So I’m joining a big band…

teletail

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There are no tricks, secrets or short cuts; only practice. Reading is the skill it takes the longest time to master, the shortest time to lose.
 

badscrew_projects

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Xerox all your charts. Use colored markers to label repeats and Codas and stuff so you can see it easier. Tape your pages together so they fold open to eliminate page turns. The D.S. is almost always on a different page.
If you can't hear yourself, you are playing the wrong chord or lost your place. Use chords on the top 5 or 4 strings only to not step on the bass player.
For trombone features and ballads, stick to half notes.
Remember: professional is a behavior, not a status.
Also: a spare jack cable, a few cloth pins if playing outdoors, a stand light
 

kLyon

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I played bass in a big band (traditional swing: Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Ellington...) at 16, way before I was good enough to - my friend the drummer would show me how the rhythms worked ("what's a quarter note triplet?") and the pianist - the dentists wife, a great lady and fabulous reader who didn't know she wasn't supposed to play the bass parts written in her music) sat next to me playing the bass parts with her left hand; I copied them by ear. And fooled the bandleader.
Later I got into the first jazz band my first year at university the same kind of way, but on guitar: kept my head down and ears open.
Because there's this: I learned by ear and rote, like lots of us (the main difference, I started in Spain being taught by memory by a gypsy my dad hired for a year, but then it was Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix records)... but everyone else in the band went through a vigorous, well-designed program that associates written symbols with played notes right from the gate.
There is a fundamental difference.
So even though I worked at it for years, I have never been as good at reading as the horn players who learned the other way around.
No value judgment implied: it's a tradeoff, as I'm sure you all know.
So my best advice? Keep your ears open, practice the music at home, don't be afraid to ask a horn player what something sounds like if you can't figure it out... fake it if necessary: it's guerrilla warfare for us. You'll get there.
 
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