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Orchestral Music Help -- Low C's..

Discussion in 'Orchestral Auditions [DB]' started by julzifer, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. julzifer


    Apr 28, 2010
    Adelaide, SA
    Dear Classical Bassists of the World,

    I'm writing a thesis for my honours on double bass about how to overcome difficult fingerings in orchestral music due to the music being written for a bass with either a C extension or a 5 string with a low C, but not having the low string yourself, and having to transpose sections up an octave etc.

    What music have you encountered that you find is essential for that bottom C, D or Eb?

    Stravinsky: Firebird Suite - opening
    Strauss: Ein Heldenlebel

    Please - anything you can think of that 'needs' those bottom notes!

    Thankyou all :)
  2. A Spotless Mind

    A Spotless Mind

    Aug 18, 2009
    Strauss - Also Sprach Zarathustra

    Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 - 4th movt.
  3. You also see this occurring in older music, as well -- I seem to remember seeing that low 'C' in Handel's Royal Fireworks Music, for instance. Only there, it's because the bass part is actually a 'cello part, and the bass is doubling the cello (hence the term 'double' bass). That 'C' is the cellist's lowest note, of course.

    I think notes below that one-ledger-line E also show up in any other composer who didn't write a separate double bass part -- like Mozart and Haydn, for instance.

    With Beethoven, of course, they're intentional (and the Lord only knows what sort of bizarre tuning they were using then). The modern orchestral tuning (EADG) only became common later in the 19th century I would think -- probably not 'til after Simandl.
  4. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    As this is in the "auditions" forum, I am curious: At what level does one need an extension or a 5'er to progress? I imagine one is necessary to audition for a professional symphony -- out of my league anyway -- but how about typical chamber or community groups?
  5. Don Sibley

    Don Sibley

    Jun 27, 2005
    Fort Worth, TX
    Brahms 1
  6. julzifer


    Apr 28, 2010
    Adelaide, SA
    Yes, I'm looking for music outside the doubleling bass line, so composers who specifically wrote a phrase using those low notes.
    For example the opening to the Firebird Suite - it requires Eb and D, but if you put just those two notes up the octave, it sounds a bit silly.
    That's what I'm looking for.
  7. julzifer


    Apr 28, 2010
    Adelaide, SA
    I'm currently working professionally in an orchestra in Australia (only 1/6 basses has an extension, and 1/6 plays with a 'drop d', the rest are in trad EADG), so it is definitely not a requirement here. Chamber and community groups would also not be too fussed about your instrument, though on most larger bodied basses it is easy enough to get an extension added.
  8. julzifer


    Apr 28, 2010
    Adelaide, SA
    Oh and this can be orchestral or in chamber music...
  9. Baloeb


    Sep 10, 2006
    Olympia, WA
    There are some notes in Mahler Symphonies that are played on the extension and Mahler writes instructions not to play them up an octave. Sorry, but I don't remember the specific spot.
  10. julzifer


    Apr 28, 2010
    Adelaide, SA
    No worries - if you can remember any particular symphonies that it features in that'd be really helpful, I can manage from there :)
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I remember this post I made - quite a while ago :

    I was watching the Proms on BBC TV last night and they had the Kirov orchestra from Russia, playing Shostakovich's 4th Symphony at the Albert Hall.

    The camera focused in on the bass section towards the beginning and it was pretty clear that a lot of them had 5 string basses - no extensions apparent?

    I wondered if they might be higher or lower "extra" strings; but at the end of the Symphony there is a long slow coda that fades to nothing over a long period of time (seems like it anyway) - which is basically a held C Minor chord.

    The basses were playing a rhythmic figure, but just on one note - low C - which was quite audible and clearly below bottom E - a fantastic sound and quite magical in the circumstances. So there is a use for the 5 string bass with low B!! The crowd loved it and there was huge applause after this.

    I do have a recording of this symphony, by an English orchestra and have never noticed this part before - maybe the 5 string DB is more popular with Russians? Anyway it was certainly worth it just for this part which really "made" the ending of the Symphony.
  12. ¡bassballbill!


    Feb 25, 2008
    Mahler 5 has that marked in a few places. Shostakovich 5 needs the low notes in my opinion, as does Mahler 2, Barber's Adagio for Strings for sure, Brahms 2.... I think everything needs more sub-E notes though....
  13. benharrisfan


    Sep 27, 2009
    Are there extension notes in Brahms 2? I think that it makes sense to add the one note missing in the opening figure of Brahms 2 with the extension because the cellos play it, but otherwise why do it if it's not written?
  14. ¡bassballbill!


    Feb 25, 2008
    The D# in the opening (and recapitulation) is what I was thinking of. I've also heard some people play a low D in the 15th bar of [A] (Zimmerman letters, 1st movement) and continue descending to a low C# in the bar before [F]. Makes sense, especially if you look at the bar before [L] but I agree that it's not necessary. Low D# in the opening is necessary to me though. And let's be honest, it's pretty satisfying to tastelessly wail on low Cs in our first entrance in the scherzo, not to mention low Ds at the end of the last movement.
  15. MDEbass


    Dec 15, 2008
    in addition to all others mentioned already, Beethoven 3.
    Simon Toth likes this.
  16. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis - Ralph Vaughan Williams you need low D at least.
  17. brahms generally didn't write sub-E notes in his bass parts. there are a number of places in his music where it is appropriate and not uncommon to play things down an octave anyways. you shouldn't go overboard with it, but you could use the cello part as a reference to find out where.
  18. julzifer


    Apr 28, 2010
    Adelaide, SA
    my main focus is for phrases/melodies/lines that go sub-E (not just one note at the end of a cadence or something)
    so where a melody goes sub-E and if you don't have the extension you play a few notes in the melody up the octave, which sounds a bit silly...
  19. well it's best to use some sense about it and find a way to take part of the passage up the octave without breaking up the line, rather than only playing the low notes up an octave creating an awkward and unmusical effect.
  20. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Banned

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    Bach, St. Matthew's passion!


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