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Working with the bass book for the musical, "Chicago"

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by MichaelVee, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. MichaelVee

    MichaelVee Supporting Member

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    I'm on tap to play the musical, "Chicago", later this month and into May. I'd like to get some advice on the bass book from those of you who've played this show.

    As people who've played the show know, the book you get from Samuel French is a Tuba/Bass book. I've never seen one before. All the shows I've played, that are scored for both instruments, have separate books.

    The idea is for one musician to double the show on tuba and bass. It would be impossible for most small community theatre groups to find tuba and bass doublers. So the show is going to be played by a bassist.

    Most of the songs are notated for tuba, and the parts are written down an octave below where they would be for bass. You have a lot of notes that are many ledger lines below low E. How did you handle this?

    I can see a variety of possibilities thus far:

    - Learn to read the low notes and play them in real-time on bass. Although I'm a competent bass score reader, I'm not certain I can learn to do this proficiently in two-three weeks.

    - Write in all the notes below E an octave above with notated heads. I might do this with temporarily covering the tuba notes below with white peelable tape and then photocopying the score so that only the correct octave notes are visible. (yeah yeah yeah on copyright crap. They should not send a combined book out in the first place! That's not common practice.)

    - Write in the note names above the staff.

    - Attempt to scan the score into a trial copy of Finale and spend the time to generate notated music with the notes in the bass-appopriate octaves. This would definitely be the most time- and labor-intensive approach, based on my experiments with it so far. The reason I am considering this is that the book is handwritten and it'd be a reading improvement to have the clarity of "engraved", notated music.

    So, how did you end up working with this strange, handwritten score? Any and all suggestions will definitely be appreciated! I really can't work with this book as is, especially not under stage lighting.
  2. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

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    For a while all the bassists who played in the Navy bands had to double on tuba...the idea being, there's not enough room on an aircraft carrier for a double bass, or fo an electric bass + amplifier.


    Whenever I get parts written for tuba (or written by idiotic arrangers/copyists) I just pencil in noteheads up the octave.
  3. albertofrog

    albertofrog

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    I used to play with a local concert band, and was regularly presented with tuba music, so got reasonably proficient at reading up an octave.

    Maybe not something you could master in a couple of weeks, but definitely a skill that has stood me well on occasions since..

    For this gig, I'd pencil in the note heads an octave above as suggested...
  4. bassbrad

    bassbrad

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    Penciling in the octave up (if they are not already) is a valid solution.

    These days a doubler is more likely to play upright and electric instead of tuba.

    Back in the day i tried tuba had the embouchure but no wind.
  5. MichaelVee

    MichaelVee Supporting Member

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    I had lunch with a friend today who is a band director in K-ville, and she suggested the same thing- write in the tuba notes a octave higher. Also use white-out tape to cover the tuba notes, copy the book, and then I've got music I can work with at minimum. She then said as I found time, I could scan the "corrected" pages into Finale, and turn them into "engraved" pages with my own edits. That seemed to make the most sense.

    It's going to be a LOT of time, as this book is probably 85% tuba parts. The downside is also that it's a larger-than-normal show band, and so each musician is getting a smaller piece of the total set amount the musicians are budgeted. :( So this book is a double-whammy!

    I appreciate the responses so far, but has anyone reading this actually played this show previously? I'm sure there's a least a few people here on TB who have.

    Any other thoughts?
  6. MichaelVee

    MichaelVee Supporting Member

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    Wow, with all the guys on TB who play musicals, I would have thought someone else would comment here. Any others?
  7. jaywa

    jaywa

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    I played tuba in high school and through my 2nd year of college... but have never been in a situation where I had to double on tuba and bass. It would take me a mighty long time to get my tuba chops back up to performance quality.

    Anyway, good luck. "Chicago" is a great show and you should have fun. I'd recommend writing in the higher octave though it's gonna be a PITA to erase all that when it's time to turn the book back in.
  8. bassbrad

    bassbrad

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    Nix on the white out, those books are leased and who knows where it will go after your show. Plus if the leasing company sees the white out you may be responsible for replacing the book, can get pretty expensive. Penciling in changes and notes is a common practice but making permanent changes by using a pen or marker can result in fines.

    Maybe but again that is usually a violation of the leasing agreement.
  9. One Bad Monkey

    One Bad Monkey Supporting Member

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    I've played the show twice; different theatres and requirements (one they requested me play electric for the show!).

    At church I usually read piano parts that have ledger lines lower than a regular bass can hit and over the years I've become good at reading them and automatically transposing them up the octave on the fly. So for me, I didn't do anything different in terms of prepping the book. You can pencil in the notes an octave higher if it helps, but given that you'll probably have to erase everything you put in there (one theatre in town does it for you, but most do not), you might want to keep that to a minimum.

    Honestly, that book is very easy that it's pretty simple to figure out the 8vb stuff by listening to the music. Good luck!
  10. One Bad Monkey

    One Bad Monkey Supporting Member

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    Depending on publishing house, it can range from $150-$250 or even higher, depending. We have in our contracts in theatres now that if we don't return the books completely erased, we get fined that amount.

    However, there have been a number of times where I've received books that I've had to erase prior to doing anything, so while these companies may charge for erasing them, I'm not sure how many actually do that.

    There is, however, ways that if the book has actual mistakes (and given the copiers of these, it's not surprising) that you can leave those in and have a note to the publishing house explaining them in the hopes that they'll fix it, reprint the book and have a more accurate score out there.


    Very true. However, I don't think I've ever worked with a pianist in a theatre setting that didn't have their own copied score so they could more easily navigate it.

    A lot of publishers now are starting to offer the books in pdf format that the theatre prints, distributes and then destroys at the end of the run. I've done three shows in the past year that have been done this way.
  11. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

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    Learn to sightread up the octave-it's a useful skill. Do not indelibly mark or alter the original part in any way.
  12. bassbrad

    bassbrad

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    Thanx one bad monkey, it's been a while since i have played thru a leased book so I wasn't sure what may have changed.

    The pdf thing sounds like a good idea, as long as the copies are actually destroyed (or not).
  13. One Bad Monkey

    One Bad Monkey Supporting Member

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    The ones I've used have a "Licensed to (local theatre)" on top of every page, I'm assuming as a deterrent to copying them and passing them around. If one of those got out, it would be pretty easy to figure out what theatre let it go.
  14. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U Supporting Member

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    Three weeks is a lot of time, if you worked on it an hour every day you should be able to do it.

    You really should be learning the music, the better you know it, the less hampered you'll be by the handwritten score. I play in a concert band and often get parts that are written for "Basses" and sometimes it's just all ledger lines and fast too. The time you put into isn't lost because it's easier to read the next time around, look at it as an investment in your skill set.
  15. MichaelVee

    MichaelVee Supporting Member

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    I guess I was not clear earlier. I am 54 years old, and 've played close to 70 shows. I'm not a teenager. I know the rules about scores and the condition they are expected to be returned in.

    When I said white-out, those of you who commented on that did not read that I said "white-out tape". I did not say I was going to permanently change the score. The tape would be applied over the tuba notes, the score photocopied with the octave-higher notes written in, and then the book would be erased and the tape removed. Read more closely before you comment, please.

    I did not start this thread wanting to discuss the protocol of how theatre musicians are expected to treat their scores. I started it to find out specific information about how bassists who have actually played "Chicago" handled played out of that crazy-ass book.

    It's not helpful to me to read posts from people who have not played this show.
  16. MichaelVee

    MichaelVee Supporting Member

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    Thanks Phil, but I have a day job and I can't devote hours every day for the next two and a half weeks either rewriting this book so I can read it, or trying to memorize the music.

    Also, see above. Have you actually played this show? If you haven't, then I really don't need this kind of advice. I'm looking for info from guys who've played it.
  17. One Bad Monkey

    One Bad Monkey Supporting Member

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    I hope you read my original reply; I've played that show twice, most recently last June.

    And threads here almost ALWAYS derail at some point here, like any actual casual conversation.
  18. MichaelVee

    MichaelVee Supporting Member

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    Yes, OBM, but I'm not sure what you were trying to contribute to what I was asking about. I don't care if TB threads derail, but I did start this thread and what it is about is the information I need. I will close this thread if no one chooses to talk about how THEY handled the "Tuba/Bass" book.

    I don't care about opinions on other topics, I'm just in need of information about what people did with the "Chicago" Tuba/Bass book, and that is ALL. All these responses I am having to make are otherwise a waste of my time.
  19. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U Supporting Member

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    Well you did hear from someone that played the show twice and my comments come from reading lots of stuff for "Basses" which is often written for a Tuba(I play in a concert band), ledger lines and all and so I'm telling you what I do even though I haven't played that particular show.

    Lastly, I said 1 hour a day, not hours a day.
  20. MichaelVee

    MichaelVee Supporting Member

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    Okay. I can't close this thread at this point, so if it turns into a free-for-all, I'll ask a moderator to do the deed.

    However, if anyone else who has played the show has some comments about how they handled the book, they are certainly welcome.

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