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Double Bass in Wind Symphony/Concert Band etc...

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Chrix, Oct 18, 2004.

  1. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    Due to scheduling conflicts, I've been unable to play in my University's orchestra for the past 3 years (I know...it sucks). But I still needed to get my classical bass on, so I talked to the band director and I'm currently playing in the Wind Symphony, and doing this hasn't really been a problem since I've got a lot of experience playing in band from high school (yeah...I know...I played clarinet. Sorry.) Now I know that the majority of wind symphony music is currently being written and arranged with double bass parts. What I was curious about is if anyone else here has experience doing this and if they've got any kind of advice/stories/ideas on the differences and whatnot of doing this.
  2. Chrix,

    Yes I played with the Wind Ensemble in high school. Double bass was the traditional contrabass for wind ensemble because it's background sound worked better than Tuba, and mixed well with the low woodwinds. As I remember though, the parts wearn't all that interesting. In the old days, db was used in concert band for stage work, and the bassists would double on sousaphone for marching. Since it may just be you playing some parts think chamber music and concentrate on beautiful tone rather than power, also playing in tune with bassoon can be tough.

  3. It totally depends on the music being played. In high school I doubled up on bass and percussion in the wind ensemble (as well as jazz band, pep band, marching band and orchestra :rolleyes: ). the bass parts were allmost always boring, simply because the material was all old stuff, written with either no actual bass part or one that was more or less the same as the tuba. But, I played some bass in the wind ensemble in college, and it was a lot better because the music was newer stuff, writen with intelligent bass parts. So I guess just check out what they're going to be playing, and make sure they won't just throw a tuba or euphonium part at you. :crying:
  4. I play in a community concert band. The director has me stand behind the tubas, so hearing myself over them and the rest of the brass can be a challenge. Also, most of the bass parts are for tuba or basson. It kind of sucks, but since I don't have many opportunities to play out, playing music is still playing, regardless what it is.
  5. orskard


    Mar 17, 2004
    i currently play tuba in high school groups, pep band, marching band, symphony orchestra, jazz band too! from being on this site you can probally tell that i play bass too, i know that most bass parts from old songs arent that intertaining.

    just have fun with it, bass and tuba are both a great thing.
  6. lcook


    Mar 20, 2003
    Brooklyn, NY
    Personally, I loved playing in my college's wind ensemble. What these guys are saying is true, older pieces can be a bit boring, cause you'll more than likely be playing a tuba part. The only real downside, though is that, if more than half the band is playing, you'll be totally buried. However, being the bottom end of a lush woodwind choir can be pretty cool, and playing with all of those winds (who have to breathe to play) will teach you volumes about phrasing. There is a lot of new wind music that is pretty exciting and fun to play--Alfred Reed usually writes some really cool bass parts, and James Barnes' 3rd Symphony is one of the most challenging, intense pieces of music that I have ever worked on.

    Another thing that I thought of, you may want to talk to your director about positioning. Usually string bass players are just tossed behind the tuba or something. My director placed me at the end of the saxophone row, directly behind the bassoons and bass clarinet. This made sense, since tonally this is where we belong, plus being back there with the low brass gave me no hope at all of being heard. Have fun!

  7. Thanks for the advice. I'll stand by the sax section next practice.
  8. I agree that in a wind ensemble setting the DB should be placed colser to the bassoons rather than the low brass. Brass and bass really don't jive, and it's impossible to hear yourself play. Plus like Icook said, you can learn a lot from playing with wind players. In my experience, there is a lot less finesse in the low brass section. They usually just pump out a big wall-o-sound. :ninja:
  9. Bubbabass


    May 5, 2004
    What the other guys said. Try to position yourself as a woodwind. Generally, bassoons blow sharp as they go to their bottom range, so hold your ground and lay down the law. You might consider training yourself to play equal temperment as your default tuning. In a military band, I did five years of two basses versus four tubas. They were all good players, but it was like spitting into a hurricane. You will learn to play really loud, though. Barnes writes good stuff, and Larry Odom does superb transcriptions of orchestral works. There were times playing Don Juan, Pines/Fountains of Rome and der Rosenkavalier, when I forgot it was a concert band.
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I joined the Quakertown Band http://www.voicenet.com/~becky/qband/index.html a little over two 1/2 years ago and left after a Year. The photo on their website is new and after I left the band.

    I played with two Tubas using my 1874 Batchelder Bass http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/BatchBass/batchBass.htm and an amp. Most of the music given in the beginning was written for Tuba. I had no markings for Arco or Pizz. I had to re-write alot of the parts as they were written way below my normal reading range. I did play alot of arco on the Tuba parts as it felt more Classical and individual. Sometimes I was given a Bassoon Part and on occasion I mixed the Tuba and Basson parts together to have something of my own. There were a few 'real' Bass parts like when we did Jazz or Classical pieces. They even gave me some solos and I did a duet with the Clarinet Player on their 126th anniversary CD Concert/recording.

    It was fun and interesting in the beginning but as the year went on and my chops came back after a 15 year retirement, I had enough of the um-pa to last a lifetime...lol

    If you are in a Concert Band because you can't do the Orchestra, then use the Bow as much as possible. The Tuba parts taught me voicings I have never played before on the Bass.
    You can find ways to substitute venues if you put your mind to it. The Orchestra is best for all the standard techniques but the Band will have to be second best for now..... Good luck Chrix
  11. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    Thanks for all the insight, guys. I've actually enjoyed playing in Wind Ensemble. I use the bow and I'm not positioned in there with the tubas, so it's actually kinda nice. I'm hopin when I go off to Grad School next year that I'll have time to do an orchestra. Also, my Band Director is pretty good about picking music that has pretty interesting bass parts as well as tuba parts. Any more thoughts, just let me know. I'm always interested to hear what people have to say.