Not playing full chords in a big band context ?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by johnny k, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. johnny k

    johnny k Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,407
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Location:
    France
    Why is it that important to not play the high notes the horns are going to play or the bass if the bass is going to play it ? I thought the TDPRI guys should know.

    I was reading about this, and thought how the hell the horn players are going to know if i m playing a note in their charts ? They wouldn t probably ever hear what i play in the first place, and being the comping style of playing, just very quick strums, how are they going to notice ?

    And if they notice, why would they be angry ? I would just think it gives a fuller sound.
    I 've never played in a big band context.

    Any ideas ?
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
  2. dogmeat

    dogmeat Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    68
    Posts:
    1,103
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2017
    Location:
    Alaska
    turn it up?
     
    daddyplaysbass likes this.
  3. rze99

    rze99 Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,271
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2014
    Location:
    South London UK
    That’s just Horn players saying get orf my lawn, I reckon.

    As long as you are playing sympathetically, m mcorrectly in the mix and on the beat, I’d ignore that advice.

    Full disclosure: I’ve never played in a big band but have done a little with orchestra musical type stuff many years ago.
     
    jimash and johnny k like this.
  4. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Holic

    Age:
    63
    Posts:
    627
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2017
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    When comping rhythm, swing players generally play 3 to 4 note chords in different, but very efficient shapes. A good bit of the time, these voicings contain the root on the low E string. Thus a single chop or thunk of the chord outlines it with the root, 3rd, 5th, and extension (6,7,9, 13th etc) and sometimes omitting one of the 4 notes. Bar chords are doubling one or more notes of the chord, unnecessary in swing and tiring for the fretting hand. Traditional big band guitarists used big archtops with really heavy gauge strings to punch out the rhythm, thus the need for more efficient chord voicings.
     
    sockgtr, Ricky D., McGlamRock and 6 others like this.
  5. CheezeWhizz

    CheezeWhizz TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    36
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2014
    Location:
    Midwest
    Everything has it's space to sit in. If everyone played the same note in the same octave, things will smear. Find your space and occupy it. Especially in a big band.:)
     
  6. johnny k

    johnny k Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,407
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Location:
    France
    thanks!
     
  7. dlew919

    dlew919 Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,879
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2012
    Location:
    Sydney
    The chop, the Chank the muted chord. Whatever you want to call it sounds better on the lower strings in a big band setting. For funk and reggae the higher strings.

    But the first rule of music theory - if it sounds good it is good - always applies.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    eclecticsynergy, Flakey and johnny k like this.
  8. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    2,582
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2015
    Location:
    PNW USA
    In college jazz band, sometimes the guitar part included single-note lines with the horns. I loved that!—I got to be "in the horn section" briefly, and it was cool to contribute to that big sound. More often I'd be comping chords, with some occasional notation to follow (everyone had charts for their instrument). We did a mix of mostly newer stuff, Steely Dan, Brecker Bros, and the guitar charts could be quite detailed. I was encouraged to improvise little noticable fills here and there.

    In the old-time 1940s-'50s big bands, I'd say the rhythm guitar was meant to sort of 'disappear' into the bass/drums/piano section's overall beat, percussive as well as subtly carrying the harmony forward. In that situation, the horn players don't even want to really hear you. ;)

    Then came amplifiers, and oh boy! :)
     
    Flakey and johnny k like this.
  9. stantheman

    stantheman Doctor of Teleocity

    Posts:
    10,668
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2003
    Location:
    White Mountains
    Count Basie used to say - "If You can't hear Freddie Green You are playing too loud."

    "Swing & Big Band Guitar" by Charlton Johnson is really a "Desert Island Book" for anyone who wants to know the whole picture when it comes to playing that style.
    It also comes with a CD so You can hear all the charts. This is The Freddie Green Bible.

    Mr. Johnson sits in Freddie Green's chair with The Basie Band.
     
  10. suthol

    suthol Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,279
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2010
    Location:
    Sydney - Australia
    This.

    Whether I'm playing playing with another guitar, keys or horns I look for voicings that both leave space and have a presence to suit the song.

    Three or four banging away in the same space leads to mud
     
    ASATKat, Flakey, Wally and 2 others like this.
  11. dan1952

    dan1952 Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    67
    Posts:
    4,248
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2004
    Location:
    Anderson, IN
    This advice applies to guitar AND bass AND piano. Stay out of each others' way, and the whole band sounds better. The OP's desire to strum big chords sounds like a 13 year old kid...
     
  12. CK Dexter Haven

    CK Dexter Haven Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    57
    Posts:
    3,242
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2017
    Location:
    GCDB
    1st rule of big band playing..

    It’s always better to be asked to play more than to be told to play less..
     
    Gene O., Harry Styron, Teleka and 7 others like this.
  13. johnny k

    johnny k Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,407
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Location:
    France
    that s exactly the book i was refering to.
     
    stantheman likes this.
  14. johnny k

    johnny k Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,407
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Location:
    France
    Well i was just asking a question. I ve never played with horns, i was just wondering why you couldn t really play those barely noticeable notes, i get the idea now.
     
    daddyplaysbass and Flat6Driver like this.
  15. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    10,250
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2013
    Location:
    near Arnold's
    Same as in any band really.

    Doubling of notes or of a frequency range should only happen intentionally. In limited doses. For effect.

    Otherwise, it's all about space. Unless it's for effect, everything sounds better when each piece is more tightly defined.
     
    Teleka, codamedia and johnny k like this.
  16. Rockinvet

    Rockinvet TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    59
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2019
    Location:
    The Beach
    Hi, I’m new here and was scanning when I saw this post and just had to join to chime in. The most common voicings used in a big band contain a root, 3rd and 7th of the chord. Some call them a shell voicing or tenth voicings. Very easy to play. Lots of resources on these. Roots commonly on 5th and 6th string of course and if your real adventurous just play the 3rd and 7th of the chords. From these you can add the extensions like 9 and 13.
     
    johnny k likes this.
  17. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,605
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Location:
    NELA, Ca
    As a guy that has played in a lot of big bands I'll say that it's not really the horn players that you want to stay out of the way of. It's the piano and bass. Playing low along w/pno and bs, the overall low end in the band can become overwhelming. Too high and there's too much 'cut through' of the guitar and the leader will constantly be telling you to turn down.
    Stay in the mid range.

    A lot of the time the guitar plays a single line along with the saxes or trumpets, which is a really great sound.

    It also depends on the type/era of big band music. For the Basie thing (classic Kansas City swing), 1/4 notes on 3 strings is usually best. Strings 6,4,3 and 5,3,2. Think of your part as walking tenor line. Sometimes Freddie Green only sounded one note in a chord (though he'd finger the full shape). Here's a cool example. "Travelin' Light" by Johnny Mercer ... Screen Shot 2019-10-17 at 6.45.47 AM.png

    Here's video of that ...



    More FG. Skip to 3:29 to hear him comping behind the piano solo ...



    Other big band styles require a different approach.
    If you listen to Thad Jones/Mel Lewis or Woody Herman or Buddy Rich bands you'll hear something completely contrary.

    Here's some Buddy Rich with guitarist Walt Mamuth (Live) ...



    Check out Ed Bickert with the 'Boss Brass' ...



    Also, do not neglect Eldon Shamblin from the Bob Wills and Texas Playboys band. Kind of a different thing but super important and influential ...

     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
  18. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,605
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Location:
    NELA, Ca
    I've edited my above post to include some videos.
    Enjoy!
     
  19. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    2,582
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2015
    Location:
    PNW USA
    Great post, klasaine!
     
    Harry Styron likes this.
  20. 57fenderstrat

    57fenderstrat Tele-Meister

    Age:
    28
    Posts:
    450
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2019
    Location:
    Binghamton NY
    I saw some video of some guy talking about this, he was talking about his first jazz gig. He had all of these lush full big jazz chords ready to go. He started playing and got dirty looks from the bass player like “why are you playing the roots?” He took those off and saw he was getting dirty looks from the piano player like “ I handle the 9s, 11s, and 13s !” He took off those and looked down at what was left and he was only playing 3rds and 5ths.
     
    DHart, sockgtr, rand z and 2 others like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.