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new gig; Sheet music, by heart or other solution?


RudyS

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I have been asked to be sub for a local singer (with her own band). I am really looking forward to this gig because I see this as a next step my career. She's been on national television a few times, has some quite cool gigs, plays in Germany and is actually being paid well for gigs (with her own music).

 

I've been asked to learn 25+ songs. All, but three, are own songs. I have recordings and from about ten there was sheet music. I've been busy written out the rest of the songs last week.

 

Now the point. I think it looks very lame to do the gig from sheet music (this is a pop gig with own songs). But I am really not confident yet on do it by heart. I could go the tablet route maybe, but that would cost me some money as I don't own one... any opinions on this?

 

 

Rudy

 

 

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Hi

Gongrats on the new gig

In similar situations I try to learn the songs by heart. It's good for your playing and the artist you're working with. It's an honor for him/her to learn his/her songs. And it's gonna help you on stage to concentrate on the music.

 

BUT

 

I always have the new scores laying on the floor, near my feet. You never know, so it's better to have the scores in a not very apparent position, for your own safety. Nobody can see them, but you. This is very assuring.

 

Yannis

 

Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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If it's simple pop songs, I usually go with lyrics+chords, or only chords.

Life is subtractive.
Genres: Jazz, funk, pop, Christian worship, BebHop
Wishlist: 80s-ish (synth)pop, symph pop, prog rock, fusion, musical theatre
Gear: NS2 + JUNO-G. KingKORG. SP6 at church.

 

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I have had similar gigs and cringe at the idea of sheet music. What I've done is use a 3"x5" spiral notepad that can prop quietly off to the side of my keyboard. I will have a page for each song with some notes and chord changes on that. The goal is to learn it all from memory, but a few dozen songs in short time is aided by a little reminder.
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A tablet is less visually intrusive than sheets - I've noticed on 'The Voice' on UK TV the band seems to use tablets for chords/notes, but you don't see it unless you look for it (it just looks like part of the keyboard rig).

 

Maybe get a budget Android tablet, or even a second-hand one, and see it as an investment?

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Are you a really good sight reader ? If yes well scores subtly placed where you can refer to them and turn pages will work. Otherwise chord charts either on a tablet or paper would be the best option to learning them by heart. But learning them by heart is the best option.

 

I find that having chord charts nearby gives me the confidence to play with comfort in the knowledge that if I suffer brain fade in the moment I can recover. In reality by the time I need to refer to the chart I am now 10 songs in front the chart book and I have to fudge it. I later describe this as re-interpreting the song.

 

Key riffs or fills I have to learn by heart, and the cues that come before them, otherwise they don't come out right or at the right time.

A misguided plumber attempting to entertain | MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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I play in numerous projects, so charts make sense. Having an iPad, running Unrealbook has been a game-changer, especially since adopting the Dave Rosental method of using it to change my setups. Sometimes a chart is no more than a song title & key of the song, and / or maybe a scribbled reminder. Other times, it's a full on chart. But having it ensures I can do a pick up gig on a moment's notice with someone I haven't played with in months. An iPad's easy to hide too, so it's not too much of an eye soar, especially if ya make an effort to not be glued to it.

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My advice: learn them by heart.

 

My experience is the moment I started playing by heart, it gave me the freedom to connect with my bandmates and the audience. On top of that my playing got a lot more expressive and just a lot better on the whole. It's a whole new ball game.

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I velcro'd a chip clip to the top of my SK1, and can put a cheat sheet there if I need one. It's where I put my set list with patch change info as well. I try not to use any music on gigs, but sometimes you need the assurance. In your case, learning a lot of new music, it might be good to have a fallback. Eric's suggestion of the small cards is good too, small and inconspicuous.

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You don't see music on pro stages unless there are certain circumstances. The more you memorize the better. I had to tell the other keyboard player in my band that it was a crutch and to loose the stand. Lately she had been doing a lot better.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

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Most likely, the original songs share a similar vibe. A single cheat sheet with the song title, key signature and chord progression will suffice until they are committed to memory. :cool:

 

 

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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I agree, no charts if you want this gig to help build your career.

 

How much time do you have? Key thing number one: get the recordings into your computer, your car, your van, your phone and your iPod. Listen to them until you are sick of them, and then listen to them ten times that much. Use every spare moment you have between now and a couple of days before the gig to listen to them..while you're jogging, while you're driving, and while you're brushing your teeth.

 

Spend time practicing. With the recordings, without the recordings. Learn your parts. Learn the guitar and bass parts. Retranscribe on the fly a piano solo piece. Then a solo organ piece. Fast-forward to a random spot in a random song. Start playing.

 

If you know the songs inside out and backwards, you can then spend time on other things while performing. Like smiling.

 

Wes

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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I use 4" x 6" index cards. They're easy to lay on top of your keyboard (or in my case I made a small almost invisible stand for them). So there's no clicking binders, paging through scores or music stands. I write whatever's necessary to remember, ie: the key, intros, usually the form or unusual turnarounds etc.

 

One bit of advice is that these gigs are absolutely not about you. They are about the singer. The only thing that matters is that you're prepared for the gig. Re-write your scores as simple cheat sheets, and don't rely on your memory on a one-off, sub-in gig. It's a waste of time. And if you shit the bed, they'll wonder why you didn't come prepared.

 

YMMV

 

 

____________________________________
Rod

Here for the gear.

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While there are advantages to playing for memory, or 'by heart', having paper or digital format charts on stage is sometimes a necessity - especially for new gigs with lots of material. Better that than having your mind go blank at an important moment. And charts/scores are seen on pro stages; it just depends on the application. Haven't seen a music stand in use by a principal member of a major act, but have seen a certain amount of stands on stage for backing musicians. Freelance musicians are seen using stands frequently - either when reading the book of a bandleader, or when reading score if called to cover a last-minute slot in an original act.

 

For well-established cover and original material bands, it seems a different story. When an act plays out regularly the music is typically memorized; and often that comes about simply through repetition - both on stage and in rehearsal. Plus for bands that have a structured show (possibly with choreography), it's less distracting and does provide visual cohesion for the band and audience.

 

My experience has been all-of-the-above. It's great to be free from the tether of a chart, but over the past year I would've been in trouble without having a lot of songs sketched-out and filed in a notebook.

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

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You said you are subbing? nothing wrong with charts as long as you are discreet. Especially since you are genuinely worried about learning everything, and that's a ton of songs. Just don't make a giant paper mess all over your corner of the stage.

 

The singer probably won't care about you using charts as long as you aren't buried and it detracts from your visual energy. What the singer will care about is if you don't know the song.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

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This sounds kind of crazy, but will you be standing or sitting? If sitting it's much more visually acceptable for the keyboard player to use sheet music/ charts than someone who's standing.

 

If you're standing, I'd say memorize if you can, but if not - well you gotta do what you gotta do.

 

I'm doing P&W these days, and sheets and charts are commonplace for the keys - even if no one else in the band is using them.

 

 

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That's a great point w.r.t. standing vs sitting. I stand or sit depending on musical style. When I stand, I don't usually stand still. I move, dance, spin around, grab a mic, sing, etc. When I sit, I barely move.

 

I don't think I could do all the stuff I do when I'm standing AND read music. Even chord charts.

 

Back in the 90s, though, I stood as still as a bass-player, behind, a three-tier rig. I used a big piece of 3" masking tape, 88 notes long, to write down my charts in set list order before the gig.

 

P&W with charts - how do you notate B knuckle 7?

 

Wes

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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Congrats on the gig.

 

You're right, charts are less-than-ideal. But memorizing everything before 1st live gig may not be realistic. And your new boss will care more if the songs have errors than if they have paper on stage.

 

Is smartphone an option (iReal Pro or similar)? Maybe prioritize which songs to commit to memory first, than next tier. That way you've got perhaps the most important songs memorized, and minimizing (although not immediately precluding) the use of charts.

 

Also...have you asked you new boss this question? I'd be interested in what she is expecting, what her opinion about this all is too, if I were in your shoes.

 

Best of luck to you. Sounds like you're going to do great.

 

Tim

..
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BTW - something to consider - lots of people think of sub gigs as "just a sub gig". I think of them as job interviews.

 

Of course, if you *can't* memorize the material in time, then you have no choice. But if it's an option - memorize the charts.

 

Another tip, if you have the right hardware: I keep my charts in my bench. Nobody ever sees them, but they are never far if I need them. I keep one song per sheet, in alphabetical order.

 

Wes

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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BTW - something to consider - lots of people think of sub gigs as "just a sub gig". I think of them as job interviews.

 

Great point

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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I agree, no charts if you want this gig to help build your career.

 

How much time do you have? Key thing number one: get the recordings into your computer, your car, your van, your phone and your iPod. Listen to them until you are sick of them, and then listen to them ten times that much. Use every spare moment you have between now and a couple of days before the gig to listen to them..while you're jogging, while you're driving, and while you're brushing your teeth.

 

Spend time practicing. With the recordings, without the recordings. Learn your parts. Learn the guitar and bass parts. Retranscribe on the fly a piano solo piece. Then a solo organ piece. Fast-forward to a random spot in a random song. Start playing.

 

If you know the songs inside out and backwards, you can then spend time on other things while performing. Like smiling.

 

Wes

 

This

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

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Making chord charts and folding them up carrying them around in your pocket and frequently glancing at them every day helps me memorize music quickly. Many short study session away from the instrument. I also tape copies on the walls of my place where I sit the most.

 

Maybe I would also construct some "crib note"chord changes, maybe condensed on a sheet or an index card, in case of memory lapse, and have them laying flat on my keyboard. As back up with the goal of memorizing the tunes...

"a cheat sheet or crib sheet is a concise set of notes used for quick reference."

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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First, I occasionally see charts and sheet music at some pro gigs (from the audience, which is where I'll be for any pro gig!)

 

What I NEVER see at pro gigs is distracting sheet music or charts. My $0.02 is, having it in your head is best, but if the paperwork allows you to be a better player, go for it, but only if you know how to make it non-distracting.

 

I admit I roll my eyes seeing amateur bands where the vocalists have lyric sheets. Learn the words already! Sigh. But whatever.

 

Be happy you have the option, that you can sight read sheet music. That'll never happen for me. I have found my own charts / cheatsheets to be helpful, and I'd use 4x6 cards as well (and I've used my Nook e-reader, like a small dumb tablet, it even still has the Velcro on back.)

 

When I do get the chance to sub, I make a point beforehand (if time permits) to record a gig or two with a field recorder, and spend a lot of quality time woodshedding with that. Bands often don't play the way stuff is charted; arrangements change, etc.

 

The first thing I focus on is, for every tune with a keyboard intro or where keys have to be down on it right at the start, or that require a bit of keyboard setup, I make a point to learn to associate the name of the song with what it is. I find that's harder than learning the songs themselves! For anything where I can wing it, I don't bother.

 

Even with all the tunes well learned and memorized, it's a problem for me when I can't call them to mind given the name. And that's a common problem because I'm terrible at it!

 

Likewise, just be sure you know what your weaknesses are, and do whatever's necessary to be confident regardless.

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My iPad is an integral part of my set up. I've been with my current band for about ten years so I really don't need it for that but when I have to sub out the iPad with Forescore is a lifesaver... I keep it inconspicuous on a stand out of sight of the band & audience.

But I agree memorized is best when possible.

You don't know you're in the dark until you're in the light.
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I make abbreviated chord notes if I don't have the songs memorized. usually if i use the notes in rehearsal, i then won't need them in the show. I write very brief "crib chord" notes as a reminder, not an exact exhaustive repetition. I wouldn't use sheet music, my eyes don't see well enough to read fast on the fly in a dark venue. I make mini abbreviated charts like this, as simple as I can to konw where I'm going - then I can remember the variations and riffs off each chord (ex only)

 

INTRO: Am B7 C

.......... C G4 Am (x2)

 

VERSE1: C Cm7 Em ...

 

If verses and chorus are same each time, i only write them once. I then practice to these sheets so I can quickly find where I am at any point in the song, if needed. I use very large font so I can quickly glance down and get the chords coming up without it distracting me from the performance.

 

I have an XF7 so I have room to tape it down atop my left keyboard corner, nobody can really see it in the audience.

 

if you got a tablet, all the cooler - most audience thinks you're doing some tech-savvy synth control stuff on it, only the other musicians usually know you're just scrolling chords lol and they don't care :)

 

I hate when band members don't learn (after a reasonable time). one of my bands is a Cars band and we've had two Ric's. Both were in the band about a year each, and they both still used lyric sheets. seriously, like Cars lyrics are that deep and complex. we used to throw crap at them in rehearsal, jeer them, even hide their book. seriously ... you can walk, drop the crutch.

The baiting I do is purely for entertainment value. Please feel free to ignore it.
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With original music, I learn the songs (memorize), but I usually make and bring notes--patch, key, am I in at the top, how does it start if I'm not, what's the mnemonic for this tune (e.g., "Fever groove"), which bridge is this one, which ending is this one. These are all shorthand notes to myself. 20+ original songs can start to blend together, and the song titles don't always immediately cue me to which one THIS tune is.

 

If the songs are easy, I'll just write the info on the set list next to the song name. That might just be patch and key. If there are lots of intricate changes to be on top of, I'll bring a doc on my iPad. That might be reminders about a skipped pre-chorus in the second verse, or a rhythmically challenging bridge or break or the like, or a sketched out unison line that I want to be sure to get right--whatever I can anticipate getting lost in the fog in a long set of new (or sound-alike) tunes.

 

My advice is not to get too caught up on what "pro's" do--a pro does whatever it takes to make the group sound good. A lost keyboard player doesn't help the group at all. So start by memorizing all the low-hanging fruit, with the goal of getting all of it down. If it turns out that you need a discreet chart here and there to ensure you're doing the best job for them, just go ahead and use one. No one will fault you for it.

 

Have fun, and enjoy the show.

Now out! "Mind the Gap," a 24-song album of new material.
www.joshweinstein.com

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Thank you very much everybody. Such great feedback here. I love this place.

 

The songs are not really hard, but have some weird chord changes. Often the verse or chorus has some odd number of measures, and occasionally even some odd time signatures. That makes it quite hard to memorize everything. I really want to nail this one, as this is a recurring sub gig (the other keyboard player has another band, so this gig will come by more often). I have the first rehearsal tomorrow, gig is within a week.

 

Im taking WesG's advice and listening over and over to the songs during my daily job.

 

I really like the idea of the small cheat sheets or spiral notebook and making concise cheat sheets. I think I will take that route. I will be playing my Px5s with my Electro for this gig. I can lay the notebook at the lowest end of my PX5, and probably no one will notice. I already made a separate list with all patches per song which I will stick on my Electro.

 

The ipad thing will be on my list though. I like the patch change function.

 

 

Rudy

 

 

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For my church gig I usually transcribe the tunes we play, because I find it is the best way to memorize a song! Once I have it all mapped out, I just have it on the stand to remind me what it is, but I primarily play from memory.

 

It is also handy to have when there is subs on the gig.

 

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