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If you have extra players in a Big Band what parts should you get them to play? Should you have two firsts, one second,one third etc.or should you put your extra players on the second ,third ,forth position?
Thanks for any input.
 

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If you have extra players in a Big Band what parts should you get them to play? Should you have two firsts, one second,one third etc.or should you put your extra players on the second ,third ,forth position?
Thanks for any input.
If you are wondering why not, here is the problem:

Conventionally sections apply vibrato to passages that consist of 4 or 5 part harmony (voiced chords) and no vibrato to unisons /octaves.

This is partly for sound and partly intonation:

  • Chords ring out nicely with vibrato and can sound more in tune (especially with less experience players as the slight indefinite core pitch with vibrato can compensate for differences in tuning)
  • With unisons, any differences in execution of vibrato (speed/intensity) will sound ragged and also potentially out of tune so often best to avoid vibrato - plus tuning between players is easier as there is a only one not as a reference.


No doubt there are stylistic exceptions to the above.

I suppose though it may depend on the purpose of the band. The above would apply mostly if you are aiming at being authentic. If the purpose is less serious and more about people getting together and having some fun playing, then doubling up parts is fine IMO as long as you take into account the above and don't expect to sound like the top big bands.

But I would avoid certain doubles such as lead alto which is probably the voice you should be hearing predominantly in the saxophone section. He/she should have the personal freedom to do the job of leading, and any differences vibrato there would stick out badly if it was more than one person. Having said that the inside parts should not dominate the lead, so with two players on a part, they may need to temper their loudness to accommodate for that.
 

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Keeping people happy shouldn't come at the expense of adversely affecting the product. If egos will have the presumed subs leaving the group, you're probably going to be better off without them.
 

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Not sure if this is a school or community band....when I taught hs, I rotated extra kids in and out, never lead players....never double for the reasons stated above...
 

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As Pete has touched upon.... what if this band is more for fun/community /practice band?....so the musical goals noted by Pete in the first half of his reply for example, while all true...may not be coming into play in this instance.
And the ego and 'producing a 'product' issues noted by Grumps really aren't priority as well ?

If I were a player and I was put on a sub list in a situation where the unit was not a high-octane, precision one...it perhaps wouldn't be worth it for me to stay around.

I have known in my time quite a few GOOD and regularly gigging BB's who have put their extra players doubling on the 2nd Tenor and 2nd Alto chair. Same in the trumpet/trombone sections.
I have also known some clever leaders who have actually taken their extra Tenor or Bari player and let them play the sometimes unoccupied 3rd or often unoccupied 4th Trombone part....
 

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Ive been in big bands that played primarily for fun, with only the occasional gig. There were never spares on gigs, but if people were coming out to have fun at rehearsals and become more comfortable if they had to sub in at some point in the future it was invariably the 3rd Alto / 4th Tenor ("second") parts that were doubled up.

ANY band that will take me I suspect is not aiming to sound like a top level band.
 

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In the community college “continuing education” jazz band group I belong to, all comers are welcome. So lots of double parts (not lead Alto or trumpet though).

I am the 4th tenor, and playing second tenor parts with the 3rd. We have around 5 altos, 5 trombones and 5 trumpets.

We don’t play gigs, only a term end concert.

I am glad I have another player handling the same part, as my errors (and ghosting) would be even more noticeable.
 

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Ditto. If this is for fun/learning, double up on any parts EXCEPT the leads in each section, but no doubles on gigs. I like the idea of covering bone parts with extra saxes, but that requires some extra work transposing the charts on the leader's part.

In my BB we very rarely double parts, rotating subs in and out as needed. Doubling is also a good way to "audition" new members. I can listen to a player doubling my part sitting in for one practice session and judge if that person is good enough to join the group.
 

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Not sure if this is a school or community band....when I taught hs, I rotated extra kids in and out, never lead players....never double for the reasons stated above...
To me, this is the best way to go, and I'm surprised more band directors don't do the same.

It's really common in school or community bands to have more than one drummer, or bassist, or pianist. And they take turns. Which is good. You can have the best players play the more difficult numbers, and the less skilled players can focus on a couple of tunes they can handle. Yet when it comes to saxes, it's much more common to have a "just let everybody play" situation, which in most cases prevents the section from ever sounding good. Much better to takes turns and thus be able to pay proper attention to balances, tuning, nuances of phrasing, rather than just have this massive walls of undifferentiated sax, which is usually what you get when you have the "let everybody play" 8-piece sax section.
 

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To me, this is the best way to go, and I'm surprised more band directors don't do the same.

It's really common in school or community bands to have more than one drummer, or bassist, or pianist. And they take turns. Which is good. You can have the best players play the more difficult numbers, and the less skilled players can focus on a couple of tunes they can handle. Yet when it comes to saxes, it's much more common to have a "just let everybody play" situation, which in most cases prevents the section from ever sounding good. Much better to takes turns and thus be able to pay proper attention to balances, tuning, nuances of phrasing, rather than just have this massive walls of undifferentiated sax, which is usually what you get when you have the "let everybody play" 8-piece sax section.
Playing devil's advocate...I would point out that there's a significant difference between having the second Tenor or Alto part doubled in a BB...and having 2 bass players, guitarists, or pianists playing simultaneously, however.

So I am not certain that is an appropriate parallel, nor 'rule of thumb' which would or 'should' naturally apply to a horn section.

Regarding the 'subs practice doubled OK, but don't perform' line of thinking....in my previous comment where I mentioned I have known of good gigging BB's with double-chairs...these were double-chairs in performance, not simply rehearsals...& these were pro units. It really didn't seem to detract or cause any weirdness at all, and I say this as a player who played in BB's quite a bit in my younger years.
 

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Playing devil's advocate...I would point out that there's a significant difference between having the second Tenor or Alto part doubled in a BB...and having 2 bass players, guitarists, or pianists playing simultaneously,
Er... two bass players??? I'd have them playing alternate bars.
 

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Er... two bass players??? I'd have them playing alternate bars.
Oh, so that's what double bass means ;-). That would be very tricky, but awesome ear training where each continues the other's walking bass line every other bar. No reason the horn players or other rhythm players couldn't do the same. But imagine what a train wreck a smokin chart at 240 would be.
 

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Playing devil's advocate...I would point out that there's a significant difference between having the second Tenor or Alto part doubled in a BB...and having 2 bass players, guitarists, or pianists playing simultaneously, however.

So I am not certain that is an appropriate parallel, nor 'rule of thumb' which would or 'should' naturally apply to a horn section.



Different, yes...acceptable, no...doubling horn parts makes for painful intonation and they will rarely learn to balance with all the extra parts...it can be an “everyone participates” band or it can be a “let’s learn how to play in a section” band...
 

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Balancing is the issue.

Amateurs playing inner parts tend to play too loud even with only one on a part. If you have two 3rd altos and two 4th tenors, plus the 2nd tenor playing and baritone, the lead alto is going to have to play everything super loud to even be heard. Pretty soon you have the excessively loud sea of mud.

With all those people playing, they won't be following the lead alto either.

Obviously you can do this, school bands have been doing this for ages, but it rarely (never?) sounds very good.

If there are holes in the trumpet or trombone sections, they can be filled with saxophones - trumpets substituted by soprano saxophone, trombones by tenor sax (but that involves a transposition) or baritone sax (which is an easier transposition). That assumes your surplus sax players have these instruments available to them and can play them reasonably well.
 

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Different, yes...acceptable, no...doubling horn parts makes for painful intonation and they will rarely learn to balance with all the extra parts...it can be an “everyone participates” band or it can be a “let’s learn how to play in a section” band...
Again, I would say it depends upon the band and the context. People here are speaking of it as if it's an inevitability. One to the point where it actually creates a noticeable, audible negative. I guess I don't necessarily buy that. I would actually argue that a 6-person sax section with a pair of second Tenors or Altos...if the players learn their parts well...it's not going to produce a negative result.

(I also think that "everyone participates" and " let's learn how to play in a section band" are not opposites, nor necessarily mutually exclusive of one another.)

I can tell you now, those gigging BB's I mentioned, one of which I had friends in...did not come remotely close to producing "painful intonation" ...They sounded like a very good BB, is all...

But most certainly I do understand the argument that when you are gonna have 2 saxes in a section play an entire set worth of music in unison, yeah there are sonic risks there....and those risks multiply if one of the pair is a weaker player than the other....
 

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Different, yes...acceptable, no...doubling horn parts makes for painful intonation and they will rarely learn to balance with all the extra parts...it can be an “everyone participates” band or it can be a “let’s learn how to play in a section” band...
A BIG +1.

As mentioned previously, it would be nice if the OP clarified if this was a school type band or what? If school, I'd consider (and have done) creating two bands. If otherwise, I agree with the sub list!
 
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