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A couple questions

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#1
Can you consider it a double if you don't own (have in your possession) the instrument?


How well must you play before the instrument can be considered a double?



I don't like playing borrowed instruments so I generally decline jobs calling for an instrument I am proficient on, but do not own.

I often encounter the folks who have accepted these gigs at the performances and most of the time, they have borrowed instruments and are not giving a strong performance. It's a bit of a dilemma for me. On the one hand I am a much better musician, but borrowed instruments aren't likely to be in very good condition and so I wouldn't want the poor quality instrument to make it appear as though I do not know how to play it - as the player in question appears.

On the other side are the hobbyists with deep pockets and a huge arsenal of high quality instruments, which they can barely assemble, let alone play. Some days I feel like I fall into this camp, except for the having money to buy instruments on a whim. Nothing seems to work and I wonder why I am not home with the family or walking the dog.


What are your thoughts? Am I alone here?



.
 

bpimentel

Broadway Doubler List Owner
Distinguished Member
#2
Interesting questions. On the subject of "doubling" on instruments you don't own:

I've had friends(?) say, "Hey, I've got this gig--can I borrow your clarinet? ... and a fingering chart?" This is clearly a situation where the person hasn't paid their dues on the instrument. Not a doubler, in my opinion. (On a semi-related note, I now have a policy of never lending instruments.)

On the other hand, a skilled flutist can probably pick up a borrowed alto flute and make it work. The difference here is maybe a question of primary-to-primary doubling versus primary-to-secondary doubling, as described here. To be sure, a GREAT alto flutist owns their own instrument and puts in the hours really getting to know it, but I wouldn't object strongly to a good flutist claiming the ability to "double" on alto flute.

How well must you play it to consider it a double?

I'd say you need to be able to play with a characteristic and pleasing tone, in tune, from pianissimo to fortissimo. Technique-wise, probably full-range scales and arpeggios (major, plus at least on flavor of minor, plus chromatic) with evenness and precision (and ultimately speed as well).
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#3
I guess I don't understand where you are coming from Carl, and I'm from Minnesota too. ;)

You can be the greatest player in the world, but without an instrument you wouldn't be called a musician, let alone a doubler, in my book. This is especially true if you won't borrow instruments to cover a part. So I guess the point is moot.

I got say though your comment about hobbyist with deep pockets does sound a bit like sour grapes to this ear. I have a flute that I struggle on to make the clarion range speak for me. Although I've made some progress, I probably didn't need to buy one. It is gorgeous though and set me back a whopping $400 with the McKenna custom head. And it probably wouldn't impress a real flautist. Still it make me happy, and I try to play it in a gig once a year.

So I'm more than optimistic about doubling with my clarinets and flute. But it is a labor of luv and when I'm not using them, they sure look purdy.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#4
> You can be the greatest player in the world, but without an instrument you wouldn't be called a musician, let alone a doubler, in my book.
Charlie Parker pawns his horn. He's no longer the (arguably) greatest player that ever lived? He's no longer a musician? Of course, this also means *I'm* not a musician anymore because the horns that are scattered about my house are my wife's.

A "doubler" is a person that can play one or more families of instruments with approximately equal level of excellence (e.g. flute and clarinet, not C flute and alto flute). However, when asked I generally just say that I can play saxophones and clarinets. I can also sing most parts from bass to tenor II without issue. However, if you want me to play (say) a bari sax and some contrabass clarinet parts, you're gonna have to allow me to try to rent or borrow 'em. If I can't get 'em, I won't be playing those parts. Doesn't mean I'm less of a musician. It just means I don't have the horns. I don't say I'm a piano player (or piano "doubler") because, while I can possibly pound out a two-line melody, I'm not going to be playing any recitals in the near future.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#5
There's no sour grapes here, just an observation. I gig quite heavily and play more instruments than I care to admit at a high level and my list of instruments to buy is shrinking fairly quickly.

When I am playing an instrument - any instrument, it doesn't matter which one, people think that is my main instrument. I was a working percussionist for 3 years after moving here, and nobody thought to ask if I played anything else. Then the principal clarinet from the local orchestra had to miss a number of rehearsals for a concert set that involved timpani/perc on only 2 tunes, so I offered to bring in my clarinet and fill in. Fast forward 2 years and I have gone from alternate to bass, to principal clarinet. Which is fine by me because I do not own a set of timpani, and the ones I was in charge of, were occasionally loaned out - and brutalized by idiots.

Then I was asked to play clarinet in the local concert band. I agreed on Bass, because it is generally low key and rather fun. Up pops a tune with a string bass solo, so it goes to the tuba. They can't get what the conductor is looking for in the sound so he passes it to me on Bass clarinet. I ask does he want it on bass clarinet or bass? He says , essentially WTF??? more or less. So in comes the bass and I play the solo. Day after the concert I get a call, and I have been working steadily as a bass player ever since.


I am comfortable with my playing and considered an A list player and on the short list for subs on many instruments with a few regularly performing groups which I don't care to be a regular member of, but find the random gig with quite enjoyable. Did I mention that Violin is my main instrument? I haven't mentioned it much here either.

I also work in a music store and see folks with no ability buying up the latest and greatest instruments available, and then trying to gig on them. Some are passable while others should stick to playing the radio. I could tell tales, but that's negative and I don't care to dwell on that.

My thoughts were prompted by the hacks out there who never had much talent, but have a line they continue to sell about their achievements and so forth. But they borrow from folks who can play well to go and play at a mediocre level, while never giving thought to how their actions affect others - like the person they borrow from. I don't loan instruments out, except on rare occasions in extreme circumstances.

A friend of mine with exceptional ability has gotten to the point where he just isn't interested anymore. He has decided not to play out anymore and sold off a trailer full of equipment. He is a great guy and one of the most talented musicians I have ever worked with, but just got tired of the game.




In viewing the thread about what your doubles are, I got to thinking about the various levels of players out there. Most are doing fine in their circles - high school, college, community, pro, but all doublers are not created equal. More often than not, folks who consider themselves intermediate are often more in the beginner camp than true intermediate players, and the instruments they claim to double on means they can honk or plunk out basic tunes, but haven't spent the time learning the craft associated with playing these secondary instruments.

The thread contains true professional doublers, like Merlin; true intermediate doublers, like myself - I am a violinist who plays other instruments too, but I am primarily a violinist; and then the guys who noodle around on many instruments for their own entertainment - often playing tunes quite well, but not able to do any new pieces without large amounts of time to learn the music.

Though not to the extent of my principal instrument, I get around quite well on my doubles. Well enough that I can pass as a true doubler in 90% of the professional gigs out there - by anyone's standards. The extreme technical stuff is beyond me, and I'll tell anyone who wants to hire me when the part is beyond my skills.

I was asked to play the guitar serenade for some opera by the musical director. He was a friend and knew I played more than just the violin. He sent me the part and I looked it over and practiced it for a few days. I could easily nail 98% of the part, but the 2% was beyond me, so I called and declined the part. Fast forward 6 weeks to the first rehearsal - playing my regular violin. I asked about the guitar part, and he said he had hired a fellow who said he could easily play it. Guess what - he sucked. He couldn't play the conductors tempo, couldn't play in tune and missed more notes than I had ever heard missed in the complete run of any show I had ever done with that group in just his first read through with the group.

He was fired at break. I was asked again and declined, I wasn't going to stink up the pit. We ended up having the harpist come in to play the part.


I'm not out to get gigs, steal gigs from others, and have no sour grapes that someone got a gig I wanted. I have my off nights where things are harder than they should be, or I am distracted by something happening outside of the gig, but am generally considered a rock solid player.

I was just thinking about the two questions and wondering if others had thoughts on the subject.
 

pete thomas

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#6
Can you consider it a double if you don't own (have in your possession) the instrument?
Provided you can play that instrument to a standard that is acceptable. Bird was still a saxophone player when he had to borrow a horn.


How well must you play before the instrument can be considered a double?
Aha, that depends. I double clarinet well enough to toot some blues on a gig, but if I were to take a formal session (e.g. a film session), job playing alto/tenor/baritone/flute but it also required clarinet as a double, I'd turn that down.

This reminds me of a story. I was once rang by an agent for a session (for a famous pop artist) and asked if I doubled recorder.

I said yes, went down the music shop and bought a recorder. I got out the instructional manual and practised it at the traffic lights on the way to the session.

When I got there to my dismay I was played a track (in Bb) which required some pretty nifty fingering on the recorder which I couldn't possibly do. I'd done sessions for this guy before and usually it was just a question of playing a few little twiddles here and there.

However, in my case was my trusty wooden piccolo which I quickly brought out and played, I suggested he might like that instead.

"That's It!", he said, "that's the sound I really wanted".

So I breathed a big sigh of relief, but I know next time I won't be so lucky so I'll never chance it like that again.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#7
We all know CP was a sax player to anyones standard, regardless of his current condition, but suppose he was called upon to play clarinet? It's pretty darned close, and being the musical genius he was, he could have most likely pulled it off fairly well if it was improvised, but if he was given a written part?

This is about doubles, not about superstars with issues. I own 2 pianos and numerous keyboards, but I don't consider myself a piano player in any sense of the word. However I am a lousy oboist but do not own one anymore, so I don't consider myself an oboe doubler, even though I could fake it well enough.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#8
> You can be the greatest player in the world, but without an instrument you wouldn't be called a musician, let alone a doubler, in my book.
Charlie Parker pawns his horn. He's no longer the (arguably) greatest player that ever lived? He's no longer a musician?
Provided you can play that instrument to a standard that is acceptable. Bird was still a saxophone player when he had to borrow a horn.
When two Petes are in agreement, I'd say that ends the discussion, right there :D.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#9
When two Petes are in agreement, I'd say that ends the discussion, right there :D.
Is a dead saxplayer better than a live poor doubler?
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#11
i don't own a concert xylophone but I can play one .... I'd rather borrow one of those no matter what anyways .. I don't own a vehicle big enough to drag one of those around unless Carl wants to offload one.
Big car or xylophone? :)

BTW I'm keeping my cars and my marimba too. I couldn't afford to replace my marimba, and I like the cars I have now, even though they aren't anything very special or valuable. I might be persuaded to part with my bass marimba mallets...

Vibes are on my short list, but not xylophone.
 
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