General Effect – What is General Effect?

Today, I am starting a series of posts on General Effect.  I don’t know how many posts will happen, but it is something that I am asked about a lot.  Now by no means am I an expert in every little nuance of effect; however, I have some ideas that have proven to be very successful for bands.

My topic today is ‘What is General Effect?’ For a long time, many of the directors that I work with seemed to think that General Effect was a body move, dance section, choreography or some other “extra” that they put into their show.  Sure, those things add effect, but they are not all that encompasses effect!  General effect is the idea of how is my show communicated with the audience in a meaningful way.  Does my concept provide the listener/watcher of my show to understand the emotions/ideas/concepts/etc that I want them to understand?  
So, when you sit down to plan a show, what do you think about? 

  • Is it a piece of music that is particularly meaningful to you?
  • Is it an idea that resonates with your community?  
  • Is it a piece that you would feel is beneficial for students to know?
  • Do you plan for what the judges would think of your show?
  • Do you plan for your football audience?
  • Do you plan based upon difficulty?

There are so many things to consider when choosing a show, and hopefully you think about more than one concept or ideal when making these decisions!  
So, back to General Effect.  General Effect is NOT something that is added to a show once the music and drill is learned.  General Effect IS something that is designed at the very beginning and throughout the planning phase.  Sure, while you are putting finishing details on a show, or in the midst of learning you may have an idea, but that is just icing on the cake!  A show with great General Effect is one that is well thought out by a team of individuals working to a common goal.
If you are planning a show, please consider this prior to contacting your arranger/drill writer/guard person/etc:What do I MOST want to communicate with my show?

Now that you have decided your concept and how you want to communicate this, what other factors must you consider while in the design phase of your show?
1.  Can my students/performers be effective in delivering what I want to communicate most?
It is often overlooked as to the ability level of a performer as it melds with the performance demands of a concept.  Far too often, directors choose a marching show by watching another band or drum corps and then choosing to imitate that performance.  The problem with this is that director choosing for their performers to be someone else.  Choose a performance where your students can create a performance where they can portray what you want them to communicate 100 percent of the time!  Most directors choose music and drill that is too hard for them to perform because they want their students to be something that they are not!  
2.  Does the pacing of the arrangements effectively communicate my idea?  
Draw a line depicting how your show is from a tempo perspective.  Do the same for volume, intensity, color or any other ideal in your show.  Does the line give the listener an opportunity to understand?
3.  Who will understand the show?
Chances are, if you need a Phd in Psychology to understand your concept, it may not be the most well received show of all time.  But, these concepts can work with the right audience!  Be clear on what your expectations are of concept.  Many times, there are more than one ideal that works within a production:  some for the performers, some for the directors, some for the judges, etc.  
It is also very important to allow the person experience the show to experience the show in their own individual way.  If you are too obvious all the time, it can work against you in effect.
4.  How long do I have to learn this production? 
Match the ability of a student to your timeline of instruction.  Are you cramming information to a performer without a chance for repetition?  Do you have so little in your production that you will burn out on the depth of performance?  
The balance of difficulty vs time is one that is very difficult to predict without experience.  If you do not know (you are in a new school, you are a new teacher, etc), ask as many questions as possible to gauge ability.  When in doubt, go easier!
5.  Marching band is not drum corps.
Ouch, I know I stepped on some toes here.  Remember, drum corps only has four classes of instruments (how many does your marching band have?).  Visually, they can do more.  They are also working with the cream of the crop performers for an intense period of time each day.  These performers are not involved with other school activities, but devoted to the performance of their 11 minutes of music.  In a school setting, students are pulled so many different directions!  Consider this when choosing your show!
I hope this information is beneficial to you.  These are my opinions and things that I have learned in my experience working with student groups.  

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