During the orchestration of a piano piece, sometimes there are fast passages (with long intervals) in the lower register, like that Villa-Lobos "Saudades das Selvas Brasileiras" passage: enter image description here

Or this passage in Debussy's "L'isle Joyeuse": enter image description here

However, for low-register instruments (for example, double bass, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, bass/contrabass tuba and trombone), it's not easy to play fast passages that involve jumps (notes 2 or more semitones apart).

I would like to know how to transcribe passages like these for low-register instruments, making them playable for musicians with average skills.

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    It's not as difficult as you might think. Certainly allowing a slurred passage is much easier than requiring each note to be attacked. Another option is to remove some of the "passing notes", keeping the first and last note in a run and perhaps every other note in between. – Carl Witthoft Sep 18 '19 at 12:58
  • Could you please define what a "low-register" instrument is? Are we talking about brass/woodwinds like the tuba? Are the piano and organ "low-register" as well, given they can play those notes? Is an alternatively tuned guitar a "low-register" instrument? It's really not clear from your question what problem exactly you are trying to solve. – Pyromonk Sep 18 '19 at 13:16
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    @Pyromonk, you are right, I've added the instruments on the original question. – Rogério Dec Sep 18 '19 at 13:36
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    @Pyromonk, thanks for your edition! – Rogério Dec Sep 19 '19 at 10:56
  • @RogérioDec, no problem, I'm glad you're happy with it. You should keep in mind that (besides double bass and trombone) those instruments are rarely going to be played by intermediate musicians, given their price and availability. I cannot think of any difficulties that double bass and trombone players would face with those passages, but Carl Witthoft provides a good solution. It also depends on your orchestration. If you have 2+ instruments within the same "type", you can separate "voices" (passages) between them. – Pyromonk Sep 19 '19 at 11:15

This is a misconception: low brass/woodwind instruments (as you mentioned: bassoon, tuba, trombone) are faster than you'd think. A bass clarinet is not slower than a B♭ clarinet, a tuba isn't slower than a trumpet.

In the two passages you provided, no low wind instrument should have trouble playing the bottom staff, assuming a decently skilled player.

  • Thanks for your clarification! So, in this case, the only instrument that may struggle with fast passages that involve jumps is double-bass. In this case, how could I "dose" this kind of passage for double-bass? – Rogério Dec Sep 19 '19 at 11:01
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    There are certain physical limits involved with playing "low-register" instruments nevertheless. A contrabassoon is indeed not that different from a plain bassoon, but things do get funky with "low-register" instruments from the saxophone family. Of course, it is rare to find an intermediate musician playing a bass saxophone, but bass saxophones and below (contrabass, subcontrabass) do face certain difficulties. Given saxophones' notorious low range, most players need to perform embouchure adjustments that are simply impossible at high speeds and with fast staccato articulation. – Pyromonk Sep 19 '19 at 11:22
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    @RogérioDec, while there is a limit to everything I'd let a bassist try the passage at the tempo you need before butchering it. As I mention in my previous comments there are some very fast bass passages in symphonies. – ggcg Sep 20 '19 at 0:21

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