Hey so I'm going into advanced band and I play bass. There are 2 or 3 other bassists and I want to be 1st chair. I haven't been chaired in previous band classes so I'm wondering what I need to expect when my teacher decides what chairs everyone is. Anyone know?
Its all dependent on how well you play. if the other bassists are better than you, dont expect to be first chair. When i was in school i made first chair trumpet, i honestly couldnt care less because i wasnt interested in that instrument but i took private lessons and was able to belt out the high notes others couldnt hit. Therefore i was put as first chair. At least for me everyone else kind of hated you because they were farther down the pecking order. About the only upside i could see was i didnt have to walk through people to get to my seat. 
The traditional method is that periodically each section (players of the same instrument) is scheduled for evaluation, typically given a piece or two to learn and perform individually, and typically given something new to sight read individually as well. Everyone is evaluated, ranked, and assigned to chairs by the band director, although at the professional orchestra level it is more likely they may use a blind peer evaluation (pairs of players are hidden behind a barrier and the rest of the section evaluates who plays better). Different sections are staggered over a schedule, and it can be a little more complicated with large sections where there is an overall ranking but the music being played is scored into three parts (for example) so "first chair" may mean you are one of six people playing the "first chair" score of the section, or it may mean you are the top ranked of those six and sit first chair (and may play special solo parts of the score). Another six people may play the "second chair" score, ranked within that as well, etc.
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PlusPaul Just found out today. That's pretty similar to what my band teacher is doing. We have to do a concert scale, a chromatic scale (easy I can just slide up the fretboard), a solo and sight read. I'm really worried though cause if you don't do well she kicks you out of the class completely. You seem to know band stuff, so I have another question. Isn't a concert scale just a major scale?
it's kind of a weird process, when you think about it, because the interview/chairing process is 100% independent of your ability to play within a band. it can depend on your gear, but ultimately it's just a raw skill test that is quantified. usually, you'll run through a few scales as cleanly and concisely as possible (do not worry about speed - be consistent in tone and tempo). they might ask for multiple voicings of the same scale to see if you can think on your feet, but nothing too weird

then you're usually going to be playing a few excerpts, sometimes one is your choice while the other is director's pick. just depends on the audition process. just play consistently and cleanly and do your best - on something like bass, it's not going to be a technique race.

if you play perfectly, they still might not give you first chair. don't take this as a bad thing - sometimes it's important to give reliable people simpler roles because 2nd and 3rd chairs are often the backbone in the music. if you don't have a strong backline, the band falls apart
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"Concert" means concert pitch and concert scales... the pitches, keys, and instruments where the written note names and the note names of their fingerings match the note name called "concert". These instruments are called non-transposing, "C" instruments like flute and piano; the note they read and the note they play matches what is called "concert".

Do you know about transposing instruments? These are like Bb Clarinet, Eb sax, F French Horn... they read music scored in a different key from concert.

If the band director calls for a concert Bb major scale...

The Clarinet is going to play what they would finger and read to be a C major scale, and if written, that would be their key.
The sax is going to play their G major scale, and their score would be in G major.
French Horns would read and play in F major.

Musicians who play transposing instruments know all about this because if a song is called in concert key D minor, the sax player for example will immediately know that everything he plays must be a minor third below concert pitch. He will mentally shift down from D minor to B minor... or ask for a score in B minor.

When the director is asking to play concert scales, he's testing that those with transposing instruments know how to make the shift.

Written guitar music is an octave higher than the pitches played (to avoid using the bass clef), so technically it is a transposing instrument, but since it is an octave it is trivial. I think bass guitar and double bass sound an octave below the written music to avoid the deep ledger lines below the bass clef staff, so kind of the same thing. Your pitches and keys are the same as concert pitches and keys.
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Last edited by PlusPaul at Aug 11, 2017,
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I think bass guitar and double bass sound an octave below the written music to avoid the deep ledger lines below the bass clef staff

They do, so it's just possible that a bassist might be tested on a "concert middle C", which would be the octave above the C on 5th fret G string (normally written for bass on the ledger line above bass clef.)
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