Do you play in pit orchestras?

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

  1. 2112


    Apr 30, 2005
    I did several musicals almost 30 years ago... but not on bass. Long before I was a bassist I was a reed player. I usually covered the Reed I or Reed II book, which typically ran me thru the gamut of soprano, alto, and tenor saxes & clarinets. Very good times, I really enjoyed it... if I had more time I'd get right back into it... on reeds.
    carl h. likes this.
  2. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    I did in school, but not since.
    A friend of mine who is a bass player does and he tells me that's where the money is.
  3. Holdsg

    Holdsg Talkbass > Work Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2009
    Alta Loma, CA
    Community theatre (meaning, zero pay) on keys only for about 100 hours of work. If it were legit off-Broadway, I'd do it again, only then.
  4. dab12ax7ef


    Sep 25, 2011
    I’ve done 7 or 8 for high schools in the last ten years. I usually shed the upright for a few weeks before hand. It’s fun to be out of site, reading, only worrying about music. No need for “show” shenanigans. It’s usually a crappy amp and no space with people crawling all over your instrument knocking it over. I have a great time. I end up building up good stamina by playing a lot more than I usually do. And reading chops of course.
    design likes this.
  5. St_G


    Jan 22, 2013
    Memphis, TN
    Back in college, I played in a few, though on guitar rather than bass. I enjoyed it. Some shows more than others. Little Shop of Horrors was the best music of the ones I did.
  6. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    Not difficult? JC Superstar, West Side Story come to mind.

    Your the one that I want (Grease)----- tough one to nail
  7. jmlee

    jmlee Catgut? Not funny. Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    I played a *lot* of community theatre, semi-pro shows (pro leads, amateur elsewhere), and some pro shows for many years when I lived in a bigger city. I've played them on upright and/or electric bass, on percussion, and sometimes as a guitar/banjo double (Annie Get Your Gun, Mame). Always loved the atmosphere around theatrical productions, all the various skills coming together to make some magic on opening night. It's neat being completely hidden in a pit or even completely off-stage working from video monitors and stage sound. Semi-visible pits are another thing, and it's really odd when you're on-stage completely like in Cabaret or Godspell. Lately, it's just been the pit band for the annual high school musicals at my daughter's school. No pit just a cluster off to one side of the stage. I think that only big band stuff is more fun overall. Ultimately it comes down to the quality and character of the Music Director, the drummer (especially) and the band "feel" with the other players. Violin players are generally despicable, self-impressed, and sub out *way* too much. Brass players are a hoot and are generally much more interested in the women on stage than their music. Pit drummers who can really send it from tiny little pit kits are the best; one guy I played with had this little Gretsch kit that was absolutely incredible but fit into a corner. Favourite shows? Chess(!), Evita, Fiddler On The Roof, Kiss Me Kate. Worst? Camelot (don't get me started on *that* one...), Oklahoma, Sweet Charity. Always wanted to do Jesus Christ Superstar but no luck so far. And I pray I never have to do West Side Story. It's incredibly brilliant and godawful hard.
    IamGroot and buldog5151bass like this.
  8. PolkaHero

    PolkaHero Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2002
    Great thread. I'm in the middle of a local production of "Annie" right now playing bass guitar and tuba. This was the 7th night in a row of either dress rehearsals or performances. I'm getting tired of it already, lol. I can't see making this a "career", not sure where they money is unless you're able to land a Broadway gig. Those cats make good money but you're also dealing with much higher living costs in a big city. I'm not sure how some of these musicians can play the same show week in and week out for years on end sometimes, at that point to me it's glorified factory work. I've been the rehearsal pianist for "Hairspray" (played bass in the performances) and have also done synth work for "The Producers" which was a funny, quirky show. I think the only musical I would play for free would be "Jesus Christ Superstar" but I missed an opportunity a couple of years ago when my local theater company did it.
  9. skygzr


    Feb 23, 2015
    Southeast US
    Pit band and pick up gig (last minute call with no rehearsal) are my two favorite musical experiences. Very different but very satisfying.
    matthewbrown and IamGroot like this.
  10. Levin S

    Levin S Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2007
    Charlotte N.C.
    I’m booked to do ‘Hairspray’ as a favor to a good friend. He directs a local charity and I’m a volunteer for the production.

    I must say that I am greatly taken aback by both the complexity and nuance that this gig is going to require. I’ve literally been listening to the soundtrack exclusively for weeks hahah!!
    jmlee and design like this.
  11. CGremlin


    Nov 1, 2014
    Palm Bay, FL
    And bring a 5-string. "You Can't Stop the Beat" doesn't work right without one. ;)
    Levin S likes this.
  12. CGremlin


    Nov 1, 2014
    Palm Bay, FL
    I've had the good fortune of doing both "Superstar" and "West Side Story". My favorites are those two, "Fiddler", "Damn Yankees" (easy music but the orchestra itself made it a blast), "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up" (don't often see this one, but if you get a chance, DO IT), "The Wiz", "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas", and another little known show called "The Robber Bridegroom", from which I caught the bluegrass bug. Shows I want to do but haven't are "Chess", "Little Shop of Horrors", "Hairspray", and "Les Mis". Shows I could happily live without ever doing again are mostly those by Irving Berlin - the first night or two are okay, but then after that, I'm on autopilot and it's hard to have any enthusiasm for it.

    I didn't think "Superstar" and "West Side Story" were as hard as they sound. "Superstar" has a lot of pages of just chord symbols, and probably the hardest part of both shows is counting accurately through all the time changes. "Cool" in WSS is a little tricky on electric because it's all over the fretboard and has a lot of places where you have to have some pretty fine dynamic control.
  13. Tony E.

    Tony E.

    Jul 15, 2014
    My college is just wrapping up this show and playing bass in the pit has been a really fun experience, and yes having a 5-string is really a necessity not just for Hairspray but for a lot of shows actually, despite how muddy it gets.
  14. jmlee

    jmlee Catgut? Not funny. Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    I’ve been scratching my head trying to think of an Irving Berlin musical that’s still being staged other than Annie Get Your Gun. Which other ones are there?
  15. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Worst show I ever did was Brigadoon. Entire songs with nothing but tied whole notes (one the same note). Snooaefest.
  16. jmlee

    jmlee Catgut? Not funny. Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Oklahoma is 1 5 1 5 for nearly two hours, then finally at the end of the show when the cast is singing Ooooooklahoma you get to play a descending major scale and that’s the highlight of the show for bass. :bored:
    CGremlin and IamGroot like this.
  17. PolkaHero

    PolkaHero Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2002
    I might get asked to play bass for "Man Of La Mancha" next year. Anyone here played that show? Interesting parts or a snoozefest?
  18. CGremlin


    Nov 1, 2014
    Palm Bay, FL
    "Annie Get Your Gun" is the only one that I've been subjected to personally (and repeatedly). You're right though, after a bit of looking it seems that his other three seem to have rolled off into obscurity.
  19. jmlee

    jmlee Catgut? Not funny. Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Never played bass in that one. I imagine it’s as much fun as Oklahoma. [See above.] I really enjoyed playing guitar and tenor banjo in it, though. There’s no business like show business, there’s no business I know!:smug:
    CGremlin likes this.
  20. CGremlin


    Nov 1, 2014
    Palm Bay, FL
    I'd think playing banjo in anything would be kinda fun.
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