1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Using chord charts when supporting a choir.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by One_Dude, Dec 18, 2018.


  1. In addition to playing bass, I also play mandolin. Today I got a call for a last-minute fill in mandolin gig. It is providing music for a church choir production. I read music and play from written sheet music all the time at church, but this is at a different church and I was given chord charts for the mandolin parts only of nine songs.

    I usually work from regular sheet music that includes notes, chords, and lyrics. The chord charts I was given this time do not have the lyrics and also don't have the the parts for the other instruments. There are also several instances where my chart shows me "resting" for several measures (sometimes as many as 12). I am struggling with making sure I come in at the right point. With no lyrics to anchor the location on the chord chart I have to rely on counting the beats and measures. Problem is, the time signatures change two or three times in each song.

    Am I missing something really stupid here; should I be watching the conductor for a cue as to when I come in after a series of rests. As I said, I am used to working with the entire score, or at least a chord sheet that includes the lyrics. The other players have had about a month to learn their parts and sound really good. I know I can "hide" in the mix and get by, but even though this is a last minute substitution for a player that cancelled, I still want to make a good impression in the hopes of getting called again.

    I appreciate any insight you can offer.

    Thanks in advance,

    Thump on,

    One_Dude
     
  2. No. It is not the conductor’s responsibility to cue in every instrument with rests, although some will tackle that job. It is your responsibility as a reading musician to count the rests and come in at the proper place...

    ...At least the first time. On the first run through, start listening about 2 bars before your entrance, and pencil in some cues (cues=notes or lyrics, or just a note to yourself, like “flute pickup on and of three”).
     
  3. Wasnex

    Wasnex

    Dec 25, 2011

    A really good conductor should cue you, but I woudn't count on it. When doing a production like you describe, I usually try to get a peek at the score and transcribe some helpful cues...ask if this is an option. Other than that, review the time changes and practice counting through the rests. Then when the time comes, keep an eye on the conductor. Hopefully the conductor is skilled enough to communicate the time changes with appropriate patterns so it will be easy to follow along. Also if parts are written properly, there are usually little hints that help you keep your place. For example, if there is an intro or some sort of transitional interlude, there should be a double bar line where the melody begins.

    Good luck!
     
    ObsessiveArcher likes this.
  4. mrcbass

    mrcbass

    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Sounds like they expect you to be familiar with the songs. I know I can take what you have and play along with something I'm familiar with, but could be very difficult with a song I've never heard. Can you get tracks of the songs to prepare with?

    Good luck!
     
    tradernick likes this.
  5. Stumbo

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

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    Ask the MD if there is a full score available for you to study/use since you read music. Maybe the other player only used chord charts.
     
    fdeck, dalkowski and lz4005 like this.
  6. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    It's no different than playing in an orchestra. Usually, your part doesn't show other parts. You just have to be good at counting and keeping up. Your best friend is a pencil at rehearsals to mark things you need to know.
     
    Ekulati, Skeptismo and dalkowski like this.
  7. Wasnex

    Wasnex

    Dec 25, 2011
    Totally agree. I have never played in a major orchestra, but I have played in professional concert and big bands, community orchestras, and pit orchestras. All gave me access to music scores. Sometimes access was possible in advance; sometimes I had to wait around after the first rehearsal.
     
  8. mrcbass

    mrcbass

    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Actually it is quite different - an orchestral chart will be a complete map of all notes to be played including dynamic needs and tempo. A chord chart is not that complete and leave a lot of room for interpretation.
     
    john m likes this.
  9. Wasnex

    Wasnex

    Dec 25, 2011
    I agree with the distinctions you make, but I also agree with the intent of @mrcbass 's post... especially when it comes down to counting rests...it's exactly the same.

    Often a chord chart will have a mix of rests, chords, and even written notes when specific lines are to be played. Tempo, dynamics, accents, etc are also common. It's also fairly common for there to be written cues to show entrances of other instruments.

    I agree that different skills are involved in reading notation versus reading a chord chart though.
     
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Exactly this.

    You don't need everyone else's parts. I don't get everyone else's parts on the sheet music I get, either. Sometimes we get a cue we have to listen for that's written out, but not always. Just trust that yours are right, count 12 measures to yourself, and come in when supposed to.
     
  11. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Yes, of course, I was thinking mostly about counting rests and not seeing what others are playing. Although, sometimes I have seen certain parts of what others might play on my part, as you said.

    It depends on who wrote the chart. I try to give as much info as possible on a chord chart, most of the time. But there are times when I had to be quick. I have also played charts written by others who leave you in a vacuum all to yourself.
     
    Wasnex likes this.
  12. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    LOL, when playing in the symphony orchestra I remember having rests that were so long that you almost couldn't keep track. Say like 51 measures. We all in the bass section would clandestinely look at each other to compare where we thought we were. If you differed from someone else it got scary as to who was correct.
     
    Wasnex likes this.
  13. Wasnex

    Wasnex

    Dec 25, 2011
    Even more challenging with mixed meters or polyrhythms where its difficult to keep track of the downbeat. Then even writing in a clarinet cue may not save you :nailbiting:.
     
    Russell L likes this.
  14. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    Indianapolis
    Naw, man, you need to count.
     
  15. Wasnex

    Wasnex

    Dec 25, 2011
    Unfortunately I get bored, distracted, and confused easily :confused:.

    :poop:
     
  16. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Yeah. When I write long rests, if there is a change in meter I try to show that. Also, if possible, I will break a long rest into sections if part of it can coincide with a prominent cadence or other notable event. And, if the number of measures in a long rest is long enough it's easier to count off short sections rather than the whole thing together.
     
    mrcbass and Wasnex like this.
  17. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    Indianapolis
    Count measures on your fingers.
     
  18. Wasnex

    Wasnex

    Dec 25, 2011
    Unfortunately I get bored, distracted, and confused easily :confused:.

    :poop:
     
    saabfender likes this.
  19. Blankandson

    Blankandson Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2010
    Gallatin, Tennessee
    I worked with both good and 'so-so' directors. It's not an easy job for them. If you get a chance, take a look at the full score they are using. The good ones will ask "where is my mandolin" and you wave at him / her. Then when you are about two measures out watch their face. They should look at you and nod, or if they are really good, point at you and nod. The rest is up to you. Good luck. If you do well you should begin to get more jobs. I played with three others 'ringers' and we began picking up fill-in jobs when others couldn't be there. Pay was very nice in most. Oh, if you do decide you like it, you might want to purchase an inexpensive black tux. The four of us did and blended in well with all the others. Paid a lot of bills for about 20 years here in Nashville. One composer here had his wife do all the charts. They were all original in pencil. No round notes either, just slashes. It worked and the entire orchestra sounded pretty good. Best of all we got paid for having fun! And as for not getting vocal parts - be ready - many Christmas musicals at churches have instrument only places - no vocals. So don't be wasting time looking for vocal cues. It's like surfing. You may have jumped onto a much too large wave but once you're on it - you're on it. And take several pencils with you. And when the rehearsal is over ask someone around you if it's semi-formal or tux formal. Don't want to show up too much one way or the other. Ha You can tell I've done this a few times.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2018
    Stumbo and Wasnex like this.
  20. Thanks for the input guys; I spent most of today marking up my chord chart and writing in the lyrics. This is a church production of a program they bought or leased. It comes with books for the singers and chord charts for the instrumentalists. The piano player and conductor have full scores. I did get one of the books the singers have, but when I asked for a full score the MD said it's the same as the book he provided. The info may be the same, but I don't think the piano player has to turn 8 to 10 pages on her sheet music for each song.

    This is a really short-notice gig; I was called on Tuesday, picked up the chart, book, and CD at 2:30PM for a 7:30PM practice. Performance is Thursday evening. The MD told me not to worry about nailing every aspect of the music because of the short notice, but just to do my best. He just wants to hear some mandolin throughout the program.

    I studied jazz guitar for many years and became a pretty good reader, but the Bluegrass band I am in doesn't require much reading, so I have become a little rusty. I have almost no experience with this type of chart but I think my basic reading skills have helped me markup what I have. Now it's time to practice along with the CD.

    Thanks again, and any addition tips are welcome.

    Thump on,

    One_Dude
     
    Stumbo and Wasnex like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.