How to Write a Big Band Shout Chorus – Part 2

This is the 2nd tutorial done by Tom Kubis on putting together a shout chorus for big band.

In this tutorial Tom adds the next layer, the bass trombone. At the same time alternate harmonies are created by analyzing the melody note of the “line” that was created first, and creating a secondary line (which functions mainly to dictate the internal harmonic progression).

A few points to consider when digesting this video tutorial:

1) Think mainly of “chromatic” movement of the bass trombone to create the alternate harmony. Oftentimes this movement will create tritone substitutions which alway sound pretty good. You can also move up and back by the interval of a 5th, but chromatic movement will often sound the best depending on the melody note and if it works out to be an upper extension of a chord.

2) Keep in mind that big band sometimes do not have a bonafide “bass” trombone player. I’ve played in college and pro bands alike that essentially had a tenor trombone player covering bass trombone on a trombone with one trigger. Not to say that a tenor trombone player cannot play a bass bone part without any trouble, but be careful when you write lines that move into the “pedal” range (Bb two leger lines below the staff and beyond). True bass trombone players have horns with two triggers. These players will have little trouble playing a bass trombone part. Just a word of caution because a high school band may be playing your chart down the road and you want to keep things playable.

3) Think span, weight, and density when creating the bass trombone line. Don’t be afraid of unison, or even dropping out the bass trombone while others in the band take over for a short time. Always keep the concept of manipulating span, weight, and density so your arranging does not become too predictable.

4) Tom naturally writes anticipations of chord changes on the “and” of 4 and 2. This should be ingrained in your writing as well, especially in a swing chart like this one. Put everything “on” the beat and it will sound to stiff, and won’t swing as well as if you anticipate the first beat and 3rd beat of measures often.

5) Practice makes perfect! Tom makes it look easy because he has been doing it for 30+ years. Don’t get frustrated if it takes you more than a few minutes to get a bass trombone part that works well with the melody. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you will need to practice this technique by dong it ALOT.

Here is Tom building a bass line to the original melody line:

Click here to check out Tom Kubis big band “Live and Unleashed”

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