Going to do some pit work for a musical

BassDriver

Silver Member
Yep...the performance is in about a month and a half. I have already been practicing the different songs of the musical with the pit band (so far so good), and so I am just asking for advice on what would help on the days that we perform.

I am (planning on) bringing my own drumkit. Now I have pretty used heads on my tom-toms, I am hoping that the improved acoustics of the orchestra pit compared to the garage where my drumkit is will make the kit sound better on the day of performance (yes there are mics). So the only head I will be replacing is the fairly coating-stripped snare drum batter head.

Am I right about this?

Can you polish a turd (which is an OK drumkit with used Remo Pinstripe heads which could be tuned)...?...do not-so-amazing drumkits all of sudden sound magically better in acoustically better rooms?

BTW the garage where my kit currently is a rectangular brickwalled building - lots of reverb and annoying high overtones can ring loudly - there are hard walls as well as a range of surfaces around the garage (cars, metal shelves, garage roller-doors, windows, concrete floor etc.). I have checked out the orchestra pit in the theatre which is a small space under the stage which has more sound absorbent surfaces (carpet and etc.) and (of course) less garage junk lying around.
 

double_G

Silver Member
i have started doing more theater gigs in the last 2 years...i am finding that thuddy toms are ok depending on the show. doing "guys & dolls" now w/ 3 show left. i have coated diplomats tuned med-high. the havana tune is the only one where i use my 10" tom. as i learn the shows from broadway recording, i am noticing the pit guys have fairly muted toms, great cymbals, exceptional snares & then lots of other sound sources, of course. the toms seem in tune but a w/ vintage / fiberskyn tone. kinda the Steve Jordan approach IMHO.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
When you play a musical in the pit, chances are the other musicians won't want to have you playing very loudly. It's usually hard to hear down there as it is, unless there is also a monitoring system, but then it gets even louder. If you have heads in better shape, and not two-ply heads like Pinstripes, then you can get a better sound at a lower volume.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
And I will go out on a limb and say your drums will definitely sound different in the pit as opposed to the garage. And if they need tuning you might as well wait and do it in the pit. No sense doing it twice.
 

Zickos

Gold Member
What musical are you doing? Unless you are doing a rock musical, you'll probably only need BD, SD, HH, 1 tom (probably floor) small crash cym and whatever sound effects (WB, tri, bells, cowbell, ratchet, etc. Don't worry to much about the tom. You shouldn't need to use it too much.
 
M

mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
What musical are you doing? Unless you are doing a rock musical, you'll probably only need BD, SD, HH, 1 tom (probably floor) small crash cym and whatever sound effects (WB, tri, bells, cowbell, ratchet, etc. Don't worry to much about the tom. You shouldn't need to use it too much.
In a pit, space is everything. Most likely you won't have any. Decide what you really need and only take that.

In terms of the tom issue - you're probably good with Pinstripes or G2's. It depends on the show music. What kind of show is it? Most likely, you don't want anything too resonant because it might bleed into other pit mics that are positioned close to your drums. Monitoring is a pain too in a pit. Have a chat to the sound engineer and ask his opinion on your drum sound. Remember that he knows best in this situation because he has total control over what is sent out and hopefully knows the requirements for the show better than anyone.
 

BassDriver

Silver Member
And I will go out on a limb and say your drums will definitely sound different in the pit as opposed to the garage. And if they need tuning you might as well wait and do it in the pit. No sense doing it twice.
Thanks, good suggestion.

Have a chat to the sound engineer and ask his opinion on your drum sound. Remember that he knows best in this situation because he has total control over what is sent out and hopefully knows the requirements for the show better than anyone.
The theatre has the sound guys...I have seen other musicals at the same theatre and they do a soundcheck before the first performance and are operating sound equipment in the control room behind the audience.

What musical are you doing?
Fame...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fame_(musical)

In a pit, space is everything. Most likely you won't have any. Decide what you really need and only take that.
It is a small space but my kit is already pretty small and we have a small band setup...

...me on drumkit, two guitar players, a bass guitar player, and keys

but we will have to fit other equipment (amps, pedals, mics, leads etc.).

When you play a musical in the pit, chances are the other musicians won't want to have you playing very loudly. It's usually hard to hear down there as it is, unless there is also a monitoring system, but then it gets even louder. If you have heads in better shape, and not two-ply heads like Pinstripes, then you can get a better sound at a lower volume.
Yeah, I notice Pinstripes (the ones I have) have a terrible low impact sound, they only sound "OK" when I whack the heck out of them...I know how loud it can get in the orchestra pit, at least my drums will project but there are mics anyway.

Next time I replace batter heads on the toms, I should go with a less messier sound like coated Ambassadors or something like that.

I will consider your advice and see what I can do on the day.
 

BassDriver

Silver Member
Last night was the last night of performances and I can say that I had a nice time.

The drums were miked and from what I got told they sounded good from where the audience was seated. It was a simple microphone setup: 2 overheads (each about 1-2 feet away from my cymbals) and a kick drum mic (went into the kick-port).

The toms sounded a little rough around the edges, they only sounded good when I hit them hard - but it was not much of problem. The snare was tuned with a new Remo Coated Ambassador Head batter head (cranked real high) and it sounded really funky and the rim clicks that I frequently used throughout the show sounded great with it.

I really enjoyed this great opportunity to play for a high-school's musical in team of solid musicians.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I'm late to the party on this one. Great to hear you had a good experience.

As mentioned above, the first question to ask when getting a sound for a show is "what show?" I recently did a depping stint on a tour of Spamalot, and the sound used was modern and punchy. Not long ago, I did a run on a Ratpack show and I used Modern Vintage heads to get an open sound for playing with a big band. Of course, the other key difference is that the Spam gig had us playing offstage, behind plexiglass/perspex, and using IEMs so a more muffled sound was always going to work better. For Ratpack we were live and center stage and I was looking to fill the hall with sound. One size doesn't fit all. Different drum kits are often in order.

Then, of course, you may have to consult with the Musical Supervisor, the MD and the engineer to get a sound that makes everyone happy as well. I've had at least one Ride Cymbal rejected for being too washy for the MD. I've also often laughed with other pit guys about how the drum companies market BIG MASSIVE RESONANCE to us, and then sound guys immediately tell us to slap two-ply heads on, toss all our laundry in the bass drum and Moongel the snare. You can fight for some of your own sound, but in the end you're there to do a job, and there are other opinions to consider.

As mentioned above, I try to get away with using/schlepping as little equipment as possible, but still cover all the necessary aspects of the chart. On something like Fame, a 5-piece kit is going to be a good idea, just for playing all those nice big tom fills in the title number, though I have done it on a 4-piece just recently. Sometimes substitutions can be made that are musically satisfying to all parties. Floor tom rolls instead of timps, or a Roland SPD20 makes a passable timp sound if you can't live without it and don't have space. Electronics can be used for some aux perc stuff, too, like whistles and rattles that would need to be grabbed mid-number, etc. You learn from experience what you can get away with, though consultation is always a good idea. Give the MD the last word. These days, many shows have several keyboard players who end up doing a lot of the percussion work. The upside is not having to carry/play all that stuff, the downside is we lose our doubling fee....
 

BassDriver

Silver Member
As mentioned above, I try to get away with using/schlepping as little equipment as possible, but still cover all the necessary aspects of the chart. On something like Fame, a 5-piece kit is going to be a good idea, just for playing all those nice big tom fills in the title number, though I have done it on a 4-piece just recently. Sometimes substitutions can be made that are musically satisfying to all parties.
I used a small 4-piece setup (1 up, 1 down) + cowbell, ride, china, crash and hats.

I used my own drums and hardware and borrowed cymbals.

As mentioned above, the first question to ask when getting a sound for a show is "what show?" I recently did a depping stint on a tour of Spamalot, and the sound used was modern and punchy. Not long ago, I did a run on a Ratpack show and I used Modern Vintage heads to get an open sound for playing with a big band.
The band was in a pit right under the stage and speakers connected to the microphones inside the pit broadcast the sound from the front of the stage.

Then, of course, you may have to consult with the Musical Supervisor, the MD and the engineer to get a sound that makes everyone happy as well. I've had at least one Ride Cymbal rejected for being too washy for the MD.
There was not a lot of fuss about the kit sound. I did not use drums or cymbals that stood out with huge resonance, pretty well rounded sound.

and then sound guys immediately tell us to slap two-ply heads on, toss all our laundry in the bass drum and Moongel the snare. You can fight for some of your own sound, but in the end you're there to do a job, and there are other opinions to consider.
Funnily enough I already insisted from the start on using an O-ring muffler on the snare drum's batter head (kills the very high-pitched overtones), I also had 2-ply pinstripes on the toms but only a small cushion for muffling the bass drum (I still wanted a little clean tone to the drum).

I guess the fact the mic setup was so simple meant that my drums did not have a big sound that asked for huge amounts of muffling.

Great post Boomka, thanks for sharing your experience. There are so many factors to take into account when going for the right drumkit sound.
 
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