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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In the 1950s in high school, we played in dance bands. These bands are configured like abbreviated big bands, 4333, typically, but the repertoire is different. Instead of swing classics by Goodman, Dorsey, etc., we played so-called "stock" arrangements of popular tunes from that era and before. Tunes made popular by Tony Bennett, Kay Starr, Joni James, and so on. Waltzes, fox trots, jitterbugs, the occasional mambo or samba.

The arrangements are written to fit whatever instrument configuration you can get together by downsizing, and they are relatively easy to play.

Think of the band in the movie "Picnic."

I haven't seen a book like that in years. Whatever happened to dance bands?

(A rhetorical question, I know.)
 

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"Dance" Bands

Groups of this size do seem to have faded. Ensembles have gotten larger (17 pieces) or smaller. These small big-band groups (4-3-3-3) are harder to find, but they're still around in almost every geographical area, particularly in the USA and Australia. I know of a couple in the metropolitan Washington, DC, area.

The 4-3-3-3 arrangements that you describe are called "stock arrangements" and are printed on an odd-sized paper known as octavo. These charts are no longer being published (some have been expanded for 17 pieces), but almost all of them are still available second hand if you know where to look. Many of these charts sound rather dated, but for some bands and audiences that's the attraction. There's even a website devoted to locating stock arrangements.

Let me know if you need more information.
 

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Changes in musical styles and economics. I played in bands like that while in high school in the 50s. In our middle-of-nowhere area, sidemen earned the princely sum of $10 or $12 on Saturday nights, $40 on New Years Eve. It doesn't sound like much now, but was good money for a kid at the time. We played a lot of gigs with four saxes, one trumpet, one trombone, PBD. Once in a while we had only two saxes, a trumpet, piano and drums, if the customer had a small budget. Those "stocks" would indeed work with a very small band, but sounded a lot better with full sections. And you're right--they didn't require rehearsal time.

A band I play with now has a good-sized book of 4-3-3-3 charts, but they are all custom arrangments, quite challenging and a ball to play.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Transcriber-arranger said:
These small big-band groups (4-3-3-3) are harder to find, but they're still around in almost every geographical area, particularly in the USA and Australia. I know of a couple in the metropolitan Washington, DC, area...

The 4-3-3-3 arrangements that you describe are called "stock arrangements" and are printed on an odd-sized paper known as octavo...

There's even a website devoted to locating stock arrangements.

Let me know if you need more information.
Yep, that's what I remember. You even have the geography right. I grew up in the DC area and that's where we played.

Do you recall the URL of that website? A google search didn't turn it up. Thanks.
 

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The one that I have used on occasion is Yestertunes (http://yestertunes.com/). Not overpriced, but expect a lot of stocks and reworked stocks. Some, it is true, have beefed up instrumentation, but for the most part they are four or five saxes, two or three trumpets, one or two trombones, piano, guitar, bass and drums, plus optional vocals (lots of these - vocals for tunes you've seldom heard before).

For the most part, they fit in the "dinner music" category. I would estimate of the perhaps seventy five of these that we have, we only use one or two regularly.

Your sidemen will hate the tunes, by the way. The old Warrington arrangements are written to work well with any instrumentation, at the price of being bland as hell, and the tunes themselves are a bit on the "dated" side. There are often clarinet doubles, and most of them seem to have about two choruses too many.

But, when someone comes at me for a request for "My Shawl", it's just a matter of thumbing through the Latin book, pulling up and playing it. That gets you a lot of points when you can do it.

And, not all of them are something you're going to be able to sight read instead of rehearsing it first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
SOTSDO said:
Your sidemen will hate the tunes, by the way. The old Warrington arrangements are written to work well with any instrumentation, at the price of being bland as hell, and the tunes themselves are a bit on the "dated" side. There are often clarinet doubles, and most of them seem to have about two choruses too many.
Actually, the sidemen will love it, believe it or not. What you describe is perfect. There is a band here of elderly people that plays regularly at nursing homes and retirement communities. They have very few charts. Many of them don't read so well any more. The instrumentation is constantly changing because, well, the musicians are rather old, too, some of them older than the audience members, and they make do with whomever shows up. They often call me to fill in with whatever critical instrument isn't going to be there that day, usually piano, trumpet or bass.

I believe in being nice to old people. With luck, I'll get to be one. Sooner than I want to.

Thanks for the link.
 

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They're is a South Floridian that has numerous 10 piece charts he offers at a fair price. Perhaps they may work for what your looking for.


www.perryfotos.com
 

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Stock Arrangements

Yes, Yestertunes has many of the old stocks in stocks--an excellent site. But for that rare out-of-print stock arrangement that you can't locate, there's a website where you can inquire about it. The site is basically a consortium of band leaders who play the old-time arrangements and have inventories of stock arrangements.

For more information, please contact me by e-mail.
 

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I've got a few old guys myself (and many here would put this almost sixty year old into that category as well), and they don't mind them at all. But to people used to playing "hot charts", the stocks are anything but "fun". I have had to let a couple of younger folks go who weren't willing to play all of our stuff with the same dedication - but the change of some personnel helped with that, and the others caught on pretty quick.

The style of arranging (with all of the choruses and all) dates back to the early days of recordings, when music was flogged by recapitulating the melody line over and over. (You also note this in songs from musicals of the period - the old shows do the same thing, with two vocal choruses, then two or three dance choruses, followed by a chorus for the chorus (which is mostly made up of soprano females) and then one more chorus to round it all out.) When we play them, there's a lot of "Bottom line, second ending", just to cut down the clutter a bit.
 
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