Getting the Gig You Want


Senior Member
Last Wednesday (July 29) I received an email asking if I could sub for two gigs on the weekend (July 31 + Aug 1) at a local legion. A set list of 50 songs (culled from a master list of 130 songs) was included with the email. I was familiar with most of the songs (about 45), and was confident I could shed the others in time. I stated that in my reply, and got a big thank you from my contact.

Schedules did not allow for a rehearsal. I set up my kit at the venue Friday afternoon. I met the band for a brief sound check about 30 minutes before our first set.

It was real fly by the seat of your pants gig. We did four 45 min sets. The band leader calling out songs from the list, either he or myself counting them in, and away we went. We discussed physical cues for tempo, breaks, etc., after the sound check. For songs with fades, he would call out an ending ("cymbals!", "cha-cha-cha +1", "dead stop", etc).

We had great crowds on both nights. The dance floor was never empty. Folks were there to have a good time. We helped them do that.

The band knew the regulars. Songs were chosen to fuel the vibe of the room. By the 3rd set, on the 1st night, we were taking requests.

Last night I received an email asking if I wanted to continue playing with them. Their drummer has been "increasingly less reliable". They have gigs booked - 2 to 3 weekends each month through to next Summer (2016) - and need to know they can honor those commitments.

This weekend felt very good; both on and off the stage. My guts say that will continue to be the case. However I have suggested I sub for the rest of the month - gigs on the 14th/15th, 21st/22nd, and 29th/30th - so all involved can be confident it is a fit. The band leader liked that idea.

How did this come about?

A few months back, I caught part of their final set on a night out. I looked them up online, and fired off an email complimenting them. In that email I wrote how much I appreciated their playing, and if they ever needed a sub I would welcome the chance to play with them.

They were already having drummer issues. When the tipping point came, I was top of mind.

I did as much prep as possible in the two days prior to the first night. Charting, and shedding, the songs I was least familiar with. Running through the others.

I recorded the 1st night, and spent some time prior to the 2nd night reviewing those files. I wrote out a cheat sheet for tempos, stops/starts mid song, and endings. That paid off big time.

For anyone coveting the drum chair in a local band, this could be a way to get it. It sure worked for me!


Platinum Member
Sounds like you might wind up in a pretty good situation! Here's to it working out and that you have fun!!

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Great story !!

Good for you.



Gold Member
Great post! It's a constant hustle out there, and it's all about getting your name out there. I'm not in the union, but I get the AFM monthly magazine for the articles, and they had one this month that said getting music jobs isn't about who you know, but rather who knows you. The more people that know about you the more opportunity you have to get work. This was a perfect example, where you took the initiative to email them, and the few seconds you spent emailing them has alreday paid off!


Silver Member
It means practicing specific things for an extended period of time to nail them down in as little time as possible.

Its short for going out to the woodshed to chop wood, because they're both tedious activities.

I have a somewhat similar story. In about 2009, I was recording this rock opera project that I wrote about 5 years prior (2004). I hired this really good singer and we built a good rapport. After the project finished we didn't really keep in contact, but we resurfaced in each other's radar in 2012, became FB friends, and started minor correspondence. Little did I know he kept me on his radar if he needed a good rock drummer to work with, but he never had a project come up that needed a drummer.

Well, his CSN-style trio got a big outdoor gig, and they wanted to get a rhythm section. I was the first guy he contacted. This was back in the spring. The gig was the first of this month. We had about 4 rehearsals, never with the complete group, but we tore the house down and it was amazing, one of the best performances I have ever had. Got also the biggest paycheck from a gig ($100), a free deep massage on my arms and shoulders, free dinner, and an open bar. Now this trio wants to continue playing larger gigs that necessitate a rhythm section because they liked how much better the bass player and myself made the music. So got future gigs with these guys lined up!


Silver Member
great post. i am continuously amazed on how i can sub for almost anyone around town i really like given some up-front work...if i (1) show up at a gig{s}(2) dig the music (3) learn most the music (4) tell them i am ready to sub / hang with one of the players (or have use him/her as a sub in one of my bands).


Platinum Member
Got to be out and about and making sure you are seen and known. The only thing that dies faster than snow in July is your name if you aren't pushing it out on the scene. Great story and best of luck to you!

Matt Bo Eder

Cool story. Totally great that it worked out!

Back in the early 90s, this guy came up to me on a gig and asked if he could "jam" with the band. Before I said anything, he holds up a picture of Michael Anthony from Van Halen and tells me that's his cousin. I asked him if his cousin would like to sit in with the band then.

Gotta admit this guy had the gumption. If in a misdirected way ;)


"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
This is a great topic. I think it's essential to know what you want. When I got back into music after my 20 year break, after attending a few open mics, I was pretty much floored by the guy I play with now. I said to myself back then that someday I would get to be the drummer in this guy's band.

It took me 7 years, but finally in 2010, I got the ask. It was my goal. I never had a rehearsal, because by that time, I knew almost his whole catalog.

Knowing who you want to play with is a great leg up. Because now you have a goal to focus your energies on. Persistence and dogged determination pays off, but you have to give it time. Story of our lives, right? Giving it time.