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faceman

Auditioning for Pit Band - Rent!

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So my college is doing a production of Rent this summer and I've signed up to audition for the bass chair. I've never done this sort of thing before but it's my last chance before graduating to do a musical band and after listening to the soundtrack, it sounds pretty good! Some fun 80s/90s styled pop numbers, with some nice bass parts too. The more I think, the more I want to do it.

However, the audition states that musicians need to be of grade 6 level and sight read well. I'm not sure if I'm up to those standards as I've never had to do either. I'm wondering if I should take up a few lessons before then to prep me in sight reading bass lines? I can always work out the lines after sitting down and following what each note is and such and then using the music to follow the progress of the song. None of the bass sounds too hard and I'm sure I can do it all, I'm just not sure about how capable I will be in the audition if I'm just given the music and told to play.

I was thinking of buying the sheet music in advance, learning it and hoping the arranged versions are similar Thanks :)

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Don't know if lessons will get you sight reading in time, but if you're confident you will be able to play the parts from what you have heard, then sure, give it a go, a local teacher should be able to put you through your paces, and, if you do conquer the sight reading it is such a valuable tool when it comes to earning money from playing bass. Good luck - wish I'd done it!

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Sight reading is a case of playing lots of different music that you probably wouldn't choose to play.
A good exercise you could try is, get a large music book let it fall open at any page look at the vital statistics ie. time sig, key & tempo then play it. Don't stop if you make a mistake, the more you do this the less mistakes you should make, well hopefully.
I think it is really a self teach type of thing and is down to self practice.
If you think you can handle the parts then go for it, what have you got to lose. If you can get a cast recording from a production it will prob be in the correct keys so should be good to work with.
Your idea of getting a copy of the score is a great one, but see if you can borrow it as full scores can be really expensive.
Best of luck

Ta very glad Dale

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First of all,I think you can ignore the grade 6 thing. I do quite a few shows and don't have any
grades at all.

I'll be honest with you,if your reading isn't happening you are going to struggle with the
gig. Let's say you did go and get a copy of the soundtrack and learnt it like you suggest.
What will happen if the MD hands out a new copy of one of the tunes in a totally different
key because it's too high for the singer?
It's also not uncommon for a piece to have a couple of cuts in it. If you are basically playing
it by memory alone,you will be lost if the band is asked to cut at bar 67,pick it up again at 114,
play until 132,cut to 175, and vamp bars 184 to 188 until cue.
Things like that happen all the time,so you need to know where you are and make notes
accordingly. Sometimes they happen after a performance or two,when they need to cut some time,
or make room for a dance or something.If that happens you need to mark it down and then play
it straight away. You can't do it by remembering the CD version.

Lessons to learn how to read are always a good idea,but don't expect to be able to sight read a
complex pad in a few weeks.

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[quote name='faceman' post='801352' date='Apr 9 2010, 10:54 PM']So my college is doing a production of Rent this summer and I've signed up to audition for the bass chair. I've never done this sort of thing before but it's my last chance before graduating to do a musical band and after listening to the soundtrack, it sounds pretty good! Some fun 80s/90s styled pop numbers, with some nice bass parts too. The more I think, the more I want to do it.

However, the audition states that musicians need to be of grade 6 level and sight read well. I'm not sure if I'm up to those standards as I've never had to do either. I'm wondering if I should take up a few lessons before then to prep me in sight reading bass lines? I can always work out the lines after sitting down and following what each note is and such and then using the music to follow the progress of the song. None of the bass sounds too hard and I'm sure I can do it all, I'm just not sure about how capable I will be in the audition if I'm just given the music and told to play.

I was thinking of buying the sheet music in advance, learning it and hoping the arranged versions are similar Thanks :)[/quote]

I used to play the drums in pit bands hundreds of years ago. Sight reading is everything. I doubt the music will be all that difficult but they'll expect you to turn up at the dress rehearsal, have the dots put in front of you and play it first time. I wish I could do that with the bass (I'm a lapsed classically trained percussionist). You haven't to fall asleep either - the conductor will be looking for his cues and might not give you much warning of the next song.

Other than that minor difficulty, I used to really enjoy it.

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[quote name='Doddy' post='801442' date='Apr 10 2010, 01:28 AM']It's also not uncommon for a piece to have a couple of cuts in it. If you are basically playing
it by memory alone,you will be lost if the band is asked to cut at bar 67,pick it up again at 114,
play until 132,cut to 175, and vamp bars 184 to 188 until cue.[/quote]

Ouch!

Never having done this sort of thing (nor ever likely to) that comment came like a bucket of cold water in the face.

Thanks for the reality check. :)

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Doddy has this one spot on, if you ask me. I've done a good bit of this type of work, and invariably, there are changes to the parts, very often with little or no warning. If it's a slick operation, there's a production assistant on site, ready to print out on the spot, a revised chart for all instruments, with the required edits, such as removing 2 bars or adding a vamp etc, to allow for longer than planned set change, and so on.

More typically, especially for a school/college production, the MD will call out edits for you to mark in on chart in pencil, and yes, it's quite common to have to jump from bar 22 forward a page to bar 68, then back to bar 32, and sometimes there are "inserts" handed out: little snippets 1/2 a page long, with extra bars for you to jump out to, and back in to main chart from again!
Another very important aspect is that you have to watch the MD as well as the chart, because as earlier said, much of the time you're playing on Q. This is a separate skill from sight reading altogether.

On the plus side, Rent is not particularly difficult as far as playing basslines goes. So if you're willing to know the set backwards in advance, then there is some room for "bluffing", up to a point. I'm depping in a production of Tommy in a few weeks time (one night only!), and I'll be getting a CD and the book of parts from the regular bassist to get familiar in advance. If you can get the book in advance of rehearsals, that will give you a real head start.

If I were you I'd go for the gig, don't say anything about your misgivings. Know the material well. If you're lucky, they'll do group type auditions with several players playing parts from the show at one time, but if they're very stuffy about the Grade 6 thing, they might audition people individually, with graded pieces to be played solo, in front of a panel! You'll know what form the auditions take in advance of course. In any event, the point I'm leading to here is that you'll really need to woodshed your reading skills. You won't make the ideal standard, but you'll be amazed at how quickly you get the hang of it, once you PRACTICE REGULARLY!
Regardless, I'd say go for, as it's all experience, and very valuable for that reason.

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[quote name='gerryk' post='801659' date='Apr 10 2010, 11:38 AM']On the plus side, Rent is not particularly difficult as far as playing basslines goes.[/quote]

It's not particularly easy either - there's some juicy bits in that pad. Make sure you learn Santa Fe, no sight-reading will help you with that one, it's all in the fingering. Could be a good way to impress the audition panel.

Definitely go for it!

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Just an update on this one. The audition is next Saturday and it's a bit more interesting. Because the sheet music hasn't arrived yet, the music director is decide to split it into two pieces. The first is a piece to show your skills on the bass. Now if it were 80s, I could a chorus-overload-slap solo but I thought I'd do something groovy (what I do best), along the lines of Jean Pierre by Marcus/Miles Davis, with a little bit of slap and thumb picking? Might incorporate a few of my band's bass lines too, any thoughts on what to do. I was thinking five minutes tops?

Secondly, there is a sheet reading exercise. My keyboardist suggested that I recognise notes and where it is on the fretboard instead of what notes they are. It's not technically accurate but it cuts out a mental step and might help me. Learning around 10 positions shouldn't be hard....!

Also think I'll probably take my Jazz as it's easier to play and would fit the musical better than the Rickenbacker :) Any advice is helpful!

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I can't help but think that the 'skills' part of the audition is pretty pointless in this situation,because it doesn't
matter how technical or groovy you are if you struggle to read the pad.

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+1 with Doddy. Following the pad is crucial (while keeping your other eye on the MD / Conductor for Q's and tempo).

Obvious I know, but the skills bit would be more relevant if you were asked to play something from the show. That's what I'd pick to do. Santa Fe perhaps - that can be a bit of a bugger to play in the different positions without looking at the fingerboard (remember you'll be looking at the pad and the MD!). You could maybe play the main riff from La Vie Boheme in different positions as well as it goes all over the shop in the show.

If you have (or can borrow a fretless) you could do Without You or You'll See from the show. They are both quite simple lines but really come alive on fretless with a bit of gliss / vibrato.

If I recall there is a bit of slap in the first act - but not much.

I really enjoyed doing Rent. I didn't like a lot of the songs to start with but by the end I thought they were great.

NB - just noticed you are based in Durham - thats where I did the show, at the Gala Theatre.

Best of luck!

Edited by JD1

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[quote name='Doddy' post='801442' date='Apr 10 2010, 01:28 AM']First of all,I think you can ignore the grade 6 thing. I do quite a few shows and don't have any
grades at all.

I'll be honest with you,if your reading isn't happening you are going to struggle with the
gig. Let's say you did go and get a copy of the soundtrack and learnt it like you suggest.
What will happen if the MD hands out a new copy of one of the tunes in a totally different
key because it's too high for the singer?
It's also not uncommon for a piece to have a couple of cuts in it. If you are basically playing
it by memory alone,you will be lost if the band is asked to cut at bar 67,pick it up again at 114,
play until 132,cut to 175, and vamp bars 184 to 188 until cue.
Things like that happen all the time,so you need to know where you are and make notes
accordingly. Sometimes they happen after a performance or two,when they need to cut some time,
or make room for a dance or something.If that happens you need to mark it down and then play
it straight away. You can't do it by remembering the CD version.

Lessons to learn how to read are always a good idea,but don't expect to be able to sight read a
complex pad in a few weeks.[/quote]

+1

If pit musician is one of your intended career paths then you have to be able to sight read to a good standard otherwise you wont get the work.

If you don't have them already I would recommend getting The Complete Electric Bass Player: The method by Chuck Rainey and Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The life and music of legendary bassist James Jamerson. Both books really helped my sight reading.

Good luck with the audition.

Edited by TankJon

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Whenever I've been at a west end show, there also seems to be a fair few notes lower than low-E, so perhaps a 5 string will help you out from that perspective alone and with playing positions etc

+1 for the technical exercise being a moot point, everything you need to know, notes, tempo, groove etc is written on the pad!
Good luck if you do go for it!

Si

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In support of going for the audition and show I'd say that there is no better way to learn to sight read than doing a musical. You will almost certainly feel out of your depth around classically trained musicians in a pit band, but nothing focusses the mind like being terrified! I think a lot of bassists go through this trial of fire when learning to read and you can pick up sight reading surprisingly quickly if you approach it right.

Most musicals have the bulk of the notes playable in first position/close to the nut (although I've never done Rent I suspect as it's more modern there's probably a lot of notes up the dusty end of the fretboard though, so perhaps a difficult debut.) You might want to stick to learning to read notes down the nut end (ie: notes written on the lines and spaces of the stave rather than above or below them,) and learn the other bits off the record, as sight reading high notes when starting out will be almost impossible.

When I was learning to read doing pit band stuff I used to write out the chords over the bars as well, as then if your sight-reading fails you can always fall back on improvising which you probably feel more comfortable with. It's time consuming, but worth it for a safety net. You'll find you pick up rhythms a lot quicker than notes as well so it's usually not noticeable to the listener. There are several shows which are quite easy to play with minimal sight reading chops: Grease, Oliver, older stuff like Half a Sixpence, G+S. There's also ones I wouldn't touch until more confident: Chess, Little Shop of Horrors, Andrew Lloyd Weber, as they have unusual time signatures and prominent bass parts.

Of course it's best to be up front with the MD as you'll never be able to blag the whole run of a show on bravado alone; but there's a lot of qualities to doing pit work other than sight reading that an MD will find important: punctuality, easy-going, stamina, not mucking about on your instrument in between numbers, getting the interval drinks in, etc. If you get through your first show, you'll probably be hooked on it as it's usually great fun with great people, which comes in handy the 20th time you run through a show like 'Oliver'... root 5th, root fifth, when will the torture end...!
Good Luck,
Andy

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[quote name='moonbass' post='832690' date='May 9 2010, 11:44 PM']....although I've never done Rent I suspect as it's more modern there's probably a lot of notes up the dusty end of the fretboard though, so perhaps a difficult debut.....[/quote]

Definitely, shows like Wicked are all over the place for the bass!!
Some wonderful lines and amazing songs though!!

Si

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I got this email today!

"Basically *** has decided he has too much work at the moment to commit to Rent so I'm happy to offer you bass! There's no need to audition. However I would like you to please start listening to the songs and practising sight-reading, but I know how enthusiastic you are so this shouldn't be a problem! :)"

Yay! Now comes the hard part....

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I have to say that the only way that I get any better at sight reading is to practice. Practice, Practice.

It gets to the point where you start pattern matching, as you would with this:

"I cnduo't bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too."

You can read it because you recognise the start & end of the word & you make up the middle. Same happens with rythms & arpeggios / scale fragments. The difficulty is getting it automatic.

I would suggest some of bottesini's books as they tend to cycle through keys and use a lot of scale fragments.

Another trick, in classical music, is if it's too fast to read then just play the notes on the beat. Usually you're covered by the cellists!

Best of luck!

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So now you really need to get your reading chops together.
I'd spend more time with the charts than listening to the CD to be honest-There are likely to be
differences between the two. Listen to the music,but don't try to short cut by learning it by ear.
You never know how many changes there are going to be in the final production.

Hope it goes well for you.

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[quote name='dougal' post='835389' date='May 12 2010, 03:59 PM']"I cnduo't bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too."[/quote]

I've seen this before, and it is pretty amazing. I can read it at normal speed, but I did misread the penultimate sentence as "Yeah and I always thought sleeping was important!",
which doesn't make a lot of sense in context. :)

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Update - my score arrived today and it all doesn't look too bad! Lots of steady patterns and whole notes, just 43 songs is all! I'm really looking forward to the first rehearsal on Friday. I've made flash cards with the notes on the staves and ask my friends to quiz me on which note it is and where it can be found on the fretboard. Once I've got this sussed, just need to jog my memory of which notes are white.

Apart from a few songs which have specific lines (Santa Fe particularly), the rest one could in theory get away with chords. The pianist from the band suggested that I just wing it like this but since this is my first pit band, I'll do it properly.

I'll happily keep on reporting back if people are interested in a little diary of this :)

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[quote name='faceman' post='839870' date='May 17 2010, 04:20 PM']I'll happily keep on reporting back if people are interested in a little diary of this :)[/quote]

Please do, I'd be very interested in reading about your experiences.

S.P.

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Hey Faceman -

Yes - keep us updated. It's a good book 'RENT'. I did the show for ten weeks for the first Irish run of it. There's precious little downtime between songs, and if it's anything like the production I did - get earplugs!!! I had 18 singers, all close miked, blasting thru my monitor.

Watch out for 'Santa Fe' in all it's incarnations throughout the book. For a reason unbeknownst to me it varies in being written in 6/8, 3/4, and 4/4, which makes it look way more confusing than it really is. It's a great bass line tho. Have fun - and if I can be of any help with anything, ask away. I have the book here too if that helps.

Edited by Gareth Hughes

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[quote name='Gareth Hughes' post='839905' date='May 17 2010, 04:59 PM']Have fun - and if I can be of any help with anything, ask away. I have the book here too if that helps.[/quote]

Thanks very much, I'll let you know how I get on. Apart from Santa Fe, the only other ones that need watching out for are La Vie Boheme seems to have some interesting scales and Finale, which has Santa Fe again! Anything else to look for particularly?

This is an amateur production but the pianist was telling me how many harmonies and singers there are!

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