1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Wind Ensemble Vs. String Orchestra?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by BassNoob1, Dec 18, 2010.

  1. BassNoob1


    Dec 18, 2010
    I'm playing bass in my school's wind ensemble. I've never played in a classical ensemble before, only my school's jazz ensembles. I wanted to know if there was a big difference between playing in a wind ensemble and playing in a string orchestra.
  2. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    The great thing about playing the double bass is that you can play in just about any combo and/or style.

    You'll find the personalities of string players quite different than wind players. While there are exceptions, each instrument seems to attract a certain type of personality. It why bass players usually get along so well and a group of violinists is like having several cats in the house.

    The Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra is a rather accurate description. (Here's the transcript, I don't know where to find the music to it.)

    That being said, all music requires some of the same performing elements - playing in time with correct rhythm, feeling, intonation, listening to others, etc, etc, etc.

    Hope this helps.
  3. Dbass926


    Jun 20, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    Primarily, the goal of school wind ensemble is to teach blending and uniformity. The aim of orchestra is more towards developing a beautiful string section sound and you will find it is much more stimulating and exciting to be in a group of like instruments than fighting to be heard in wind ensemble.
  4. Marton


    Sep 20, 2005
    Take the strings orchestra if you can, it's great to works with other strings player. You can learn much about playing your instrument, IME.
  5. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I started very much the same way. Playing in jazz band and a wind band. It wasnt until I played in an orchestra that I realized that dynamic markings below f actually mean something. If you have the opportunity, you should play in a string group. Playing in both groups will help you in certain ways. The orchestra will help you learn to play together and blend with a section while the wind band will help you gain the confidence of playing by yourself (I am assuming) and producing a full sound.
  6. I find this sentiment to be true.

    I play in the Concert Band (wind ensemble) at school, as well as in a Youth Orchestra.
    In the Concert Band, I'm always struggling to be heard, especially because I have to fight the lower brass and the electric bassist. When we play, I'm usually sitting the bass in front of a mic, but because of where the speakers are, (or where the amp sits, if we use that instead) I can't hear myself; only the audience [potentially] can. This makes it difficult to intonate, and to know if I'm blending well.

    With the Youth Strings (we're one of four groups in the program; ours has no other instruments than strings), I can always hear myself, and I can more easily execute dynamics. However, the Strings comprises more beginners, so our overall tuning and intonation is weak.

    In the Concert Band, the pieces tend to be more difficult than those of the particular String group, but I presume you would join a group that is closer to your skill level. (I took up the double bass about two months ago, but I know how to read music and my theory because I have been playing bass guitar and tenor sax in school)

    Ultimately I like playing in both groups, but I must say I do like to be heard. :p
  7. slightly OT- I always played in orchestras at school, and never in bands, so I didn't know what to expect. Once, at Boston Conservatory, I was asked to play the contrabassoon part in the wind ensemble. The clarinet sounded the tuning note...I thought "that's a really high A"...cranked up my strings...and at the downbeat blasted a strong E natural under the first Eb chord of a Schumann octet.
  8. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    I think that there's a big difference between playing in String orchestra and Wind ensemble, but both have rewards and benefits.

    As a double bass player in University, I've played with several wind ensembles, including the student wind ensemble at a previous university. When you, as a bass player, play with a wind ensemble, You have to think less about getting yourself heard per se, and think more about blending with the low brass and woodwinds who you'll be doubling. If you can do this, both you and your music director will likely be happier, because let's face it: you'r not going to be heard over the rest of a wind ensemble unless you're blasting and creating bad sound, or you're playing too loudly in a quiet section. Bass is a colour in the ensemble, and if the composer really wants you to be heard he'll show it.

    In a String ensemble or orchestra setting, things are different. instead of competing with the tuba and low bass/woodwinds, you are the main bass function of the ensemble for the most part (this of course is a generalization, but we're speaking in generalizations here). You are also most often a part of a section, which means there are several bassists doing the same thing, whereas in Jazz and wind ensembles, there is generally just you (in wind ensemble, you may have an electric bassist as well, but that's another can of worms altogether).

    So my personal experience in these ensembles is:

    -blend and support whomever you are playing with (either the tubist or the other bassists)

    - follow the dynamics. they'll tell you if you need to change.

    - figure out what other sections you're playing with, and support them

    maybe i'm just thinking too much here. thoughts?

  9. I don't have enough orchestra experience to add anything more to playing in an orchestra, but I will add to playing in a wind ensemble.

    The same rules apply where you should know your part as best you can and you follow the conductor's instructions. Assuming you can do that:

    -Show up to rehearsal early to set-up and tune. If you are given a sounding A at all, usually the player giving it won't play it long enough for you to tune your entire instrument, and the conductor doesn't usually want to wait around for one person to tune. If there is a tuning A, then use it to quickly make sure you are still in tune.

    -Place yourself away from the back toward the front of the stage next to higher pitched instruments to ensure you project without being covered up immediately, and that your sound has less distance to travel before it hits the audience. Also, face the top as much toward the audience while you are still capable of seeing the conductor.

    -When playing tuba parts you are just adding color to the sound. I like to play every note as low on the bass as I can to ensure I have as much string vibrating as possible. Also, keep in mind musical sense. Sometimes it just doesn't fit to go from the Eb in half position on the D string all the way to the open E string. When playing contrabassoon parts, try and play everything as written for the bass, and the sections that are written beyond the bass's written register should be brought an octave up. Still try and keep as much linear movement as you can if there is any. This might mean you have to play certain things that you are capable of playing as written up an octave.

    -Fingerings and bowings are all up to you, rarely will anyone or the music give you any, so be as efficient and consistent as possible with them for your own sake.

    -If you have a part where you need to pizz., you're going to have to be more aggressive than when you're in an orchestra. Instead of a big group of basses, it's just you. Also, unless otherwise notated in the music, don't make the string slap against the fingerboard. Think more of a jazz style to pizzicato. Also, in band marches where you are given a tuba part you should pizzicato certain sections if not the whole thing. Ask your conductor about this when you get the music or after/before rehearsal.

    -Finally, if you feel you are hurting yourself trying to play loud enough, check your technique with your private teacher, then think about changing your bass and/or set-up. It was not fun back in high school to have been playing at the ceiling of my and the school's crappy plywood bass's capabilities and still having the conductor yell "MORE BASS! MORE BASS!"
  10. I agree, however, when I play with my wind ensemble, I can't even hear myself intonate, which tends to be a problem. I think that my particular problem is that the low brass tends to play too loudly in general, as the saxophones often struggle to be heard as well. Another issue may be that the electric bassist is constantly playing on his fifth string, to a degree where the director with chide him for it. I haven't got a problem with five string basses, as I think the lower notes sound great in some spots, however, it completely kills whatever chance I have of being heard over an instrument that is playing the same notes that I am and has a similar tone colour, but lower.

    The bass section (that's the tuba, baritone, trombones (5), bass clarinet, electric bass and double bass) leader, the electric bassist, doesn't hold sectionals like the other leaders do, so what I intend to do is host them in his place so I can work on balance and blend with the rest of the section. :)
  11. BassNoob1


    Dec 18, 2010
    Wow guys, thanks for the responses! :) The string ensemble at my school is, unfortunately, rather suckish. There are a few very good, serious players, but the rest don't really take the class seriously and most are freshman just trying to get their required fine-arts credit. The teacher is great, though. I do respect the good players in the group a lot though, especially because of what they have to deal with. I know a very good cellist who is always complaining about it. I feel bad for him.

    Anyways, I'm never fighting to be heard in wind ensemble. The sound of the bass is so different than any of the other instruments that it cuts through. And the bass isn't meant to stick out a ton, so that's all I really need.

    The thing is, I actually started out playing trumpet in 6th grade. I switched to bass last year when the bassist in the jazz band dropped and we had no other bassists. I decided to take up my teacher's offer of learning the bass and soon got on some lessons. I love it now and no longer play trumpet. That being said, I was "raised" in a wind band and feel very at-home in that ensemble. I don't know very many kids in the orchestra and the wind ensemble is far more advanced than the orchestra is. We're playing songs like Lincolnshire Posy and Ghost Train, where as the orchestra recently played things like Jingle Bells and Carol of the Night, less advanced songs.

    On another note, electric bass in a classical ensemble? I've never heard of that. What kind of stuff do you play?
  12. Our school has no strings program, so they usually have guitarist-converts play the electric bass. The orchestra I play with is outside of school and does not have any electric instruments.

    This year, so far we have played:

    At our school's Commencement:
    -O Canada
    -Pomp and Circumstance

    At the Winter Arts Night/at a local church/school assembly:
    -O Canada
    -Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
    -Christmas Magic (a medley of Christmas tunes)
    -EQUINOX (Overture for Band)

    Now we're beginning to prepare pieces for a competition in March. We play mostly classical pieces/songs arranged for band, with the exception of Birdland.
  13. BassNoob1


    Dec 18, 2010
    Very interesting, I can't say I've ever seen that done before! I play the electric bass during marching season, but during concert season I switch over to upright.
  14. I don't play in the band at my school, but when the strings orchestra the symphonic band come together, the band members play fortissimo the entire time, empty their spit reservoirs all over our floors and talk to one another in the middle of a piece.
  15. JohnStamos


    Apr 7, 2010
    I know of very few paying wind ensembles, if any, and you should stop wasting your time there, and get practicing real music for real jobs if you intend to become a professional musician.
  16. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    Most modern concert band music actually has a dedicated part for upright or double bass. It is real music. It is a real ensemble. It is a real concert. Practicing all music helps in the long run, both the musicality and the experience of performance in a formal setting. This comment was out of line.
  17. Granted, there are exceptions, but for starters, overall:
    You'll learn more about bass in an orchestra.
    You'll learn more about interpretation, finesse, detail, subtlety, and dynamics in an orchestra.
    You're in sharp keys more often than flat keys in an orchestra.
    You're in flat keys more than sharp keys in a band.
    Band repertoire is more modern, with more odd time signatures and rapid changes. Counting can be very difficult.

    All this will vary with the level of the group and the conductor.

    The guy that gets called back is the guy that can handle whatever is thrown at him. The way to become a complete musician is to experience both.

    I play in both a symphony and a concert band, and enjoy what each has to offer.
    Forced to choose, the symphony is more rewarding to me.
  18. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    +1 to what Don said.
  19. buddyro57

    buddyro57 me and PJ (living with the angels now)

    Apr 14, 2006
    Cedar Falls Iowa
    I played in wind ensemble in grad school and found the experience fulfilling. The double bass has its own voice and provides a very important function in that group- especially in works with an actual DB part. I can admit that doubling the tuba on marches is not the most fulfilling activity, but hey, I guess it gets your ledger line reading in shape.
    I did not notice a radical difference from playing in orchestra; instead of listening to the celli and other bassists in the section, I would key in on the bassoons, bass clar, and low brass.
    I'd do it again if I had the opportunity.
  20. Bit of an off-topic comment real quick, but I feel like I know your name from somewhere.

    Moreover, and to the topic again: I know nothing about paid performances, really, but I do know that any musical experience should further you down the road as a musician.

    One of my teachers told me this: "Anything that gets experience under your belt is what you want. Whether you're playing in Carnegie Hall or you're playing in some dump in Singapore or whatever. Try to play with as many people and as much music as possible."