Attack-sustain-release; begin-continue-stop; such are the stages of our studies in precision. Of course, these imply not three entirely separate activities; in the minds of the players they must be closely linked together-'correlated' is, I think, the descriptive word.
Already it has been suggested that any exercises towards this end should have a rhythmic basis. In these days when 'beat' is the concern of so many young people, it is rather surprising to find many bands untrained in this important matter of measured, rhythmical playing. Semiquaver (Sixteenth note) passages are invariably accelerated by some players, even against the more regular movements of the rest of the band. Other individuals indulge in a kind of self-centered (perhaps unconcious) rubato, to the entire ruination of the ensemble.
As recently as the day before this article was written, I listened to bands playing on the march; and the facility with which certain players could 'race the rhythm' in quick passages, while their feet kept strict time, had to be heard to be believed. Such bad effects were probably unrealised by the bandsmen, for well-trained players would find it difficult to play so badly, even if they tried.
Bandmasters must be severely criticle in this matter if they are to secure a well-balanced ensemble. they must insist upon correctness of note values and a regular pulse. Some such elementary method as the rhythmic tapping of the music stand with the baton may sometimes be necessary, even in the best circles!
Each bar of music has its rhythm, which must be understood; but many figures within the bar have this own inner rhythm also, and the conductor should be able to demonstrate these, especially when contrasting duple, triple, or quadruple rhythms are involved. To ignore such matters is a sure way to being out of the prizes at contests!
The attack, the continuity, the release, must all be felt rhythmically. Part of the conductor's task is to indicate this regular flow of the music by his baton and hand movements. What he does is best based upon the generally acknowledged formal style of conducting, so that even if he finds himself before a strange band, the players can follow him clearly. But there are many little 'tricks' of baton-work he may work out for himself, but these must be developed purely to serve the purposes of rhythm and dynamics, nuance, and the rest; and not merely to bring the conductor plaudits from the less critical portion of his audience!