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Split book

Discussion in 'Pit Orchestra Stories' started by saxplayer1004, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. Let it be known, that on this day, the fourteenth of February, Two Thousand and Eleven, I hereby declare that I will refuse to give way to the splitting of thine reed books

    This is the third or fourth time I've been stuck playing a split book. I was told they were getting a "clarinet" player from the university to save me from having to practice. Apparently some of the "licks" *which had chord changes for improv above the notes for solos* were deemed to hard for me to sight read so they got a clarinet only dude to play them. Well guess effing what, this dude can't read the bloody key signatures, has no clue what the hell a vamp is, and doesn't know how to follow the piano player. He is sitting close enough to turn her pages and read her music, and I'm on the other side of an upright piano that is on a 2 foot riser. I can see her eyebrows and up and have yet to miss an entrance and this dude can't find one...


    I know there are people that can play circles around me, I acknowledge this. That's fine, and we need you. Don't come in and play a pit if you have never played anything without a conductor cueing you and haven't had key changes that go from 5 #'s to 6 b's instantly. Not for you skippy

    rant over

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    When I had students, one of the elements in the "curriculum" a solid two months playing out of show books. I did this for several reasons:

    1) It got the little buggers in the habit of reading manuscript.

    (I once had a very good trombone player who always whiffed on certain solos (such as the trombone solo in the Sinatra favorite I've Got You Under My Skin. It was all the more mystifying because he was hell on wheels when we did a production of West Side Story together. We finally figured out that he just could not read manuscript.)

    2) It introduced them to the extreme sharp key signatures that seem to plague musical comedies.

    3) It got them used to hearing vamps and the like (I had a piano player come in for these).

    4) It showed them that there was a form of music outside of etudes and classics.

    5) It introduced them to the concept of horn changes

    Sharps, sharps, sharps...life in the theatre...
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2011
  3. I was doing this sh!t in high school, I mean, sure I wasn't anywhere near as good, but this dude was like 2nd chair all-state last year on clarinet. That's impressive. What the he!l is the point in knowing all of your scales if you can't play music in them? Come on man, and this is Urinetown, the show isn't THAT hard

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Playing in one or two shows (especially the way that they slice them up in high school) is a start, but depth comes from doing this a lot. It may well be that he never played a show in his life before. Also, the fact that he is a "clarinet specialist" points in that direction.

    Search around on this service for the "How many shows have you played?" thread. There are more than enough examples there to illustrate just how close to the beginning of your journey that you are.

    (Incidentally, you won't find my list there. I once posted my listing to such a list, and got ragged on for doing so (my listing is pretty long, and with multiples of most of them over the years).)

    It may well be that this "expert clarinet player" has never played from changes before - most high school musicians not part of a "jazz band" haven't made that leap yet. Unless he has a very broad based teacher (assuming that he's just a clarinet guy), it's quite possible that he may never make the jump, even at the college level.

    In short, it's all dependent on where he got onto the musical train (so to speak). Some get on in one car and never leave, all the way through the educational system. Others spend their time in a different car (like jazz), and cannot function well in a classical-based system. Unless you choose to move from car to car, you can get set in your ways - not a good thing for someone wanting to make a living from the trade.

    I love doing shows. However, my school district during my high school days (Lindbergh High School, Saint Louis County MO) never had an orchestra when I was there, and they similarly did not do shows until sometime in the 1970's or so.

    Fortunately, I was the bass clarinet player for the All County Orchestra for three years in a row (doubling on clarinet and Bassoon II), where I met a wonderful woman who was the musical director for the Berkley School District (now long defunct - the high school was eaten up by Lambert International Airport as part of their noise abatement and runway extension plans). She conducted that group for many years, and for quite a few more until she had a heart attack in the 1980's.

    When she learned that I played sax as well as the clarinets, she "optioned" me from my district (through some sort of arrangement with her counterpart) so that I could bug out of my school early to attend their (Berkeley's) pit orchestra rehearsals and perform in their shows. We did Carousel (my first encounter with that piece of dreck - masterpiece my ass, and all clarinet to boot) plus a couple of others that I have now forgotten.

    One thing led to another, and soon I was doing community and dinner theater pit jobs, referred through her and other musicians, and getting a further leg up on pro work in the very near future (back then).

    So, you never know what's going to help you. The lousy clarinet player may end up being musical director for shows in your area, and he may think about hiring you in the future. Word to the wise and all of that...
  5. Groovekiller

    Groovekiller Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    Unless you are in New York or Los Angeles, where the best players are continuously available, no job will be ideal, especially with the cut-down orchestras of today.

    The best approach is to try to be friendly to anyone involved in the pit. To criticize other members of the orchestra, no matter what their inadequasies (spelling?), creates an environment in which nothing can improve.

    Establish a friendship with the other players and discuss each performance problem area. Try to work out problems on your own. Be a pro - Find a way to fix it.
  6. I would also like to echo the advice you've been given thus far.

    It's so easy to make snap judgments about people's playing, especially if they are new, and you are doing something you are used to. I will be the first to admit that I've done that very thing in the past. However, I implore you to take a deep breath and step back and remember we all have to start somewhere and we were all beginners at some point.

    Luckily for me, I performed in well over 30 musicals before I ever played one, so form-wise, it made total sense to me. However, maybe this guy hasn't ever seen a musical, or listened or played one. Not only is he trying to figure out vamps, and tempos changing all the time, etc. etc. but all the while doing it while changing keys every 15 bars. Musical theatre is it's own musical language that has to be learned.

    Perhaps, you could think of a way(s) to help your fellow reed player adjust better. For example, on board here, the tenor player and I help each other when needed to have the best section we can. One day he may suggest to phrase something differently to bring out the nuance of the genre, or I show him a better fingering on the clarinet, or have him phrase something on the flute without tongue stops, or maybe I'll ask him to play a phrase for me if I made a mistake on the rhythm in rehearsal ... anything really. At the end of the day, you both need to play this musical and it needs to sound good, so figure out what needs to happen to get you there.
  7. too late to help him, 3 rehearsals and into the show and he was ratting on me yesterday when I had a hellish time with my bass clarinet. Pad fell out and I split 3 reeds, minimal desire to work with him. Normally I wouldn't mind if he was just in the pit and it was his first go, it's the fact that they split the book up that irks me. This marks show 34 for me, so I'm not that inexperienced as far as this stuff goes, but I'm not playing any more split books, not worth it. I understand we all have to start somewhere, but just starting at this level is not it. Start in the reed 3 or 4 books if you have to and do it for free. There's nothing I can do to help during the show since I can't see anything but his feet and his right hand. If he can read the piano book and see her hands with her talking to him for all the cues there is no excuses at this point, so I understand where you guys are coming from, but I'm going to respectfully decline any other playing opportunities that involve split books, not worth the frustration.

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I once encountered an excellent saxophone player who had no idea that you could play Bb/Eb using •|•oo|•oo ("one and one", as I was taught to call it by my long-time professional musician Grandpa Wilhelm).

    Here it was one of the most basic tools in the clarinet player's arsenal, and this professional musician had never even heard of it! "Incredible" was what I thought at the time (maybe twenty odd years ago).

    The truth of the matter was that he had learned his clarinet playing from a different approach than I had - probably he was a cross over from saxophone playing to the similar but distinct world of clarinet playing.

    I came to the world of bassoon/English horn/flute/saxophone playing from the world of clarinet and bass clarinet playing, and I have had any number of similar "Aha!" moments, learning from others who have seen more or done more than me.

    For example, I had developed "Albert clarinet fingers" in order to play various combinations of low notes and G# on saxophones in a real time manner, and even then some of my transitions were less than optimal. On some vigorous R & B tunes, hovering around the low notes, my left hand would get a real workout, up to the point of cramps.

    Then someone pointed out the interconnection between the LH little finger keys and the G# key. Once that occurred, what was horribly difficult suddenly became a walk in the park, as long as I took the time to do a little pre-positioning (and remembered to do it in the first place.

    I've been riding in the musical rodeo for just about fifty two years now, and playing shows for well over forty years of that time. Aside from the pop and the classical stuff, that time span encompasses dozens of different shows (with multiple repeats of some of them) and hundreds of individual performances. One thing that I've learned over that timespan is there's always something new to learn. Tenor clef, even.

    (Well, not really. I play so little bassoon, and so seldom encounter the clef from hell, that it is just easier to write the note names in. That I find that the same thing has been done time and time again in the rental books shows that I am not alone in doing so.)

    And everyone's musical experience is going to be different. As an example, I would never mark cuts or anything else in a show book with Post-It Notes ®; that's a great method until one of them comes loose during a vigorous page turn. But that's just me - if using "Post-Its" is what you want to do, then do it. It takes all of a few minutes of time to erase the books, and the pencil marks don't come off until I desire them to.

    What you need to do is to be open to change, and understand that not everyone else is going to be as flexible as you.
  9. The scenario that saxplayer describes sounds familiar. My 15-year old daughter has now played in 5 musicals and describes something similar in her last show. She also says she will only play an entire book in a musical; no splitting books for her. She works well with the professional musicians sitting next to her; she says they look out for each other and cooperate well (since she is still learning, she'll attend more rehearsals and the pros next to her are sometimes sight-reading during the performances; I'm not suggesting she plays at their level). But in this last show, the musical director allowed one high school student to play only on clarinet on the Reed 2 part, which then required hiring a pro to play the rest of the book. This high school student, athough a very good clarinetist, would miss entrances, distract himself with his ipod and texting, and ended up playing the clarinet less well than my daughter who was playing Reed 3 (according to her) even though clarinet is her 4th instrument. Perhaps this is more an issue of being a real doubler vs. being good on just one instrument: doublers are forced to learn quickly and make so many adjustments. I don't think my daughter would have learned nearly as much if she'd been playing in pits on only one instrument. She said that in one piece during the last show she did, the MD suddenly skipped about 12 bars directly to a solo she was supposed to play on tenor sax. Since she still had her English horn in her hands, the Reed 4 player covered for her by jumping in and playing her solo. I don't think a single-instrument player is going to learn the need for that level of cooperation as quickly as she has learned it.
  10. and that's kinda what I was getting at. There is a HUGE gap between virtuoso recital players that are damn good at their one horn and can play anything as long as they have enough rehearsal time, and those of us that play just about anything really well. I can't go and play the concertos, I don't have the patience to hack through every hellish lick or the talent to play some of them. I don't get asked to go play with the NC Symphony and crank out a recital with them, that's insane. I just wish this dude would have had that same foresight before he got himself in way over his head.
    I said before, if he had been playing his own book, I would have a lot more sympathy for him, I'm mainly pissed that they split the book and why they split it.
    They auditioned for this and I was doing it as a favor to a friend whos an actor. The audition was set up weird and had seperate auditions on each instrument, so I had 4 different auditions instead of 1 with all 4 horns. The clarinet stuff came out of some hellish Mozart concerto and as I was doing Music Man at the time of the audition didn't have time to work it out. Just is really weird, I'm sitting happy knowing I'll get hired again and he won't though, it just sucks trucking through the show
  11. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I've mentioned that I've played and sung in a lot of church groups.

    We had this one lead singer that the choir I was in was supposed to back up. A gospel singer. Now, I've played a good deal of jazz and I've listened to a lot of jazz, blues, gospel, etc. and I know that the SOP for gospel singers is that they kinda noodle with the time signatures and notes. The backup is supposed to be more-or-less "straight" -- and you follow the rhythm section, not the lead singer. The lead is the soloist, not you. All you've gotta do is listen to (say) a bit of Ray Charles in one of the many versions of "Georgia on my Mind" he's sung.

    This screws up a lot of people, especially those whose taste in music leans heavily toward Wonder white bread. It's sometimes amusing listening to other choir members that you know are better singers than you fail to come in or go out at the right time. And the problem is just not enough experience with other musical styles than what's in your comfort zone.
  12. How is it that a professional and paid (I assume) show has the books split up with separate auditions? I thought that was not permitted, and only done in high school shows informally.
  13. Carl H.

    Carl H. Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    I've rubbed, scratched, pounded, grunted, shouted and even stomped, but never spit in a show.

    Sounds gross. I wouldn't do it either.

    For the record, I don't audition for pit work either. I get hired because people know I can play. It is very rare for me to play only one book too, usually I am covering the technical stuff for weaker players on many books.
  14. paid yes, semi pro. It's a university/community theatre thing. They wanted to audition the university students, even though I've worked with the musical director before. The music dept was adamant about having this kid play so I figured what the hell it saves me from practicing. Oh well, tonight was better, kid decided not to show up, so lewoot
  15. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    the kid didn't show?
    did you fill in the part then ?
  16. ya, I was contemplating taking my clarinet out of the pit to spite him but left it in which was a good thing. Covered parts, missed less notes hit all the accidentals, good night. Just frustrating, he didn't call or email the MD either which was even more loverly for me
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