Electronics 2015 - Good and Bad


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This is the seventh year since electronics were introduced to drum corps and I feel like show designers and arrangers are starting to get a footing for how they want to use the tools electronic instrumentation affords to them. I'm curious what good and bad aspects fans (especially those who've only been following the activity for the past few years) see in this year's shows.

A few thoughts to kick off conversation (note, I've not been following all the corps since I used to rely on the Fan Network VOD, but I did see the Murfreesboro show live):

* Of the current top 8, the corps using electronics the best this year are Blue Devils, Bluecoats, and Crown: Blue Devils have always been the best at blending the hornline sound with the electronics since electronics were introduced. Bluecoats have been pushing the limits of what we expect to hear from the field. And Crown has the most restraint while still making effective use of electronics when it makes sense.

* Enough with the whistling wind sound effects.

* Recorded/sampled speech and singing almost never adds to a show, IMO. The PR speech samples this year seem particularly out of place and poorly integrated. I much prefer the corps members do the narration or singing (kudos to the Cavs singer this year who's a great showman) and be judged on their achievement. The Mandarins show in 2013 is a notable exception for me, but I'd like to hear when you think a recorded voice sample was better than if a corps member had been doing the singing or speaking. (I'm also curious about the legality of using sampled singing, which is clearly against the 2009 electronics rules, and I've never heard of any updates to those rules.)

* The synth patches designers are choosing to use are often terrible. This is an area where Blue Devils, Bluecoats, Crown, and Cadets are doing noticeably better than the other corps. SCV and Phantom in particular stood out to me as leaning heavily on really bad-sounding string patches to fill out their sound throughout their programs.

* In the Bluecoats show, are the loops from Electric Counterpoint sampled live, or are they just triggered by the synth players at the right time? If they are sampling the corps live, that would be truly impressive.

* Silence is golden. Blue Devils, Cadets, and Crown all made use of actual silence during their shows. Other corps seem allergic to the idea that silence or even quiet sections can add value to a show. Bluecoats are the worst about this of the top 8, with what felt like 12 minutes of aural assault. Well done aural assault, but exhausting in the end.

* In general, I feel like the vast majority of electronics usage represents design achievement and not member achivement. Pre-sampled voice, Bluecoats-style surround-sound effects, huge chords to give the brass a break, and soundscapes that require nothing more than a few keypresses seem like a devaluation of individual member achievement and numb the audience to the experience and sound of actual instruments. That's not to say electronics can't be and aren't used well, but they too often aren't and I wonder what the designers and judges are thinking sometimes.

I'm seriously curious what everyone thinks about the current state of the art in this regard. Some of the worst offenses of the early electronics years have been gotten past, but I feel like more and more of the sound coming from the field is coming direct from the designers via the speakers and less and less from the members themselves and I hope that trend doesn't go too much further.

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In total contrast to Cappybara, I am invariably opposed to sampled speech and song (including Mandarins 2013) because I want all performance to be created through the effort of the performers. We'd ne

This is the seventh year since electronics were introduced to drum corps and I feel like show designers and arrangers are starting to get a footing for how they want to use the tools electronic instru

Anyone else hear the Jurassic Park theme playing in the background of this thread?

I'm sure that Bluecoats are creating those Electric Counterpoint loops live from the 4 backfield "surround" speakers.

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* Recorded/sampled speech and singing almost never adds to a show, IMO. The PR speech samples this year seem particularly out of place and poorly integrated. I much prefer the corps members do the narration or singing (kudos to the Cavs singer this year who's a great showman) and be judged on their achievement. The Mandarins show in 2013 is a notable exception for me, but I'd like to hear when you think a recorded voice sample was better than if a corps member had been doing the singing or speaking. (I'm also curious about the legality of using sampled singing, which is clearly against the 2009 electronics rules, and I've never heard of any updates to those rules.)

First off, wonderful points and insights! A lot of the things you brought up were things I never noticed or thought about.

To answer your question regarding voice sampling, I have to say that I really don't enjoy live singing unless the whole corps is doing it (Boston 2000, Bluecoats 2008). As for whether there are any instances where I prefer sampled singing over members singing, my answer is EVERY SINGLE TIME. I would not have enjoyed BK's 2014 show nearly as much if an amateur singer was singing live. I really don't enjoy Cavies' live singing this year (though I think Run Boy Run is an awful song in general), and there are too many issues with mics for live singers. I remember the Colts narrator running into quite a few issues last year.

Personally, I think drum corps has a nice balance right now between staff controlled electronics use and member achievement. I wouldn't want to see things go any farther than it is now, but I do think the balance is really good right now.

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I can deal with most of it, But the Bluecoats were way oversampled. Corps is all about people playing instruments, Not about what kind of technology and sampling you can use. I felt that they could have just had a fully recorded brass program and used their horns for extra color guard effect.

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Bluecoats is live….looped and not prerecorded.

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I don't like (dare I say hate?) electronics in drum corps, but I have to give Bluecoats a huuge thumbs up for their 2015 usage of them. Saw Bloo at the Cincinnati show last month and I almost peed with excitement, my ears were very pleased.

On another note, from my understanding they have members playing things live, that they then loop? What happens if someone fracks a note?

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I don't like (dare I say hate?) electronics in drum corps, but I have to give Bluecoats a huuge thumbs up for their 2015 usage of them. Saw Bloo at the Cincinnati show last month and I almost peed with excitement, my ears were very pleased.

On another note, from my understanding they have members playing things live, that they then loop? What happens if someone fracks a note?

the fracked note gets looped….key to that problem is, don't frack a note

:satisfied:

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I feel like more and more of the sound coming from the field is coming direct from the designers via the speakers and less and less from the members themselves and I hope that trend doesn't go too much further.

That trend shows no sign of changing anytime soon.

And yes, it does mean that with each passing day, it is now adults ( judges ) judging other adults ( the artificial sound makers ) in these Corps. It is a bit unnerving to see us begin to acquiesce so easily to such an acceptance of the non marcher influence on these scores and placements. It was not long ago when it was the marcher performer, and only the marcher performer, that was being judged in field competition. As we can now observe, this is no longer the case, of course. But change takes place even when we may not be paying attention. And so now, Adults have made their way onto the judged field competition, and yes, many of them are well beyond the supposed legal age to participate of age 22. The undeniable fact is that adults are now being scored on the field of competition now. That change has been accepted under the rules of competition. And this trend will only accelerate now, imo..

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Bluecoats is live.looped and not prerecorded.

That's what I find so cool about what they're doing this year, the sound manipulation and live mixing is pretty #### cool in addition to all the other stuff they're doing.

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