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Amateur orchestras and the 'C' extension

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by the exile, Nov 25, 2017.


  1. the exile

    the exile

    Feb 17, 2017
    I am a composer and I just wanted to ask if it is usual for amateur orchestral double bass players to have the 'C' extension available.

    Cheers,
    Jan
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
  2. CSBBass

    CSBBass

    Sep 21, 2013
    In my experience C-extensions are a rarity outside of professional orchestras. Even in most colleges/conservatories, though certainly more common there than in community orchestras, the majority of players I've seen are playing a 4 string with no extension.
     
    the exile likes this.
  3. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    I quess that one option could be to get one of the basses strung CADG instead of EADG?
     
    the exile likes this.
  4. s van order

    s van order

    Oct 4, 2012
    Delaware
    One idea is that if the piece allows it, the basses can drop tune and then very quickly and quietly tune back up to open E while resting, placing the ear against the neck. Years back, in my community orchestra, with basses with no extensions, we tuned to low open D for the opening of the Firebird Suite, then retuned during the three measure rest, and it worked out.
     
    the exile and Mrlen613 like this.
  5. Mrlen613

    Mrlen613

    Jul 19, 2008
    Clinton,NJ
    I just saw Gary Karr play and I'm pretty sure he drop-tuned as mentioned above. I was amazed at how quick he retuned during the performance.
     
    the exile likes this.
  6. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Tennessee
    No, very few bassists in amateur/community orchestras have C-extensions. Of course, much of the repertoire they play has notes below E, but the most common way they'll address this is by simply playing those notes an octave up.
     
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  7. the exile

    the exile

    Feb 17, 2017
    Thanks all.
     
  8. Jan, I am one of those amateurs with a C extension. I can tell you that I get positive reinforcement each time I play a piece using it. While playing those low notes during the first rehearsal, its not unusual that to have the conductor and other orchestra members look up and smile. And I often have a conductor ask me to drop the written notes an octave to add to the musical quality of what we are playing. And as was said earlier, most players know how to work around notes that are below their range. Also, remember there are five string basses out there too. So I urge you to choose the notes that will make the best musical expression of your piece. And sometimes some orchestras will be able to play them the way you intended...and make a lot of people happier.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
    s van order likes this.
  9. the exile

    the exile

    Feb 17, 2017
    Beautfiully said basscleff. :) ...sometimes it is indeed those low notes that truly brings a piece to life...
     
  10. Dbass926

    Dbass926

    Jun 20, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    It is worth noting that 5 string basses are common in Europe but not in the United States. I don't know what percentage of basses have a 5th string but I concur with all said above as to how many amateurs seem to have extensions. 5 strings in the US are very uncommon.
     
  11. the exile

    the exile

    Feb 17, 2017
    Thanks - I didn't know five string versions existed.
     
  12. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    Again, in Europe things seem to be different. In my orchestra we have a section of 5 basses, and 3 of us have C extensions. It's not uncommon at all in UK
     
  13. the exile

    the exile

    Feb 17, 2017
    What's your orchestra?
     
  14. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
  15. My perception is that C-extensions are becoming more common in non-professional orchestras. Better instruments have become more available and affordable for non-professional players, and many of those players are better trained now than in the past. In my section, for example (carmelsymphony.org), we have six regular players. Two are paid; the rest are volunteers. All were either music performance or music education majors. Out of six players, usually half are equipped with low-C/B capability, depending on what substitute players are on the roster. We are also an anomaly, because two of us play 5-string basses, which, as noted, are less common in North America.
     
    gnypp45, mtto and the exile like this.
  16. the exile

    the exile

    Feb 17, 2017
  17. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm play with several community orchestras in the LA area. I have a Stenholm extension on one of my basses and there is at least one other player in each of the orchestra who has either an extension, a 5 string or a bass tuned in 5th (low C)
     
  18. CSBBass

    CSBBass

    Sep 21, 2013
    This might be something relevant to the skill level of the orchestra as a whole and the geographical location in regards to large cities. Where I'm from (population ~175,000), a community orchestra is lucky to just have more than one bassist, let alone any number of bassists with a C extension.
     
  19. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    My town has a population of around 50,000 at a guess. None of the orchestra members comes from very far away, and all of the bass section are very local. The skill level of the orchestra is pretty high - we're probably among the best in the country. It is unusual to have a bass section as big as this, but I know of several other players in the area who have C extensions. On the flip side, we never see a five string, or indeed a bass tuned in 5ths
     
  20. CSBBass

    CSBBass

    Sep 21, 2013
    That's interesting, Neil. Is your section made up of mostly bassists who have a music degree, like csrund described his orchestra to be? That probably makes the biggest difference in C-extensions vs not, I'd think. But if your orchestra isn't that way, then yeah, it may just be that the instruments are getting more affordable and my area hasn't caught up with the extensions yet.
     

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