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Bass Section Rehearsal

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Alexandre, Apr 15, 2000.

  1. Alexandre


    Apr 14, 2000
    Hi everibody!I am glad to meet you at this forum and to have the chance to solve my, and maibe yours, doubts.For now I wold like to ask you to share with me your experience in rehearsing the bass section.I am a new member of a Symphonic orchestra and feel that my section needs some kind of routine in order to get a more balanced sound.Do you know how the greats orchestras of the world do? Please don't let my poor english keep you away from answering this question!!!
    Thank you.
  2. Well, are you wondering about the concept of having separate bass section rehearsals (with only the basses together)?

    That's a great idea, however in my experience in the professional world, I've never seen it happen. I guess it's a question of economics: it costs extra money for extra rehearsals, so it's not likely to happen. Here in Canada, many of our orchestras are in very bad financial shape, some on the verge of bankruptcy, so we are seeing less and less rehearsal time in general. It is not uncommon to play a concert with as little as one or two rehearsals these days. The idea of having a separate bass section rehearsal is a nice idea, but it is very unlikely that it will happen (around here anyway).

    There is hope though. I strongly believe in order to achieve great results, there is a great responsibility on the section bass players to try and match what their principal bass is doing (hopefully you have a very good principal bassist). Unfortunately, I see a lot of bassists in my freelance work who habitually ignore what's going on in the front stand. This yeilds poor results in my opinion.

    Everybody has their own style to some extent, but I really believe in the notion that somebody has to be in charge. When you play in the section, you should do your best to match the timbre, articulation and phrasing of the principal bass whether you like it or not. This is the only way to achieve cohesive results - besides if everybody plays in the same manner, that effect will be amplified making it more obvious to the conductor - and maybe then he'll notice he doesn't like what's going on and will ask for something different.

    Now when you get to play principal, people will hopefully try to match what you are doing.

    I have to say, on the occasions that I do play principal, if my section is not matching what I'm doing, it can be really annoying (mostly because I feel a responsibilty for what we are all doing as a unit). Mostly I haven't had many problems this way, but occasionally you have someone in your section who thinks they are a better player than you (and maybe they are in some ways - however as a section player they should really try to match you since you have been made leader). Sometimes people like this can be told repeatedly about a certain point, yet never seem to correct it - this can be trying. It can also be awkward making comments, if you happen to be much younger than the players in your section - but I suppose it's your job as leader to try and make things sound good.

    I suppose my general point is that for things to work well, it usually works best when the section tries to work as a team - and the team has one leader who helps define your voice. If everybody works to match the principal, things should work much more smoothly.
  3. ray


    Feb 2, 2000
    Hallo, Rob,I am a principal double bass in a youth orchestra. I do really have the problems you have mentioned.
    I am younger than the other double bassists, so I am really afraid of asking them to follow me.(but I am trying to do something)

    I have the same belief, double bass section should play together as a unit, with you.
    However, I am quite interested in bow distribution, Can you suggest some books to me?

    Thank you!
  4. Jake


    Dec 11, 1999
    Playing TOGETHER as a section is one of the hardest things in music for me to accomplish. You have to do so many things at once-listen to the basses, listen to everyone else, read, play, watch the conductor, and watch the principal.
    A bass section will sound better when their together even if they aren't always correct with dynamics and phrasing- It's better for the ship to sink in one piece. If everyone during the sectional understands this, and they understand the role of a section leader (even if he isn't hot sh**), there will be no ego problems.

    [This message has been edited by Jake (edited May 09, 2000).]
  5. Alexandre


    Apr 14, 2000
    Dear rob,
    Thanks for share your experience.
    You know, it is funny, because the brasilian orchestras are in in a kind of same situation(from the whole last year and begin of this one,the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira goes trough a major crisis and we do not receive our pay for six months!they still are debtors of two months for me.), but on the contrary of your group we begin to rehearsal even more(the leader of our section said that he never worked so hard and get so stressed as in last year) in order to get more concerts and try to make more money.
    The musical director programed a lot of section rehearsals for this year for the most harder pieces of the season.We do it for the Beethoven 7ª, Tchaikovsky 2ª, Berlioz fantastic and will do it next week for prokofiev 5ª.I usualy get the bass parts and a recording of the piece and try to get them ready for the very first meet of the section (as I am the yonger member of the section the other guys tend to get hard on me sometime).
    As I spend a lot of time practicing, it is always frustrating that the rehearsal never get to a good level concerning to match the sound of the section.In some way ,each bass seems to be playn his own line separately.
    Dinamics, phrasing,digitation and sprcialy bow articulation are not homogeneous and people seems to have strong ideas about how they should be done.The last rehearsal I asked about this problem and why we do not spend some time working on a more solid sound whit some extra material before start to work in the pieces itself.i was thinking about a wondreful experience I have in a 15 days workshop whit Wolfgang Gutler in which he put ten basses playng together.In the begining we sound horrible and through working scales and arpegios we get to the point of play some wonderfull pieces .But the leader does not seems much interested in do so.He is a great player from tzchec rebublic that is in Brazil for 40 years and is very exacting in the way we should play and he says that by the 60's they used to do something like that but now I think he gave up about it.It may be because we are not been payed well so he does not feel confortable pushing hard the members of the section(eccept me!).Mai be that more than 15 playing the same way get a lot boring.I hope it does not happen to me, but what do I know I am in the team for three years only and some guys have my age (29) in the orquestra
    I will love to repeat the experience of Gutler and wonder which kind of material will please this whish.And I hope that better financial situation will make us all play happier!
    I agree whit every thing you said and feel ready to follow even if it cost me extra efforts(and it will do 'cause sometimes is hard to match the way of another bassman plays.He plays german bow and come from traditional tzchec school and I play french and have formal instruction with italian stile "love for opera" teacher Sandrino Santoro -principal of Municipal Theatre in Rio de Janeiro)Let us see what will hapen whit Prokofiev V...
    Keep in contact
  6. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    We as musicians have a duty to follow the section leader. Ever section I have ever played in the section leader did lead us. He or she would mark scores and demo the methods that we were expected to use. I have always found it to be extreamly embarsing to find myself out of sync with the section boss.

    We are professionals we should put out the effort to play it right and follow the section leader. If you are the section leader you have the duty to lead. You have to say I want it done this way.
  7. Sometimes it is difficult to see the principal bassist, let alone hear him/her. What then?
  8. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    That is what a sectional is all about. It does not have to be a big deal sometimes having the section leader just talk to you at break is enough. I sneek a peek at the section leaders bow from time to time to make sure I'm in sync. Also, sometime when I strugle with a part I will watch the fingering the boss is using during rehersal for a moment. You can learn a lot by watching.

  9. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    My section always goes off by itself on breaks to discuss bass issues. You certainly can't talk during rehearsal. And when there aren't any specific problems, it's still fun, and our only opportunity, to be able to talk about stuff from the bassist's perspective.

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