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Playing in the Pit...another audition looms


Rick Hoffman

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Well I've been in a Pit before. A Mosh Pit, that is. Never stepped inside real pit, that sacred ground where the "real" musicians are. The musicians at musicals. MUSICALS? You may ask.

 

I was bartending and I met some of the theatre crowd as they came in after a show. There's a local theatre in the corner of the strip mall, and they put on broadway shows, or something like that. Supposedly some big name people put on productions there and it's like a side gig to them.

 

They are putting together a version of the musical entitled "Sideshow", about a guy who falls in love with one of siamese twins. :freak:

 

Well I overheard they are looking for musicians, in particular bass and drums. They found their drummer and he met them at the bar, and we all had some good convo about music. Well they may need a bass so I gave them my number.

 

They asked me if I could sight read. :freak: HA! No, I can't. But I have a good ear and I can play very well by feel. The drummer doesn't sight-read either. But I think they are desperate for these positions to be filled since they are putting on a show this week.

 

There's been numerous discussions on "classically trained musicians" and "feel musicians". I'm not going to get into that though it may be a relative factor in this discussion.

 

The low down is this-I'm going to give it a shot. I think it would be cool to contribute something musically in the local community. So who here has played in a pit? What's the etiquette? Will chords charts help me? I think most definately. What kind of rig do I need? The big guns or a small combo? What do you wear? I was thinking all black.

 

Thanks and wish me luck who knows I may end up on broadway!!! I'm gonna be a stahhhhhhh!

"The world will still be turning when you've gone." - Black Sabbath

 

Band site: www.finespunmusic.com

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Rick, what show is it? Some shows are notoriously easy and then there are shows like West Side Story, where you start every show with a personal prayer. Here are a few pointers.

 

I am headed to a show in about 5 miinutes.

 

----------------------------------------------------

 

Tune to the piano, not your tuner.

 

A small amp will be perfect. And you will still be too loud.

 

A FEW pencils WITH erasers.

 

Clothing is left up to the discretion of the MD (music director). Could be blacks, could be tuxes.

 

Pay attention - no matter how boring it gets.

 

If you can get the book (the bass book) in advance. Work out the basslines. Be prepared for changes. Lots of changes.

 

NOW is the time to learn how to read. You'll be suprised how easy it is. Why people make such a fuss about learning how to read is beyond me, but I've been reading music since 5th grade, so...

 

Actually reading music is only half the battle. Following the conductor is the real dog fight. They will do things that would get you fired from any bar gig in the world - and they are right. Only once you have won their respect will they even consider taking a suggestion from you.

 

What goes on on stage is 50 times more important than what happens in the pit. It's not right, it's not fair, don't take it personally.

 

Make sure your gear is in good working order, don't give the sound tech a reason to draw attention to you.

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I am a long time pit musician.

 

Don't try to fake that you can't read. The music, while often a simple root-five bass line, is often quite complex. Do NOT try to memorize the show...by the time you learn it...it will be over. Since you don't read, get the CD and listen very carefully.

 

Chord charts might help. Writing the chords in the bass part might be a solution.

 

Pits are often very crowded. Take the smallest rig you have...I use the GK Microbass or the Acoustic Image Contra.

 

Remember, the show it the thing. The stage actors are often trained to sing to the bass line. If you mess up, they will too.

 

Shows are full of "cuts." You must have pencils to mark your parts. Whole songs are cut-and-pasted, others eliminated. I've had to transpose ("singer needs this one down a step.") Traditionally a cut is marked like this: somewhere in the middle of the song, for example, measure 67, the music will cut to, say, measure 146. And everybody jumps in real time. So you mark the bar line after the last measure you play with a giant letter "I", and then the beginning bar line of where you start with another letter "I" and connect those with a long line. It is very easy to hit the cut mark, follow the line to the entrance and continue without the audience knowing something was cut.

 

Shows are quite often "two-feel." They are written in 4/4 time, but played 2 to a bar. You are responsible for this feel.

 

Etiquette:

Most actors don't want to fraternize with the band. Don't go into the dressing rooms, ask the music director where you use facilities.

 

The Music Director is your boss. Ask him for what you need, but remember he/she is VERY busy...conducting the whole show. Make his life easy.

 

Do NOT arrive late for the gigs. Be in your spot and ready to go at least 15 minutes before the "house opens." Most pits are visible to the audience, and they don't want food or drink down there. Some allow you to bring bottled water.

 

It is customary that on the last night of the gig, you turn in your music fully erased. I generally erase on closing night as the show progresses. Remember, if the part is not cleaned or is damaged, the theater will be charged a fee. If the part is lost, even a larger fee.

 

No showing off or even playing scales in the pit pre-show. If you want to warm up, mute your tone.

 

Do NOT play too loud. Do NOT play too loud. Do NOT play too loud. The audience wants to hear the words to the songs. A little bass goes a long way.

 

Good luck.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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I've done a few local theatre gigs before. I used to love it until the politics of community theatre started to out take away from the fun of playing with fun people.

 

Anyways. All the shows I did I used a DI. Now from here it depended on how much room there was in the pit and where the pit was. I did one show with just a small practice amp because we were up on scaffolding(sp?) where everyone could see us but there was absolutely no room for a decent combo.

 

I got to use my old combo, Peavey TKO 115, for most of the gigs. Never turned it up past 3 on the main volume (except for after show jams...YAY!!).

 

Another show we were all situated around the mixing desk. Thats community theatre for you. But it was cool. No room for amps so the guitars, keyboards and myself were DI'd and everyone got headphones.

 

For clothing I would most definately wear black. Not only do you hide in the shadows better in the wings but it looks more professional than a bright orange sequinned(sp?) jumpsuit. j/k

 

Chord charts are probably your best bet to cover yourself due to the short notice but try to get some of the actual music and see if you can nut out some of the really important parts for cues(sp? again) and rhythm hits etc. Also keep at least one eye on the conductor at all times.

 

Have fun!!

"Remember this son, No matter how hard you try there is always someone better than you......"
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Been in a couple of pits. Remember, you want to be in the music director's pocket. I had a small combo set under the stage due to space and had to have everything turned down because of the natural amplification.

 

Smoke from the smoke machine will pour offstage and into the pit. Law of nature.

 

Dress style is up to the music director.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v506/atmofmn/Bass/SthPtYrBk.jpg

 

You will probably be able to understudy quite a few of the actors by the time rehearsal is over.

 

Reading music makes it so much easier.

 

Have fun at the cast party!

 

ATM

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Soon after I started playing bass I was working in a summer camp kitchen. The camp used to have several student musicals each summer.

 

The camp hired a piano player/music director each summer. They also had drama counselors who directed the shows. I was friends with one of the drama counselors and since I could read music (from several years of piano lessons), the music director was happy to let me accompany him. Usually the pit "orchestra" was the pianist, a drummer, and me. On occasion, maybe a violinist or percussionist.

 

This was a great situation for me as a novice player. It was a relatively low stakes performance (14 yr old summer camp kids and not B'way singers), and we were able to have a couple of musicians rehearsals and a couple of rehearsals w/ the cast (dress rehearsal + one more) so I didn't have to read the stuff cold.

 

You would've been amazed at how effective my crap Gorilla 30W amp was (see tnb's comment about small amps being too loud).

 

I learned a lot doing just a few shows. I got to play w/ musicians who were better than me in a relaxed but serious setting.

 

Peace.

--SW

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Originally posted by Dave Brown:

It is customary that on the last night of the gig, you turn in your music fully erased. I generally erase on closing night as the show progresses. Remember, if the part is not cleaned or is damaged, the theater will be charged a fee. If the part is lost, even a larger fee.

I just received my "And The World Goes 'Round" book this week for June 1-4 shows. It has something on EVERY page. Fingerings, note names, transpositions cuts, etc. all still there. I HATE THAT.

 

I've done a number of shows in my time. All good advice. You will always be too loud. That's the running joke around here from a few years ago.

 

Be ready for anything.

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Thank you for the input guys. I met the music director last night and didn't even know it. He seemed like a real nice guy, albeit a stressed and busy one.

 

Anyhow I'm sure I'll see him tonight and we can talk more shop. I think now may be a good time to take some lessons and learn to read music.

 

I think I'll sign up at Gil Brienes Music here in Deer Park. Hopefully they have a good bass teacher.

 

Thanks again guys I'll keep you all updated and let you know what happens.

"The world will still be turning when you've gone." - Black Sabbath

 

Band site: www.finespunmusic.com

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The two musicals I played on URB didn't need any kind of amplification and the many others that I've played on electric (like everybody says) were with my volume barely up and it was too loud. I've actually played two shows with my half stack (350W through a 4x10) for lack of a small combo at the time and it was much easier for me to get a good sound without turning up much. Those were in large pits though. Most of the time you'll be lucky to have enough room for a practice amp.

 

One thing nobody has said yet:

 

DON'T WATCH THE STAGE!!!

 

If you're positioned where you can see the stage, make a conscious effort to keep your eyes locked on the director. I ran into plenty of problems early on trying to watch for cues onstage and missing downbeats. The director is being paid to connect you to the action on the stage...let him/her earn his/her keep.

 

Have fun!

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Originally posted by Dave Martin:

I did a community theater production of "Fiddler On The Roof" last month - it was a huge amount of fun. And It gave me an excuse to buy a new bow...

Our Fiddler fell and broke her ankle. She finished the show though! Played upright on that one. My drummer friend and I could have stood in for any actor, we knew all the lines and blocking. Rehearsals can get boring.

 

ATM

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ATM, funny you should say that about the broken ankle. Last fall I played for a community theater production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (best cast I've ever seen in it, pro or amature, and I've seen a handful...it was like watching a Mel Brooks movie). In the last week of perfomances, our Pseudolus (the lead who's onstage literally 95% of the show) fell durring a chase scene near the end of one show and broke his foot. He got up and finished the last 15 minutes of running, dancing and singing and nobody knew it was broken until after the show.

 

We had no understudies although anyone in the pit could have subed perfectly well (and I wanted to :D ). We had the lady playing Domina step up and fill in for Pseudolus and the wardrobe manager play Domina. It was a nightmare...but the show went on.

 

Sorry for the babbling.

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Originally posted by Dave Martin:

I did a community theater production of "Fiddler On The Roof" last month - it was a huge amount of fun. And It gave me an excuse to buy a new bow...

Well, my son is takin' off with a lot of my gear, but he ain't takin' my bow.

 

Did you find a nice bow? I'd be interested in the details.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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