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How do I tell the Principal that he's wrong?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by MysterMunky, Nov 18, 2010.

  1. Hello,

    I currently stuck between a rock and a hard place. Last night at rehearsal, the principal bass told the section to swing the eighth notes in this new age saxophone concerto. the problem is, i am convinced that we are supposed to play the eighths straight because we have swung eighths only when the notation implies swung eighths. when we swing them, we end up not syncing with other sections that have similar rhythms, particularly during syncopations.

    My problem is, should I tell him my opinion and show musical examples (which may rub him the wrong way as he is a very very moody guy) which would fit the music we are playing? or just let it go an as he is the principal bass?
  2. i forgot to mention, that i like a guy and i want everything to be cool...
  3. Is there a conductor? His opinion?
  4. Can you record it and let them "figure it out for themselves?"
  5. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    which one sounds better?
  6. i didnt want to ask the conductor because of the seniority issue, i dont want to rock the boat. the whole chain of command thing is BS but its important to some of these people. the conductor is in a world of their own...

    i think they already tried to "figure it out for themselves?" and they came up wrong. and i have no way to record it. on the other hand, we were given a recording and they still want to swing the eighths
  7. Point out that you're not matching the rest of the orchestra. He should figure it out. The conductor should notice too, but really you want to sort this without wasting the conductor's time on it.
  8. During a pause in the music, say to the conductor, "Hey! everybody else in the orchestra is playing those eighth notes wrong!"
  9. CT DB

    CT DB

    Apr 27, 2007
    Fairfield Cty, CT
    Tell him about an awesome site for bassists called talkbass.com and direct him to the orchestral technique section.
  10. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    You've been re-reading your Gary Larsen "Far Side" cartoon books again, haven't you?" :D
  11. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    It depends on what your contract says. If you haven't signed your name on a piece of paper and don't have tenure, don't say anything.

    Swing it hard and have the conductor solve it.
  12. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    The principal is the one who will take the heat if it's incorrect. Your job is to go with what he says to do.
  13. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001

    Maybe if you look at the big picture, it's probably just a short section on a piece that will be performed once or twice maybe, and then it's over. The audience will never notice. You like the principal! It's a saxophone concerto!!! :bag:
    Anyway, putting all of that in perspective it' probably not worth the hassle to bring it up and maybe create some bad vibes.
    Once this is over you guys will go back to play Beethoven, Mahler, Brahms, etc.
  14. +1

    I've always found it bad form to contradict the principal. Let someone with no sense of consideration or propriety let him know...like the conductor. ;)
  15. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
  16. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Most conductors anyway. ;)
  17. Yes the principal is the one who takes the flack fro things going wrong. Why not talk with him in the break without saying he's wrong but suggesting that he should consider the possibility that it might have more than one interpretation.

    It's an interesting question though which should be addressed. Last week the whole section followed the principle in a two bar early forte pizz section - I was whispering NO!NO!NO! (I'm sitting No 5) and the section caught on in less than half a bar, regrouped and came in correctly two bars latter. There was no blood loss and we all get along fine. Sometimes it's just a case of being on good terms with everyone which allows you to 'correct' the boss without getting his back up.
  18. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    If you want to discuss this with the principal, do it in a sectionals meeting. Tell him you are confused by why you are playing the 8th notes the way you are, and ask for a clarification.

    Beyond that, let him take the flack.
  19. Tread carefully around Principals. They have earned the right to lead the section and usually have the technique, musicianship and thick enough skin to cope. They also should protect the section from conductors and management when things go wrong.

    Unless you have the temperament and talent, and are prepared to do the work to become a Principal be prepared to bite your tongue (metaphorically speaking) and do as you are told.

    Is it better to "be a servant in Heaven" (an obedient R & F in your current orchestra) than a "leader in Hell" (become a Principal somewhere else, possibly in a lesser orchestra)?


  20. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.
    Ask a buddy in the cello section to go ask the conductor about it... just have them say, "The basses are doing this different and I think we may be wrong because they are more familiar with jazz". He/she can then point out the other eighth notes that aren't being swung...

    Otherwise, let it go.


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