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Topic: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

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  1. #1

    Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    Guitar Notes for Jazz & Big Band Library

    I just got Jazz & Big Band and am reading the manual for the first time.

    I thought I'd pass along some observations about guitars.

    Since I play an archtop jazz guitar, I am not likely to use the J&BB guitar samples in my project, but I have some insight and observations.

    First, I'm thrilled to have a sample set of a 10-string Brazillian nylon string classical guitar. My guitars don't go down a fifth to "A" below the low "E" and I'm sure I'll use this lower range for something. I fiddle around with mariachi sounds these days and the low "A" covers the range of the Mexican guitarron although the timbre is not quite the same.

    Archtop Jazz Guitar:

    At its simplest, the variations in archtop tones come chiefly from the kind of strings used. There are three main types, and J&BB only provides one.

    Garritan offers one Gibson ES-175, which I presume to be strung with flatwound nickel-steel strings, and recorded through a guitar amplifier and then miked. This is the "Joe Pass" sound, and did not appear until after the big band era ended. It's thick and almost muted, as the roundwound strings produce a strong fundamental with few harmonic overtones.

    The second kind of sound would be a similar archtop guitar with roundwound nickel-steel strings (which are the kind of strings most players would put on a Strat or Les Paul), recorded through an amp that is miked. This produces a different and much brighter sound with sharper attack and more higher-order harmonics. This would cover the jazz guitar sound of most artists who came up outside of the big band tradition in the late 60s or later, for instance Steve Howe of Yes, Pat Metheney, or Tuck Andress.

    Acoustic Archtop

    Finally there is the ACOUSTIC archtop jazz guitar, strung not with nickel-steel but with bronze round-wound strings (the same kind of strings used on your typical steel-string flat-top such as a Martin dreadnought). The guitar was not played through a guitar amp; rather its acoustic sound was miked in a recording studio. In the heyday of big bands, the guitar was not amplified at all in live performance. Hard to believe, but true. This is the authentic sound used in the big band era, most notably by the immortal Freddie Green of the Count Basie Orchestra.

    This unusual sound, seldom heard anymore, is very harsh with a midrange punch, designed to cut through a horn section without amplification. It's not a solo sound; it more or less provides the continuo, analogous to what a harpsichord does in a baroque ensemble. It differs from the modern flat-top acoustic dreadnought guitar in that the dreadnought has a strong bass tone, whereas the archtop lacks the bass component and has an accentuated midrange.

    The acoustic archtop in the big band was strictly a strummed rhythm instrument, and seems never to be featured for solos.

    Now, I haven't discussed the endless variables guitarists talk about such as played with a pick versus played with the fingertips, the thickness gauge and tension of the strings, the type of magnetic pickups used, the variations in amplifier settings, or hand-carved solid spruce top versus plywood pressed maple top.

    Banjo:

    Finally, in the early days of jazz, right up through the beginning of the Great Depression, the continuo instrument was the four-string banjo, and not the guitar! The banjo was strummed and not picked and arpeggiated like the modern bluegrass five-string banjo.

    In summary

    When Garritan considers the second edition of the J&BB, I think they should look into adding a set of samples of the acoustic archtop with bronze round-wound strings. A modern Eastman hand-carved guitar would be a good choice; the only surviving original Gibsons, Epiphones and Strombergs are all in museums or in the hands of Japanese collectors, cost several tens of thousands, and are falling apart anyway.

    Also, a four-string banjo would be extremely useful for Dixieland up through early big band.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    UK- teeming with life....
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    2,567

    Re: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    What about a Souzaphone? The earlier 'King Oliver' style jazz, that I like, used these. I MUCH prefer this to a double bass in trad jazz. I guess the creators couldn't cover all the bases....excuse the pun. For info, I bought the, reasonably priced, front porch banjo by Matt Sayre.

    Frank

  3. #3

    Re: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    My wish would be for a Hammond jazz/rock organ
    Richard N.

    Finale 2003 to 2007 ~ Garritan GPO, JABB & Strad ~ Sonar 6PE ~ Kontakt 2 ~ WinXP Home SP2

    Athlon XP 2200 ~ 1.5 Gb RAM ~ M-Audio Sound Card ~ M-Audio 88ES MIDI keyboard ~ Evolution MK-461C

    Bach Strad LT16MG, LT36G, 42B + B&H Sovereign Studio Tenor Trombones ~ Holton 181 Bass Trombone ~ Getzen Bass Trumpet ~ Yamaha TR4335G Trumpet ~ B&H Euphonium

  4. #4

    Re: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    Hammond organ?

    Try Native Instruments' B4

    http://www.nativeinstruments.de/index.php?id=b4ii_us

    or my favorite for those of us on a budget, LinPlug's daOrgan.

    http://www.linplug.com/Products/daOrgan/daorgan.htm

    Hammond organ virtual instruments depend on physical modeling more than sampling, and really depend on a good Leslie rotating speaker emulation.

    Hammond players are constantly varying the drawbar settings and Leslie speed as they play. Also, on a real Hammond, all the waveforms of every key were hard-synched. That's why sample libraries of Hammonds don't really cut it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Salisbury, UK
    Posts
    312

    Re: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    The replies so far seem a bit off-topic. The subject is guitars. Two or three posters noted the absence of guitar demos in the pre-sale phase. From reading recent posts, I would guess that JABB fills an important gap and there are many happy new users. But somebody with knowledge and experience of the guitar in jazz was sadly out of the loop when the project was at the seminal stage. Great pity.

  6. #6

    Re: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    Dermod, sorry - the posts did move somewhat away from your original point.

    Back on topic - I am not a guitarist and other than hearing them in recordings and when I played in a Big Band rhythm section I would make no claim to have any "inside" knowledge of them.

    Have said that, I love the elctric guitar mellow sample.

    To my ears, it sounds like the Basie band guitarist and I have done a couple of tracks and got a lovely, dry "chomping" sound out of it. I also like it as a solo instrument in some smooth jazz quartets I am working on at the moment.
    Richard N.

    Finale 2003 to 2007 ~ Garritan GPO, JABB & Strad ~ Sonar 6PE ~ Kontakt 2 ~ WinXP Home SP2

    Athlon XP 2200 ~ 1.5 Gb RAM ~ M-Audio Sound Card ~ M-Audio 88ES MIDI keyboard ~ Evolution MK-461C

    Bach Strad LT16MG, LT36G, 42B + B&H Sovereign Studio Tenor Trombones ~ Holton 181 Bass Trombone ~ Getzen Bass Trumpet ~ Yamaha TR4335G Trumpet ~ B&H Euphonium

  7. #7

    Re: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    thanks for the interesting history of early jazz guitar.

    I have been pleased with the texture of this guitar - and while it would be interesting to get the bronze string sound, I believe the modern jazz and smooth jazz guitar sound set - Benson, Metheny, Coryell, Carlton, Peter White - all very different sounds, but anything in that Venn circle - would be of more use in writing contemporary music.

    But the most important element of this lib is, IMHO, the horns. This is where the focus of improvement should lie, as this is the heart of the package. (Did you buy a 16-piece big band lib for the guitar? Probably not - I thought it was a cool addition, but would have not minded if there were none.)

    It would be very cool would be to develop a lib similar to what you're talking about, with choice of strings, amp, tube, age, body depth, maybe string height and pick placement etc. but IMHO this sounds like a physical modeling solution, not a sampled one. And the ones out there so far haven't quite got it right.
    Dasher
    -------
    It's all about the music - really. I keep telling myself that...

  8. #8

    Re: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    Let me give some perspective on the development of the guitars in JABB. First of all, none of the individual instruments in JABB are intended to be exhaustive, cover-all-the-options, instruments in the way libraries that focus entirely on single instruments are. We wanted to include a good cross section of standard choices that could be applied to the most common jazz writing situations.

    In the case of the guitars, I wanted to give users basic acoustic and electric guitar sounds that could then be modified with various amp, tube, EQ, and other plugins to get a reasonable palette of different sounds. During beta testing one of our testers made the excellent suggestion that one of the guitars should be modeled, out of the box, on the classic sound of Jim Hall. I added the "mellow" electric guitar at that suggestion. I used certain recordings of Jim Hall to design a sound very similar in tonal characteristics to those recordings.

    I'm sure we will add some more guitar choices at some point in the future but, as a writer's tool, it is really beyond the scope of JABB to do an in-depth examination of any particular instrument.

    By the way, there were two excellent guitarists who gave their input on the JABB guitars. We used many of their suggestions but some of their wishes were not included in the initial release just like some things I would have ideally liked in the brass (my being a brass player) were not included in the initial release. Choices must always be made to meet design goals and release deadlines.

    Tom

  9. #9

    Re: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Hopkins
    ...none of the individual instruments in JABB are intended to be exhaustive, cover-all-the-options, instruments in the way libraries that focus entirely on single instruments are. We wanted to include a good cross section of standard choices that could be applied to the most common jazz writing situations.
    As would be expected -Dan Dean Brass - 10 CDs, and almost no jazz articulations, QLB, 5 CDs, the same. Add a piano (TBO? - heck even the 1G original Giga Piano) Add a workable drum kit - not great, just usable, acoustic bass, electric bass - I've got over 40 Gigs of data right there, several thousand dollars invested, and still only a small set of usable jazz sounds. You guys did all this in 1 DVD? Freaking amazing! Is it perfect? Of course not. Is it worth double the money? I'm glad I didn't have to find out, but I'd have paid it...

    During beta testing one of our testers made the excellent suggestion that one of the guitars should be modeled, out of the box, on the classic sound of Jim Hall. I added the "mellow" electric guitar at that suggestion. I used certain recordings of Jim Hall to design a sound very similar in tonal characteristics to those recordings.
    IMHO, that was one of the two best choices for an all-around sound. Hall is the epitome of sophisticated. The other would have been a brighter, more contemporary sound (which probably wouldn't work as well in standard big band context.) If there is one customer who has found every instrument in the lib to be EXACTLY his favorite tonality, he's a lucky SOB. That's the nature of collections. But they play well together, which is much more important.

    ...Choices must always be made to meet design goals and release deadlines.
    And you chose well, Tom. While I would have been happier with fewer exotic instruments and more variation on the basics, (or perhaps just more of the exotics I actually write for), I am very pleased with the end result.

    Regardless of any further development, other products or updates, this is a major step forward in playability and jazz expression. As important as it is by itself, it will (and already has) spur development of similar packages. This only serves for the betterment of us all.
    Dasher
    -------
    It's all about the music - really. I keep telling myself that...

  10. #10

    Re: Guitar in J&BB, and where's the banjo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wheat Williams
    Guitar Notes for Jazz & Big Band Library

    I just got Jazz & Big Band and am reading the manual for the first time.

    I thought I'd pass along some observations about guitars.

    Since I play an archtop jazz guitar, I am not likely to use the J&BB guitar samples in my project, but I have some insight and observations.

    .....

    Banjo:

    Finally, in the early days of jazz, right up through the beginning of the Great Depression, the continuo instrument was the four-string banjo, and not the guitar! The banjo was strummed and not picked and arpeggiated like the modern bluegrass five-string banjo.

    In summary ... Also, a four-string banjo would be extremely useful for Dixieland up through early big band.
    Reading this sent me scurrying to the JABB page and I scanned the instrument list .. I could find no banjo of any type included at all.

    I was waiting for funds to purchase JABB and automatically assumed a banjo of some kind would be included. Am I missing something or is there a banjo included somewhere? If not are there any plans to add this instrument to the library?

    Thanks.
    Michael
    Patience is a virtue, sensitivity is a gift

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