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University Jazz Studies Programs and the seemingly Upright Audition Bias

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by burns_isaac, Aug 21, 2012.


  1. burns_isaac

    burns_isaac

    Jun 5, 2010
    As I've been researching schools with good jazz programs I've noticed that in most cases an electric audition is totally out of the question(with the exception of UNT who lets you make the transition in school as you go) and I'm wondering why this is? Since many high schools and community colleges do not offer orchestra programs you would think that more universities would allow electric players to audition their knowledge of jazz and desire to become professional on electric. Isn't that the point of the audition? To see how hard the candidate has worked on his preparing of audition material, level of technical proficiency, current knowledge of the jazz language, and his role in the rhythm section? It seems that the instrument should be secondary to the knowledge of the language. Wouldn't an educator want an electric player who has spent many shed hours studying jazz and has the desire to study upright alongside gaining the knowledge of the language? I just don't understand the logic here? Can someone please explain?
     
  2. melodiaopus

    melodiaopus Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I have been living this same frustration for years. Even as a jazz studies major, where there were no bass intructors. Don't ever go to Chico State and major in Music. I think that the electric bass gets a bad rep since most jazzers feel that the tone of a electric bass and lack of expressive sound just doesn't make since in a formal jazz setting. Though I do understand this, but at the same time it's hard being an electric player with minimal Upright experience to really get it. I found that if you're going to be a bass player, especially focusing on jazz you should learn both. Play both in the genre, since traditionally electric has been more suited for motown, funk, rock, etc... etc... whereas upright has been around for hundreds of years. Especially with jazz music. I don't play upright, but I get why jazzers want this tone. It's historically true to jazz music (upright bass). Though I do play a lot of jazz gigs, mostly reading written lines. I find that there sometimes lacks a certain vibe to a trio when I play electric bass. I feel a little embarrased since I know what I'm doing sounds good and is within the style and historically correct (note wise), but you lose a certain expression when you play jazz (tradional jazz) without an upright. I don't know it was a large struggle for me in college since I tried out a lot of for Jazz Combo's and they never picked me because I didn't play upright. Though I did get on with a pretty smokin' fusion group in college. I understand it from an academia stand point, but that's why I chose to apply to Berklee College of Music. They seem to be understanding and have moved on to the now and find a place for electric bass in jazz. Damn, listen to Tom Kennedy on electric or Jeff Berlin. The **** they are playing is fire and totally consider and teach jazz electric bass just as important. But I imagine that like UNT or California Institute of the Arts won't consider an electric bass player not to come to the otherside of Upright.

    I also feel that if you're really serious about playing bass and jazz music that maybe it's time to fork out the cash and get an Upright and dedicate yourself to it. I haven't yet, since I'm a broke ass hobo right now, trying to save up for Berklee. This is just my 2cents and my realization to this bias thinking within Academia of jazz studies at colleges and universities.
     
  3. burns_isaac

    burns_isaac

    Jun 5, 2010
    Most major universities wont allow an electric audition even if the student seriously wants to pursue upright. UNT does allow electric auditions but you cannot graduate on electric. They require 2 years of classical private study and then you can move on to jazz lesson but during the classical lessons period you are still attending all the courses for the Jazz Studies degree. I know a gentleman who got into UNT on electric and in 2 years was the One O'Clock Lab Band bassist and held that position for 2 years. That is a huge role to fill. To be the bassist of arguably the best big band in the world! To me that is proof that an accomplished electric player can make the transition and be successful. Why haven't more universities followed in their footsteps?
     
  4. edfriedland

    edfriedland

    Sep 14, 2003
    Austin, TX
    It is a shame in this day and age that electric bass has not been fully accepted in academic jazz programs. Personally, I think it's good to expose electric players to upright, but to make it a requirement to graduate is kind of extreme. Academia is a strange world, and in many ways I think it is incompatible with jazz. But... It exists. Electric bassists in straight ahead jazz are used to the discrimination, but there are many that rise above.

    As a doubler and a teacher, I think the discrimination stems from the fact that MOST electric bassists are not jazz savvy. While many are, a tenor sax player has no way of knowing that when you walk in to set up for the gig. We all look alike - potential Geddy Lee clones showing up on a standards gig. If you walk in with an upright, they are likely to assume you are a jazz player - not necessarily a GOOD one, but I truly believe many jazzers would rather have an inferior upright player over a better electric player. Insane.

    The other factor is sound. Many electric players don't know how to get the instrument to sound good in a jazz context. Many have never played an instrument where the only tone control available is your hands. Of course hands are just as important with electric, but all those knobs and button tend to overshadow that fact. Electric bass IS an acoustic instrument - just not a loud one. There are several ways to make electric bass sound "right" in an acoustic jazz setting, then of course, you have to play twice as good to be seen as an equal by the Jazz Gestapo.

    It's too bad for the generation of players that might want to study at the college level but don't want to learn upright. Of course, Berklee has always been on top of it, lots of electric bass majors there, MI, LAMA, Players School... There are choices, but most university jazz programs still treat the "Fender" like a second class instrument.
     
  5. For those old enough to remember, did this bias start in the 1980's with the 'acoustic revival' in jazz?

    Much jazz taught in Universities focus on the be-bop - hard bop era (roughly 1945-65), not so much on swing before it, nor so much on the 70's electric experiments with rock and funk. The sound there is all double bass. In some ways it is a study in period music, like baroque music where they want harpsichords not pianos, lutes not nylon string guitars.
     
  6. Will Kelly

    Will Kelly

    Mar 3, 2010
    TX
    Well, it may not help you, but both the University of Texas at San Antonio and St. Mary's University in San Antonio Texas will let you get a music performance/ jazz studies degree with electric bass as your principle.

    I think it has to do with the instructors as well. The bass instructor at both of those schools is the same individual, Jim Kalson, a monster electric bass player, and one hell of a jazz musician.

    Look around, you might find what you're looking for.
     
  7. tkozal

    tkozal

    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    I think there's a guy over on the DB side from U of Arizona or some place that has a program where you can do electric..
     
  8. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    The DB requirement culls the heard. :D
     
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I see what you did there....
     
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You want to complain about a place with a REAL anti BG bias, try the NY Phil.....
     
  11. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    The double bass has more a lot more sonic potential, why limit yourself?
     
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Jazz bass school without upright would be like going to Italian culinary institute without cooking pasta, or art school without learning to sketch. I kick myself that I waited 20 years to learn the upright and missed the opportunity to study music performance in college (I majored in theory/history instead). Don't limit yourself!

    Once you have your degree and become a pro then you can decide exactly what to play and on which instrument, electric only if that's the sound you hear in your head, moving the art form forward.
     
  13. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    More than an over-priced boutique bass through a Wah-Wah and Big Muff? :eek:
     
  14. Bravo! Numero uno!!
     
  15. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    On a serious note...

    One cannot (nor could've) relied on the Public School System to provide the enrichment to prep someone to compete in the elite music schools. One would've needed to seek out private instruction and involvement in more serious music programs. Unless one grows up in a LARGE city, those resources are hard to come by. Or, if one is lucky enough to have had parents to make long trips to "where it's at". Otherwise, it will be difficult to catch up.

    There are MORE than plenty of over-qualified high school senior-aged kids (that were more than likely home-schooled, with a daily 5+ hour music schedule) coming from all over the world to fill the real music schools.

    On to Electric Bass. There is not a deep history of music literature. Jazz in the top music schools is rather new - and that is on Double Bass. There is an elitism that is slow to accept and change in these institutions.

    As far as the instrument being secondary to the language? That's going to be another hard road. The Jazz academic mindset doesn't really include, harpsichord, oboe, flute, timpani, nor electric bass.

    Although I detest the "for profit" schools, such as MI, LA Music Academy, etc., that may be the only route if what you seek is an EB degree. Although, those degrees teeter on being worthless (although exceedingly expensive).

    My advice: play the DB, follow the requirements of the schools. Or, get out in the world and cut your own path.
     
  16. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Especially more, through a Wah-Wah and Big Muff. :D
     
  17. My question to the OP is this: Why are you going to music college? Are you going in order to get a degree so that it will look good in potential jazz employment situations? In that case, you might as well pick up the DB but first find a college that lets you "transition" as some have said.

    But if you are going to simply become as knowledgeable as you can about music theory, band dynamics, etc., you don't NEED to go to a music college. I have spent the last three years (in addition to another four where I wasn't quite as serious), usually four to five hours per day studying music theory and other four or more hours per day playing the bass with people or recording it in my own music project setting.

    Honestly, I know that there is more music theory to learn, but as I dug deeper and deeper, I started to realize that I DO have the knowledge that SOME people with higher degrees in music composition have. I am not boasting, but instead I am illustrating a point.

    I work with a guitarist quite often who studied composition at a local university with a prestigious music program. Quite frankly, I have to end up explaining things to him 90% of the time. So clearly, it is not the be all and end all of music training.

    Also, how about just getting a private music composition tutor. Back in the day, budding composers would study one-on-one with older composers to learn Harmony, Analysis, and Counterpoint. And of course, now-a-days, they would learn jazz technique too!

    So consider your entire set of options and best of luck. Seriously!
     

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