Bass Playing

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by matt_BBb_bass, Oct 8, 2007.

  1. matt_BBb_bass

    matt_BBb_bass Member


    We were talking about how you should play bass. Would you play it as being felt or being herd?

    Personally i would say be felt

    What would you say?

  2. MartinT

    MartinT Member

    You could say that EEb should be heard, BBb should be felt.

    On the other hand, you could say something completely different...:rolleyes:
  3. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    What if you have a young EEb bass player who gets bored with what's written and decides to put his part down one or even two octaves?
  4. Chunky

    Chunky Active Member

    You give them an option, stay out of my territory youngster or give them the BBb bass and the parts to play.

    But to answer the original question the bass parts should be heard when needed and felt when needed. We are the foundation of a good sound, take basses out of a band and see what you think to the sound.
  5. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

  6. MartinT

    MartinT Member

    Yes, the bass trom has two distinct roles (at least), one of them being to provide an often-needed edge to the sound of four tubas. (No doubt MoominDave will pick me up here for being too simplistic :roll:.)

    I once had the displeasure of sitting alongside an EEb Bass player who took it upon himself to pedal everything. (Don't worry, Wantage mates and ex-mates, it wasn't you!) The result, I felt, was thoroughly unmusical - at a stroke, it lost the emphasis that a well-judged pedal can give, and also smothered the smoother, fuller sound of the BBb in its middle and low register.

    So I'm with Chunky on this - horses for courses.
  7. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    If you play it well you have to feel it - then it SHOULD be heard

    PS if you play it "as herd" it may be a touch loud ;)
  8. jcowensEb

    jcowensEb Member

    well in hymns i think the basses should be felt under the band.
  9. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    If you BBb is away, occasionly a EEb needs to play lower than written to give the Band depth. No good every one playing high parts and no low notes.
    A good player would know when he needs to play Low.
  10. a very flat b

    a very flat b Member

    Lots of modern compositions and arrangements require both Ebb and Bbb to be heard, such as Hymn to the Fallen, Dark Side of the Moon, etc. But as pointed out with older pieces like hymn tunes, they should be felt.
    I guess that means it depends on what your playing and to an extent where.
  11. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    As I mentioned earlier in the thread.
    A friend of mine on his EEb can play all the notes that the BBb parts have written. He is one of those who gets a bit bored playing middle G's (EEb) in a hymn and sticks them down two octaves.
  12. Chunky

    Chunky Active Member

    And the point of that is? If he is bored playing the EEb part move to another instrument.

    I sometimes get bored playing stuff, but due that happens playing bass!

    Still say stick to his own part or move on. There is nothing more annoying than another instrument trying to play your part.
  13. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    Correct. All he's doing is destroying the balance of the band.
  14. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    He is of the opinion that EEb bass is the only way to go, he won't even try another version of the Tuba.
    Being a trombone player, if I had the chance to get hold of a contrabass trombone in FF or especially in BBb I would do it!
    He wouldn't play a BBb if you paid him. Though somehow I doubt he would pass on a CC Tuba

    ROBTHEDOG Member

    It doesn't matter whether you're playing BBb, EEb, Euphonium, Trombone... All lower brass demands same fundamentals.

    Volume of Air !! - Just look up Boyles and Charles laws...

    This is a great article from Fine Arts Brass WEB SITE from their Tuba Player

    Note lengths - a few thoughts by Richard Sandland
    The late great John Fletcher, in one of the few lessons he gave me (he only came to the Royal College of Music when the (equally great, as far as I am concerned) John Jenkins was away with the Philharmonia) looked at the piece I was playing - William Presser's Second Sonatina, I believe - and said "yes, all very well, you're playing all of the notes but where's the music?"

    This lodged itself in my memory; and occasionally in my career I heard brass players playing stuff and thought the very same thing. I am proud that I never thought this of any players in FABE, but some supposedly top ranking players did just what Fletch complained of - dazzling technique and no communication. But how do you communicate on a tuba? With exceptional difficulty, and of course in some reverberant acoustics you simply can't - if people can't hear the start and end of your notes clearly you have no chance of communicating. My favourite acoustic was Jersey Arts Centre; dead as a Dodo (designed with speech in mind, I guess) but you could hear every note. But in a chamber group with a bell as wide as a tuba bell, you have to accept that for the most part you will have to compromise - to break a few 'rules'.

    So what can you do? Well, there is only one option; you have to edit your sound at source. It is imperative to develop an extreme, sec, staccato - but one that still leaves some flesh on the note. I used to hate hearing people play staccato on tuba; invariably it was merely pecked, that horrible dry, one dimensional sound that, it seemed, comprised all start and no middle. All notes, unless otherwise specifically directed, must be three-dimensional; they must, if you like, have an 'internal structure' - Pecked notes have just an 'external structure'. The secret is to find a way of tongue stopping - a necessary piece of rule breaking (how else could I possibly play, for instance, staccato chords in the 4th movement of Julian Phillips's Brass Studies as short as Simon Lenton could?) - that still allows a fleshed-out note. How? Fantastically quick airspeed (blow it, in other words); to get a fleshed staccato, you need to get a large volume of air out before you cut the note off. Simple as that. Jim Gourlay can do it. Copy him. The late David Randolph could too - you should find out his CDs if you want to hear some really musical tuba playing - but I've heard lots who can't.

    This airspeed is just one facet of what I came to regard as the basic difference between those I regarded as 'bad' and 'good' tuba players. It was symptomatic of whether they were active or passive in their approach, and, by extension, attitude. It even extends to posture - I always felt you should lean into the instrument, to go to it rather than to bring it to you; you should be approaching the mouthpiece from above, and in all that you do, you should attack the note. I guess if I were to try to clarify what I mean, it's the difference between a player who plays right on top of the beat and one who doesn't - the active, attacking (and therefore interesting) player is pushing the beat (not rushing) - is always keeping the ensemble driving forward. If you do this the other four can just play. If you are a passive, defensive player who plays at the bottom of the beat, then you are a member of a group who by definition must always be waiting for each other - so are not really worth listening to. The passive player has a slow tongue, tends to be flat at the top and sharp at the bottom (due to lack of embouchure change), tends to think slowly - tends, too, in my experience, to have almost insurmountable problems with asymmetric measures (especially 5 and 7), even has problems with sharp key signatures. The passive player also tends to think wholly orchestrally - everything they do is on that scale, all notes sound like they should be in a Mahler symphony (God help us!) rather than a piece of chamber music. The active player has none of this - but probably tends to split more notes. I'd rather have the splits.

    The passive player is a nightmare to play with. One group I played with had a player who continually played behind the beat; who couldn't get to and from 5/8 and similar; who made a huge, immoveable orchestral sound. Used to drive me mad. The real advantage that the active player has, and which reflects in his playing, is that he has the ability to read and remember two or three notes ahead of those notes that they are actually playing - their attitude to music emphasises the horizontal aspect of music, the fact that, for the most part, music is either travelling to or arriving at somewhere - that music is a fluid, evolving entity, not a stone monument. The chamber tuba player must above all be active - playing that is nimble, alert, driving, agile, engaged, questioning. John Fletcher was right then - playing the notes is the easy bit - it's what you do with them that counts, and if you don't do anything with them, you shouldn't really call yourself a musician. And no, having a large instrument really is NO excuse!
  16. MartinT

    MartinT Member

    This person is obviously very young. I'm not sure how useful it has been for you to represent his views here, except perhaps as an example of someone who needs... training.
  17. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    I don't agree with these views. It is something I have come across in a few people. EEb or BBb? Shouldn't Tuba players (Not juster brass banders) be proficient in both?
  18. Chunky

    Chunky Active Member

    Nothing wrong in being proficient in both . I have played both Eb & Bb Bass at different times. However I understand and accept that the Eb bass part and Bb bass part are two different parts for 2 different instruments. If that was not the case you would just have parts written for 4 x Eb basses
  19. jmh3412

    jmh3412 Member

    I wonder if this sort of thread would be considered in any other genre of music making?

    I agree that the fundamental sound of the brass band relies on a certain degree of homegeneity and blending of individual instrument timbres, but to suggest that the function of the bass section should only be to provide a vaguely felt harmonic support is perhaps a little naieve

    It is true that there are tonal diferences between EEb and BBb tubas which define their differences, but in terms of technique -articulation, tonal production etc. there should be no reason why the instrument should be relegated to the level of an acoustic effect.

    I suspect that in an effort to achieve an overall balance it is easier to produce a sustained legato on a tuba than on other instruments which has led to the type of playing described earlier in the thread. What is infintiely more difficult is to find a bass section that can use a wide range of articulation with subtely and musicality without the sound coarsening.
  20. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    Can you think of such a section Mr JMH? ;-)

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