of thing.

    Go to some orchestras rehearsing - especially less good (even amateur) orchestras. Then you'll see how it works in half an hour...
    cheers,
    Graeme

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    I should add, these days computer-composing systems can be programmed to just make the rehearsal number the bar number itself, placed in a box above the stave. So the numbers are not in sequence, but multiples of 10, 20, whatever. That works OK too, although it's probably overkill. But, it's better than underkill...

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    I finally looked at your example! Makes sense to me. The piano changes to accompanying semi-quavers, while the strings come in with a theme. A 'transition' or at least new mood - a likely place for a chamber group to want to rehearse the next section; 'let's go from the string entry at Figure 4'.
    cheers,
    Graeme

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    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    Doesn't always work, since the musicians only have partes.

    So tonight I have to conduct Beethovens 1st on rehearsal without rehearsal marks OR measures... yeah.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GraemeG View Post
    It's just a way for people to navigate their way around the score - in an administrative sense, not a musical one.
    This much I understood from the very beginning. Since I do not have any conducting experience whatsoever, I do not understand upon reading a score, why a rehearsal mark in that score is placed on a specific bar rather than elsewhere. Reading the responses here, I am starting to wonder, however, if I am too naive in assuming that the rehearsal marks are to be placed in strategic positions in the score where there would be a need for frequent rehearsal starts.


    Quote Originally Posted by GraemeG View Post
    I should add, these days computer-composing systems can be programmed to just make the rehearsal number the bar number itself, placed in a box above the stave.
    I like the idea of rehearsal marks containing numbers which match the respective bar numbers. Rather than automating the marks at any arbitrary interval, I would prefer to set them manually where I believe they might be needed. Hopefully, a feedback from a cooperative conductor will help with the learning curve. Since the numbers match the respective bar numbers, modifications such as adding or changing rehearsal marks will not cause any confusion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasa View Post
    Doesn't always work, since the musicians only have partes.

    So tonight I have to conduct Beethovens 1st on rehearsal without rehearsal marks OR measures... yeah.
    Well, unless the copyist is a moron, or the computer programmer a fool, the individual parts will still have all the rehearsal numbers marked. And even if someone has loads of bars rest, they should have the rehearsal number before their entry.
    An example might be the Largo of Dvorak's 9th. The tuba plays the first 7 notes, than has about a hundred & fifty bars rest (or whatever) then plays the last 7 notes. In a properly written part, there would be quite a number of bar lines and rehearsal numbers (tempo changes) written into that 150 bar rest, so the player knows where he is up to.

    If there are no rehearsal numbers on the parts at all, then I suggest on the first run through, the conductor stop at strategic places and get the players to mark in some you've made up yourself.

    In the same way that in some editions of works where there are too many bars between figure C and figure D, the conductor will pick a spot in between where he's likely to want to pick things up, and get everyone to mark it C1.

    There's a way around everything.
    Graeme

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