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  • Subbing

    So I was talking to a friend from out of town who has been working professionally for a very long time about being called to sub or fill in on a pickup gig, and I've come to realize that I actually agree with him and the way people do things in my area just seems insane. We basically agreed that if you need a sub for a band and if it's a gig that doesn't pay enough to make it worthwhile to rehearse for them, you want to make the job as easy as possible for the sub. You try to pick stuff that the sub already knows and you don't go out of the way to have the learn your arrangements.. I may throw in few arrangements(which I have charts and music for) if they are easy, but only if there is a band member there who can lead them, and definitely not when there are 2 or more subs on a gig. The only time I can expect to have them learn your set is when you intend to use them as regular sub and you know you can throw work their way, as in they will be the first call whenever I need a sub for that band. Either that or the gig pays enough to warrant rehearsals as requirement. Otherwise I'd give them 1-2 arrangement at a time and have them learn the set on the gig. Personally this all makes sense, because you want your sub to be comfortable and sound good.

    I also found out from my friend that singers in his area work in very similar fashion, which is not something I see very often here. Most singers in his area are actually willing to work with you better, and if it's a pickup or sub situation, they will give you the choice to pick the songs you already know. They won't go out of the way to do arrangements or tunes that they know aren't standard material, and if possible change key to something that is slightly easier for the instrumentalist(i.e Bb or C instead of B for jazz standards).

    In contrast, I get the feeling that the burden is all on the instrumentalist here. I've been in situations where I had to do a lot of reading and irealbooking tunes I am not familiar with, and while it's doable it's a lot to keep track of when you are dealing with 12-15 songs for the night it's easy to miss details at that point. when you are dealing with odd keys and songs you never played with odd forms in irealbook, the only thing you can do is get through it and you can't really be sure of what you are doing and that's a tough situation to be if you are the sole accompaniment or the singer is expecting you to lead because everyone else is subbing. It's also not unusual to get asked to learn an arrangement, even though it's a pickup gig with no rehearsal and the singer can't provide a chart for it(which my friend from out of town agrees that it's annoying). I've also met singers who will call out tunes/arrangements right before we are or as we are performing and try show you chord changes and sing you the hits and what not at you(again no charts for the musicians). Worst case scenario, I've heard singers who will just start singing songs the band has never heard of and you are told to just follow them by ear.

    I guess the biggest difference between here and my friend's scene is that people here seem to push the sub to do these things and they are willing to risk train wreck, whereas people elsewhere have the common sense not to do that.. and people here seem to have gotten used to doing things that way. The gigs we are comparing are equivalent(as they are bar gigs, weddings and events that pay the going rate for the area) so that's not a factor in all this either.

    I am just curious, how do you guys work with sub in the area and what's your expectation to subs, and your expectation as a sub in the scene?

  • #2
    Wow, this is a great topic, and relevant, as I'm just now bringing two folks up to speed on my entire set. I have had occasion to sub my fiddle player, and usually the sub can just improvise it, as it's easy stuff. I'll leave out songs that have specific parts that absolutely have to be played a certain way. My regular fiddle player has decided that he doesn't want to do off-island gigs anymore, and that's where the majority of our work is. So, there is a player on a neighboring island where we have open ended invitations to play that is learning the set, and she's going to be part of the travelling band. Because she's going to be playing a lot of shows, she's really digging in and learning it. If it were a one-off, I wouldn't expect her to do so.
    http://thekiltlifters.com

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    • #3
      Originally posted by MrHarryReems View Post
      Wow, this is a great topic, and relevant, as I'm just now bringing two folks up to speed on my entire set. I have had occasion to sub my fiddle player, and usually the sub can just improvise it, as it's easy stuff. I'll leave out songs that have specific parts that absolutely have to be played a certain way. My regular fiddle player has decided that he doesn't want to do off-island gigs anymore, and that's where the majority of our work is. So, there is a player on a neighboring island where we have open ended invitations to play that is learning the set, and she's going to be part of the travelling band. Because she's going to be playing a lot of shows, she's really digging in and learning it. If it were a one-off, I wouldn't expect her to do so.

      Thanks for the reply and yea everything makes sense. The way my friend describe it, there needs to be give and take.. if someone is putting the effort to learn your set then they need to get something in return for their effort. If the music you are doing requires a lot more work then what it's worth, then I think you need to evaluate what you are doing. Sure there may be people who are willing to do that because they like the music, but that's not something you can expect, and you can expect to keep feeling that way about what they do

      I also think common sense goes a long way when you are working with new people that you don't know a whole lot about. I always give setlist, and chart/recording as needed a week before the gig, but there are people who won't give you their setlist, keeps changing and adding new songs on the fly, and pretty much basically expects you to know what they think you are supposed to know as a "working musician". That may work in a scene where there are a lot of specialists and you are certain the people doing the gigs are specialist. Sure people can fake it, but in my experience the more you try to get people to fake it, the more you are likely to run into accident and have the music suffer because of that.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by etcetra View Post

        I also think common sense goes a long way when you are working with new people that you don't know a whole lot about. I always give setlist, and chart/recording as needed a week before the gig, but there are people who won't give you their setlist, keeps changing and adding new songs on the fly, and pretty much basically expects you to know what they think you are supposed to know as a "working musician". That may work in a scene where there are a lot of specialists and you are certain the people doing the gigs are specialist. Sure people can fake it, but in my experience the more you try to get people to fake it, the more you are likely to run into accident and have the music suffer because of that.
        I can't imagine what kind of unprofessional person wouldn't give the setlist! I provide everyone with the set list, lead sheets, and scratch tracks.
        http://thekiltlifters.com

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        • etcetra
          etcetra commented
          Editing a comment
          Me too, but most people here are usually too lazy to give their setlist. I usually have to ask for them, and while the people I work with are pretty good about it, most people don't even bother to respond.

      • #5
        I have to say, Etc...where you are is one effed-up place to be a session player...really!

        Here, if I hire a sub, they get a setlist well in advance, and if they need lead sheets or full charts we will provide them, in a timely fashion, although most of our stuff is either blues or jazz standards, some of it is a bit arcane for the less knowledgeable players. In some cases I will provide our own recordings or at least a link to a youtube version that is in the ballpark. My goal is that the show will flow and the sub will fit in. So giving them what they need, absent a rehearsal, is professional courtesy.

        I've done side gigs where there was no time to even get familiar with the set list [call comes in less than 48 hours in advance], but typically I will have time to look it over, grab a chart for anything unfamiliar and print it to take along. [no music stands, thanks].

        Keep in mind, the bar here in Los Angeles is set pretty damned high, and I am very fortunate to be able to play with some outrageously talented and experienced people: Grammy winners, touring sidemen, professional session players, as well as arrangers, soundtrack authors etc. I'm always awed when I get a side gig call and find myself surrounded by players I consider far above my level, but I learned years ago...Zappa was right. I just shut up and play my guitar. [I've also learned to never ask who turned down the gig before me...it is usually a fairly long and storied list...so I know they must be desperate to get down to me]
        "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminate period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

        Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting '...man, what a ride!'
        "The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively" ~Bob Marley

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        • 1001gear
          1001gear commented
          Editing a comment
          Hey you got promoted here. Corngratches!


          Unless you did that yourself.

        • etcetra
          etcetra commented
          Editing a comment
          Haha.. I used to live in LA area for school, and yea things are much more professional there. I don't want to give away where I live, since it's a small scene, so I'll pm you.. suffice to say I live in South East Asia, and unless you are in Japan, you can't really expect the kind of professionalism you'd see in western countries. My friend from out of town lives in China, and while the people he works with are good about these things, it's within a small scene of expats, and they have to deal with all sorts other kind of mess(like safety and presence of equipment to the gigs).

          Me and my friend agreed that the problem is that most of the work are coming from singers and agency who doesn't know much about music, and the scene kind of is catered(or spoiled) to them. Where my friend lives, the singer/bandleader calls the shots and dictate what happens. They take the gig as a band and the client understand what the band specializes in and hires them for their act. The client may make some songs request but they don't try to turn the band into what they aren't and the band won't take the gig if it's well outside of their specialty. My friend told me people are eager to rehearse because learn their setlist/arrangement and being on the shortlist for subs means they will be getting a lot of good work in the future.

          On the other hand, most of the work here goes through agency or companies.. they don't hire bands, but individual musicians, and most of the time it's really hit and miss, because they are not hiring based on musical ability. They also bend over backwards to cater to the client, so as a result, the gigs are basically pickup gigs where everyone is thrown together to do a show where they don't really know what they will be playing. And yet you are kind of expected to know and do everything.

          I think one of the gig I took few years ago illustrates my point.. I was asked to do equivalent of a TOP 40 gig here, doing various Mandarain, Japanese pop songs as well as oldies and some American Pop songs. I told the guy in charge I usually dont do dual kb but he assured me it's an easy gig and I'll be fine. The week before the gig I get 12 tunes.. so far so good.. then the day before the gig I get 30 more tunes!

          The rehearsal was not what I expected. I was told that the horns will take care of most of the lines so I can focus more on padding and comping, but the drummer insisted the songs to be like the original recording.. which meant that I have to change my pad steup, listen to the songs, figure out the lines, transpose them and play them on the spot, and switch the pad after the intro..etc. I had to do that for few songs and it was apparent drummer was frustrated for being so slow.

          My experience with the other latin band(not the one I recorded) was not much different.. lots of mistake on chart, which meant having to learn very long, elaborate arrangements from recordings. I was told that the professionals in area has no problem picking stuff up on spot by ear. In case you are wondering this is the
          level of arrangement you are talking about, this is one of the songs I did.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2u6zVB3Djc

          Going back to the Chinese pop song gig.. I kind understand where they are coming from, because they people they usually hire has decades of experience playing that music. They know the songs inside out, they know all the horn/guitar solos hits and do them in any key. Likewise, I've seen professional Latin bands and they do have body of songs/arrangement that they all seem to know by ear because they've been playing that music ever since they were kids. I understand that these thing can work if you are part of a specialized scene where people have very similar background, but it's extremely difficult for anyone from the outside, and they don't seem to have the proper organization or skill to get people up to speed. Having said that, having no charts or incomplete charts for tunes like the one I linked above is not something that I've ever encountered in LA, and if singers don't have their set list, keys, and charts(if the songs are arranged), then they will get lectured about that too and will be told to get their **************** together if they want to work in this town.
          Last edited by etcetra; 11-15-2017, 12:47 AM.

      • #6
        Somewhat related, busy local guys will often sub (contract) out entire gigs for a kickback.
        Originally posted by Unconfigured Static HTML Widget...







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        • #7
          Originally posted by 1001gear View Post
          Somewhat related, busy local guys will often sub (contract) out entire gigs for a kickback.

          Not uncommon here, though we usually don't take a kickback. We just have reliable folks that we know we can count on, and there's reciprocity when they need to dep out one of their gigs.
          http://thekiltlifters.com

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