Today, I´ll write about something that may make no sense out of Spain, but I´ve been asked about it quite a few times: In the orchestra, should I stand up or sit down when playing?
In Spain, the usual procedure is to stand up for playing cymbals, bass drum, triangle, tambourine, xylo... In my particular case, I have never asked myself why, but as it was what I always have seen, I simply stood up for playing.
It was not until I moved to London that I started questioning this method. The first work I played with the orchestra at the Royal Academy of Music was Strauss´ "A Hero´s Life", and I was in charge of tam-tam, cymbals and triangle. When I stood up to play my first entrance, the whole section looked at me and made funny faces. As soon as I finished, the principal asked me: "Why are you standing up?" Very secure of myself, I told him all that stuff about the visual thing, the theatrical component, that a concert is also seen, apart from listened to... He smiled and told me to do whatever I fancied but, in the UK, that was quite extravagant.
Few days after I attended my first concerts, and I realized that the whole section was sitting down.
I asked my teacher, and his explanations convinced me.
There´s no other member of the orchestra (except for the conductor) standing up for playing. When a player stands up, is calling attention to himself, announcing in a very visual way to the audience that he is about to do something: "Hey, look at me, I´m standing up so you can see I´m about to hit something!"
Standing up, you are calling an unnecessary attention to yourself and to the entrance you are about to play, which shouldn´t have it: No other player makes such a pompous announcement. The important thing is Music, not your next entrance, so boldy announced when you stand up. When you do so, you also take the risk of making extraneous noises (cracking floors, noisy chairs...).
You can keep the visual aspect keeping your instrument high, showing it to the audience (the old saying "if you can´t see it, you can´t hear it" is still valid), but not taking the theatrical aspect so far that it gets over-important.
Since my London days, I play sitting down. There are very few occasions when I stand up. This way, I do not call attention to my next entrance, and give the importance to the Music, not to me, the chap who is standing up, distracting the audience, calling for attention, focussing the interest, and making the members of the audience say "look, look... He´s standing up, something´s about to happen!"
As you can see on the first video, I play cymbals (both clashed and suspended) sitting down on a high stool, right at hip height: This way, my height is almost the same standing and sitting, not calling attention to myself.
You already knnow the following video from the post "Tambourine Technique", but it illustrates very well my purpose: I´m playing sitting down, but maintain the visual aspect keeping the tambourine high.
Same thing with bass drum... There´s no need for standing up. I can play everything while sitting down, no extraneous moves...
I can assure you none of the section principals nor conductors I have played with, have ever complained about me sitting down while playing. Try it: Sit down, don´t call attention to yourself, keep things nice and easy, no complicated stuff... As they say, KISS! (keep it simple, stupid!).
Jesus told Lazarus to "stand up and walk!". I tell you to "sit down and play!"
…et in Arcadia ego.
© David Valdés