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I'm arranging a lot of music at the moment, and I find it difficult to combine tuba and electric bass. For most parts, I just make them equal with very few exceptions. For example, I do make them different when I want to reach a very low note that are impossible on the electric bass, or if a part simply becomes to difficult on one of the instruments.

Keeping them exactly equal has some pros and cons. For instance, if one of them cannot show up to a gig, it's very good to have redundancy. But if they are not perfectly in tune and tight in rhythm, it sounds a bit muddy.

So if we consider the case where we have both of them. Can you give any general guidelines for how to combine these two? I don't really know how to think here, because one of them will be forced to play in a way that is not really typical.

I might add that the full setting includes trombones, trumpets, saxes, clarinets, flutes, banjo and drums.

EDIT:

We do not have a bass trombone. Just regular ones.

EDIT2:

Tuba and electric bass are the only bass instruments, and we only have one of each. The music is primarily jazz.

  • As is, it's not a fair question. If you motive is to have the parts covered is one misses a gig, the always double up. Really this depends on the music being arranged. Are there multiple bass parts? Or other low pitch instruments? If classical you may have different parts for different bass chairs. Or you may have tuba score too. Too little information imo to really help. – ggcg Aug 22 '19 at 13:59
  • @ggcg I added some info – klutt Aug 22 '19 at 14:01
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Possibly ask or find out if your bass guitarist has a five or six string bass (ie one with a low B string). That means you won't necessarily have to write notes below an E one ledger line below bass clef up an octave.

As someone who has played a lot as an upright or electric bassist in unison with low brass instruments I personally have to remember to focus on phrasing, as if string players are inexperienced or self taught they may hold on to notes across rests whilst brass players are taking a breath. This lack of unison phrasing is probably the number one cause of the 'muddiness' you describe.

Also maybe try to have your bass instruments close to each other, if possible. It's nicer for the players in my opinion if you're not trying to phrase and blend with someone on the other side of the room/stage.

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  • He has a 5 string, but sometimes there are notes lower than the B-string for the tuba. – klutt Aug 23 '19 at 8:27
  • The range of a concert Tuba starts from D1. This is easily playable at the 3rd fret of a B string on a 5 string bass, or a double bass with an extension. (Remember that string bass sounds an octave lower than written) – uprightbassfan78 Aug 23 '19 at 9:05
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Keeping them exactly equal has some pros and cons. For instance, if one of them cannot show up to a gig, it's very good to have redundancy. But if they are not perfectly in tune and tight in rhythm, it sounds a bit muddy.

To be sure you will always have the needed part I would print a copy for both of the other part. (but that's not the point you're asking.

So if we consider the case where we have both of them:

Assuming that you have a bass trombone ... you give the same parts as to the tuba, and if you don't have ... handle the tuba like the bass trombone. That means: let it play together with the trombones.

Another aspect is the drumset: Assuming you have a drum set, handle the e-bass rather as a part of the rhythm section and the tuba giving the bottom of the sound - or vice versa:

One of both is playing more the rhythm part (e.g. bass licks) and the other supports the harmony: root tones and other notes that give the fundament for the harmony.

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The fundamental question is to understand the the effect that one is trying to achieve in terms of the of sound quality of the different instruments. A wind instrument such as the tuba produces a sustained tone that can also be altered in amplitude during its duration. A string instrument that is plucked such as a bass guitar is inherently percussive in nature in that the amplitude of the tone depends upon the manner in which the string is initially struck. The amplitude of the tone degenerates geometrically after the initial tone.

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