Wulf's Webden

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Transposing Bass

Last night I met up with an excellent local saxophonist, Anna, to play some jazz. We started with a couple of my tunes, Faraway Street and Automacar Blues (the latter of which you can hear a version of on my Reverbnation profile), not so much out of composer’s vanity as the simple expedient that I had Eb transpositions available to suit her alto sax. Had those turned out to be a chore, that would probably have been enough but, in fact, the music was sounding sweet and we both wanted to continue.

At last, the weird tuning I put my Sei bass into last year (D – Eb rather then B – C) came into its own. If I play a piece of music written for C instruments, it comes out a minor third higher — exactly the same as an Eb instrument like alto sax. That meant I was able to bust out the pad built up during my time with the Pico Brown Five and just call the charts to play.

I still need to work on playing without transposing. In the flow of playing, I’m fine because I can rely on my ears and the consistent relationship between notes. I trip up too often for comfort though when sight-reading or kicking off a tune (when I led at St Clement’s one morning during the summer, I twice found that I’d started in a key that was impossible to sing!). However, last night it was a temporary boon to discover that my bass could be thought of as a transposing instrument!

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