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Have You Ever Played Bass in A Musical With Only The Piano Score Available?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by jgbass, May 23, 2005.

  1. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    I just got asked to play bass in a musical. Sounds like a good opportunity, but there is only a piano score, and a CD of the show. From what I know about piano parts, at least in sheet music, they are not very bass playing friendly. I would be playing the same as the piano I guess.

    I said a tentative yes, but I have some strong second doubts. Anyone have experience with this? Not much time to pull this together, and I don't want to be heading for a train wreck.
  2. It depends on how good your reading is, and how comfortable you are with reading what is basically the left-hand part of the piano score, plus whatever chords which might (or might not) be annotated in the score. From what I've seen, most of the tunes of the genre you are talking about, have the chords named above the vocal line (some even show the the chord-shapes there for guitar also…). So, you can use the left hand (lower clef of the piano-part, plus the chord names/symbols, plus you have the vocal line you can also refer to…

    Like I said, it really pays to be able to read…

    I've had gigs which were just piano, double-bass, and drums, and was very tentative at the beginning, but the piano-player was really good, and helped me along.

    One tip I learned is to pay very close attention to the conductor/director/pianist, especially at the rehearsals - what usually happens is that the rehearsals are maximised for covering the maximum amount of material in the allotted time, so it is very important to be right on top of the ball. There's often lots of skipping around (i.e. the pieces or sections are reheased out of order), and often, the rest of the band will only be brought in for the last 2 or 3 rehearsals (all the chorus/dancers/soloists will have been doing their rehearsals with just the piano, so they are already further along the learning curve than you). You might also find that the arrangements have been altered, omitted, changed, so again it's important to be right on top of what's going on.

    I'm sorry if I'm pointing out all the potential problems, but quite honestly there is NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, like the adrenalin rush which comes when at the end of a number, the audience is applauding and cheering… YOU!

    (Sorry if it's long-winded… )

    (…nah, not really… ;) )

    Good Luck -

    - Wil

    PS - A couple of tips: photocopy the score; mark-up the bass-part or lines/chords which you will use, with a high-lighter (makes it much easier to follow especially if you're working from a multi-line score. Use a sturdy music stand - plus (most important) get a stand-light (I always take my own) - there's nothing worse than trying to read a part in almost total darkness…
  3. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    Ditto what Wil Davis said, but I'll add a couple of positives for you. For one thing, no written part=no conductor scowling down his nose at you when you play your part wrong, 'cause there is no part. In my experience, the vast majority of older musicals can be played using I-V techniques when no bass part is present (or when you pop your DB's A string on the overture!)

    Tons of smaller theater companies can't afford to buy every part of a score, or don't because they can't afford the musicians, or can't find enough volunteers to play the part. I've been asked to read from tuba, guitar, and cello parts a few times, and nothing compares to the feeling you get at the first performance when you realize you've just performed the whole show with some kind of major handicap, and people like the way it sounded anyway. Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.
  4. I've done quite a lot of this type of work and occassionally have had to play off a piano score when there hasn't been a separate bass book.

    Preparation's the key here and it sounds like you have a good opportunity to work on the music in advance.

    Depending upon the pianist, you might end up doubling his left hand albeit an octave lower but with any luck he/she should just voice chords on the left hand and let you get on with playing the bass line.

    One thing to watch out for is notes written lower than the range of the bass. Another thing is, if possible try to get 'seated' near the percussionist/drummer - I've been placed at the back of the string section at the other end of the pit more times than I care to remember!

    Good luck - go for it......!
  5. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Hey Guys,

    Thanks for all the good info here. Reminded me of a run of shows I did a while ago and it was really exciting when we played the final notes and the audience went crazy. Even though we were in the pit, really taken away by all the applause.

    Reading wouldn't be a problem. I survived tuba parts once, and I guess one should not expect a nicely written bass part to be put in front on them, but, I ended up saying no because, when we got our schedules together it just was not do-able for me. Scheduling didn't work, too busy. Maybe, next time.
  6. If you only have the piano music...you better start practicing turning pages.

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