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Air Traffic Control

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Kneehimiah, Feb 13, 2006.

  1. I think we've all seen it, or done it. Trying to get someone's attention on the bandstand, we flail our hands, as though this will get anything done. So, how do you keep things in check on the bandstand and communicate? If with hand signals, what are they?

  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Rocks glass to the back of the head.

    But seriously..... I've had the best results by just stopping. We bassists wield immense power when we don't play...it confuses 'em.

    Maybe you were referring to the hand signals that signify key changes, or sections within the music? For instance, one finger down is F (one flat). Use the finger of your choice for comic relief. Most vets know this shorthand, but I sometimes have to explain it to young 'uns. Also; if you're playing the head, you can point to your head. If you're playing the bridge, point to your teeth. Another old guy thing.
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    One finger down is G.
  4. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I would have expected that to be one finger up - and consequently much more fun to comunicate to band members. :p
  5. I did a duo gig with an older guy, a pianist, who would dispense with the hand signals and just say "in three." I thought we were playing a waltz with some heavy duty hemiolas until I realized he meant three flats.
  6. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Are you Australian?:smug:

    One up (sharp) is G, methinks.

    Oh well, so much for shorthand. Maybe the one down for G might refer to the cycle of fifths? I'd run outta fingers pretty quickly in that case...
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    'Old School' is flats up and sharps down. Prolly because flat keys are more commonly used, but I don't know this part -- just guessing. The topic came up here a while back and we had it confirmed independantly from my say-so.
  8. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Whoa...I'm old school! Hurry up, Ray, I'm not even ten years ahead of you! ;)

    Still have all my teeth, though.
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Mebbe they do it bass-akwards in How-why-uh, then. :)
  10. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Wouldn't surprise me a bit.
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Maybe it's a midwestern thang, cause in GA (and parts South) it was down for flat and up for sharp.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Hmmm. Boston, Cleveland and Detroit. Maybe a northern thing.
  13. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I've run into it from players from both coasts, and everywhere in between. My friend Shiro Mori, from Tokyo, will sometimes flash a very fast five fingers down, signifying the descending flat five ending.

    Regarding the original topic; I can remember once being on the bandstand with Sean Lyons, a tenor player from Boston who now lives in Manhattan. He kicked off a tune with Rhythm changes, but for some reason, I got stuck in blues changes, and could not get out of them to save my life. So you know this poor guy was giving me every look you can imagine, trying to help me get my head outta my own a$$. He was looking at me like I was from another planet.... finally, he just said "RHYTHM", and I just said "I KNOW...I"M STUCK!". That was just weird. He did hire me many times afterwards, realizing that it was just a classic brain fade.
  14. When I was in LA (1956 to 1990) it was fingers down - flats
    fingers up - sharps, but maybe its different in other parts
    of the country ! Just my experience.
  15. I might've shared this story before, but I get a kick out of it. It's from Bill Crow's "Jazz Anecdotes" book:*

    In order to pay the rent, Johnny Cresci found himself working regulary with a society band led by Lester Braun. The music was boring, so John looked for ways to liven things up. He noticed that, even though the band's first dance medley was always the same tunes in the same order, Lester, playing leader, always gave the standard finger signals to indicate to the musicians the key of the next song in the sequence. He always gave these signals exactly four bars before the end of the tune.

    Knowing how many fingers Lester was about to hold up, Johnny devised questions that he would ask just loud enough for the musicians around him to hear. and Lester's hand signal would seem to be the answer. He might ask, "How many guys made it with your old lady last night, Lester?" just before Lester held up five fingers for the key of D-flat. Or, "How many balls you got Lester?" just before Lester held up one finger for the key of F.

    *The story would seem to support Ray's assertion that fingers were held up for flat keys, so it is pertinent to this discussion. :rolleyes:
  16. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    I thought up means faster and down means slower?

    Or is it thumbs up means there's a case of beer in the dressing room, and thumbs down there's no meal after sound check?

    Attached Files:

  17. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Prolly. Flats are down sharps are up in Columbus. Although half the time its just a bunch of shouting.

    I've never noticed the teeth thing, I'm going to start pointing at my teeth and see what happens. Maybe they'll think I'm saying "your solo bites".
  18. How about the fist? It has to be done right. You see a fist, it usually means that you're about to stop. If the person holding up the fist points at you, ya might need to quit now (and retune). A fist brought down abruptly means stop immediately. Of course a waving fist still means "Quit eyeing my woman!!!" Or, "Give me my money!!!"

  19. bass_means_LOW


    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
    I always thought it was sharps up, flats down, west coast; sharps down, flats up, east coast.
  20. What do you do in the middle of the country then?

    Oh that's right, bluegrass.