Subbing for Oliver! - The musical.

Zorlee

Senior Member
Hi everyone!
Well, I just got this gig - I'm subbing for pretty much the first call drummer in Town, for Oliver! - The musical. It's a musical show based on the 60's movie about Oliver Twist.
I've played some musical shows before, but this is my first professional musical-theatre gig. I'm playing with some of the best session musicians this town has to offer, and they're 40 year old +. I'm a 19 year old rookie (at least in their eyes!) and I want to do this as good as I possibly can. Are there any experienced theatre/musical drummers out there that can give me some good tips on subbing? I feel that it's actually harder to sub for a show, than to do the actual show. The reason is that I can only have one rehearsal, and then I'm supposed to drive the whole show. I'm really liking this challenge though, and I know that I'm capable of doing it. I'm just wondering what you guys are thinking!
The musical is big, it's around 130 pages of music. It's pretty easy stuff in theory, but it has a lot of cues, cymbalwork and some glockenspiel actually!

What I'm currently thinking:
- Working on the charts till I feel 150% comfortable with them, before I go to my rehersal.
- Sit next to the drummer, before he's out, and just read along while the show is running. This way I can see what the director does etc. I might do this for 1 show, or more, if I need to.
- Mark with a yellow marker at every "on cue" or "tempo change" etc. in the charts.

Any tips would be helpful! I'm getting into this game now for real, and I want to do it as good as I possibly can! Thank you guys :)

Zorlee...
 

stasz

Platinum Member
Sounds pretty cool. I've only played in a couple musicals before with my high school and all had a trap set part in the orchestra. It can be lots of fun and also very challenging. There's usually a lot of ground to cover musically so make sure you're comfortable with playing lots of different kinds of music. You have to be totally aware of the conductor and the show at all times and be able to react. There have been times when things have gone wrong totally unexpectedly on stage in my experience, so be prepared. Good luck.
 

oops

Silver Member
I've no experience, but my old drum teacher was a pro, so I got to go down a couple times and sit in the pit with him.

I'd take a couple different colour markers and use them for different things: Red for a tempo change, Blue for accents... whatever. Keep in mind you may be in a pit where the lack of light makes it difficult to tell different colours apart.

Get ready to turn pages fast. My drum teacher would have all 40 or so charts set on a stand, and as the song end would just drop it face down on the floor. Then drop the next on top. They end up all in order.

Would be a good idea to check out how the other drummer does it too, but good luck!
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
I'd take a couple different colour markers and use them for different things: Red for a tempo change, Blue for accents... whatever. Keep in mind you may be in a pit where the lack of light makes it difficult to tell different colours apart.
Be sure that the music is not rented. If it is and you mark it with anything but pencil, you probably will not get called to sub again.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
I always loved this show since I saw it as a kid. I have it on DVD. Good luck and follow Jeff's advice.
 
Last edited:

Boomka

Platinum Member
Hi everyone!
Well, I just got this gig - I'm subbing for pretty much the first call drummer in Town, for Oliver! - The musical. It's a musical show based on the 60's movie about Oliver Twist.
I've played some musical shows before, but this is my first professional musical-theatre gig. I'm playing with some of the best session musicians this town has to offer, and they're 40 year old +. I'm a 19 year old rookie (at least in their eyes!) and I want to do this as good as I possibly can. Are there any experienced theatre/musical drummers out there that can give me some good tips on subbing? I feel that it's actually harder to sub for a show, than to do the actual show. The reason is that I can only have one rehearsal, and then I'm supposed to drive the whole show. I'm really liking this challenge though, and I know that I'm capable of doing it. I'm just wondering what you guys are thinking!
The musical is big, it's around 130 pages of music. It's pretty easy stuff in theory, but it has a lot of cues, cymbalwork and some glockenspiel actually!

What I'm currently thinking:
- Working on the charts till I feel 150% comfortable with them, before I go to my rehersal.
- Sit next to the drummer, before he's out, and just read along while the show is running. This way I can see what the director does etc. I might do this for 1 show, or more, if I need to.
- Mark with a yellow marker at every "on cue" or "tempo change" etc. in the charts.

Any tips would be helpful! I'm getting into this game now for real, and I want to do it as good as I possibly can! Thank you guys :)

Zorlee...
You sound like you're on the right track. I would also pay VERY close attention to what the drummer is doing in certain situations - fills, tempo transitions etc. - especially things that aren't notated. Try to get as much of what you're playing as close as possible to the usual drummer's parts. As a sub, the goal should be to have no one notice that it's a different player in the drum chair. However, there may be licks or phrases that are comfortable for him, but not for you, and if so, simply approximate them as closely as possible within your technical comfort zone.

What city are you in?
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
I do a fair number of theatre gigs every year, both as the primary player and as a sub. It is VERY different than playing in a band, but the differences are all subtle enough that you should be able to transition into it without any problems.

First of all, study up on what theatre notation is. A lot of times, the parts that are expected are not all written in. For instance, if you see the standard "boom chick" (often written in cut time, so you are looking at what looks like 4/4, bass drum on 1 and 3, snare drum on 2 and 4)...well, play that part, but it's also expected that you will play the hi hat lightly over top of that. It won't be written anywhere in your score, but you are expected to play it.

Second of all, you are NOT in charge of the tempo. That is the conductor's job, and they will resent you pushing or pulling them. They are watching the stage, listening to the singers, and have worked with them for months, so they know when to push or pull back. Follow the conductor, and even if you don't hit a single fill, they will be impressed. Most of the time, the piano player and conductor have worked with the cast all through rehearsals, and then they bring in the full pit for the last week of rehearsals, sometimes less. Because of this, unlike a normal band, the people on stage will be more likely to listen to other instruments than drums for the tempo. It's ok to listen to the main instrument, and follow them (as long as they are with the conductor).

Also, dynamics are the most important part of playing in theatre after tempo. Depending on the size of the theatre, you might find that FF actually means "hit the drum from half an inch above it, as opposed to an eighth inch above it." On the other hand, in a big theatre, you might be able to play slightly harder. Still, the focus is on the vocalists, and often, that means you will be playing quietly the entire time, even when it's big hits, etc. In order to assist with this, I usually use much thinner sticks than I normally do (I usually use 5As with my band). Something jazz oriented.

Another thing...it is easy to get distracted by watching the show. There may be songs you don't play (I'm not sure in Oliver, I haven't done that yet, but am booked to play it in late February/early March). There can also be long stretches of time where the pit doesn't play at all. At this time, you are sitting in a relatively dark area, with a performance happening right behind you...it's ok to watch it a little bit, but don't get distracted to the point where you miss the conductor trying to cue the next song, or talk to the pit about dynamics for the upcoming song. A lot of the time, if a conductor notices that a singer is struggling with volume, or knows that the singer has a cold, he or she will whisper to the pit between songs, "Keep this one softer." There may be other instructions, too, such as, "Last night I went too slow on this next tune, so be ready to fly." Also, I find that many conductors will tap out the next songs tempo before they raise their wand, just to check that they have it correct in their own head. By watching this, instead of the show, you will be more prepared to start with the conductor.

Make sure you ask about dress code (usually all black), and arrival time (sometimes they want to practice parts before the show). Make sure that you get there before the arrival time, with enough time to uncover the drums (if they are covered), make sure your music and accessories are in place, find a bottle of water for yourself, etc.

Also, a lot of times, theatre people are VERY kind. You are doing them a huge favor. You may get a lot of praise from actors, the director, and your fellow pit musicians. I'm not kidding when I say that the first time I subbed, I got not one, not two, but THREE standing ovations at the rehearsal I did. It felt great...but make sure you take it with humility.

One final thought, for now. This is a GREAT chance to network. Most people who play in pits do so in numerous productions, at numerous theatres, every year. Take business cards (they are cheap to make if you haven't yet), and hand one to every single person in the pit, any actors that you may chat with (don't just randomly hand them to people you haven't spoken to), the conductor, director, and anyone else that you have a chance to chat with. I have only ever asked to be in one musical. From that, people I gave my card to got me other musical offers, and then that just snowballed.

Good luck, have fun, and remember, the show is not about you. Lay back, enjoy yourself, and this could be the first of many gigs like this for you.
 

Zorlee

Senior Member
Wow! Thank you guys so much for all the great information. (Especially mrchattr - thank you for your time!)

About my charts - it's copied chart actually in A3 formats (2 pages per paper!), and it's 60 of them total, making it 120 pages of music. It's a lot, but I went through it all today, and it's more than doable. BUT it has a lot of cues, tempo-changes, time-signature changes etc.
I got together with the drummer that is doing the show today (he's my old drumteacher, we go way back, hehe!), and we went through the charts together, in a very fast manner.
So now I have a overview of what's going on...
Now, next week I'm going to play 1 or maybe 2 rehearsals, and then I'm having my first show in two weeks from now.
Since I'm probably not going to play through all the music during the rehearsal, I'm bringing my Zoom H2 digital recorder next week, while I sit next to the drummer doing the show, and I'm going to record the whole thing.
This way I can listen to everything when I get home, while I read along, and mark places where I maybe would've screwed up/played something completely different!
I got this idea this night, actually, haha... I couldn't sleep, kind of stressed out about this whole thing, haha! Now I'm finally calm, and I'm positive that I can do this thing!

And yes, I'll bring them cards and network like crazy! Haha! :D
Thank you guys!

Please, if there are other guys on here with experience from musical/theatre shows, then tell me every tip and trick you know, haha! :)

PS: I'm having some problems with me charts. It's 30 A3 pages per set, and they have a tendency to fall off my music stand. I will probably get a much better stand at the show (I have a basic metal-stand), but I'm just wondering what you guys do to keep your charts in place. I can't afford to lose them, while I play... I'm sight-reading a whole lot of the show, since there is so much music...!
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
Wow! Thank you guys so much for all the great information. (Especially mrchattr - thank you for your time!)

About my charts - it's copied chart actually in A3 formats (2 pages per paper!), and it's 60 of them total, making it 120 pages of music. It's a lot, but I went through it all today, and it's more than doable. BUT it has a lot of cues, tempo-changes, time-signature changes etc.
I got together with the drummer that is doing the show today (he's my old drumteacher, we go way back, hehe!), and we went through the charts together, in a very fast manner.
So now I have a overview of what's going on...
Now, next week I'm going to play 1 or maybe 2 rehearsals, and then I'm having my first show in two weeks from now.
Since I'm probably not going to play through all the music during the rehearsal, I'm bringing my Zoom H2 digital recorder next week, while I sit next to the drummer doing the show, and I'm going to record the whole thing.
This way I can listen to everything when I get home, while I read along, and mark places where I maybe would've screwed up/played something completely different!
I got this idea this night, actually, haha... I couldn't sleep, kind of stressed out about this whole thing, haha! Now I'm finally calm, and I'm positive that I can do this thing!

And yes, I'll bring them cards and network like crazy! Haha! :D
Thank you guys!

Please, if there are other guys on here with experience from musical/theatre shows, then tell me every tip and trick you know, haha! :)

PS: I'm having some problems with me charts. It's 30 A3 pages per set, and they have a tendency to fall off my music stand. I will probably get a much better stand at the show (I have a basic metal-stand), but I'm just wondering what you guys do to keep your charts in place. I can't afford to lose them, while I play... I'm sight-reading a whole lot of the show, since there is so much music...!
No problem, glad to help!

As far as the music, my suggestion to you would be to make a binder...you can get Sheet Protectors (at like an office supply store), and put the pages in there, then put them in a small three-ring binder. You will find it easier to turn pages, etc, this way. The show SHOULD have a nice big thick black music stand for you, but even then, the binder idea helps a lot.
 
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