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Bari in a concert band -- threshold of boredom?

#1
I play in four different ensembles, soprano clarinet in one concert band, tenor and alto in a small big band, and bari in a full big band and in a different concert band. After six years of bari in the concert band, I am, frankly, getting bored. Bari in a big band? Great! Clarinet in a concert band? Lots of fun. But I have lost my enthusiasm for concert band bari parts. Has anyone else experienced this?
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#2
I play in four different ensembles, soprano clarinet in one concert band, tenor and alto in a small big band, and bari in a full big band and in a different concert band. After six years of bari in the concert band, I am, frankly, getting bored. Bari in a big band? Great! Clarinet in a concert band? Lots of fun. But I have lost my enthusiasm for concert band bari parts. Has anyone else experienced this?
Well, many concert band arrangements have a (e.g.) 5:3 doubling (like three voices spread out over five instruments in order to avoid "holes" due to lack of certain instruments in different bands), so you end up playing part of the 'bone voice, part of the bassoon voice, part of the bass clarinet voice etc. In other words: not a specific bari part which the composer explicitly wanted to be played on a bari. (same applies to a lot of the less common instruments).

I too find myself often playing transcribed cello parts on my bass clarinet, with a lot of emulated bow shoe-shining staccatos. True lyric parts are far and few between, at least for the common concert band's classic repertoire.

I didn't lose my enthusiasm. I get encouraging words from the front folks who say they rely on my grunty-mumbly sound carpet. I guess it's just how it is.
Still beats playing the lone triangle ding! once in bar 312.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#3
I am playing bari sax in concert band this year so that the regular bari player could play alto sax for the first time in his life. Gawd, as beautiful as the sound is, it is for the most part very boring (read safe). Especially as the instruments who double over 90% of the bari sax parts are sooo good. They include trombone, baritone, bassoon, and in some cases tuba. Gotta say though, playing the bari really helps with the air support thang.
 

Merlin

Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#4
There are some great parts for bari in serious concert band rep, but next to nothing except the occasional fun funky bass line in most pop rep.

It's worth it playing bari on a piece like Copland's "Outdoor Overture".
 
#6
That particular band has, depending on who shows up, two or three bassoons, two or three tubas, three or four baritone horns, enough trombones to to bring The Music Man to mind, one bass clarinet and one contra-bass clarinet. For most pieces the bari is (pick one) superfluous or redundant.

A couple of years ago, I told the director I was thinking of moving to clarinet. He said he likes having a bari in the band. As a good trouper, I agreed to stay on bari. A week ago, I told the director that I would be taking a break. The next day he emailed me to ask if I would play clarinet. I probably will. In any event, no more concert band bari for a while.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#7
If you don't have a full bassoon section you may be able to sweet talk the director into playing the bassoon parts. The music is much better usually and there is no real transposition involved
Unless the bassoon part is in tenor clef.

(For the folks that don't know, you take a bass clef part, just add three sharps to the key signature, forget that it's bass clef and substitute a treble clef, you've got an Eb bari part.)

I've played bari for years in a variety of concert bands and orchestras and the bari had always been used as filler, always doubling something. The only time I disliked this was when I was in a church orchestra and played bass parts one octave higher. THAT was unnecessary. Even when I played the bass part better than the bass player.

I've also played bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet. More doubling. However, in the bands/orchestras I've played in, it was better than either being one of the 20 or so second clarinet players. And alto and tenor sax doubles stuff, too.
 
#8
Any true bass doubling, I use an Eb contra clarinet for. The couple steps at the bottom helps out a lot. Get down to a concert Gb and you can play about anything a tuba can. Pointless for most things though.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#9
Any true bass doubling, I use an Eb contra clarinet for.
In my post, I meant "bass" in the sense of "electric" or "upright". I may not have been clear.

The bari matches the cello or trombone, which aren't exactly "bass" instruments, but, well, baritone or tenor (strings: bass, cello, viola, violin; brass: tuba, trombone [or baritone horn], french horn [or alto horn], trumpet). I've remarked that an Eb contrabass sax can sound like a C tuba.

In the case of the contra clarinets, they just don't have enough power and poor projection. The Bb contrabass clarinet adds texture, but it's a sound that you feel more than you hear. In other words, it's great for an orchestra because they're all about texture. Somewhat iffy for band.

Now, I'm a vocalist. I'm a bass. My range is from the C two ledger lines below the bass clef staff to the C in the middle of the treble clef staff (A to A is more comfortable for me, tho; yes, I've sung tenor on occasion). I think my voice has a sounding range more like a bari sax than a tuba.

Just more fun on names and approximate ranges.
 
#10
I was thinking more tuba, but I agree I prefer bari for timbre

I sing a cappella and opera bass, and mine is definitely much more like a bari sax than a clarinet. I think the technical term for it is basso profondo
Range from A1 to F4 ish full and A5 falsetto. Problem with a cappella is a lot of what I sing is pizzicato bass where as the operas are all belting. Does a wonder on my voice if I have to do both in the same week
 

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#11
There are two approaches to concert band music:

1. Nail all the notes in record time
2. Make every note sound great, no matter how long it takes to learn how to do it

Even if you like #1 and are capable pf pulling it off, when you get bored, try #2.

Are you perfectly in tune on every note?

Is everything perfect? What if they pull a faster tempo out of the hat?

Is your car ready to go? How's your reed? What if it breaks? Where do you park?

Even if the notes seem easy, be prepared to play them musically and competently under the most unpleasant conditions. Making music is seldom about making the right notes, even under the most controlled conditions.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#12
And, like it or not, some parts are going to be boring. People accustomed to flute, trumpet and clarinet parts, even second or third chair ones, don't have an inkling of how boring a bass clarinet or baritone horn part can be, but they are (usually) as critical to the "integrity" of a given piece as the melody - just not as interesting.

I always tell my Second Tenor and Third Trombone guys that it pays the same. A bit different perhaps when you are playing for free, but what are you going to do?
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#13
Well in my case I try to lead by example. I have played soprano to bass sax in this band and now five of the other saxophonists play more than one kind of sax. It gives us a little bit more flexibility. And you live for the time when the bass clarinet/bari sax player in the row ahead of you asks what mouthpiece you're using.

My goal is to cover the part so well that others want to play the bari part. And when I was chuggin' out that 16th note low B C# B C# part, I did note the alto and tenors looking on with interest. The core of the this community band is very strong and people who have gone to our concerts for years said this was the best concert ever; life is good.
 

Merlin

Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#14
In the case of the contra clarinets, they just don't have enough power and poor projection. The Bb contrabass clarinet adds texture, but it's a sound that you feel more than you hear. In other words, it's great for an orchestra because they're all about texture. Somewhat iffy for band.
Well, in that case, bassoons are iffy in band. I can completely cover a bassoonist when I play contra clarinets...
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#15
Well, in that case, bassoons are iffy in band. I can completely cover a bassoonist when I play contra clarinets...
Really? I used to sit next to a bassonist in my "orchestral band" and I thought she was louder than my Bb contra.
 
#16
I agree with Merlin re. bassoons. The guy playing bass clarinet and I *paperclip BBb* covered 4 bassoons in wind ensemble. I think the low clarinets are a lot softer when you play them vs people hearing you because I never thought I was being heard and at the concerts random people came up to me saying they loved the low rumbling coming from the low reed section
 
#18
I sat next to two bassoons and directly in from of a bass and a contra clarinet, and heard the bassoons better than the clarinets. But maybe it's because the bassoonists were stronger players.

Once the director experimented with placing the low woodwinds directly in from of the trombones. We couldn't hear ourselves, let alone each other. That lasted for one rehearsal.
 
#19
Could bari possibly be more boring than tenor in concert band? I moved from alto to tenor because that's where they needed help. Rarely any exposed parts.
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#20
Could bari possibly be more boring than tenor in concert band? I moved from alto to tenor because that's where they needed help. Rarely any exposed parts.
Methinks the average modern arranger doesn't know how to deal with the low voices. They're needed for the texture, but their players give you the eye if they should stand up for a solo, or they hide behind their apparatuses anyway, tend to be smaller than their instruments, knock over other players when they sway a bit along the rhythm, constantly bemoan their fate when they haul their coffin-like cases with them, in other words, difficult to deal with people. Keep them in the back, low frequencies are omnidirectional anyway.

And IF there is a part, what does the player get slapped on their music stand? Sixteenths and hemidemisemiwhatevertheycallem on end, in the über-altissimo, with awkward fingering sequences. Worse than a castrate choir. Yech, boo, hiss.

Yet, I like the change - bass in winter, soprano in summer.
 
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