For most of you landing on this web page, the following is probably just stating the obvious - if you are already a customer or an experienced bass player/ensemble leader then please return ("click back") to your previous web page or unless you are curious then in which case - WELCOME!.
This web page has been posted in response to an issue raised by a recent (October 2009) new customer concerning the notation of the bass parts. Here, the customer assumed that altas (little 8s) were missing over the bass clefs, performed the piece accordingly and was then puzzled by the outcome. The bass parts, however, should be considered as guidelines and are to be performed as scored. Where the notes are outside the physical range of the instruments the bass players are then expected to improvise. Even though this is the first time the matter has been raised since we opened our doors for business in 2002, have some hundreds of customers and have sold some thousands of pieces, our new customer has a valid and important point requiring some explanation. The following article discusses and describes:
- how we adapt recorder ensemble scores and parts from piano scores
- the role of bass players in interpreting their parts and performance
- historical background and reasons that the scores and parts are written in the presented manner
- tips on transposition
Geoff Grainger Bremen-Vegesack, November 2009.
Adapting Piano Scores for Recorder Ensembles
Our scores with parts are faithful adaptations of original piano scores for use by recorder ensembles. Only the most obvious errors, and these are precious few, are edited. To preserve the composers' intentions, original keys and tonal ranges are retained and not a single note is left out. It is stressed that these are adaptations and not arrangements. Not finding a suitable dictionary definition and emulating the great Dr Johnson, we define an adapter as follows:
Adapter: A harmless drudge, the lowest form of musical life perhaps below or on par with sopranos in a third-rate mixed voice choir; cannot compose; lacks the ability to arrange; a music publisher's apprentice with the robotic capability of de-constructing a piano score and then faithfully reconstructing the disassembled notes the into a recorder score with associated parts. An adapter works without an iota of intellect or original thought but faithfully reproduces both composed and printers' errors. - the bane of the proof-reader and cause of premature retirement and grey hair amongst editors. His (such an individual can only be a he!) only positive attributes are that he works uncomplaining over long hours, is unpaid, non-unionised and loves his job.
Generally the notes of the right hand staff of a piano score are teased into melody parts which are fully compatible with standard recorder music notation and can be played as set without further thought.
The bass parts reproduce all those notes left over and not included in the melody voices. They are generally labelled bass and great bass for convenience. These parts reproduce exactly the composers' intention with the onus of their interpretation lying in the capable and expert hands of those most charming of personages, the bass players. (One of my favourite catch-phrases when amongst recorder people is : "Auf Bass is Verlaß!" - In bass we trust!.
Wikipedia too says some very nice things about bass players!). The bass parts serve as guidelines and assist greatly in improvisation on the fly.
Interpretation of Bass Parts
As mentioned above, bass players are expected to improvise using their parts as guidelines with the parts being performed as scored. Altas (little 8s) are not missing over the bass clefs. Personally, when performing these pieces, I use different methods according to the piece in hand. When not playing as scored, I generally I play with an imaginary alta over the clef (i.e. an octave higher than scored) a device which works quite well with most ragtime compositions due to the mellow, unobtrusive timbre of the bass recorder . However, where there are clashes between the lower voices or when it is just plain silly, agreement is to be reached as to who plays what. Very often I have the tenor parts on my note stand along with the bass part and take my pick. Sometimes I get carried away and just improvise, a little echo of the melody here or a subdued but pronounced um-pah um-pah there as the mood takes me. This is music making as I love it and would like to think that our customers are kindred spirits and derive the same enjoyment.
As a bass player performing ragtime, I must remember to maintain an unobtrusive, exact - almost clockwork beat and not get seduced by the syncopating melody voices going on above me.
Ditty Box Enterprises has been in the niche music publishing business of adapting ragtime era piano music for recorder ensembles world-wide since 2002, has sold well over 1000 pieces, has presently (November 2009) some 70 direct customers and hundreds of others via wholesalers. In this day-and-age of the photocopier and scanner, low moral standards with little regard for intellectual rights one can safely assume that there must be tens of thousands of copies of our work awash in the world (I am sure you know the adage, dear surfer, buy one and copy ten!)
After much experimentation in 2002 and having sent complimentary scores and parts to more than 60 professional and amateur recorder players in Europe and America for comment, we have arrived at a format which we hope meets our customers requirements. The aim is to meet the widest possible range of recorder playing ragtimers. The format used deliberately notates the bass staves without altas (little 8s) which are to be performed as scored (see above paragraph). The most obvious advantage is that the bass parts can be readily played by other instruments, especially strings and keyboards, without mental gymnastics. This is extremely useful for those many recorder groups that lack bass players.
With relatively little effort, the scores and parts of The Recorder Ragtime Sheet Music Series can readily be transposed an octave upwards. The melody voices are simply re-labelled an octave higher (i.e. sopranino instead of treble, descant instead of tenor etc) and, where appropriate, altas (little 8s) added above the clefs. For the bass voices, altas (little 8s) are added above the bass clefs. Generally only the 2nd/3rd tenor or 1st bass may have to be written out separately. Indeed in most these cases they can be simply discarded except where they contribute to a melody line.
If this is too much hassle then we at Ditty Box Enterprises are quite prepared to carry out the work for you at very reasonable prices. Please contact us for a quotation.