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The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformancePerformance(Moderator: BGuttman) Bass trombone and tuba in the orchestra
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Doghouse Dan

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« on: Jan 23, 2017, 03:11PM »

Interested in how bass bone players approach playing nicely with the tuba in the orchestra.

I've noticed several occasions where mention has been made of choosing a particular horn because it "blends" better with the tuba.

I'm curious about that concept of blend.

I'm not sure we want to blend with the tuba. Blend to implies a mixture where neither ingredient is distinguishable. I feel that the combined voices should act more like a combination of organ stops, each instrument adding their unique voice to create a new  sound.

I look at it like this: in the orchestra, the bass trombone crawls inside the tuba sound, then sticks its head out.

Put more simply, it's how you can get a huge sound with edge.

I think a good orchestral tuba/bass trombone combination results from matching attack, envelope, and style, and letting the resulting sound take on it's own unique character.
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Dan Walker
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« Reply #1 on: Jan 23, 2017, 03:26PM »

To my tastes, "blend" in this situation doesn't mean "indistinguishable sounds." Instead, the sounds compliment each other.

Usually that means a tubist with a nice focused, centered sound and pitch center that is easy to play with.
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« Reply #2 on: Jan 23, 2017, 03:34PM »

Regardless of the instruments concerned, IMHO the blending concept is overrated. As you mentioned it yourself, it is more a question of style and intonation.
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« Reply #3 on: Jan 23, 2017, 04:02PM »

I think Bass Trb + Tuba is a great sound, when they work together to make one new sound. I would call that "blend".


Lots of weight and power but with clarity. 

You could put 20 string basses on the same line and never get that weight and clarity.
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Doghouse Dan

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« Reply #4 on: Jan 23, 2017, 04:18PM »

I think Bass Trb + Tuba is a great sound, when they work together to make one new sound. I would call that "blend".


Lots of weight and power but with clarity. 

You could put 20 string basses on the same line and never get that weight and clarity.

So a question of semantics then. I think you and I share the same ideal, but label it differently. Does the "size" of your bass trombone sound affect the "blend"?  Are there situations where a brighter sound would produce a more desirable combined sound, or conversely if you don't have some punch to your sound (big, huge, dark, no edge for instance) would it detract from the collaboration with the tuba?
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Dan Walker
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robcat2075

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« Reply #5 on: Jan 23, 2017, 04:52PM »

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Does the "size" of your bass trombone sound affect the "blend"?


I've had the same bass trombone since 1982 and won't ever have another one, so i couldn't tell you if a different one would improve things or not.

I just notice that Bass Trb + tuba is a frequent tool of composers over the last 150 years or so.  It's probably had just about every variation of the two thrown together and still they love using it.

Maybe the exact bores sizes aren't a make-or-break factor. The sum is always stronger than the two parts.


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BGuttman
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« Reply #6 on: Jan 23, 2017, 05:07PM »

I've found that the tuba provides the presence and the bass trombone provides the brilliance.  That's what happens in Prokofiev 6, where there is a lot of playing together.

In this case, you don't want a bass trombone that is too "fluffy" since you get that from the tuba.  You need something that can provide an edge to the sound.  Almost any bass trombone with an appropriate (2G to 1 1/4G) mouthpiece will serve.  Bigger only if you can still maintain the sound.  I've been playing the same bass trombone for the last 30 years (Dan knows it) and it has never let me down.  It's not especially big but also not especially small.
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« Reply #7 on: Jan 23, 2017, 10:23PM »

I have my own opinions of what i consider good blend to be, but like most things brass related i suppose blend would be a subjective term.

VERY generally speaking, unless lt is specifically marked, personally i really dislike  it when a particular instrument in the low brass section really "sticks out". In my experience bass trombone is usually the offender if that were to happen, because honestly, its really not that hard to play "loud" on a bass trombone and for most people that brassy aggressive bass trombone sound is also easy to get. I agree that blend comes mostly from matching articulations, phrasing etc.... and the sounds do not need to be indistinguishable, but if one is more obvious than the other I dont think that is a good thing. Kind of like over salting food. It is impressive when the sounds compliment each other, and i just dont think brassy and edgy bass trombone compliments a tuba sound if you are trying to play together.

I hope i haven't got this incorrect, but i believe i heard someone say recently that Kleinhammer in CSO Would say that if you could here his sound specifically within the blend of the orchestra then he wasn't doing his job. Wether that was said by him or not, I dont think that is a bad attitude to have when playing with others.
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« Reply #8 on: Jan 23, 2017, 10:49PM »

There are many ways to describe the relation between bass trombone and tuba. I believe it was Kleinhammer who sometimes referred to the bass trombone as a "crown" that sits on top of the tuba sound. Sometimes you have to "fit into" the tuba sound--allowing the tuba sound to dominate--sometimes the bass has to be more present than the tuba, and sometimes the bass has to be a distinct voice that plays alongside the tuba. Matching intonation, beginnings and endings of notes, phrasing, and paying attention to balance are key.

It's largely dictated by the musical context--composer, period, particular piece, conductor's preference, etc. Listen to good orchestras, both live (preferably) and recordings. Studying excerpts to learn your role in a particlar piece at a particular moment is essential. Studying with a good teacher and working together with sections mates are also essential.

Ed Solomon had a great post about this in a thread a while back: http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,86749.msg1090900.html#msg1090900
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 24, 2017, 04:03AM »

My bass trombone experience playing in orchestra is limited to community orchestras. Few here actually make a living with a bass trombone, but they would have the real answer.

Two points-

1. If any professional or serious amateur tubist had an unlimited source of disposable income they would become the biggest gear heads on the planet in a short amount of time. If you go to Tubenet and look at the message boards there it appears ( maybe only appears....as they are also an internet chat room, and the real players are gigging, not sitting on their computers writing drivel....) that they would happily switch horns for every damned note, in the search for any horn that played in tune with itself.
  Or switch horns to allow them to play what was printed on the page successfully, without practice.
   If a bass trombonist were to switch to accommodate that type of player the arms war would never end and you would go nuts.


2. Any brass instrument ( ANY!) has to be heard. A real-world example. I played in a professional brass quartet and did hundreds of rehearsals and gigs with organists. You make your best effort and take your best shot and if the organist pulls a stop that COMPLIMENTS your sound, YOU disappear.
  An organist has to CONTRAST the brass for the brass to be heard.
Same thing in orchestra. If a passage were written for celli, basses and bassoons and the bones were thrown into the mix ( bad arranging, that) nobody would be heard by an audience.

So, what is the real answer about the tuba and bass bone or tuba vs bass bone debate? there is no answer. But to the average player it is a very common misconception that bigger is better and that if you try and overpower an ensemble it does the same thing as CONTRASTING an ensemble, at a much lower dynamic. Just a slight contrast. Just enough contrast that the trombones sound like trombones-- and not celli or basses.

Look at the British style brass band world. The modern bass bone and modern tenor bone is designed to be as mellow as possible ( in my simplified example). When an arranger wants to make a huge sound they add trombones at ffff. Which when played ffff compliment the other conical brass like the euphs and Eb basses. If a modern trombone in a modern brass band were smaller than the modern orchestral instrument they would drive that sound right through the eyes of an audience and really make a statement.

I don't think that you can accurately discuss the argument of bass bone and tuba as one unit correctly today. Perhaps 50 years ago. But not today with modern gear.
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Edward_Solomon
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 24, 2017, 05:45AM »

Ed Solomon had a great post about this in a thread a while back: http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,86749.msg1090900.html#msg1090900

Thanks, K.

Here's what I wrote on that thread over a year ago.

In terms of mindset and understanding the role of the "bass trombone" in an orchestral setting, I think it is important to grasp that you will be required to be all things to all people, by which I mean that you have a plethora of different roles to play.

Nowadays, while we have gravitated towards the bass trombone in B flat/F/x, the truth is that as a bass trombonist, you have to act as a surrogate F or E flat bass trombone, third B flat tenor trombone, or upper voice to the tuba, often enough within the same piece of music (Rachmaninov comes to mind). All of these require one thing above all: flexibility. You will require patience, dedication, and tremendous flexibility to negotiate your way around the orchestral bass trombone repertoire.

At times you will have to act as an upper voice to the tuba, but that in itself is a challenge, knowing when to lead and when to back off, so it is especially important to know your role in the chord/musical line at all times. Oftentimes you will find yourself of secondary or even tertiary importance while the tenor trombones and tuba have more important melodic or harmonic lines. Sensitivity towards these realities will reap rewards, but takes time to acquire by learning the repertoire assiduously and taking every opportunity to listen to recordings and performances. Of course, conductors and section leaders will also have their own take on things, so be prepared as a third chair to act deferentially and subserviently because you always serve the music, not the instrument or the person.

Speaking with over 30 years' experience as a dedicated bass trombonist, I can vouch that you will need plenty of enthusiasm, energy, stamina, patience, dedication, and experience, all of which come with time - serious amounts of time - put into studying the repertoire and learning how you fit into the jigsaw puzzle that is the orchestra. A sympathetic section and conductor will go a long way towards making your transition easier, but be prepared to put in serious amounts of time in your own private study and practice.

In terms of sound, you will need to learn to adapt to the changing role of the third trombone in the music you perform, sometimes prominent and soloistic, usually supporting. Sound is a very subjective thing, but generally speaking you will want to make a sound that is adaptable to being any of the things I mentioned - upper voice to the tuba, third tenor, soloistic bass, not forgetting that you will need a very wide compass indeed to cover all of these, with particular emphasis on the high register, which is used far more frequently than you may imagine. Your range from high F to high C can and will be tested frequently with forays up to this region being required either on your own or in unison with the tenor trombones. For this reason alone it is advisable not to choose a mouthpiece or instrument that work against you being able to command full mastery of the entire range of the instrument at all times.

For the time being, I would concentrate on learning the repertoire, learning your new role in the section, particularly with respect to blend, and acquainting yourself with how to make the instrument respond appropriately. Breathing, tonguing, and articulation are all different on the bass trombone and much time will need to be spent on tempering the sound.

If after all this you are still in the running, you should be able to tackle anything in the repertoire - from The Creation to Ein Heldenleben and Petrouchka without batting an eyelid.
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Doghouse Dan

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« Reply #11 on: Jan 24, 2017, 07:54AM »

So, what is the real answer about the tuba and bass bone or tuba vs bass bone debate? there is no answer.

I'm afraid that's not the debate I'm looking to pursue.  The questions I'm asking are not about tuba v. trombone, but rather about tuba and trombone together, and approaches to making that combo work in the standard orchestral repertoire.

Quote
I don't think that you can accurately discuss the argument of bass bone and tuba as one unit correctly today. Perhaps 50 years ago. But not today with modern gear.

To the contrary, I think it is a critical discussion because modern gear is what we are playing today. 

You raise some good points that could lead to some interesting discusions, but I think they are mostly tangental to the topic at hand.

Best
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Dan Walker
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 24, 2017, 08:22AM »

The questions I'm asking are not about tuba v. trombone, but rather about tuba and trombone together, and approaches to making that combo work in the standard orchestral repertoire.

This is so fraught with problems that it's worth unpacking it to see where they lie.

To consider bass trombone and tuba together in the orchestra as having one approach is a fallacy.

A few works should serve to illustrate the point.

Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet
Mendelssohn Elijah
Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem
Berlioz Symphonie fantastique
Elgar In the South
Copland Billy the Kid
Respighi Fontane di Roma
Wagner Parsifal prelude
Walton Symphony No. 1
Dvorak Symphony No. 8
Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony

The point I am making is that the approach isn't a cookie cutter approach, but depends first and foremost on the music. Every one of these works could easily appear on a symphony orchestra programme, each requiring an individually nuanced approach. It's always the music and the conductor that will dictate the approach, together with informed choices based always on the music.

You have to know what the composer wanted and attempt to reproduce that as faithfully as possible within the confines of the time, equipment and personnel available.

There's only one way of making all that make sense: spend time learning the scores. Learn your part, how it fits into the whole, then practise like crazy, being prepared to be flexible and adapt to the changing needs of section, acoustic, and conductor.
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Doghouse Dan

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« Reply #13 on: Jan 24, 2017, 08:28AM »

I totally agree. I hope you noticed that I said "approaches" - note the plural
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Dan Walker
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« Reply #14 on: Jan 26, 2017, 08:09PM »

Thanks, K.

Here's what I wrote on that thread over a year ago.


Bookmarked your response! Good!

I am an amateur bass trombonist playing in local bands. I think I have come across something which has made my playing better. That is less is better. I have found that before I played too loud and could not hear the music. Now I am backing off and can actually hear the music. With this, I feel I have moved away from competition with the tuba to complementing the tuba.
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« Reply #15 on: Jan 27, 2017, 01:37AM »

I have been very lucky to sit next to some of the finest tubists on the planet. All are different... very different... but that is part of the fun. Some made huge sounds... with these you give the overtones and clarity to the blend.... focus and articulation.... others are more compact and clear, and then you need breadth of sound to add to the mix with the tuba sound. Most tubists are a combination of the above qualities and, of course these players work differently on BBb, CC, EEb and F tubas.
You have to have in your mind, an ideal of how you should sound when working with each of these possibilities and set about making it work every day.
A fine tubist makes my life a joy.
If you find one, treasure them.

Chris Stearn
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