Playing Tuba parts?

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Matthew Tucker, Feb 2, 2005.

  1. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    My 13 y/o daughter has just joined her school concert band. But as they don't have any bass parts written out, the leader said "just play the tuba parts". Problem is, tubas go down to B and C all the time - but her DB doesn't.

    It seems to me a bit rough to ask a young player who's only just getting the hang of reading to simultaneously transpose an octave higher whenever the notes hang that low.

    What do you think? Is this a normal sort of problem, or should we insist on some DB parts written out for her, or should she make lotsa pencil marks (against instructions) on her charts? Unfortunately I don't think I'm capable of writing out new parts for her.
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Welcome to school band hell :rolleyes:

    The band director is an idiot if he/she doesn't understand this issue. You can't just transpose a single note, you have to choose when/where to transpose whole phrases so it sounds musical. That requires input from the director (they may not like your daughter's transposition choices).

    If pencil marks are a no-no, xerox the damn charts (oops that's a copyright violation, right?) and mark up the copies.

    This isn't just an issue for playing tuba parts on the DB, the doubling of cello parts (where the term DOUBLE bass comes from) requires low C notes. That's why many classical players use extensions on the E string.

    Good luck.
  3. Yes, that is a copyright violation (unless the music is non-copyrighted music)

    But it is pretty much the only option
  4. I play in a community band and I'm frequently confronted with tuba parts. After a while, recognizing some notes below low E (and playing them an octave higher) becomes quite natural. But I get in trouble when I see ledger lines below the B - those tubas can go quite low!

    Having said that, the thought of making a 13-year-old newbie do "real-time transposition" is quite unfair. As suggested, I'd mark up the charts....
  5. justBrian


    Apr 19, 2002
    Kansas City, MO
    I've played the tuba for over 20 years-- and bass for only the last 6. At a gig recently I was asked to bring my tuba and URB as we were going to be doing some Dixieland and polkas. I found it difficult to go back and forth between the instruments-- partricularly if I was supposed to play the tuba while reading the URB part. There were several times I thought my head was going to explode.

    That being said, I would recommend what others have all said- make the copies and mark them up (unless you want to spring for Finale ;) ).
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Nope, copyright would only be violated if she made a BUNCH of copies and tried to sell them or made copies of all the parts to use with another band at another school. "Scholarly use" covers precisely and exactly just what you're talking about.
  7. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    The Tuba is a non-transposing instrument, which means, the note you see on the page is the note that you will hear when it is played by a tuba (same is true of the cello). The bass IS a transposing instrument. The notes that you read and play with your bass sound one-octave lower than written.

    So, if you were to get a bass that extends its range down to those low notes, you would actually be playing one-octave too low. To play those below the staff tuba notes on bass correctly, you should write them up one-octave to compensate for the transposition of your instrument. The range of the tuba is 2 D's below the bass clef (5 ledger lines) all the way up to a G above the staff (3 ledger lines). If your tuba part goes down to the low D, the most you would need to do is tune your E string down to a D to play it accurately.

    I used to play in a couple of wind ensembles and they would usually give me a tuba part. It took me some time, but I got used to reading those low notes up an octave on the bass. I know that your daughter is 13 years old and asking her to transpose at sight is asking way too much at this point in her musical development.

    Here's what worked for me. At first, I would color in a black dot one-octave above the low notes because there wasn't a lot of preparation time during the rehearsal. The rhythms were easy to read, even in that range, but the black dot helped me adapt the pitches faster. Generally speaking, the tuba parts are not too rhythmically complex at that grade level. So, instead of rewriting the entire part, simply color in a black dot up an octave and follow the rhythms as written (a much easier task). Be careful, don't forget to write in any accidentals (sharps, flats, naturals).

  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    This has been debated ad nauseum. Kinda like the double-Bb tuba doubles the -- uh. Anyhow -- enough chain-pulling.

    Go pick up a stack of manuscript paper and have her copy out her own charts with the transposition. Paper and pencil will run you about $5.
  9. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    If I did that, she'd give the thing up altogether. She's doing it for fun.

    Anyway, problem sorted, she's found another band which has bass parts, and the leader is a bit more sympathetic. So she's having fun, likes the tunes, and feels in demand!

    Thanks for all your suggestions.
  10. Eric_J

    Eric_J Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Flower Mound, TX. USA
    As a former Tuba player, I agree with just writing the notes in an octave higher where needed.

    But if you really need to re-write the part to make it easier for the 13 year old to read. Go to the Finale web site and download the free Notepad. It will allow you to re-write the part the the notes in the proper octaves and print it. It will be easier for her to read than a hand written part.
  11. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    Being in a school orchestra is a great musical and social experience. I got to play all kinds of things I would not have otherwise played.

    I use to "dot up". The process somone else described where you pencil in the note an octave up. Between this and reading piano/vocal/guitar scores that have the bass line at true pitch, I got use to reading stuff in "ledger line hell": way below the secuirty of the "low E" note on the first ledger line below the bass staff.
  12. The Beast

    The Beast

    Jul 19, 2004
    Evil Town
    As a Tuba player, I agree with the recommendation to take everything up an octave. That way she will plat in the correct octave of the part. Its usually easier to read everything an octave up than just certain notes.

    Also, it hurts form ther other end of the spectrum...Tuba players are handed Double Bass parts, especially when playing something written before tubas were invented. So I have to take everything an octave down, and then I have worry about big range jumps that are no problem when I play DB. :eek:
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
  14. Make the copies and hand them to the band director for him to transpose where and how he sees fit.

    The school has the right to copy the original in order to preserve the original.
  15. tuBass


    Dec 14, 2002
    Mesquite, Texas
    I'm a pro tuba player, and I agree with the posts that say you should be taking everything an octave up in order to make it sound in the correct octave.
    As far as tuba range goes, there really isn't any "highest or lowest notes, I'm played several pieces that went below the Low D mentioed earlier, and ever higher that the G above the staff.

    That being said, the "regular" range that anybody is likely going to experience stops at the second E bleow the staff, which would be the lowest note on a 4 string bass. So for 99% of the music out there, just plan on taking everything up. The reason the range stops there is for a long period most evey school tuba only had 3 valves, and the lowest note you could get down to chromatically was an E. Now with 4, 5, 6 and even 7 valve horns, the barriers have been broken down.
  16. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    Well, as a High School Senior, at the end of my Concert Band - Tuba Part Playing days, I must say, I wont miss it. Altho it was good practice, I hated every minute of it. It makes playing such a chore when you have to pop everything up an octive, and then figure out how to get back down in tune. Heh. Well, all I can say, is it is good practice, short of buying a C entension, theres not much you can do except bump around the octives. And even if you have a C entension, it wont help you with those might low Bb's. In closing, I must just say, playing Bass in a concert band is fun, but can be a major bitch as well.
    I know that probably didnt help any... sorry.
  17. Same for me. When I was younger I had to play Tuba notes.
    I hated it, it was so damn hard.

    But now I got 5 string bass, so its easier but, I dont like to play the tuba parts.
  18. Elia


    Apr 12, 2005
    I started as a tuba player, and picked up bass on the side; I'm now majoring in Jazz Bass, but I could have got in as a tuba player as well. Having my musical education on both instruments at the same time helped me a lot, and especially playing in the concert band on bass showed me how they're related. The things that gave me the most trouble tended to be bowings, as the tuba parts often have funky weird rhythm things, especially in the more modern literature (post-1920s, generally). I would recommend learning both! Doubling can be very useful; for example, I played bass for Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat a couple weeks ago, and there's one song there that has a very Traditional Jazz feel, and I brought my tuba down and played that for that song, and it sounded a hundred times better. Also, doubling gives my band directors the option of tone: on our coming concert, I play string bass on all the songs that have parts for it, and on a couple which don't (a side note: many older pieces will have parts for "Basses," with almost everything doubled in octaves: this means that the string bass plays the upper part and the tuba plays the lower, and they come out the same pitch. The string bass open D, for example, is written 3rd line, but sounds below the staff. I can hit D below that on tuba, which is something like 10 ledger lines below, which would be what the bassist with an extention plays when he plays that below-the-staff D on the tuba part.), but there's one song which has some really cool brass chorale stuff going on, and a string bass bow sound would be out of place there. If I only played bass, I might be asked to lay out, but I just play tuba on that song and it's more fun that way, to keep playing (because that's what it's about). Good luck.
  19. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    Just a couple quick notes:

    Transpose everything up an octave, not just those notes under E.

    There are tubas that play below that low E, but not very many tuba parts that do. They're about as common as bass parts that go under E (excluding the occasional cellobass part). At the school band level, I wouldn't expect to see it at all.

    Doubling is cool, but not for everyone. And it's a lot easier to get away with playing db in an apartment than tuba.
  20. Elia


    Apr 12, 2005
    all tubas can play below the E below the bass low E; on old three-valve horns (and new ones;)), however, this is only possible by pedal tones and "ghost tones": notes lower than the instrument can really play, which are achieved with mouth techniques; comparable to tuning down.

    however, most more modern concert horns have at least 4 valves, and so can play real notes down to at least the Bb below that. this is equivalent to an extra string.

    it's true that not many tuba parts do go down below that low E, simply because the bulk of band literature was written before the four-valve horns became the norm. interestingly, the parts that i've played (on tuba) that had those lower notes were arrangements of baroque pieces, usually written for organ, that have been adapted from arrangements for orchestra, i.e. string bass! so you'd be playing a string bass part (which itself is not original), arranged for tuba, on string bass.