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big band gig

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by lermgalieu, Mar 26, 2004.

  1. So I got a call to rehearse and maybe play some gigs with a big band. Anythink in particular I should know from you guys? The largest band I've played with to date is 5 pieces, more of a rock/groove thing. The bandleader wouldn't really give me any hints on the tunes we'd be playing other than to say 'anything from swing, 1/2 time, double time, to samba' - what would you guys do to prepare?

    I've always been in more calculated environments, so knowing it will be sink or swim is a bit nervewracking, although I am sure I will do fine.
  2. The good news is, you'll probably have charts for everything, so that takes some of the anxiety away (if you read, that is). Depending on the band, these charts will range from fully notated bass lines to a chord sheet. Copyists try to cram as much onto as few pages as possible, so check out repeats, D.S.'s, codas etc if you have a chance.

    Be aware that (again, depending on the band) sometimes its gonna feel like your trying to push a Buick up a steep driveway. Especially during soli sections, the tendency seems to be to drag.

    If there's one player I try to zero in on (other than the drummer) its the lead trumpet player. A good one will have a lock on the tempo and the feel of the tune, and I suspect the band is listening to him/her primarily as well.
  3. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Brush up on your reading because if it's anything like the one I play in, you'll be doing lots of it. If your reading is already together working on what your deficient in i.e. creating lines from changes. Don't be afraid to make stuff up, if you have to, that sounds "in" harmonically and rhythmically if you can't read the part, it's all about keeping it moving.
  4. Yeah, I guess I am thinking it will be charts with chords, but I guess 'reading' could mean actual lines too! I am a decent reader, especially in bass clef, as long as the rhythmic aspect of the line is pretty straight. Thanks for the replies - i am off to check out the thread Sam suggested (ok, ok, I didn't search for this topic before posting!).
  5. mikeln

    mikeln Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2003
    San Diego, CA (Poway)
    I've been doing big bands (rehearsal bands) now for 20 years...
    1) Be able to read.
    2) Be able to determine where the open solos are that everyone else in the band knows about but they'll forget to tell you.
    3) Bring 2 music stands...4+ pages of music usually and no time to turn pages.
    4) Bring a standlight and extension cords (unless the band is providing them)
    5) I mainly use my DB but I occasionally need a Slab for some tunes... so bring both.
    6) 300W amp minimum...I've tried less and it doesn't work, and it's nice to have the option to be heard. Nothing like thinking you're too loud while setting up and finding the trumpets/drums completely cover you up as soon as you really start.
  6. Mike, you're scaring me! Heh...I only have one music stand! Maybe I will bring my whole tool shed. Just kidding, the tips are actually much appreciated. I'd like to look at the book in advance, but when I started asking the bandleader about preparing, he was quite dismissive. I didn't want to appear 'wet behind the ears' so I didn't press him on it...
  7. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Haha... you wont find that many double jazz bassists with amps with that caliber... c'mon that's a little over the top don't you think??

  8. Really over the top. I've used a Polytone 10 incher with a Gil Evans type orchestra with no problem.
    You're gonna give lerm a nervous breakdown!
  9. If there's anything I am confident about, its my rig - Clarus II and Eminence Wizzy 12. It'll be plenty loud!
  10. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I use a 750 watt amp and 2 12's with my big band - and they're constantly telling me to turn up. I'm so freaking sick of trumpet players! I tell them to listen louder, to no avail. All brass players want to do is wail.... grrr
  11. You'll probably find yourself playing a lot in the usual horn keys like C, Bb, Eb, F. Brush up on Ab, Db and Gb if you're not already fluent in those keys, there's a lot of old swing tunes in Db.

    Chord charts are great, they give you lots of room to play as long as the piano player has the good sense to play sparsely with his left hand. Some written lines are pretty lame, it's as though the arranger left the bass till last and ran out of time. Don't be afraid to dress 'em up a little, depending on what the leader wants, of course.

    If you're interested and have the time, Lemur sells a book by John Clayton called 'Big Band Bass' that will really help you prepare. (He played with Basie, what better credentials?)

    Amplification: You're gonna need to be louder than you're probably used to, but I'm with Paul, I don't think you absolutely need a massive rig. My BassMax/ Gk150 works just fine, Bob B. uses an AI Contra, etc.

    Big bands are an absolute blast, most fun I've ever had playing bass. Fabulous old tunes, huge band sound, once you settle in I'll bet you just love it. I do.
  12. Better flat keys than sharp keys!
  13. Last night I just randomly flipped to pages in Rufus Reid's book (mostly quarter notes, but some others) and just sight read them, one after the other. Then I did chord progressions. I'm hoping this will be decent prepartion, combined with listening to some big band stuff and scrounging up whatever else I can. I was actually surprised how well I am reading - my goal is to never stop and never lose my place, even if I screw up.
  14. mikeln

    mikeln Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2003
    San Diego, CA (Poway)
    About the amp... my point is to bring more amp than you think you'll need. You need to be heard.

    I have a GK MB150S and it doesn't work on any big band gigs I've done (my experience is the same as PacMan's). I use an old Hartke 1155 combo (HA3500 head and a 15" /5")...It's an easy amp to haul and I don't have to turn it up very much.
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    For what it's worth -
    The last two big bands I worked with I used the same amp, a Woods LoPower (120 watts) and a Polytone 12" extension cabinet. No problems being heard.

    One of the bands I played through a 30 watt Peavey at rehearsals until I got tired of the crappy sound and just played acoustically from that point on. No problems being heard.

    Now this is with Carl Fischer on lead trumpet (he's in Maynard's band) and a slamming big band drummer, so it's not like Quiety Quieterson and The Quiet Tones.

    I last owned an electric bass in (I think) 1993. No problems being heard.

    LERM - chance favors the prepared mind an all, but fer crying out loud isn't there ANYTHING that you just show up and check out and make your decisions based on the actual facts of the situation? Speculating endlessly on other people's experiences is a wonderful hobby, but jeez. Just play, if you can't hear yourself, do something different. I promise, the patient will live.
  16. Ed, you're sure contentious today aren't you! Yeah, all I do is sit here and wait for others' experiences. To quote you: "sheesh". I practice at least 1.5 hours a day, so if I am doing a big band gig in a week, having never *performed* jazz cold from charts, I want to be as comfortable as I can, or at least know what to expect. It makes sense to prepare for the feel and general situation. Not to learn the tunes, but just to prepare whatever I can for the destination situation. This isn't my regular thing! I play rock and tightly constructed tunes typically and jazz is completely in the shed.

    I never said I was worried about not being able to hear myself. In fact, I think I said specifically several times that I wasn't worried. Its just that others brought it up. When I said "you're scaring me" I was absolutely kidding (and I believe I stated I was kidding). I'm just apprehensive *musically* because its the first time I've really been thrown in with a bunch of other musicians I've never met or heard. I'm excited about it, and I will just "play" (as you exhort) if I can ONLY get some time between "endlessly speculating on other peoples' experiences". Seriously, don't think I am sitting here as a quivering nervous ball. If that's all that comes through in my posts, I apologize (but don't quite get it) and assure you I am quite a normal gregarious person who has played/gigged a ton, but only within limited spheres.
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Never mind, then.
  18. Good place to start. Always maintain the pulse.

    You'll probably be presented with a folder containing 200+ charts, each with a number in a top corner, all arranged in numerical order. You'll make yourself unpopular quickly if you get 'em out of order and can't find things quickly. When a tune is called (by number), pull the chart and scan it for multiple endings, repeats, D.S. al Coda, key changes, dynamic markings, etc. Have an idea of the "road map" before the count in.

    Re Pacman's "All brass players want to do is wail....grrr"- I guess I'm fortunate to play with guys who understand dynamic range, and a leader who insists on it. That's one of the many things I love about Basie's bands, their ability to go from
    ppp to FFF and back in a couple bars.

    Don't stress out too much preppin', you'll have a ball when you get there.
  19. I'm starting to feel like Nathan Therm: "I didn't say that, you said that...what makes you think I said that?". Thanks guys. I'm looking forward to expanding my horizons.
  20. You'll probably find most charts have sections designated with letters- A, B, C, etc, or they will have the bars numbered. This is a rehearsal aid, allows the band (or a section) to start somewhere in the middle of the tune to clean up a raggedy bit.

    Suggestion: Don't be dinkin' around or practicing your part between tunes, or while the leader is instructing other players or going over a part of the tune with a section. Once again, you could make yourself unpopular by being a distraction.

    Ed, "Oh. Never mind then."?!- Such uncharacteristic restraint...

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