Do you play in pit orchestras?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by ErnestTheBass, Apr 27, 2018.

  1. ErnestTheBass


    Mar 24, 2018
    What is your experience? I find playing shows to be one my favorite music gigs! Coming from a more symphonic background, I love the opportunity to learn new genres and expanding my bass skills! I have over 25 shows under my belt in a 6 year span! I absolutely love theater and wish I could major in theater musicianship, cuz it's a whole 'nother ballgame! Looking for gigs? Look into your local theater community! Doesnt pay the best (I work for the best theater, locally, and it still is not the best pay) but if you love theater, you'll understand! Shout out to pit musicians! 'Its a hard knock life, for us...'
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  2. ErnestTheBass


    Mar 24, 2018
    And I love being the only bassist
    - get to do what you find fit to get the sound you're looking for..
  3. I played in a pit orchestra at a community theater for years. It was one of my favorite jobs, ever. Challenging music, a tight-knit community of actors, singers, and musicians, that had fun on and off the stage, and beautiful actresses that were completely immodest when it came to quick costume changes in the wings.
    Billyzoom and Ethan117 like this.
  4. CGremlin


    Nov 1, 2014
    Palm Bay, FL
    It's been many years, but I've played dozens of shows, and I miss it terribly. It's a really unique experience, and probably the most fun I've had musically, even though you're playing the same thing for sometimes months at a time. I've also never laughed so hard in my life as I have when stuff went horribly wrong onstage, or during a tune when the actor got lost and the orchestra had to turn on a dime.

    There's that too. ;)

    Edit: And yeah, I've played "Annie" too. Second show I ever did.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2018
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Hey Welcome to TalkBass!!!!!

    We have two "sides" to the forum. You are, of course, welcome on either side. One is for discussions of double bass topics and the other for bass guitar.

    Again, please help yourself to either side.

    But based on a few comments in your original post, and your avatar pic, I'm wondering if you meant to ask this question on the double ("upright") bass side.

    I have done a few shows in the pit on bass guitar though. And, yes, they're fun gigs.
  6. CGremlin


    Nov 1, 2014
    Palm Bay, FL
    Don't know about the OP, but I've done shows on both upright and electric (and tuba, and bass clarinet, and baritone sax, and keyboards, and...)
    design likes this.
  7. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    How do you think I met my wife? :)
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  8. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I've played four musicals, and they're a blast, with two of them among my best musical experiences. My first was on guitar at age 15. It was a short musical at church, and I don't remember much about it, but after that they've been cool.

    After I came home following my freshman year of college (1986), I was surprised to get a call from a sophomore who had also gone to my high school, and needed a bassist for a musical she'd written. I packed up my gear and moved back into the dorm for a couple of weeks, and the rehearsals and show were fun. It was based on Madonna, so the band was the main character's band, and rocked out with the cast on stage. Very cool.

    Then, in 2009, I was the "understudy" bassist for a locally written rock musical in Philly. The main bassist was a professional who couldn't make the rehearsals, so I did most of those and one of the shows. It was a great experience, and the music was fairly straightforward. The script and music kept changing, and it was cool to see the show develop leading up to the performances. I think we learned a new song at the final rehearsal that ended up in the show.

    Finally, four years ago, I played in a law school production of RENT. My wife works at the school, whose students perform a musical every year. In 2014 they couldn't find a student bassist, so I was in. That was tons of work, and a real challenge for me and everyone else in the band. It was also fun and immensely rewarding, and after that my rock band felt like it was moving in slow motion.
  9. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I've played a few on bass guitar, mostly community theater - Rent, Joseph, Jesus Christ Superstar, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and maybe a couple of others.

    I wish I could do more, but it seems the theaters around here are moving toward a single MD playing keyboards and triggering samples. Budgets and such I guess. :(
  10. I have a fondness for musicals I had played several starting in junior high school through college, big productions and smaller ones as we had several active groups in my town at churches, schools and civic theater. Years later those experiences served me well upon arriving in NYC I had a gig day one playing a run of "Fiddler On the Roof" and that led to several other musicals over the next year I stayed in NYC. Having the 'day gig' in the theater left me free to play rock gigs in town in a very experimental scene.
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I used to when I was younger - good way to work on the reading chops (although most parts are not that difficult), and the cast parties are great.
  12. EatS1stBassist


    Apr 15, 2016
    So cal
    I have played in a few “PITS” just not Orchestra ones.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I have in the past but it's been a very long time. Don't particularly miss it, but would be happy to if the opportunity presents itself with decent money.
  14. Pit orchestra life is a great gig, and can be very addictive. There's a real comradery there, too.

    I'll never forget the experience of landing the Guitar 2 slot for the stage production of Tommy. Less than 24 hours before opening night Guitar 1 got sick and dropped out, so I got to cram and play both scores. Plugged my acoustic/electric into my pedal board and went balls to the wall. It was a blast.

    Plus, in the pit, you are actually encouraged to wear black/black/black, blend into the darkness of the pit, and stay hidden...AND IT'S APPROPRIATE! ;)
  15. I have played in community theater orch pit for 6 (I think) complete shows and 5 performances each including the challenging and never ending "Les Miserable" . A very satisfying, experience. No room for error or loose ends. Music director and pianist would coordinate music with stage drama somehow. Playing my favorite bass in the dark with other musicians with just a pit light on the score and a tiny monitor. Exhausting!
  16. 57pbass

    57pbass Supporting Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Bayside, New York
    My reading skills were/are not strong enough.. I would enjoy the opportunity but I just don’t see it happening..
  17. I've done it far too many times in my career, and now I'm a production manager or a company manager, I still do it from time to time in emergencies. This I quite like. Paul - bass player is in hospital and we can't find a dep, can you do it? This is stressful and I love it. Especially for me because I will have seen the show from every viewpoint dozens of times, and sitting there in the pit playing it for the first time, with no rehearsal really makes you think, and the feeling when you get to the end, and can't remember anything you did, is special.

    However - to do it over and over again - NEVER having seen what is going on up top, because you are under the stage, is incredibly boring as a job.

    When I worked on the London version of Beauty and the Beast, years ago, the musicians had to play under the stage in a metal cage, surrounded by moving tow truck type things that moved the scenery above. The signs were very American - warming do not stand here - you will get trashed. The guys played in the cage, all miked up, for safety reasons. Doing a week, in an in-view pit is not too bad, because you can see something of what is going on, but too many nowadays are isolated from the show, and that is really dull.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018
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  18. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    In college I did a student production of How To Succeed in Business. Director was a total #_&# to the musicians - she put us in a cramped spot where we couldn't see anything, despite the fact there were better spots, swore at us, kept us late, etc. I only stayed since my friend was the lead player.

    Opening night, I showed up fifteen minutes before curtain in a trench coat and boots - no other clothing showing, and set up with my feet on the piano. They were taking bets as to whether there was anything on under the coat, and whether I was going to flash the director.
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  19. CGremlin


    Nov 1, 2014
    Palm Bay, FL
    I was fortunate in that almost all the shows I did offered a good bit of visibility. The best was several weeks into a run of "Fiddler on the Roof", when I played one show from the light booth with a wireless (with the MD's blessing and humbuckers, of course). By that time, I knew the show backwards and forwards and didn't need the book.
    design likes this.
  20. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I've worked in technical theatre since '71, and one of my earliest pit gigs was in '76, doing six weeks in drag with the Kitkat Klub Kittens in 'Cabaret.'

    The pit really brings together all the skills of a complete musician -- good reading and technique, sustained attention, understanding the right feels for all manner of musical genres, organization, punctuality, choosing the right gear, looking right, following direction, improvising appropriately where there's space for it, and working with all sorts of other artists for a shared goal. It's a good schooling, and the longer the run the better you can get at it.

    More recent gig:
    Forever Plaid, Prescott Center for the Arts


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