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How Many Here Doing Musicals?


Polkahero

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I just accepted and got one of the keyboard books for a production of "Mamma Mia". I've only played keys for one musical before (usually I'm on bass), and now I know why the Broadway synth cats get double pay for these productions: it would take me days just to program/layout all of the 130 patch changes in this show! :o

 

Guess I'm looking for a "quick and dirty" solution to all of these patch changes. There's triggers, arpeggiated patterns, etc. that I don't want to deal with, plus multiple synth pad/lead patches for different ABBA songs. Can I just settle on a decent lead or pad patch and roll with that the entire show? Not even sure if I want to bring my own board (probably would roll with the Kawai MP7 which has limited synth sounds) as I think they're providing something (likely a Clavinova).

 

Help! :(

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

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Polkahero,

 

I've done quite a few as a second kb-er, with the MD doing the heavy lifting on piano. I'm not sure I can help you decide how to pare it down, other than to say the action on stage is paramount and everything else is window dressing. I try to contribute where I can, if in doubt lay out, and I usually end up playing a LOT of string parts.

 

Good luck,

Joe

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It's my understanding that the Broadway keys players don't do their own programming for shows: it's all set up for them and they use a footswitch to advance from one patch to the other. Can I assume from your post there's no budget to pay you for your time to setup patches (assuming you had the time to begin with)? In such a case I would probably spend an hour or two with a recording of the show while reading the charts, and decide what's absolutely needed and what things you can slide on.
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Our friend Dave Weiser is the expert on this stuff. Last I saw, I think he was working on Rock of Ages. He did Jesus Christ Superstar that was on NBC last year. He did the recent production of An American in Paris.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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It's my understanding that the Broadway keys players don't do their own programming for shows: it's all set up for them and they use a footswitch to advance from one patch to the other. Can I assume from your post there's no budget to pay you for your time to setup patches (assuming you had the time to begin with)? In such a case I would probably spend an hour or two with a recording of the show while reading the charts, and decide what's absolutely needed and what things you can slide on.

 

This is a high school production, hence little to no budget.

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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Musicals can be a blast to play. But if you or anyone else expects the keys to recreate all the ABBA hits, then you can't help but to disappoint.

 

Since it is a high school production, how about just do what is musically fun. For you. That doesn't try from note 1 to emulate the records. Now the impossible burden is off you, and you do as much or little as you like.

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I do the music direction for our fall musical every year. Last year we did "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and I got my school to cough up for the patch program which works on MainStage (If I recall correctly).

Very much easier, but you can get lost in all the patches.

 

Start off with piano, then maybe some layers (strings, etc.). All of these shows can be done with just a piano - just not as "gee whiz" without all the patch changes.

 

We're doing Godspell this year. What a breath of fresh air! 70's Rock, and all B-3, Piano, and/or Electric Piano (and the pit is just guitar, bass, drums!).

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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I do the music direction for our fall musical every year. Last year we did "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and I got my school to cough up for the patch program which works on MainStage (If I recall correctly).

Very much easier, but you can get lost in all the patches.

 

Start off with piano, then maybe some layers (strings, etc.). All of these shows can be done with just a piano - just not as "gee whiz" without all the patch changes.

 

We're doing Godspell this year. What a breath of fresh air! 70's Rock, and all B-3, Piano, and/or Electric Piano (and the pit is just guitar, bass, drums!).

 

Thanks for the tips. I was the rehearsal pianist for Godspell several years ago but fell ill and had to drop out before the actual performances. One of these days I'll get to play Jesus Christ Superstar on bass guitar, that would be an absolute blast!

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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This is my bread and butter (though not at Daves level). I havent seen the Mama Mia books yet (playing for a production this coming winter/spring though), but Im already anticipating theyll be complicated.

 

In general, Ive done all my own programming, and generally think I do a pretty good job of it. Since all the programming is on my own time and my own dime, Ill cut a lot of corners compared to the details in some more complicated books.

 

Les Mis keyboard 2, for example, was mostly strings, but lots of specific variations, splits, and articulations measure to measure. I used judgment and simplified in a lot of places. I generally try to get my shows down under 100 patches (since thats the on-board limit of my controller).

 

But, I always try to nail the right flavor and instruments where it counts. Solo bits matter more than the precise string or wind ensemble patch when Im doubling live players.

 

In the past Ive used Roland modules (jv2080 with expansion boards, then the Integra) as my sound sources, controlled by a master keyboard. For Mama Mia this spring Ill be dipping my toes into a Mainstage rig. Well see how that goes.

 

For high school show (or a low budget community or regional show), its also important to get a sense of how much of the orchestration is going to be covered. Are they filling all the chairs? How good is everyone else? What are the other keys players doing? If there are programmed arpeggios in the books, whats the plan for making sure tempos stay on track?

 

Sometimes, the production values of the particular pit orchestra kinda require you to dumb down a book in order to make a more unified sound.

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I'm working on this one at the moment.

There are 4 keyboard books for this show - obviously a Mac running Mainstage would be my first choice. However, MTI who licenses many many shows work with RMS (Realtime Music Solutions) who have their own software. They do all the patch work for you. Talk to the show's musical director and see if they plan on running a laptop with RMS Keyboards for all 4 keyboard players to hook up to via USB.

 

https://www.rms.biz/products/RMS%20Keyboards/

 

[video:youtube]

 

 

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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Not since high school, but in that case, I was on stage singing and dancing, not playing keys. It WAS though, an extreme joy to take my kids to see "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and show them the actual script I still have, and point out - that was the part Daddy played... and know every word to those songs, I think they just thought I was a Dork, and I am, but it was fun anyway.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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For high school show (or a low budget community or regional show), its also important to get a sense of how much of the orchestration is going to be covered. Are they filling all the chairs? How good is everyone else? What are the other keys players doing? If there are programmed arpeggios in the books, whats the plan for making sure tempos stay on track?

 

Sometimes, the production values of the particular pit orchestra kinda require you to dumb down a book in order to make a more unified sound.

 

This. I've MD-ed amateur-level musicals and the budget wasn't there for some of the pro solutions mentioned. I created my own scores for the 7-piece band (3 winds+rhythm section).

 

Cheers, Mike.

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I'm working on this one at the moment.

There are 4 keyboard books for this show - obviously a Mac running Mainstage would be my first choice. However, MTI who licenses many many shows work with RMS (Realtime Music Solutions) who have their own software. They do all the patch work for you. Talk to the show's musical director and see if they plan on running a laptop with RMS Keyboards for all 4 keyboard players to hook up to via USB.

 

https://www.rms.biz/products/RMS%20Keyboards/

 

[video:youtube]

 

 

Interesting but I know for certain this school won't have the budget for something like this.

 

"What's a warm string sound"? :laugh:

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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For high school show (or a low budget community or regional show), its also important to get a sense of how much of the orchestration is going to be covered. Are they filling all the chairs? How good is everyone else? What are the other keys players doing? If there are programmed arpeggios in the books, whats the plan for making sure tempos stay on track?

 

Sometimes, the production values of the particular pit orchestra kinda require you to dumb down a book in order to make a more unified sound.

 

Great post. As far as I know all of the books will be covered (4 keys, 2 guitars, bass, and drums). I know two of the other keyboardists are good readers, classically trained like me but they're not really "synth" players, i.e. they don't program patches. I'm more advanced in that respect but not like most of the guys on this forum. Not sure on the 4th keyboardists ability (his main instrument is trumpet). First orchestral rehearsal is this Sunday so it should be interesting! I'm going to ask the MD if I can bring my Kawai as I should be able to set up at least 32 patches where I only have to press 2 buttons for access. For the quick changes I plan on setting up those specific patches sequentially and using a footswitch.

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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That sounds like a good plan!

 

I'll often show up to rehearsal just like you're planning; with 10 or so patches based on the requirements of the book set so I can pretty much access and toggle between instantaneously with 1 or 2 mindless button presses, as well as maybe a few songs roughed out with patch changes in sequence that I'll footswitch through.

 

Then, after getting a sense of what the gig is about, I'll expand on that appropriately.

 

 

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Brian Li worked Broadway for a while and wrote a series of articles about using MainStage for theater productions:

 

:thu:

 

Brian is a wonderful Mainstage resource and his articles have helped me a bunch.

 

I've done some community musicals but am not working on one currently. It helps to use keyboards or computers to augment string and wind players. The latest version of Mainstage has a number of easily switched articulations for strings and pop horns which are very useful but unfortunately not for other orchestral instruments. The more comprehensive libraries (e.g. VSL) can be taxing to the computers. When using keyboards or computers some thought needs to be given to how the sounds will blend together.

 

Our fellow KC-er and Sound Design Guru Dave Weiser carries more information about this in his pinky fingernail than I will ever know. He is supporting a number of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals across the globe.

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Update: Just received this message from the MD, looks like I don't have to worry about any patches!

 

"We purchased the keyboard patch solutions for Mamma Mia from MTI and between myself and two other pianists, we have enough mac computers to run the program. Keyboard Patch Solutions are preset for each piano part from the score already. It allows you to press a low key on the keyboard and change to the next patch instantly. That way you shouldn't have to preset them on your keyboard. If you would still prefer to play on your own keyboard, you are more than welcome to bring it. Just let me know what you prefer."

 

Yeah, I think I'll leave my keyboard at home. :cool:

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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They don't have individual monitors for each keyboardist, so I'm trying to decide whether to bring one or two of my EV ZXA1 speakers or bring my Kurzweil KA-90 which is lightweight and has decent built in speakers.

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I finally made it to a dress rehearsal for the show tonight. I'm playing a Yamaha Clavinova that's connected to a Macbook Pro that's likely running Mainstage to control all the patches.

 

Frankly, I'm not that impressed with the quality of the sounds. My Kawai MP7 has some better sounds that these patches purchased from Broadway. Not to mention all of the patches are touch sensitive where many of them (synths, organs, etc.) shouldn't be making it hard to control the sound. Triggers don't work because they are programmed at specific tempos and we're not running a click track. Oh well, when it doubt leave it out.

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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We had our first pit band rehearsal for (high school) Spamalot Sunday. It was a lot of work in the weeks before becoming familiar with an Apple loaned from the school, Mainstage and the prepackaged patches, annotating the music for pedaling patch changes, and practicing. However, during the first rehearsal, the schools Apple started acting up. First, pedal changes werent always recognized, so Id be behind in a patch, and then suddenly the computer caught up with all the frantic missed pedaling and advanced too far in the patches. Then held notes started cutting off at 0.3 seconds after keying them (inquiring looks from the MD). Then (to my relief), the Apple stopped sending sound out of the headphone jack to my PAs. I plugged the speaker wires directly into my SP6 and focused on just playing, and both the MD and I were happy campers. Ive now spent about 2 hours configuring the SP6 to select patches for the main instruments using the favorites buttons and re-annotated the music for my favorites buttons.
CA93, MODX8, YC88, K8.2
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Software systems suck! If it was up to me, I would have programmed my MP7 and used a foot pedal to switch between patches. Right now I have to hit the lowest Bb of the keyboard to move up one patch which is impossible in some spots where the patch changes from measure to measure and you're using both hands prior to the patch change.

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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:snax:

 

Since the questions have been answered and the problems worked out, just wanted to be the peanut gallery for a second...

 

Our friend Dave Weiser is the expert on this stuff. Last I saw, I think he was working on Rock of Ages. He did Jesus Christ Superstar that was on NBC last year.

Boy, I loved looking at the JCS pit photos on Facebook and seeing that Nord C2D. It made me glad that somebody cared enough about the show's roots in early 70s rock and soul that it wasn't just a bunch of controllers and Mainstage. Joe Cocker's band plays on the original record, for crying out loud.

 

One of these days I'll get to play Jesus Christ Superstar on bass guitar, that would be an absolute blast!

Yes. Yes it would. Some of my favorite bass parts ever.

Samuel B. Lupowitz

Musician. Songwriter. Food Enthusiast. Bad Pun Aficionado.

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Major latency issues last night with the RMS software they're running on the laptops. I counted 3 seconds of elapsed time from when I hit the key to change a patch until the actual patch change! I was pretty much screwed for the measure to measure changes which happen frequently in my part. Another reason I'll never use a software based program for live use.

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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