Do Orchestral Bassists ever feel "Under-utilised" ....?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Bruce Lindfield, Sep 7, 2004.

  1. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Especially in more modern repertoire?

    So, went to the Proms last night, to see the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Simon Rattle and especially the second half, which was given over to a peformance of Messiaen's "Eclairs sur l'Au-dela".

    So, I enjoyed the concert enormously, but I was sitting opposite the DB section, who spent most of their time, standing, holding their basses and only got to play towards the end, in one movement - out of eleven!!

    And when they did, their audible contribution was four, slow plucked notes, repeated a few times! Honestly, this is the only time, I've been to see a professional orchestra and thought I could have played the DB part!! ;)

    So, most of the time I was enjoying the music, but I couldn't help occasionally turning my attention to what those guys were thinking about the situation?

    So - do you think they're so professional, they are just happy for a great overall performance from the orchestra ... and to get paid? :)

    Or are they thinking - what a waste of their talents, to be standing here on a hot, humid night, waiting around just for a few notes they could have played with both hands tied behind their backs!! :D

    Or what.....?
  2. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    When I played in a symphony orchestra on occasion the bass section would have smaller parts to play.

    As a Bassist you are in a supporting role, either orch or jazz ensemble.

    Plus, can't ever overlook the small contribution to the entire piece of music. Many instruments have small parts in the orchestra, not just the bass.

    To answer your question, it never bothered me.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's true - it is actually mentioned in the programme notes :

    "8.The Stars and the Glory
    The longest and most elaborate movement , beginning with a subterranean four-note figure on double basses and contra-bass clarinet...."

    I suppose the c-b clarinet guy was in a similar position, although they tend to double on other types...?
  4. Well, I bet they're thankful that they get paid by the gig rather than by the note… :)

    - Wil
  5. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.
    So, really, they get paid more per note than the violinists...

    It is all how you rationalize things.
  6. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    How do you think the poor bastard standing around with the triangle feels? :D

    But seriously, I have to agree with ssab67, the bass in general and most orchestral playing is about being a team player. I would love to be in a orchestra section. IME, the music going on around me when I am not playing is usually just as satisfying.
  7. T Sony

    T Sony

    Mar 5, 2004
    I attended a few symphony orchestra concerts a few years back and remember the double bass section being very active in terms of parts to play. However, certain movements the bass sections would be silent then have a critical role such as a large crescendo from piano to forte in 8th notes. Very inspiring to say the least!

    As for the double bassists complaining about not playing much or have very little part? I think at that level they're more concerned with the over all production and sound of the entire orchestra instead of small parts.
  8. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    So true. However, your average jazz bassist isn't standing around counting 97 bars before he plays two...
  9. In my experience it kinda depends on the composition. I've been thoroughly uninspired by very challenging and complex works while in other pieces I got amazing chills by just playing some simple and quiet ostinato, or even sitting out entire movments onstage during performances.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's right - I'm very happy to be supportive as a bassist, but I like to be involved!

    So, generally Double Basses are pretty well occupied in most orchestras - I've been to hundreds and hundreds of orchestral concerts and the strings as a whole, usually get a lot of playing!

    It just struck me about this particular piece and I was wondering what the DB players were thinking - so here we are a world-class orchestra, coming from Germany to Britain and for the most part, I am standing around....;)

    So - this is a long, 11-movement piece and the Double Basses only play anything in movement 8 - and then it's only a 4-note repeating figure!! :meh:
  11. One trumpet player I played with had special glasses to allow him to read the newspaper on the floor during long rests and tacets. I thinkd brass players have it worse than basses.
  12. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    any idea how difficult it is not to lose your place while you are tacit for 250 measures ? I usually count bcakwards to avoid losing my place.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I may be missing some humour here...but to be serious, wouldn't it be easier to count on from some "significant event" in the piece that you couldn't miss - or maybe even pick a few, to make absolutely sure...?