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20 Member Swing Band Question/Advice

Discussion in 'Ask the Berklee Bass Department' started by sandman357, Mar 15, 2014.

  1. Hi,
    I am not sure if this is the place to ask for advice, actually I am not even sure what to ask. I am thinking of replying to an Ad that has been running off and on for the past two months for a bass player for a 20 piece swing band. They say they would prefer a double bass, but an electric bass guitar would be OK.

    Here is the thing. I am self taught, play by ear and play an electric bass guitar. I can't read music and know next to nothing about theory. I am musically illiterate. But if I hear it I can usually play it. I have been playing bass for over 25 years this way. In an effort to head off a super long post (I know, too late!), I will just say I consider myself a successful local musician who has never been turned down by a band I have auditioned for. (Rock and Country bands for the most part.)

    So that is the scenario. I guess my question is how important is it to be able to read big band charts and chords? Do big bands typically change arrangements of songs from gig to gig? I guess I am basically asking if someone like me should even reply to the Ad? I hold educated musicians on such a high pedestal. Even though I am confident in my abilities, I can't help but feeling I would be wasting their time even responding to the Ad.

    Thank you for your time.
  2. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Any "swing band" gig I've done has involved reading written lines and chords.
  3. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Why don't you respond to the ad and ask them? They will let you know exactly what they are looking for.
  4. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    As someone who has been playing in big bands since 1983 and who has run a band since 1994, I would respectfully suggest that you not respond to the ad. In a big band, reading is an essential skill.
  5. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
  6. Sandro Scoccia

    Sandro Scoccia

    Sep 13, 2013
    SandMan, I have to say, reading is fundamental in a big band, because what everybody is playing is an arrangement of a song, and most of the time you have to play specific notes and/or rhythmic figure because they are part of what the arranger intended the song to sound.
    That said, as GKon wrote, I would respond to the ad, explain your situation and leave them to decide.
  7. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    I'm reasonably certain that this is the ad the OP is referring to:

    The ad specifically says, "Must be able to read big band charts & chords."
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Are you motivated and eager to learn reading/theory? This seems like a perfect opportunity! I would say, if you get the gig on the basis of your ace playing and good ear, and then use it as an opportunity to learn how to read, there is nothing wrong with that. Just be upfront when you contact them, say something like, "Can you send me a list of audition songs so I can learn them by ear?" A lot of band leaders prefer someone who can play by ear with good feel!

    You have been playing successfully for 25 years so I know you must have a good musical intelligence. You CAN learn to read if you want to, and if you have other tools in your toolkit, then you ARE a potential asset for this band. Don't talk yourself out of a fun gig! The worst that can happen is you break your streak of successful auditions and it becomes a learning experience. :)