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pete.young

Tips for reading Tuba parts

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I've reluctantly agreed to help out a friend (at least, someone who used to be a friend!) for a charity concert with his Wind Band, who are missing their regular bass player and can't afford fees for a proper dep.

Parts have arrived - half of them are Tuba parts in bass clef, on ledger lines way below the stave!

I'm a bit rusty at this sort of thing. Anyone got any tips for transposing them into double bass range, besides the always-useful "work off intervals not notes" ?

 

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Don't be afraid to change the octave if needs be, or if it helps a little. The tuba's voice is really "bassy", for example the note F (which we would read as the space just below the 1st line of the staff) is really low and boomy on a tuba, that's if the player can achieve it - its quite a challenge for an Eb tuba player to do it (and would need 4 valves on the Eb tuba too). But for a bass guitar its much more pleasant, and achievable. So sometimes - not always though - you can switch between concert pitch and the octave below with no real issues.

I've done it for years and apart from the above I can't think of any real shortcuts, you kinda need to recognise and know the notes, and to transpose, quick. Its world's easiest transposition though.

Oh, and practice some music with 4, 5 or more flats - you'll get them a lot!

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Hi Pete,

I play the same in a wind band so will try to help a little, although I'm not the greatest at theory.

I was told that Tuba is written an octave below bass guitar, so the B two ledger lines below the stave on a tuba part is the same as the B on the second line of a stave of a BG part in terms of pitch and voicing.  With this in mind, I once had a visiting conductor (who was also a pro west end bass player) who told me "just transpose everything you read up an octave".  He was probably right, but as I play a 5, I like to keep the notes as low as possible so play the low C's and D's as much as I can, mainly to help the band "rumble".

The only thing that worked for me was to learn the low notes as written.  I still struggle when I come across a fast run and have to jump it up an octave, especially if I've started low and run out of fretboard! 

If you have access to their library, a lot of wind band scores often have a string bass or electric bass guitar part which is written in your octave.  Be warned though, if you're the only bass player, if they are different and not just transposed, the tuba parts often have BG cues, but the BG parts don't have tuba so you may be sitting there resting whilst everyone is looking at you wondering where the low end is!

My only other tip is, if there are tuba players, concentrate on playing the main music.  Any fiddly semiquaver bits - let the tubas handle them and just pretend you're playing at this point 😉

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Double bass, bass guitar and guitar are all transposing instruments that sound an octave below being written, so you have to play the notes an octave above to have them sound right. It is a pain, and I hate reading from tuba parts!

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On 21/11/2018 at 19:04, Huge Hands said:

My only other tip is, if there are tuba players, concentrate on playing the main music.  Any fiddly semiquaver bits - let the tubas handle them and just pretend you're playing at this point 😉

... Which is a perfect statement of my orchestral double bass technique.

( only kidding .... Maybe)😀😁

 

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Have you got Sibelius? 

If you have then I'd feel inclined to type the parts into Sibelius and transpose up.

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Had this issue for many years playing in a wind band and echo advice already given - definitely check pack to see if a string bass part exists - they often do.

Found to only way to play Tuba parts successfully was to photocopy music, erase all bits beneath string bass low E and write them in again so they are readable for "us" - bearing in mind everything still needs to be musical, complete drag but saved lots of mental gymnastics in the middle of a performance - even more of a drag if it will be a one off !!!

Note for next time .............. only agree to dep (for free !!) you are given string bass parts.

 

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Worst case scenario a Bassoon or Trombone part may suffice if there are spares in the pack. 

They quite often double the bass line and octave higher. Ive had to resort to this a few times when both the string bass and tuba parts are missing

 

 

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At the risk of repeating myself, its actually not that hard and all you need to do is learn what note is represented by the blobs on the ledger lines. I say "not that hard", you need to physically do it and there are no shortcuts to learning that skill, but its still the same reading music thing and its achievable, and done by others.

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Do what I do when I get a tuba part at short notice, for only 1 gig and I’ll never play it again....

 

write the note names on in pencil. 

 

Job done.

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1 hour ago, fretmeister said:

Do what I do when I get a tuba part at short notice, for only 1 gig and I’ll never play it again....

 

write the note names on in pencil. 

 

Job done.

It’s not a hard transposition, but neither is alto clef. The problem is that you lose it very quickly without practice, especially when it’s four ledger lines!

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At least its in bass clef! I've just done a gig where I had Eb treble clef parts - fortunately the music was simple so its just a case of doing what treble-clef-reading tuba players do when they see bass clef (but backwards) - pretend its bass clef, add 3 flats and a sharp accidental becomes a natural accidental - for example if you see (treble clef) G#, you play the bass clef (concert pitch ) B natural.

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What fun paul_c2! Thanks for all the good ideas - I think there's no substitute for being in practice. I think it'll be alright on the night, and the band leader has come up with a bassoon part for the one that was most challenging. Sounds more like a baboon part the way I play it, but still ...

Oddly enough I'm really looking forward to the concert tomorrow. It's been years and years since I've done this kind of thing, and it's a lot of fun. The band sounds good and everyone seems pleased to see me.

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