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Question about playing Pit

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by rake, Apr 20, 2005.


  1. rake

    rake

    May 4, 2004
    Michigan
    So, I'm playing DB in the pit for a local performance of The King and I. My question is, hows does one combat the problem of tuning in the Pit? There is a lot of switching between pizz and arco, and when I play arco, I tend to go sharp. Intonation is really important (like always, i guess) because this style of music already sounds a little off (minor fifths and such). If anyone could give me some advice, that would be swell.

    Thanks,
    Ryan
     
  2. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    I'm doing my first pit orchestra on bass for The Secret Garden. I've been using an OnBoard clip-on tuner in the room where the cases are kept. Once in the pit, it's usually too noisy to tune by harmonics and the tuner goes crazy when everybody hits their A at once. I'll grab the tuner between acts, when everybody has gone out.

    Add to that, we have a keyboard that always seems to be a bit off...frequently sharp...we just have to ignore that, because it's higher than some players' ears can adapt to.

    Otherwise, if your bass holds its tuning okay, it's a matter of having big ears and making some on-the-fly adjustments and compromises. For example, the cello and bass clarinet weren't in tune with each other, yet we played similar lines. No easy answer for how to play in tune in the pit, but adjusting the instrument's tuning isn't the answer.
     
  3. rake

    rake

    May 4, 2004
    Michigan
    well, tonight was the first night for the play. it went really well, I played G,D, and A closed, and listened really hard. The only thing that was noticably out of tune was the occasional high a or open e (when played just with tuba or piano)

    I keep a tuner hooked up to my PU the whole time, so I can see where I am when we're going. I have to tune myself before and during intermission, because I'm the only string player, everyone elses uses Bb...

    good fun anyway, thanks for the reply.
     
  4. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    Ahhh...the pickup makes it easier...keeping a tuner on the bass or amp should be helpful, along with your ears.

    My URB parts are only acoustic, playing along with cello, viola, violin, 2 keys, clarinet/bass clarinet, oboe/english horn, flute, trumpet & trombone. Odd thing is, usually the electronic keys are the problem instruments for overall pitch.
     
  5. Don't fall into the trap of tuning by eye. How absurd! Does that help you play in tune with other out of tune instruments? Arrive early, tune with the bow and a tuning fork. It's important to know how your bass reacts to climactic changes. Theaters are usually kept rather cool then warm-up over the course of a show due to the presence of the audience and the stage lights. I know, for eg., that around 1/2 or 3/4 of the way through the first act my bass will be a little flat. I either discreetly retune and before I get the opportunity I use my ear and fingering the notes slightly higher up the fingerboard.
     
  6. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    Mmmmm...I hope it didn't sound like I was endorsing playing while watching the tuner...just that having it hooked up can be convenient for quick tuning when there's a chance to.

    Definitely use the ears, not only for climate change on your bass but what happens to other instruments you're working with as the temp changes and the show continues.
     
  7. rake

    rake

    May 4, 2004
    Michigan
    Its not getting the strings in tune that is a problem (normally I tune by ear to a piano, but the piano is on the other side of the pit). The problem is accounting for the difference between pizz and arco. My part is split roughly half and half between the two, and its hard to decide if I should tune with my bow, leaving pizz flat, or tuning with pizz, making arco sharp. I usually come about 1.5 hours early, bring my bass down, play a few scales and excercises with fingers and bow and leave it down there for a while to let it get used to the climate, so as the night progresses, I only go a hair flat.
     
  8. I would suggest that the the arco notes will be clearer and may also cut through better, so I would tune with the bow, and let the pizz be what it may.

    This is why many people maintain that you can improve your intonation with bow practice, because the true pitches are easier to hear, and any lack of intonation tends to be more obvious.