First experience playing in a musical

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by tonedeaf, Feb 8, 2005.

  1. tonedeaf

    tonedeaf Supporting Member

    In December, I took a job playing bass in a local production of "Oklahoma." It will be the most money I've ever made for playing bass, but I took it mainly for the growth experience. It is very different from anything else I've ever done.

    First, the "orchestra" consists of piano, violin, trumpet, drums, and bass. We were all given our scores around the middle of December, but didn't practice together until last Friday night. The show opens this Friday. We will have a total of 5 practices together, 4 of those with the cast.

    The director gave us a list of cuts and transpositions around January 1, then a revised list with different cuts and transpositions around Jan 20. Then, when I got the first group practice on Friday, there were more cuts and transpositions. Maybe par for the course for the seasoned theater bassist, but not for a guy like me, who is self-taught in technique, theory, and reading. I am way out of my comfort zone - and that's a good thing, if I can stave off an ulcer. :rolleyes:

    The band is up on a tiny loft to the right of the stage. We can't see the actors and they can't see us. We do have a little TV with a view of the stage, which three of us have our backs to. How it worked last night was we would start a song, and the singer would come in at some random point, almost never on the 1 and usually at a different tempo. I don't think they can hear us any better than we can hear them. Hopefully the sound crew will be able to get all of that worked out.

    Anyway, so far it's been a very unusual experience for my garage-band, ear-playing, make it up as you go self. I am really impressed by my fellow musicians, who by the sounds of it more or less just showed up and played (vs. practicing for a month and a half on their own like I have been). It definitely gives me something to aspire to.

    Another unique experience has been practicing bass from written music on my own. All by itself, a bassline of written music that is part of an orchestral arrangement doesn't sound much like music at all.

    Anyway, that's my theater bass experience so far. I'm learning a lot, losing sleep, having fun, pretty much the whole gamut of emotions.

    P.S. - First dress rehearsal last night scheduled for 2 1/2 hours, I showed up at 7:00 and left at midnight. Add that to all the time I spent re-writing music in new keys, and my hourly rate for this gig is shrinking all the time. I guess that's the life of a working musician. :bassist:
  2. Tonedeaf, thanks for posting about your experience so far with the production!

    I have played "many-a-theater-show", and I completely empathize with most everything you said. It's the way it goes pretty much everywhere, but particularly so in most local community theater groups.

    I'm getting ready to head out the door so I can't post at length, but I will when I get back in, this afternoon.
  3. the_vza1


    Jun 15, 2004
    i get to play grease for my school


    im screwed man lol i dont wanna do it
  4. tonedeaf

    tonedeaf Supporting Member

    Rehearsal #2 went quite a bit better. We could hear the singers, we (the musicians) are getting used to playing with each other and getting comfortable with the music. Things are looking up. On the scale of enjoyment, I'm moving away from "ulcer" and toward "maybe I'll do this again"
  5. Yep always happens the second time around as you get comfortable with each others playing as well as the last minute changes.
    I've had many musicals lost count though but I agree it's fun and you learn heaps from these gigs
    Although it may seem you been putting all this effort and time into this production I can assure you that when gig time comes it will be worth it and the more types of these gigs you do the better you become at it
  6. BassmanA440


    Feb 3, 2005
    I've done plays where there is a change almost every week. Its par for the course until you make it to Broadway, and then there will still probably change.
    We were doing an original workshop type play and an hour before curtain, they wanted to change a song from a love ballad feel to a slow/swinging juke joint feel. A lot of the seats were filled with comps (part of the actor's wages, since they didn't get paid much) a lot of the audience had seen the show before and aprecited the change, and it actually got a big laugh, best reaction of the night.
  7. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    Musicals rule. I started playing bass for a musical two and a half years ago. Good stuff.
  8. spidersbass


    Nov 29, 2004
    Downtown L.A.
    i played Little Shop of Horrors last year in my school play. it was pretty kick ass, we got paid in pizza, lol. my sight reading skills SHOT up during that time, it had too or else we'd fall apart. everything went smoothly at all our shows, alotta fun, i want to do another one but cant find nowhere to go to play one. this was for school, but i'd like to do another one and actually get paid, with MONEY! lol... its either that or get a job, DAMN!
  9. The Beast

    The Beast

    Jul 19, 2004
    Evil Town
    I was lucky enough to play The Who's "Tommy" for my school. All the other musicians were my friends and our director is the biggest Who fan in the world, so there was a lot of spontaneous awesomeness. Guitar solos got extended because the singers were idiots, bass solos were added, etc. Needless to say, the band stole the entire show. :bassist:
  10. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    I did that show before, it was a great show. I feel bad for the dude in the big plant though.
  11. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    Did tommy too. Second musical I've done. The band usually makes the show for that musical. Good stuff!
  12. sb69coupe


    Aug 9, 2004
    Raleigh NC
    You can really grow as a musician by putting yourself into these stretch roles, and sticking it out. Back a long, long time ago, I had taken bass lessons for at least 4 years and was adept at improvising walking lines over chord changes. The instructor I studied with was a Berklee grad and excellent 7 string jazz guitar player. He and I would work on songs from the Real Book and I thought I had my chops down.

    Then I joined the Jazz Ensemble at my school. First rehearsal I started walking a line over the chord changes, totally ignoring the written bass part itself. Screw that crap, thought I, the wise improvisational jazz-meister! After two passes through the song, the band director comes over and tells me to play what's written. Uh oh. I could read music just fine, but I had never sight read anything at all. All the reading experience I had was writing out my own lines for reference.

    I was so frustrated by the end of the rehearsal that I nearly quit right then. I remember my cocky attitude, "How in the hell can the composer know what bass line is best? He's probably just some pianist who has never played a bass in his life. I know what's best here" etc. But you know what, I toughed it out and returned the next day. Sure it was frustrating, but I grew leaps and bounds as a musician in the process. My sight reading skills went from non-existent to pretty darn good. It became obvious to me that the composer really did know how to right a bass line that fit in with the other parts of the arrangement. Plus, the satisfaction of having the director hand out a brand new unfamiliar chart and nailing the bass line on the first blind pass through it was so cool.

    I guess what I'm trying to say in this little nostalgia trip down memory lane is this: Stick with it, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. You'll be a better musician by seeing it through and I guarantee you'll enjoy the experience.

  13. Musicians and Dancers will never get along with each other.
    Here's why:

    MUSICIAN COUNT-OFF: "A 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 !"

    DANCER COUNT-OFF: "A 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 !"

    Now you know.
  14. BassmanA440


    Feb 3, 2005
    One of the things I really enjoy about musicals is the gratuitous skin that the female dancers show during rehersals. I played a Chorus Line positioned at the far of the pit (stage right), where it was easy to see the director and the free peep show above my head . There was even one point where the girl does the T&A number kneels waves at me and I wave back. I guess they saw me looking during rehearsals and thought it would be funny - It wasn't my fault, She was seriously stacked.
    :hyper: :hyper: :hyper: :hyper:
  15. i PLAYED bass for the schools beatles night with a great drummer, the performers being a variety of singers, guitarists, and keyboard players. great night, and if alcohol was involved it would have been even better!
  16. BassGod


    Jan 21, 2004
    Musicals are great... unless that musical's name is Seussical. I had to play bass in that crappy, crappy play. Instead of a basic plot and fluent storyline, we get 30 oddly dressed 'whos' dancing around for two and a half hours. Then, you leave the theatre speaking in ryhme.

    Graeme :bassist:
  17. chekerbored


    Nov 18, 2004
    That show was awesome. I had the lead in it when we did it last spring, and playing bass and acting i can relate to the troubles in both. Good thing our bassist was prolly one of the best kids i've ever heard in high school (he basically blows my mind) and the song that i got to sing with the plant was the best cuz it was a ton of funk and Nick got to go crazy with it. Once i got the song down i listened to the bass line instead of the part i was sposed to be singin. It was great to feed off of. Definately a good show for bass.
  18. i would love to play a gig like that. :cool:
  19. Musicals are fun. In 8th grade, our school did the music man, and I played trumpet for it. It kinda sucked though, cuz we had to learn like 12 songs that were above our level in like 2-3 weeks :meh:
  20. pulseczar


    May 7, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    A kickass musical to play in would be Godspell. Tons of different styles and some heavy grooves to play with.

    My school's performing that this year. I didn't get chosen to play, but I've heard them practicing and the musical rocks.