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Fill-in requests

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Busker, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. Busker


    Jan 22, 2007
    I've got a few calls for fill-in work over the last several months. Trouble is, if you don't know the material already and have to cram and learn everything in a week or so (or less) and only get offered $100, and have to drive a long way to play the gig, its just not worth it IMO. If I had 1000 songs in my memory bank already, OK. But I don't.

    OTOH, if a person were willing to work his/her tail off for next to nothing, learn 40 songs really fast, that person would be getting more calls, and maybe build on that to be able to demand better pay. Or maybe not. "He'll do it for cheap, lets call him again".
  2. Silaxian


    Dec 16, 2002
    Charlotte, NC
    Subjective call. Only you know if it's worth it.
  3. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I do a lot of fill-in work, but mostly jazz plus occasional pop music gigs. For jazz, the standard repertoire, while large, is manageable. Plus, bands with unique arrangements will have charts. When I play pop music, it is almost always "classic" covers.

    If a rock band is using a fill-in bassist, they can reconfigure their set list to include mostly tunes that a general purpose bass player is likely to know, or that are easy to fake.

    If it is an "originals" band, then it gets a bit more tricky.

    In my opinion, a reasonable compromise is for a fill-in bassist to play from charts. What I have told bands is that the charts don't need to be particularly ornate -- just the chords will suffice, though it helps a lot to have the words as well. Charts are a band management tool.

    Try to convince them that having charts will benefit the band in the long run. For instance, being able to call a sub for a gig will allow the band to play more gigs, and may actually help prevent the band from breaking up if one of the players has occasional schedule conflicts. Also let the band know that if properly used, a good sub can be a real asset to the band.
  4. BryanM


    Dec 15, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    I tend to prefer on-call gigs to fill in gigs. I've got one that I work that has a rotating set-list, but generally stays in the same range. They email me a few days ahead of time so that I can get charts together, and I usually pull $75-$150 per night, depending on turnout and what type of gig it is. The thing with those sorts of gigs, though, is that it's not uncommon for a song I've never heard before, let alone played, gets called. Luckily for me I can follow a keyboardist pretty well. If you can do that, and are adaptive enough to listen for a few bars and jump in, I'd say do it. It can be a great supplement to your income and a ton of fun.
  5. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    If learning a significant number of songs is involved, I'll take reasonable paying sub work when at least a couple of the following are true:

    (1) players I respect and have worked with previously are involved

    (2) The group includes folks I respect but haven't played with yet who tend to stay busy

    (3) The songbook covers material I feel like I ought to learn/remember anyway
  6. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    Learning a bunch of songs really fast is one of the reasons I enjoy doing it. Usually there a few songs that I love, that make it totally worth playing. I'm happy to write off learning time (within reason) as it means I know them for next time, and makes me a better player.

    Around here bands play 2x 1hour sets, so need about 25 songs. Ideally I get a list of everything the know (say 40-50 songs), and hopefully I know about half already. Of the remaining 20 there are usually 5 totally trivial ones that you can play after one listen, and a few I really want to learn, so getting enough for two sets isn't too hard. There are usually a few others they REALLY want to keep in, so adding those in, I maybe learn 10 new songs. If there's nothing too difficult, I can do that in a few hours.

    I learnt a bunch of stuff for a fillin last month, but they've asked be back for another gig this month, which means nothing new to learn. If you count the learning time, I didn't get paid too well last time, but this time I just need to talk in and play.

  7. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    How about making your own charts of songs you've learned? Even if you don't have time before a sub gig, you can do it after. Then you'll always have those songs available.

    Soon you'll have charts for hundreds of songs.... mmmm..... maybe even buy some sheet music....learn to read music....then you can play just about any gig with any band that has charts.

    You'll easily have that "1000" song memory bank available in a short while.

    Or maybe you can visit some venues where some of the top local bands play, write down their set lists, make your own charts, contact the band, let them know you have charts for the songs you heard at such and such venue and if they ever need a sub, give you a call.
  8. Busker


    Jan 22, 2007
    What would be included in a chart? Key, time signature and chord changes? I mean, you don't write it out note for note, right? I've never done that although its a great idea. I've forgotten a lot of songs I've learned, that's for sure. And I suppose that is wasted effort, to learn a song and forget it.

    I know how to read music, but I can't sight read. I have to work it out, measure by measure.

    I've never met up with a band that uses charts though.*** I mean, I ain't going to be playing for a jazz band or big band. I play rock and country covers.

    Edit: *** Actually, I have worked with singers that used hand written charts. I've never used them myself though, not for bass playing.
  9. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I only ask for basic charts.

    Lyrics with the basic chord changes penciled in on
    top of the lyric where the change is.

    Enough verse > Chorus >bridge detail so I know how many
    verses there will be and what the song structure is.

    Intro and outro, if you have something you want that is
    really unusual, write it out. Otherwise I jump in with root
    and then mimic the melody till the verse starts.

    I always insist my band gives me a basic chart on any new
    material. (Building the book :ninja:)
  10. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    This is a good point. If the band knows that they don't need to compose something in formal notation, it won't seem like a big deal.
  11. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Very subjective. I would do it :bassist:

    I don't know about Kansas City, but $100 is respectable here. I also probably wouldn't drive more than one hour away.
  12. Busker


    Jan 22, 2007
    $100 is respectable here, too. About average. I've played for more, played for less. I'm sure the guys in the top bands around here are making better than $100 per, at least some of the time. The most I've ever gotten paid for one night's playing was $150.00 plus hotel room. The least I've made on a paying gig was $37.00, but that was for 2 sets, not an entire four set show.:p I've played a free show too. I haven't exactly hit the big time yet. :)
  13. Better pay? Maybe. Maybe not.

    Getting more calls. Absolutely (assuming, of course, your playing measures up and you're not an a***ole).

    This is a problem that resolves itself through repetition. I use every fill-in opportunity to obtain or create my own "chart"-- i.e., a chords-and-lyrics-sheet--and an. mp3 copy of any song I don't already know.

    For classic rock covers, country covers, jazz standards, etc., this works well. It will make you a better musician, which enables you to be a faster learner, and you should find yourself in increasingly greater demand. Original music is different. Anyone who hires you for original music should have charts and a CD for you and be willing to pay a little more if extensive instruction or practice are required.

    Good luck to you.

    Bluesy Soul
  14. I agree with Ian Stepenson - I like learning a bunch of new things quickly and I like playing with different people. In my experience, I usually need one rehearsal with the band to get up to speed for a gig and that'll about do it. If the gig is so big or complicated that I'd need more than one rehearsal, I'd have to think about whether I have the time to do it.

    That said, though, $100 probably isn't worth all the time and effort if you are primarily doing it for money. There are probably much easier ways to make $100.
  15. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    What it takes for you to remember how to play the song.

    If you do write it out some parts in musical notation, it won't be long before you get a lot better at it. You can also check the Internet for charts.

    Let me rephrase what I posted earlier. If you make charts for a band's set list, you can let them know you know their tunes (you don't have to tell them you have charts).

    The charts aren't necessarily for sight reading at the gig/rehearsal. They are ainly for you to get up to speed quickly when needed.

    When you get a gig, they give you a list of tunes (make sure to ask if there are any changes from the original tunes-key, tempo, etc.), pull out your charts for the songs you have, review those quickly, and spend time learning/charting the songs you don't have. If you don't have time to chart, do it later.

    Sounds like you have a lot of talent and with some planning, can optimize your time and income.

    Good luck.
  16. Busker


    Jan 22, 2007
    Thanks but, not sure about that. I'm still a relatively inexperienced bassist, been playing for less than 2 years (guitar before that). I think you know from reading a few of my rant threads, :) that I've been in a few bands as the bass player in the last year and a half or more, but none of them have really worked out for me. I did stay with one for a little over a year however, and got some gigs & valuable experience. Each band has been a little better than the one before it, so I think that's a good sign.

    I saw a bassist Friday night that just blew me away, humbled me for sure. The entire band was great. But when they played Moondance, the old Van Morrison song, the bassist was doing some absolutely beautiful walking lines to that song, and made it appear to be effortless. I don't think he looked at his fretting hand more than once or twice. :bassist:
  17. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    In your original post, you stated that you were getting calls to fill-in. Obviously you must play pretty good and know people.

    So what are you're plans to be twice as good in two years?

    Bands come and go, as all TB'rs will tell you. You really have to play for yourself and don't worry about stuff too much. Developing your people skills will also help reduce the need for ranting on TB. Check out the following TB threads (if you haven't already) for some great info on developing music/bass skills and band management:


    There's always somebody better just around the corner. Listen and learn from other but since you love music, let that drive your learning, not "I want to be as good as......". That's a dead end street.
  18. snapple


    Nov 25, 2003
    Victoria-Vancouver Canada
    Endorsing Artist: PCL Vintage Amps
    It is highly subjective. I love doing fill-in's. I learn a lot of songs that I normally wouldn't play. And because I have to learn them in a short period of time, it improves my ability to pick up a song quickly.

    Obviously, if you're going to learn ~40 songs you should see about being their first call sub guy, and then the money vs. time thing begins to pan out.

    It may not be the easiest way to make $100, but it's the most fun.
  19. Jeb


    Jul 22, 2001
    I'd do it. Whether I knew the material or not. If the band is legitimate and has gigs? Sounds like a challenge. Yeah, I'd do it. Assuming that I fit with the material. I'd do it.
  20. Busker


    Jan 22, 2007
    The phone isn't exactly ringing off the hook, but a few calls in the last several months. And yeah, I've met some people/bands in the area in the last year or more. Even though they call, it hasn't worked out that I actually played any fill in gigs. Just a few weeks ago I was called to possibly fill in for one of the better bands in the area (3 gigs over a weekend!!) but before I could return the call, they gave it to someone else. They were desperate, I guess they took the first bassist they were actually able to talk to. This latest one, I turned down. I'm trying to get prepared for the band I'm in. We have an important thing going on this weekend http://http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=466925 (a showcase, battle of the bands thing. Yeah, fat chance we will win, but we have to try hard. We'll get cash and studio time if we win. We need a demo, badly. The studio time would be better than gold for us). We've been pounding out the same 9 songs for the last 3 or 4 rehearsals, trying for perfection for this show (as close as we can get anyway), because we may get future gigs out of it too. The fill in show was to be the night before and would have taken my focus off my band for this weekend. I think if it would have been another time, and I had enough time to prepare, I would have done it, even if it didn't pay all that well.

    Twice as good in two years? I haven't really considered that yet. Thanks for bringing that up. :p Thing is, I've been so busy learning & practicing songs I haven't really given it much thought.

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