Lazy high school jazz band director

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Peter McFerrin, Dec 2, 2003.

  1. I substitute-teach at a couple of the local high schools. A few weeks back, I subbed for the band director at a nearby high school. In his office, he had a very serviceable Engelhardt DB on which I dinked around during his free periods. Now, I really don't play DB, but I was having a lot of fun, and I was starting to get some decent volume out of the thing by completely discarding all my slab technique and applying lots of force with both hands.

    Seventh hour, the jazz band came in and the bassist grabbed the DB out of the office. He then proceeded to plug it in to a Gallien-Krueger 2x10 combo and turn up the amp so he could hear himself over a standard horn section in what was a decidedly bass-friendly room, while barely touching the strings. :rolleyes:

    This kid didn't have any sort of calluses on his right hand fingers, and he didn't know how to play arco, yet he told me that the band director wanted him to try out for Juilliard and Berklee(!). Nor did he do any practicing at home on double bass; he didn't have a big enough car to take the bass home, so he only practiced on slab.

    Do other high school jazz band teachers allow their bassists to get this lazy? Why even bother to have a double bass if it's just going to be a glorified EUB?
  2. Mike Goodbar

    Mike Goodbar Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2001
    Charlotte, NC
    Maybe the BD just didn't know any better. It's a tough job, and they have a tremendous amount of bases (no pun) to cover. If the BD isn't a bass player him/herself, then an oversight like this is understandable. Not lazy, just overworked and under-informed. The kid's private teacher (if he has one) is the one to blame, if there is any to be meted.

    My experience with school double basses has been mostly bad: they're badly set up, usually with the original strings and a sky-high bridge that makes it nearly impossible to play past fourth position. With the few bass students I have I strongly suggest that they have work done on the school instrument, even if it ends up being at their own or their parents' expense. This also goes back to uninformed band directors. (In one local district, however, there is a band director who is also a bassist/luthier. Their basses are primo).
  3. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    I see this as a bit of a problem with lots of bassists I hear from all around. They can't really get a good acoustic sound out of the instrument w/o the use of any amps/pickups.

    The problem to me seems most bassists who are interested in playing jazz in particular start on slab and then switch over to DB - and expect to get started as fast as they got on electric. In the process they pick up the technique as fast as they can, and don't work enough on the fundamentals to get a good sound and play with decent volume. Instead they spend their time getting this pickup, this amp etc. Double Bass is a much more physically demanding instrument than slab and needs more work in certain areas.

    Me too sometimes wonder why the hell they're bothering with DB when what comes out sounds more like an electric bass?
    And often an out of tune electric at that!!

  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - a lot of great Jazz professional DB players rely on amps to get their sound across.
    So - I go to a lot of Jazz gigs over here and it is very rare for any one to play unamped - even with small groups - like a trio with sax and drums.

    As an example - I saw Dave Holland play with a chamber orchestra/group on a Jazz crossover piece written for him. So - the chamber group had a DB player who did play unamped - but got a hugely different sound to Dave Holland - who soloed a lot.

    So - for a start, Holldand's DB was much smaller and looked almost like a Cello in comparison to the full-size orchestral bass. Holland was playing through a GK combo and was getting a lot more finger noise and variety of tone on arco and pizz but very little volume apart from though the amp.

    The Orchestral bass sound much duller - even arco and had a lot more of the fundamental of the note - less detail and tonal variety - but huge acoustic volume.

    My view from watching lost of Jazz DBers is that to get certain types of tone and detail you sacrifice volume - but I'm not a DB player - just an avid listener/watcher!! ;)
  5. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Well, to my ears Dave Holland has a good natural sound in his bass but of course he needs amplification anyway. I'm not saying that you shouldn't use amplification in a lot of situations. However, what kind of annoys me
    is when people rely more on the electronics to get a different or better sound, rather than their chops and the natural acoustics of the bass.

    Personally I strive for my sound to sound as unamped as possible when playing amped.. but that's my preference...

  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    As to the first, ditto Mike G -- even good band directors probably don't know much about DB technique. And they may not want to single a player out, either.

    As to the second, I played for a long time (and studied with good people) without completely understanding the notion of digging in and pulling a strong sound out of the bass. Having an instrument that I love to hear was a help. Hanging around here was a help. FED UQUA's example was a help. Having gigs where it made sense was the main thing, though.
  7. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    After the weekend I just had lugging my amp around the city -- my back still hurts, one site was on the second floor with the elevator too far from the van -- I can say that I sure love gigs where I don't need it. And there definitely ARE some...

    This is one of those things where it's easy for someone to say, "ah, it's just old guys moaning about how much better things used to be." Maybe some of that is true. But something beautiful and useful is lost when a player can't just play the thing on its own. Not the least of which is the OTHER players' sense of dynamics. When you can't hear the bass player at all, the band's too loud: it's very simple. When everyone is all miked and monitored, it's way too simple just to turn up.

    Now, what's Bob G saying in that other thread about that 23 pound AI New Yorker? That's 1/3 of what my current amp weighs, and I'll bet it sounds 3 times better.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Dave Holland gets a great sound to my ears - but the point of my story, was that I saw a side-by-side comparison with a very loud orchestral DB player.

    So - no doubt about who had best tone and who had most volume!! ;)
  9. I played in jazz band when I was in high school; not because I like jazz, could play jazz or anything else but simply because it was the thing to do if you were a decent musican. I was from a totally classical background and knew almost nothing about jazz, although I had played electric in some rock bands and was used to high volume amplification)so when I went in there and they handed me a crappy plywood bass with a pickup and and an amp, I just cranked it up and went for it. I think most band teachers just don't know any better, and a lot of highschool age bassists aren't being instructed in jazz playing. (or anything else, for that matter)

    Not to say there aren't some lazy bastards calling themselves teachers out there... It seems to me that the majority of music teachers at that level are just there because they had to do something, and they couldn't hang in the college symphony/ band so they majored in education... :rolleyes:
  10. I started playing DB my junior year in high school. It was a fiberglass bass that the previous band director had given to the art department to use in still life. We had to pull it down from the rafters in the art room! I had a new bridge put on and just started playing. I probably sounded much like the kid you saw Pete (probably not as good). Anyway we had a great band teacher, but he was a trumpet player. He helped me as much as he could but he reccomended I get a bass teacher. So, I agree with Mike. If the kid has a bass teacher, he's to blame. If he doesn't he should get one.