Bass players, dear oh dear!!........

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Shaggy, Apr 17, 2006.

  1. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    ...... there is one expressive marking I dread seeing on a bass part as I peer over from the drum stool, "a la string bass" or instructions of a similar type.This direction written a piece of music has the same type of effect on bass players that is normally ascribed to the incredible hulk when he gets angry, or the effects of the famous secret potion on Dr Jekyll.

    Watching the ensuing contortions that sadly always go with a bass players desparate bid to fulfill the composers directions would be highly amusing if it was not so ****** depressing. I watch with a sense of resignation as the bass players in front of me start to show the usual symptoms associated with this incurable malady or "contrabass delusionis maximus" to give it its full medical latin name. The eyes start to bulge, cheeks puff out, the face turns deep purple,spit starts squirting out of the mouth piece at crazy angles,the elbows start to flap up and down like some ancient jurrassic beast that has long ago lost the ability to get airborn,the hips and knees start to jerk up and down. The sound produced as a result of this bizzar ritual is similar to a farting hippo after a heavy night out on Shipstones.

    What makes bass players think that this is the right sound to make to imitate a string bass? Who told them it was a good sound? who are the brass teachers and conductors responsible for the creation of this appalling racket?

    I wonder if many tuba players have ever stopped and listened to a string bass player and appreciate what he is trying to do? I very much doubt it! Let me try to explain.

    The first thing to understand is that depending on the style of the piece or the period it was written the type of "string bass" effect required will differ. Earlier types of jazz or swing style may well lend themselves to a more staccato jerky type of playing, unfortunately this seems to be the only setting available in most tuba players brains.Any swing or jazz type arrangement based on a style post 1940 or therabouts DOES NOT NEED A FARTING HIPPO!!!.

    The secret to understanding what is required is looking at what the string bass player (a good one at any rate) is trying to do.The string bass, in the context I am talking about is plucked with the first finger of the right hand, played badly or by a beginner this produces a gappy staccatto sound, a sound which string bass players spend their lives running away from. What a great bass player is trying to produce from this plucking effect is, suprise suprise, a LEGATO SOUND. Yes LEGATO!!!! not a farting hippo.

    Speaking as a former jazz piano player, the first thing I want to hear from my bass player is a smooth silky legato sound, subtley underpinning the music while at the same time providing a round soft pulse to push the music along. This style of string bass playing has been standard since the 1940's up to the present day, covering many styles of light music, much of which finds its way in to the brass band repartoire only to be butcherd by flatulent red faced tuba players!

    Any of you bass players who want to hear what is it you are supposed to be trying to do when faced with this "string bass" marking need only have a listen to players like Ray Brown,Neils Henning Orsted Pedersen,Marc Johnson,John Pattitucci or Gene Wright.

    So, next time you see that marking lads and lasses,take a chill pill and try to get a nice swinging groove going.

    TIMBONE Active Member

    Yes. A nice laid back attack, and don't forget the instant decay on each note.
  3. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I'm always battling with the rest of the section to get them to lengthen the notes when marked "a la pizzicato": as has been said, it needs a gentle push on the start of the note, with a little resonance before tailing away. We recently featured Wes Kendrick's arrangement of "Chanson de Matin" where it worked quite well, but he tends to write the EEbs with more sustained notes, so it was only me for the pizzicato effect ;)
  4. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    Recommended listening on the subject:- Oscar Peterson "Night Train" (Ray Brown on bass) Bill Evans "Live in Paris" (Marc Johnson on bass) "The Trio" Oscar Peterson/Ray Brown/Joe Pass.Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" (Paul Chambers on bass)
  5. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    Sorry Lads and Lasses, what was I thinking of?? not including some top Brit players?? very poor show on my part. OK, here goes "Mexican Green" Tubby Hayes (Ron Matheson on bass) "Captain Adventure" Stan Tracey (Dave Green on bass) "Genuine Dud" Dudley Moore (Pete McGurk on bass)
  6. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Active Member

    Hate doing quazi pizz. Always have tubafran having a go at us B flats saying we're not doing it properly.
  7. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    We are all suffering from decay of some sort, only mine is long and drawn-out :biggrin:
  8. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    Blimey Daniel!! you wont get far in this world taking advice from Francis thats for sure.
  9. HSB

    HSB Member

    A technique I've seen work well before is to let the bass player strike the note, then have someone standing behind slowly pull them away from the mouthpiece.

    One could of course argue that it would be even more advantageous to pull a bass player away from the mouthpiece before they actually strike the note, but that's a different argument entirely.
  10. Matthew

    Matthew Active Member

    Ahhh, a bit of pizzicato 'plucking' - if we ever get a chance, I'll demonstrate to you (attempt!) how a BBb Flattus Stringus Bassis should properly do it (or maybe not). ;)

    Plucking fingers at the ready....!
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2006
  11. IanHeard

    IanHeard Member

    I would suggest that in this case the people responsible are the conductor of your band and whoever, if anyone who taught the bass players in your band.
    As a brass bander approaching 40, the brass band in my opinion has never had a greater appreciation of how to play different styles of music than it does today, although I do concede we started from a very low base and do understand that your band might not be very good at the swing genre specifically.
    Speaking personally I dread "ageing jazzers" who think they are doing us a favour by lowering themslves to play in a brass band....I`ve met quite a few!
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 18, 2006
  12. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    Questions questions...........

    ......Kirmy me old china, as usual you fall in to the same old trap of not reading my post correctly, or rather, making assumptions and drawing implications which are incorrect. My post makes no mention of any specific band or indeed my own band. You assume incorrectly that I only play for one band. I play for many bands and ,my comments are based on 30 years of "lowering myself" to play in brass bands. It seems "ageing jazzers" are in demand in the Brass band world.Talking of which, how do you know how old I am? and what age classes me as an "ageing jazzer"?

    Given your wide experience in performing with "ageing jazzers" it seems incredible that I have never come across such a wise old sage as yourself.

    So speaking personally I dread coming across farting hippos who having spent forty years making the same mistakes have convinced themselves they have nothing to learn from any other musical genre or from studying the scource material of the music they are playing....I've met thousands of them.
  13. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    Nice one HSB!!!..........

    ....that made me laugh out loud!! as did Kirmats reply.
  14. Shaggy

    Shaggy New Member

    A bit more info for Kirmy.........

    .............the main reason I have spent more time "doing brass bands a favour" in recent years is due to physical disability preventing me from playing the piano as the result of botched, disastrous hand surgery.

    So, that leaves which bit of your post having any significance or veracity? assume you spelt your name correctly.

    Keep farting!
  15. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    All right, gentlemen. This thread is drifting a bit off-topic, and in a direction that I'm not very comfortable with. Let's get it back on topic before posts have to be deleted.

    Thank you for your cooperation.
  16. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Think he might have got in to the 3rd section though ;) .

    Agree with some of your thoughts Shaggy - we had a conductor (one before last) who told the basses to play "quasi pizzy" as very short notes so we ended up playing running crotchets as quavers. Also had a suggestion on a brass workshop from a top Yorkshire band bass player to split the part - 1st plays an accented short note whilst the 2nd holds the note through - hopefully emulating your ideal of the perfect string bass sound.

    Hope to impress you with our 7 bass phalanx amongst the batalion of players that will be Killamarsh Silver Band on tour in Scotland - we have some serious arm waving practice to get in before then for you.
  17. Tuba Miriam

    Tuba Miriam Member

    I hate seeing that marking, too, as it's usually an indicator of yet another walking bass part in a swing piece piece, which as a genre, we're continually told we struggle with stylistically. Fine. Let's not play them any more. I enjoy listening to jazzers play jazz, but get very little satisfaction from trying to emulate it myself.
  18. Growler

    Growler Member

    :sup I love playing pizzicato!!! I suppose its because I can pretend to be a jazz musician for a while:) Then again I might just be deluding myself, It might sound like a string bass to me, but then again Ive never been within a hundred yards of a string bass...

    It is odd that all bass players seem to have a different interpretation of what quasi pizz. means, in the couple of bands I play with none of my colleagues have played it the same as me, I must be right though, because...umm.. im bigger than them! :D
  19. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    So how do you play your's?
  20. Growler

    Growler Member

    ummm now youre asking! I think I start the note quiet quitetly, sting it quite hard then fade off gradually. I like it, but I dont know if anyone else does!

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