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Extra Bass in Big Band?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by rhaegar, May 19, 2011.

  1. rhaegar


    Nov 8, 2010
    Last week, I ran into a guy in my neighborhood who leads a big band. I told him that I started playing bass about six months ago and that we should keep in touch. At some point, he might need a bassist and I might be able to play something worth listening to. He encouraged me to come play with his band sooner (as in now). He sent me some charts, which had written out basslines. I talked it over with my teacher who encouraged me to give it a go.

    The thing is he already has a bassist. He plays upright; I play electric. At this early stage of where I'm at, it would be great just to come and play a couple of tunes and fill in when their regular bassist can't make it to practice.

    I saw of picture of their band on the neighborhood bulletin board. It looked like just one trombone and no bari sax. I have this vague recollection of playing tuba parts on bari sax in HS. I played for six years, but that was back when Reagan was president. I was a bit tempted to buy a bari sax and give that a try until I saw what those things cost.

    My question for everyone is whether it would it work playing bari sax or trombone parts on an electric bass? Just curious if there would be a way to play with these guys other than as an understudy.
  2. Rypher


    Feb 4, 2008
    As a bari sax, upright, and electric player, I have to say a resounding no. Sadly, the bari parts in big band jazz usually follows along with the the lower brass instruments or occasionally with the rest of the saxophone section.

    The bari has a very strong timbre, one that just isn't easily matched on the upright, let alone on an electric bass. Bari sax also fills a vital role in the band more as a viable lead instrument, whereas it's much harder to do this on a bass.

    By all means, go ahead and try subbing with this group or just jamming along with them. Experience is never wasted. Good luck!
  3. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    In additional to what Rypher said, remember that bari sax is an Eb instrument. Bari charts are in treble clef and are transposed a sixth from concert pitch.

    You can actually read bari parts on bass by pretending that they are in bass clef rather than treble since treble clef notes for an Eb instrument appear on the same line/space on the staff as bass clef notes for a C instrument, but you have to be mindful of transposing the key signature and accidentals. You'd probably be better of working up the bass charts they gave you and filling in on bass when the opportunity arises.
  4. Okay so electric bass does not equal a bari sax but it may be better than no bari at all. While Bari parts may not be the best choice there may be tuba, trombone or bass trombone parts (all written in C in bass clef) for you to play depending on the arrangement and Bari parts can always be transcribed.
    FWIW trombone parts make great sight reading material.
  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I was in exactly that situation 15 years ago. Joined a loungy swing band on fretless , cam e back form vacation to find the URB they had sub for me was now a member too.
    So I was switched to playing horn parts for many songs, and bongos on a few. I mostly stayed above the 7th 'fret' to keep out of the URB's range.
    For a few songs I was able to nail the bass line better than the URB guy (he had less expereince) so he laid back on those.

    But 2 bass lines at once in a swing act =complete disaster. Do not do that.
  6. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Happened to me also about fifteen years ago. Went to practice with a full big band. The upright player was there, too, but he didn't actually read the bass parts, but rather made up his own based on the changes. I was reading, to get it right, ya know. Sheesh, I never went back.
  7. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    The upright player was doing the right thing. Bass lines are seldom written out for big bands, except where the arranger/composer has a specific line in mind to go with the ensemble, or it's a chart written for someone who doesn't read changes.

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