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bendafender

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I know there are a few of us here that regularly play in orchestra pits for theater productions. This is a thread to share our experiences and frustrations, our equipment, our successes and our failures.

 

For me, I just closed a show today (UrineTown). It was a great show and a great success, with most of our shows sold out.

 

I play strings, which usually means I play bass, but sometimes I play guitar, banjo, violin, mandolin etc.

 

My next show opens in a month.

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i was the guitarist at a new musical theatre for 3 years. on grand opening night of the theater's very first show there was a scene that called for a lot of fog on stage. the 4 fog machines were running like mad and there was barely any fog onstage. we could hear the producer telling the the stage hands more fog! more fog!

 

unfortunately nobody had opened the vents to let the fog out on stage and all the fog was coming out in the orchestra pit. it was so foggy in the pit that you could not see the score even with your nose against it. most of the guys in the pit are readers. they couldn't play happy birthday without a chart.

 

the producer is yelling backstage MORE FOG GOD DAMMIT!! and the music director is crashing into the brass section trying to find his way out of the pit to tell them to stop....

 

the bass player and drummer and one of the keyboards and me "jammed" the opening of the show until the fog cleared. you could not see the person sitting right beside you but you could hear them laughing.

 

for the pit i use a mesa boogie .22 or my Tone King Imperial if it's a country show and my albert lee music man and a backup Jerry Jones six string. i use a Larraviee Parlor Guitar with a pickup for acoustic parts but i think i might switch to a modeling guitar. i keep a gym bag full of pedals and stuff too.

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I've done this on a couple of occasions. It's not really my thing, totally, but it does help me in the reading department. I obviously don't do it for big productions, just little local community theater stuff.

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Great story Mickeydean. I used to want to do that kind of gig, but my reading was not up to snuff.

 

 

i am a very poor reader. believe it or not you can get these gigs on guitar or bass without being able to read if you can do your own charts.

 

after awhile, music directors know they can trust you to have your parts down and they come to appreciate that the "band guys" memorize the score really fast and can bail the readers out in a jam.

 

try something like Always Patsy Cline or Honky Tonk Angels which are both really popular on the dinner theater circuit. as a guitar or bass player if you can make your own charts you can definately do those.

 

i have not hit a music director yet who even wanted the guitar player to follow the score because they know the parts for guitar that are written are crap.

 

here's an example of how bad guitar charts for shows are. i did 16 weeks with the touring company of Footloose The Musical. the show opens with the signiture guitar riff from the song Footloose where you bend the low E string up to an A and then hit the open A string. in the score it's written as stuccato eight notes because they can't write bends lol. 99% of the time the music director just says "you know how to do this right?"

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ok one more pit story. the music director took some of us out to a local carnival between shows. his boyfriend, one of the dancers, was raving about the sausage sandwiches. so we ate them and they WERE really good!

 

just as the lights come up for the first number in the show, everybody who ate the sausage sandwhiches gets diarrhea. we took turns running to the bathroom, all except the music director who was stuck in the front of the pit playing piano and directing. we are dying. we know he has to crap REAL BAD but has to wait until intermission. it's like watching a poop time bomb waiting for it to go off. when intermisson comes he is out from behind the piano and into the men's room like a rocket.

 

when he comes back to the pit he announces with no small amount of pride " it's a good thing i am gay. other wise i would have {censored} my pants during act one."

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I've played in a handfull of little theatre stuff, Hello Dolly, Godspell , and a host of nights that were just old show tunes.. It is always good for sharpening my reading, but for the most part I learn the song and just watch the keyboardists left hand (if needed) .. I actually got into it doing tech, I was providing some audio gear for a small show that my wife, brother-in-law and father were in and my dad introduced me to the music director, she needed a bass player, I had two weeks to learn how to read and learn the show... Not to brag, but I pulled it off no problem. I work at a show in Vegas now, doing audio and production assistant work, it has music, but it's more like a wedding band doing covers than musical theatre.....

 

Ha Ha Ha, you ate the gay guys sausage sandwich and got poop bombs... THat sounds more like a band on tour type of story (that is a horrible situation if you are stuck in a vehicle with other people......) Too funny.

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Musical theater makes the baby Jesus cry.

 

 

only during the christmas shows.

 

some of the funniest things ever happen during these shows.

 

like the female dancers who forget to put on panties to "inspire" the boys in the pit.

 

you meet some really great musicians and some incredibly poor ones.

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i am a very poor reader. believe it or not you can get these gigs on guitar or bass without being able to read if you can do your own charts.


after awhile, music directors know they can trust you to have your parts down and they come to appreciate that the "band guys" memorize the score really fast and can bail the readers out in a jam.


try something like Always Patsy Cline or Honky Tonk Angels which are both really popular on the dinner theater circuit. as a guitar or bass player if you can make your own charts you can definately do those.


i have not hit a music director yet who even wanted the guitar player to follow the score because they know the parts for guitar that are written are crap.


here's an example of how bad guitar charts for shows are. i did 16 weeks with the touring company of Footloose The Musical. the show opens with the signiture guitar riff from the song Footloose where you bend the low E string up to an A and then hit the open A string. in the score it's written as stuccato eight notes because they can't write bends lol. 99% of the time the music director just says "you know how to do this right?"

 

My first show, I bluffed my way in as a bass player, but I couldn't read bass clef, so I just tabbed it out.

 

The thing about reading is if you do several shows, your reading improves quickly.

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ok one more pit story. the music director took some of us out to a local carnival between shows. his boyfriend, one of the dancers, was raving about the sausage sandwiches. so we ate them and they WERE really good!


just as the lights come up for the first number in the show, everybody who ate the sausage sandwhiches gets diarrhea. we took turns running to the bathroom, all except the music director who was stuck in the front of the pit playing piano and directing. we are dying. we know he has to crap REAL BAD but has to wait until intermission. it's like watching a poop time bomb waiting for it to go off. when intermisson comes he is out from behind the piano and into the men's room like a rocket.


when he comes back to the pit he announces with no small amount of pride " it's a good thing i am gay. other wise i would have {censored} my pants during act one."

 

Hillarious!

 

The reason I don't eat before a show.

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you are right about the reading thing. i had to double on bass a bunch of times and now i read bass clef pretty good.

 

still completely lost on guitar tho'. i just ask the music director to play me what he wants and then i am good to go. i only do country/rock kinda shows so normally i know the songs way better than they are written which is what the music director wants anyway.

 

no South Pacific or Sound of Music for me.

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you are right about the reading thing. i had to double on bass a bunch of times and now i read bass clef pretty good.


still completely lost on guitar tho'. i just ask the music director to play me what he wants and then i am good to go. i only do country/rock kinda shows so normally i know the songs way better than they are written which is what the music director wants anyway.


no South Pacific or Sound of Music for me.

 

Nor for me. Also won't do Oklahoma.

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only during the christmas shows.


some of the funniest things ever happen during these shows.


like the female dancers who forget to put on panties to "inspire" the boys in the pit.


you meet some really great musicians and some incredibly poor ones.

 

Modesty is hard to find backstage in a theater.

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For the show I just finished, we were on stage and in costume. We got to ad lib before the start of the show.

 

The narrator, dressed in a cop uniform grabbed the music director from the audience and brought him to the pit area. He said things like "don't tase be bro", stuff like that.

 

It was a blast. We have way too much fun.

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I played electric guitar for "Godspell" once - The whole band was on stage. It was a blast!

 

 

if you ever get to do Always Patsy Cline you sit onstage in 50's era cowboy stuff and drink "fake" beer ( like it was fake) and heckle one of the characters from time to time.

 

sometimes you have to remind yourself " and i get paid TOO!"

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I've done South Pacific and Hello Dolly and a host of others, and always had fun and made a little dough!

 

 

Yeah, actually my experience with South Pacific was pretty cool, but it was sort of fluke that I got the job-a friend of mine was scheduled to play but then couldn't do it so he recommended me, mostly because I read pretty well.

 

However, this thread has piqued my interest in such work. Any recommendations on how to get into the pit? I live in the Abq./Santa Fe area so there's quite a bit of musical theatre going on.

 

Thanks!

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Yeah, actually my experience with South Pacific was pretty cool, but it was sort of fluke that I got the job-a friend of mine was scheduled to play but then couldn't do it so he recommended me, mostly because I read pretty well.


However, this thread has piqued my interest in such work. Any recommendations on how to get into the pit? I live in the Abq./Santa Fe area so there's quite a bit of musical theatre going on.


Thanks!

 

 

well, first of all it helps if you're gay or could turn gay for business purposes lol.

 

actually if santa fe is anything like my area, musical directors can't find guitar players who can read and are fluent in a number of styles. that's a big deal. you need to be authentic when you play jazz/country/rock etc.

 

put together a resume and maybe even a little demo CD and introduce yourself to the music directors doing theater in your area. you will most likely get a warm reception. they all keep sub lists, so get on it and before you know it, you are first call.

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I would send an email to all of the theaters in the area with a resume. Most of the theaters locally post their season, so it's easy to find the upcoming musicals.

 

While there are plenty of gays in the theater, all of the musicians I've met are straight. Either way, I don't think it matters.

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While there are plenty of gays in the theater, all of the musicians I've met are straight. Either way, I don't think it matters.

 

 

i was kidding.

 

i was thinking about something Frank Zappa said about the music business in The Thing Fish, his broadway musical.

 

when you send out that email target specific shows you think you would excell in. lots of theaters turn over a portion of the orchestra from show to show.

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