Tenor vs Treble/ Solo tuning vs standard

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Notaluthier, Apr 12, 2022.

  1. Notaluthier

    Notaluthier

    Oct 7, 2021
    Hello bassists of talkbass, I have been trying to learn Koussevitzkys double bass concerto for a while and all of the standard tuning transcriptions I have found change from bass to tenor to treble multiple times per page which I find very difficult to read (I need to work on tenor). But I have also found many versions for “solo tuning” ( I know that solo tuning is F# B E A), These are much easier to read being in treble clef. Is there anything I have to change to play the solo tuned version in standard tuning?
     
  2. PaulCannon

    PaulCannon

    Jan 24, 2002
    Frankfurt, Germany
    NS Design / AER Endorsing Artist
    In theory, the notes should be the same no matter what. An orchestral tuning edition would have a transposed piano part, but the bass part is the same.
     
  3. Notaluthier

    Notaluthier

    Oct 7, 2021
    Thank you for the clarification
     
  4. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
    I'm not a classical player, but why don't we just go from bass to treble clef and bypass tenor?
     
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  5. Ludwig

    Ludwig

    Aug 17, 2006
    Germany
    It is the same as with cello, all 3 notations are used. Usualy the part should stay as long as possible in one notation and avoid too many ledger lines. The C notation was used with the C on any of the lines, but only the alto and tenor C notation seems to have survived until today. Just using bass and treble clef seems to be restricted to piano notation. An other kind to notate is the 8 above or below the lines notating the part is played an octave up or down from notation. Our double bass standard notation is played one octave lower then notated, instead of the tenor notation, you could remove the 8 to play as notated. All very confusing and developed over centuries...
     
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  6. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    It's just tradition, and modern editors not having the courage to change it. I'm very tempted to produce modern editions of the standard repertoire (Koussevitsky, Bottessini, Dragonetti etc) in bass and trble clef only, but it's finding time! All of my adult class complain about having to learn 3 clefs, and it really is pretty pointless
     
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  7. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
    I recently came across a printed version of the Bottesini Elegy in just bass and treble clefs. It was much easier to decipher and explain to students. Not having to go through the whole "why tenor clef" discussion saved a lot of time and frustration.
     
  8. neilG

    neilG

    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    One reason is that paper used to be expensive. Ledger lines use up more paper. More clefs can get rid of ledger lines. There's no good reason to use tenor clef any more, IMO. I've seen at least one piece for viola da gamba that used 4 different clefs.
     
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  9. s van order

    s van order

    Oct 4, 2012
    Delaware
    As a cello player too, I find all three clefs have good use in avoiding ledger lines. And I like marking with 8va and 8vb too for changing octaves on the fly, like when repeating the head but just up or down an octave. It’s nice to play instruments with such wide ranges that we need three clefs!
     
  10. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
    That's why just bass and treble make more sense IMO. So often, especially in the solo lit, there are so many ledger lines in tenor anyway. It unnecessarily complicates things.
     
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  11. s van order

    s van order

    Oct 4, 2012
    Delaware
    Oh well, that’s how they taught us. :)
     
  12. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
    Same with me. Trying to explain it to students is what really got me thinking about the whole issue. It didn't make sense to them and I realized finally that it really didn't to me, either.:)
     
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  13. ILIA

    ILIA

    Jan 27, 2006
    Caprica
    Have you seen the no-tenor-clef version by Isaac Trapkus?
    https://s9.imslp.org/files/imglnks/usimg/b/b7/IMSLP564333-PMLP13676-koussevitzky-no-tenorclef.pdf

    When I get students that whine about tenor clef, I give them the Isaac Trapkus version. And then, of course, they whine about the ledger lines (for example in the 2nd mvt, from mm. 38 to 39).
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2022
  14. s van order

    s van order

    Oct 4, 2012
    Delaware
    Comparing my cello vs bass experiences: with cello I started to pay in tenor pretty early on, e.g. the Vivaldi cello sonatas are in tenor. The intermediate/advanced solo repertoire taught seems much based in tenor with forays down into bass and up into treble. You can forget you have a C string. And unlike standard-tuned bass, because cellos are in fifths, you can play in tenor right away by reading it as if bass clef but play it on the next string up. Eventually it’s good to shake that but if I brain cramp on low notes in tenor clef, that resets me. I do agree with you, just bass and treble could get it done.
     
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  15. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
    One of my attempts to explain use of tenor is because it is used for cello parts and all they have to do is move up a string. It is an explanation but not one that helps with bass students. They still hate it.
     
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  16. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
  17. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    Death to That Clef!
    IMFO, of course.
    Thanks.
     
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  18. ILIA

    ILIA

    Jan 27, 2006
    Caprica
    I'm not going to speak for Isaac, because he is a talkbass contributor (or was, at least), and he will hopefully chime in on his own arrangement. That's if he wants to take the time out of his full-time schedule playing the bass with the New York Philharmonic, to engage in bass talking with us.

    Regardless, I'm glad that Isaac made this arrangement, because it shuts up the few students that I get who whine about tenor clef. (At least it gets them to shut up about tenor clef, and they might get back to playing the bass.)


    I have noticed that living contemporary composers in general, are not writing new pieces in tenor clef for bass (solos or orchestra). So, they are one step ahead of you. As for the old standard stuff, unless someone makes good tenor-clef-less editions of the old solo warhorses, and the major orchestral publishers start making mistake-free orchestral parts that orchestras (and their librarians and their principals will adopt), we are stuck with tenor clef, even if the newer stuff coming out doesn't use it.


    We've all thought this at one time or another. And after many many decades, no one really makes an effort to make good new editions without tenor clef (with some notable exceptions like the Trapkus Koussevitzky), and you know why?

    1) When anyone tries to make a tenor-clef-less version of standard solo bass repertoire, they find out that the ledger lines, 8va markings, and switches from bass<> clef introduce new problems that are just as onerous as tenor clef
    2) we have better things to do, like play the bass, than make tenor-clef-less editions. Like you say, it's simply not worth the time
    3) pointing out the obsolete-ness of tenor clef and so we should get rid of it is like saying we she should abandon pianos because they are not intuitive interfaces for music written after the Viennese common practice period (17th-18th century tonality)
    4) but most importantly, tenor clef ain't rocket science, it ain't higher math, it ain't like writing new operating systems, it ain't like learning Mandarin. If someone puts in just a little bit of time & energy, students can become fluent in tenor clef. But first they need to shut up about tenor clef, and we as teachers need to stop enabling some students' tenor clef helplessness
     
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  19. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
    Of course it's not that big a deal in the overall scheme of things. It's just something that can be somewhat difficult to justify from a logical perspective and explanation can actually lead to enlightenment but it does take some time and thought. Can anyone give a meaningful explanation of tuning temperaments in two minutes? I can't. It's somewhat the same type of explanation if it's going to take the time to do with much hope of understanding. To me, "Shut up and do it", or words to that effect, doesn't get it.JMO
     
  20. ILIA

    ILIA

    Jan 27, 2006
    Caprica
    If they want easy logic, give them this.

    That first ledger line above the tenor clef staff is a "G" which is THE most important note in thumb position repertoire. That G is a fingerboard topography landmark, both for beginners and professionals. It is a compositional landmark, since so much of our bass solo rep is based around that G. It is the logical division between thumb position and lower positions for most double bass methodologies, especially Vance, Rabbath, & Simandl. From a pure technique point of view, the "G" is the launching point and grounding point for thumb position, which adds stability and familiarity as a student explores thumb position. Same thing applies to pros. Our idiomatic mapping of notes on the bass revolve around that "G."

    And how would it be notated in tenor clef? It would be on the first ledger line above the tenor clef staff. Just like a piano grand staff where the first ledger line above bass clef (middle C) signifies a division between the two halves of the piano, the first ledger line above tenor clef signifies the division between the two halves of the double bass. Logical!!! Just like the first line above bass clef in the grand staff is the "grounding," "foundational," & "launching point" for the right hand who is in charge of the melody, the first line above the tenor clef staff accomplishes the exact same thing, a special notated representation of the double bass "grounding," "foundational," & "launching point" for the melodic part of the bass.

    Logical!!!! Obvious!!!! And you can't get that kind of immediate clarity by notating it in either treble clef of bass clef. This explanation takes about two minutes. It's not a proper explanation, because it's pure coincidence, but for those students who are looking for logic, and a justification for having to learn treble clef, this is the logic of tenor clef. After you give them this 2-minute spiel, then they should no longer think that tenor clef is getting in their way (unless the teacher has enabled them to be helpless and in that case, that's another discussion).
     
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