Appropriate octaves?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by stevetrom, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    After reading this post from Laserbeam Bass

    'Apparently, Roger Wesbster likes to hear the Sop an octave up wherever possible, and Steve Sykes will be listening for, and wanting as many pedals as possible from the EEb and the BBb basses :biggrin:'

    I have often heard is said, sometimes in adjudicators remarks, that the pedalling was inappropriate.

    When is it OK to take a bass (or bass trom) part down an octave, or for that matter a cornet (or sop) part up an octave?
  2. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    a) Never
    b) when it makes musical sense
    c) because you can
    d) when you've had enough to drink
    e) none of the above
  3. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    a) Never - not an option
    b) when it makes musical sense - that was what i was asking, when does it make musical sense?
    c) because you can - yes and do
    d) when you've had enough to drink - i don't think i've ever had enough - too much is another question
    e) none of the above - or all of them
  4. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    Always Pedal until your MD tells you not to.
    Always Pedal unless the adjudicator plays your instrument
    Never pedal on Bass Trom ;)

    Never go screaming on the Sop unnecessarily, you will kill your lip off
    Always put the last note up at least a third or higher depending on the original pitch, and get louder towards the end to show that you are still there
    When the part is split with little notes in the Sop, always take the higher one, as this will ineviatbaly lead the adjudicator to believe that there are misprints/errata in the score, and that additional notes are missing from his copy
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
  5. P_S_Price

    P_S_Price Member

    BBb - Always Pedal,.

    Sop -alway play an octave higher.

    The composer of the piece obviously knows naff all about brass banding or what they intended the sound of the piece to be; compared to the obviously higher musical appreciation of the occupants of these seats!

  6. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    That is absolutley correct. I know the limitations of my Instrument and my gob, so why shouldn't composers / arrangers :-/
  7. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    As both a bass player and a composer/arranger, here's my two-penneth, for what it's worth.

    Generally speaking on the subject of pedals, My opinion is that a well-played pedal should be such that it's felt rather than heard and merely warms and broadens the sound. In short, if it's obvious, you're doing it wrong.

    There are of course exceptions to this rule, such as the final movement of Suite Gothique where - if the player's low register permits, having one BB playing the entire part down an octave, (and playing prominently) is highly effective. In that case, it is mainly because it's originally an organ piece and adding extra low octaves to the pedal part is long-established practice amongst organists (where the available range of pedal-pipes permits) - plus Eric Ball's transcription balances the basses to allow this to sit nicely when played well.

    In short, musical sympathy is the key to where it works and where it doesn't.

    How this applies to particular chairs (IMHO)

    Eb bass:
    Never actually pedal because you'll sound thin and farty and reedy compared to the same note on a BB - though do be prepared for one Eb to drop the octave and cover a pedalling BB if necessary, particularly if both Eb basses are already written middling/high. Great care is needed with tuning if doing this. But if you're an Eb bass, and you're playing the lowest note in the band, you're wasting the strength of your instrument, which is in it's warmth and colour.

    BBb bass:
    Only ever pedal where the composer has clearly not written with four-valve basses in mind (and has therefore written a lot of unison octaves with the Eb bass) or has compromised the natural curve of phrases based on this limitation, such sending the instrument back up a seventh on a descending scale around the G/F# line below the stave. This particularly applies to older pieces. Even then, utilise great restraint and musical sympathy to avoid adding a heavy feel to purposely lightly-written passages. If the composer has utilisted fourth-valve/pedal register at any point in the piece, or the writing suggests he/she was purposely avoiding such writing, then do as you're told by the music or you risk destroying the balance of the section.

    Basses in general:
    Bass playing is a team game, and if pedals are to be added
    1) they should be on a BB
    2) they should be carefully considered
    3) the rest of the section needs to be sympathetic to the change in balance it will cause.

    Bass trombone:
    See BBb bass (substituting Tenor trombone for Eb Bass on the first line)

    Beang a bass player I naturally have more experience with low brass than high brass, but I'd not consider it unreasonable for a soprano player to mirror a melodic curve up an octave if it was one that they start an octave above the cornets and then drop down an octave to unison due to range concerns on the part of the composer. (Assuming their range can handle it with the required quality of course.) A prime example of this is the tune in the latter half of march On the Quarterdeck Where the front row have a rising figure and crescendo, which the soprano starts an octave above, and then drops off. I have heard players carry on the figure up to what I think is a soprano Top D, and it works very well. (This happens on the recording on Grimethorpe in concert 4) Although adding extra octaves at the top has a lot more definite effect, and is a lot more noticeable than the effect of a pedal at the bottom of a band. As I've said about pedalling, great restraint would be required to make it work effectively - so it's not just a matter of adding extra top-octaves in willy-nilly wherever the player's range allows!!

    Just my thoughts...
  8. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    I would venture to add to that, particularly with Bass Trom a basic knowledge of harmony is helpful; I have heard many a chord sound very odd because a Bass 'bonist decided to drop the octave despite failing to realise that his note wasn't the root of the chord ...
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    "Bass trombone - a more intellectual pursuit than the tuba" - Gareth J. Green
  10. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    :confused: Sorry ?
  11. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Just a little jest...
  12. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    I'm obviously being very slow today ...
  13. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Or I'm not being very funny...
  14. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    A very good point - one I didn't immediately hit on, not being a bass tromboffonist myself. But now you mention it, a lot of trombone chords I've seen written have with the bass trom on the 5th, which would often sound very strange an octave lower than written.

    Thinking on from that, it's also another reason why bass pedals should be carefully considered. Yes, a bass section spends a lot of it's time on the root of the chord - but by no means all of it. And particularly with Eb basses where an interval of a 5th above or 4th below is frequently introduced, (Goff richards and James Curnow do that a lot) dropping an octave in there can make a real muddy mess of things. Chords on BBs are rarer, but by no means unknown, Wilby's St Clement arrangement ends with a parallel 5th on a low D and middle A for the BBs - and dropping both those two an octave removes any notion of a note and merely produces a rather nasty growling noise....

    One could also add "Chasing cars" and "fetching sticks" with equal validity..... ;)
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
  15. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    So what it really boils down to is whether the purveyor of pedal notes is actually a musician who can identify notes/sections in a piece that could benefit from having a pedal dropped in, or someone who does it because they feel it is there right to do so, regardless of it fits or not.
  16. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    But the bass note isn't necessarily the root of the chord, e.g. chord inversions.
  17. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    True. I should perhaps have said: " ... failing to realise that his note wasn't the bass of the chord ... "

    ... although, then again, I may well be confused here (long time since my undergrad harmony lessons) but isn't there an argument for saying that in, say a 1st inversion the 3rd becomes the root ... ???
  18. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    No, the root doesn't change because of an inversion. Your revised wording makes sense though. You're right to say that bass trombonists shouldn't attempt to play an octave lower than written if it's not the same note that the basses are playing. I agree they'd be well advised not to tamper with their part for the reasons you give.
  19. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Out of interest, Brian, (and not entirely unrelated to the thread topic!), have you heard the new Dyke recording of "Southern Cross" etc., and if so what do you think?
  20. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Active Member

    I'm often asked if I prefer writing for brass or wind bands. Well, I love both, but have to admit I quite like the innovative approach that wind bands take in actually playing the written notes............


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