H. S. Jazz Band. Help!!!

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Gabe, Jun 27, 2003.

  1. Gabe


    Jan 21, 2003
    I'm changing high schools next year and for my art credit I signed up for Jazz band on the double bass. I think that it will be a blast but now panic is setting in. I have never, ever, played in a jazz band and have played almost exclusively classical music and not very much of that. I have played cello for about six years so I don't think that counting or reading will be a problem but other than that I am clueless as to what to do or expect.

    A brief list of questions:
    -what kind of music do hs jazz bands do? Difficulty etc.
    -is the playing mostly aimed at winning a state contest or do we play other events?
    -is there a conductor?
    -pizz, arco, both?
    -its reading not improv (*Gabe sets desk on fire as a sacraficial gesture to the music gods hoping they don't make him improvise)
    - any special gear that I need?
    -they do take dbers in hs jazz bands right?

    Those are the big questions I can think of know. Any help between now and the end of August will be deeply appreciated!
  2. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Quite often, arrangements for big bands come with written bass parts. Otherwise, you'll have just the cords and shall do the walking yourself. I don't know where you're at right now, maybe your teacher has ome idea ? Basic books are IMHO:

    - Mike Richmond: Modern Walking Bass Technique, sart slow, nome at 45 on beat 2 & 4

    - J Aebersold: Blues in all keys.

    - John Goldsby: Jazz Bass Book, Technique and Tradition.

    listen to Big Band music, imagine yourself doing "April in Paris" with the Count Basie Orchestra...
  3. I played in jazz band all through high school and this is what I found: the music is not hard. 98% of you parts will be written out, and the other two can be faked even if you have no knowledge of improv or theory. Although, being able to play your own stuff is better because the written parts are usually pretty hoaky. The instrument the have at the school will suck, and the pickup and amp will be even worse. So get ome decent gear and haul it with you. There will be a conductor. The gigs will probably be mostly school functions and contests. Don't worry about arco playing, you can leave your bow at home. ;)

    I understand where you're coming from, I was in the exact same position. I faked my way through four years of it and to this day I still can't play jazz, make up a walking line, figure out a chord, or read a chart. But I love to listen to jazz so go figure...
  4. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    I played guitar in HS jazz band, but I did occasionally look at the bass parts ;-)

    All our charts had the bass parts written out, and I never saw anything I couldn't sight read today. But there are bands, and there are bands. Some, like ours, emphasize reading and ensemble playing and did a lot of stuff like Sammy Nestico charts. (It was many years before I could hear "Cute" without cringing.) Some are a lot jazzier and emphasize soloing and play hipper charts. (I would have loved to be in a HS band that played Oliver Nelson charts!) And some I've seen are trying to be Tower of Power. It varies.

    (Speaking of those early days, I only wish I knew then what I know now about playing guitar: When a chart says Bb7#11b13, and there are 20 musicians playing, play a Bb7. And you can leave out the root and the 5th.)
  5. Gabe


    Jan 21, 2003
    Thanks! I really don't think I've ever seen one of these bands so the info. is a confidence booster.

    It should be fun :)
  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"


    Have fun. Big band is a gas when it works.

    Remember that HS big-band is not necessarily jazz: You will almost certainly need to learn about jazz outside the band if you want to learn about jazz. (I don't hear about a lot of HS jazz bands playing Toshiko Akiyoshi, Maria Schneider or Thad Jones charts. I have some foggy, repressed memories of Maynard Ferguson . . . )

    The whole competitive thing sets my teeth on edge, although it didn't when I was in high school. In my current state of decrepitude, I view musical competition as squandering kids' only chance to learn about non-competitive teamwork in a school . . . .

    And above all: KEEP YOUR EARS OPEN. GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE CHART. MAKE MUSIC even at 7:30 a.m.! Good luck at your new school, Gabe.
  7. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    Toshiko Akiyoshi charts are killer. We worked on Notorius Tourist from the East for a while-holy guitars on fire, that song taught me a lot. We however quit working on it. We also did Road Time Shuffle as a contest piece. It was fun, i enjoyed how the bass line consisted almost entirely of chord symbols.
    Thad Jones-we did Us as a contest piece and then quit playing it as a large portion of the members hated it.
    Maynard Ferguson-our trumpet section loves it. We did Cruisin' For a Bluesin' also as a contest piece.

    To the thread starter-you won't need your bow for the most part. I doubler in Jazz Band on Bass Guitar [that's how i got in]. This year we started doing standards for warmups/improv practice. Standards = Yardbird, Girl from Ipanema etc. We played a mix of genres. Our main concentration areas was/are Big Band Swing [Count Basie, Duke Ellington], Horn-Rock/Funk [Blood Sweat and Tears, some Steely-Dan, and the scary event for me-Earth Wind and Fire].

    The main thing that i can say is try to be as versatile as possible. I'm assuming that since you are a classical player you do know some theory. This will come in handy.
    Have fun, i've been the bassist for my school's Jazz Band and with rare exception Music Department for the past 2 school years [freshman & sophmore] and i don't see a reason why they won't let me for the next 2 [i'll be a junior] in that our jazz band members make up the core performers/musicians for nearly all the other bands.
    We have Show Choir bands, Marching Band, Pep/Show Band, Concert bands [3], and an orchestra. Enjoy and realize that you can expand and there isn't anything to worry about. Thats all
  8. Mike Goodbar

    Mike Goodbar Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2001
    Charlotte, NC
    I cut my teeth in HS jazz band, too. I'd been playing classical upright for about a year, but the bass seat in the jazz band was occupied by a senior cello player (a damn good cello player) a who doubled on electric bass. When he graduated, I got the bass spot.

    Although a lot of guys dismiss them out of hand, I really got a lot out of reading the written-out bass lines. I kind of already understood the chord/scale relationships from piano lessons and theory class. I'd analyze the written lines and try to apply them to the chord charts on some of the tunes.

    I also played in "Jazz Lab" in college under the direction of Tim Bell, who had been first alto in the one-o'-clock band at North Texas. When he came to Parkside University (UW-Madison extension), he brought some of those great North Texas charts with him.

    In short, big band playing taught me a lot about constructing bass lines, sight reading, tempo, hooking up with a drummer. Hope your experience is a good one.
  9. hey man, i play bass (electric, no upright :( ) in my schools jazz band and its a blast. as for your questions, almost all of those is going to depend on the director. some just do baisic jazz stuff not really anything in depth, so go in depth with improv etc. the contests/"fun" gigs, conducter, and musical choice will all be up to the director. as far as any special gear/do they take dbers in hs jazz band thats hard to say. if your band plays only "big band" music you will be fine, but if your's turns out like mine you will be playing swing, fusion, funk, latin, and jazz rock. latin and swing work great with a db, but you are going to have a hard time playing funk fusion and jazz rock and sound convincing. good luck with it and have fun.

    ps dont "leave your bow at home" many of the swing ballads ive come across have many arco parts ;)
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Now we're talking. :)
  11. 1. The music in jazz band is usually not too tough. When I was in it all I ever got were simple bass lines to play (no walking lines, alot of root notes). I told the teacher I could play more complex lines than what we were given but he said that these are what the song is written for so I had to stick with it.

    2. This could be different for different schools but in my schools Jazz band we only played concerts for our parents and friends along with the regular band and strings (I dont mean the jazz band played with them, but they all played on the same night).

    3. Yes, but he/she doesn't stand on the podium and hold the time like in the regular band. He will usually play with the band or clap his hands to hold time.

    4. Mostly pizz. rarely will you have to use a bow but sometimes an arrangement will call for it. But mostly you will be playing pizz

    5.its reading. You get to take the stand and music with you on stage.

    6. Nope, school will cover you on the Bass and thats all you need really.

    7. Yes, But alot of schools have electric bassist because its "cooler" and "easier" to play than the double bass and alot of kids joining the jazz band want to be cool so they play electric instead of upright. But if you want to play upright Im sure they won't tell you no.
  12. Gabe


    Jan 21, 2003
    Thanks everyone. It was sort of a spur of the moment thing that I signed up, mailed it, and panicked.

    It should be fun:)

    By the way, do many girls play in school jazz bands?
  13. many girls play in hs band period ;)
  14. furiously funky

    furiously funky Guest

    Dec 28, 2002
    the level of high school jazz bands very greatley. the parts will (as said above) be written out 9 times out of 10. and the 10'th still shouldnt give you to much trouble since you are classicaly trained (me to:))
    giv'er and have fun!

    mostly, you will find girls in the saxaphones, but also (i dont think this is true in all bands) our trombone ladies (4) are all mega foxes!!! and the bass in our band is near the bones. its all good!
  15. yeah my hs band is a oddity compared to most. our marching band (which i play bass for, as well as the jazz band) has like a 4:1 girl to guy ratio :D not to mention there is only one male trumpet player... very rare, but very nice :D
  16. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    Our jazz band is different than i'm guessing a large chunk of the school jazz bands. In that our band is primarily guys. Last year we had 5 girls-1 trumpet, 1 t-bone, the piano player, and 2 saxes. This coming year i'm not entirely sure who all is in it. That's all
  17. BigLob


    Aug 13, 2003
    Dallas, Texas
    Im in much the same position Gabe is in, i just signed up and then all the what if's came out, and i found ya'lls information very comforting. thats for the info, and good luck Gabe.
  18. Gabe


    Jan 21, 2003
    When you guys say "charts" that's the same thing as sheet music? Written the same way and all that?
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Usually the term "chart" refers to a piece of music written in "lead sheet" notation, which most often includes only a melody and chord symbols (also known as "changes"). In a high school big band, you'll most likely be playing from and actual PART, which will be a sheet written for your specific instrument, and containing whatever information the composer deemed it important for you as the bassist to have. This may include lines and figured written in standard notation, chord symbols and hits written in "slash/rhythmic" notation, or a combination of both.
  20. I just got out of that. Having played classical bass for a year and then some, I started playing jazz bass with the band after school. At least for me, it came naturally. It's a very easy, fun kind of music. Here are some tips to help the switch that I found useful:
    First, don't get worried about improvising or walking. Sometimes you can play almost any note and it'll sound ok. Just "play any note as long as it swings." Second, the theory is just an extension on classical theory. More seventh chords, some new progressions, but not much. Third, don't be afraid to experiment. No longer (hopefully) is someone demanding a certain sound or tone. Just every once in a while, change something, goof off, screw around, and enjoy the music. :bassist:
    It gets especially easy if you start playing small combo-style stuff with the more talented musicians around. I had the privelege to learn jazz with a prodigy-type jazz pianist, who was a good guy and patient enough to give a little guidance. Listen to recordings but at the same time play with your sound until you find something you like.
    Have fun, dude! :D