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Endurance for Musicals


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jazzvuu
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 7:12 pm    Post subject: Endurance for Musicals Reply with quote

I don't know if this is the right sub category but I am taking the guess that Musical type music would fall under commercial type playing. I am public high school music teacher that plays in a local community orchestra (mainly 2nd trumpet). This year as a teacher volunteer, I am having my first opportunity to play trumpet in a musical (The Drowsy Chaperone). I am not a high note specialist (I can play a 3 octave F# scale pretty consistent day to day) and not really the most efficient of players especially with equipment (Pickett 2C and 2CD mpc). Endurance and stamina is ever on my mind about making it through shows (which two Saturdays will be a 2pm and 7pm shows) and do a good job at it.

My question after that frontloading of info is, are lead trumpet parts for musicals consider normal playing expectation for a college grad on trumpet? Or they really more a specialized position that most typical trained trumpet have trouble handling?
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trpthrld
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll probably end up with several posts to answer your question as best I can.

After factoring in the personal level of musicianship of the individual, endurance in playing musicals depends on mostly what show you're playing.

Take "Annie," for instance. For the most part, Annie is played in short segments with a good amount of rest between each segment. Yes, Easy Street can be a blow, but for the most part Annie is overall an easy show to play with very little concern about endurance until you get to the very end.

There is an approximate 14 min break between the next to the last and the last tune in the show before you get to bows and exit music. Some people's chops can get cold in that time period. Other people have no chop getting cold & tight issues. But once you hit "New Deal for Christmas" you're playing solid for maybe 7 to 10 minutes to get to the end of Bows and Exit music. And that all depends on how big the company is and how the director works Bows (added repeats & vamps & such).

Drowsy Chaperone (a personal fav show to play) has some range endurance ("Aldolpho") and some lengthy segments with range ("Toledo Surprise"), but it, too, for the most part is short segments with good rest periods in between.

Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" is, IMO, one of the best "Big Band" Lead Trumpet books ever written. And you had better come in prepared to play long segments with a Lead Trumpet intensity. Act I ends with a long dance breaks ("Blue Skies"), and after the Entre Acte you go right in to ANOTHER tune with long dance breaks ("I Love a Piano").

Dance breaks = big band shout choruses

Young Frankenstein...oy vey....Act I ends with "Transylvania Mania"(LOTS of playing) and Act II - once you start the "Puttin' on the Ritz" section you're not only playing almost solid for the better part of 8 minutes, but keys will change as often as every 4 measures, and the range and intensity of the tune increases with every page turn. And just when you think you might get a break there's a page turn where you KEEP GOING!

The Golden Age of musicals - The King & I, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, etc., call for a different kind of endurance - that of playing looonnngggg notes (footballs).

Legally Blonde...well, that 1st book was written with Dave Trigg specifically in mind to play it.

A Chorus Line has several tunes where the horn is on your face more than it's off, especially on "One" and "Bows." But you also get a nice break after "Music and the Mirror" where you've most def EARNED that break.

A big difference between the Golden Age shows and shows written in the last 20 years or so is the older shows have segments where you're playing longer sections of music. More recent shows are what I call "cartoonish" in many of the cues because those cues are written specifically to enhance a quick action on stage, much like an anvil falling on Wyle E. Coyote.

How to improve your endurance:

- Remember that you do not have to play loud. Backing off a dynamic or two will not only increase how long you can play but will probably improve the balance, blend and pitch center of the section and ultimately the entire pit.

- Learn and use good microphone technique.

- Playing in tune with whatever pitch center the pit establishes will DEFINITELY increase your endurance as you won't have those physical "beats" literally beating you up.

- Get the horn off your face as often as you can, even if it's just for half a beat.

- Using the right tool for the job. Playing a 1 1/2C for the 1st book on "White Christmas" and you'll be asking Santa for a new set of chops during intermission. Playing a 6A4a for "My Fair Lady" and all the ladies in the audience will probably throw empty valve oil bottles at you when you exit the pit.

So play / use the horn & mouthpiece that let's you play that particular show with a sound that's appropriate to that show.

I think that's a pretty good start - let's see what other suggestions get posted.
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american boy
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If your playing a musical on Broadway,often times after the long blows,the 2nd player will take the lead on the next chart,and some shows,like Gypsy will designate parts for that same reason(2nd takes lead)..When it gets crazy is some of these college productions when you play these same shows but theres 1 trumpet; I played the Producers a few years at a college and that was the case,and i can tell you that there was a reason that it was divided up in a few spots;A "Dark" couple of weeks that was! Same with Gypsy for that matter; There is a reason that many of these sections of shows are as they are; Most of the "off Broadway" Coordinators don't really understand that.
The comment about easy on the volume is a good one.
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acritzer
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll chime in since I am also a band director that plays community musicals. The only other consistent playing I do is for church gigs.

As Tim mentioned (by the way, he's a great resource for musical questions), a lot of it depends on the show. That being said I do switch up my mouthpiece based on the book. Les Miserable and Into the Woods, Hunchback (tpt 2), for example I used my standard set up. Pickett 5C with 10-2.
Most other books with more commercial style to them I use a 5D with 10-5.

Using a different set up helps me relax more, push where I need to, but more importantly, to not overplay.
Maybe I'm in the wrong, but I try hard not to overdo things whereas I think many others don't focus on this.
I can think specifically of a fellow I've played with a few times. He's very solid, but he also plays REALLY loud.

As I get into the shows it's more of managing long term fatigue rather than making it through the book. Hope some of that helps!


Last edited by acritzer on Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:57 am; edited 1 time in total
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Turkle
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since you'll be playing into a mic, you can go super easy on the volume and be fine. If you use a slightly shallower mouthpiece, that will help you get a nice bright "burn" to your sound without having to push too hard. Let the mic do the work for you!

During long stretches where you can't take the horn off your face, sometimes just even pulling the horn off a bit to relieve the pressure for an instant - without taking it off your face - can help get some blood back in the chops so you don't kill yourself (particularly when you're "playing footballs"). I learned this technique from an orchestral player and it's saved my bacon a few times.

I am hardly the expert on musicals, but in my limited experience the above have gotten me through some tough blows. Good luck!
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acritzer
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did he say he'd have a mic?
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trpthrld
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 7:38 am    Post subject: Re: Endurance for Musicals Reply with quote

jazzvuu wrote:
...are lead trumpet parts for musicals consider normal playing expectation for a college grad on trumpet? Or they really more a specialized position that most typical trained trumpet have trouble handling?

To directly respond to this portion of your post - it all depends on the show.

"Ohlahoma" has three Cs (above the staff) and a handful of Bs & Bbs. A solid high school trumpet guy could play that show with no problem. Same with The Sound of Music (I think it has a D), South Pacific (again I think it tops with a D), The King and I - all very doable by a high school player.

Conversely, "Sweet Charity" has a bunch of dubba Gs. 2nd trumpet has Ds.

I guess if you were to define the trumpet playing level "make up" of a commercially viable pit trumpet player, it'd be a jazz band Lead player (who has a solid dubba G at the end of a 2 1/2 hour show) who also has the ability to instantly change hats and play something as lyrical and "not in your face" at the Haydn Concerto 2nd movement.
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trpthrld
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Probably the biggest challenge to high school pit players - and this moreso than range (IMO) would be key signatures.

Sure - you can learn all about B major, Db major, F# major, etc., and you can play those scales fine when it's just a scale, but practical application is a different story.

Then there are intervals. The show & tune that comes to mind is "White Christmas" / "I Love a Piano." Big jumps between notes in the key of F# in the Overture...well...at least ya get it played and done early in the show!
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benlewis
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tim,

Have you played the tour version of "Newsies" yet? They cut the book from two reeds to one and apparently just dumped whatever Reed Two was playing into the trumpet part. There are places where the trumpet is written lower than the trombone, playing bari parts. They also added a ballad in Act Two after a huge dance tune...

The new shows are written with monsters like you in mind; then we mere mortals have to deal with it...

Ben
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trpthrld
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

benlewis wrote:
Tim,

Have you played the tour version of "Newsies" yet? They cut the book from two reeds to one and apparently just dumped whatever Reed Two was playing into the trumpet part. There are places where the trumpet is written lower than the trombone, playing bari parts. They also added a ballad in Act Two after a huge dance tune...

The new shows are written with monsters like you in mind; then we mere mortals have to deal with it...

Ben

I played it last year and have another coming up in a few months. It's got some fun stuff to play and let's be honest - any show that opens with a trumpet solo ALWAYS gets the audience excited!

I thought the high F in the Bows music was a bit much. Kinda like the optional (and we all know "optional" ain't an option, right?) dubba A LAST NOTE in "Little Shop" was a "Really - you're serious??" kind of moment.
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gchun01
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

trpthrld wrote:


I thought the high F in the Bows music was a bit much. Kinda like the optional (and we all know "optional" ain't an option, right?) dubba A LAST NOTE in "Little Shop" was a "Really - you're serious??" kind of moment.



Great comments, Tim!

When in doubt, discuss things with your MD. Those "dubba" notes can seem out of place, depending on the size of the ensemble and orchestra. I'm sure having the entire number played musically with precision that fits the context of the show is ALWAYS preferred to a couple of freakish high notes.

Every once in a while, put yourself in the audiences' perspective and evaluate if the trumpet playing enhances or distracts from the show. Number one priority is to support what's going on the stage.
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benlewis
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tim,

I agree about the F in the Finale, especially since the same lick appears earlier in the show with the C-D-F down the octave. At least the bows and exit music doesn't have the now-required trumpet concerto; the one that always kills me is the bows for "Beauty and the Beast" with the lyrical parts that hang up there for way too long...

gchun1, you are correct about discretion being the better part of valor. Of course, when Tim plays, it's with the right crew. Sometimes in local productions, it's better to play to the pit norm. Balance, blend, and taste will beat paint-peeling every time...

Ben
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi jazzvuu,

I'm a community band trumpeter who has also played in pit orchestras for community musical theater productions. I haven't played The Drowsy Chaperone, but I can share a few tips I've picked up along the way that might be helpful for you.

Endurance can be an issue, depending on the show. Since you play in a community orchestra, I assume you also practice regularly and have some level of fitness. This probably puts you in the ballpark of being able to play a run of a community musical production as long as you manage your endurance carefully. Here are a few suggestions for that:

1. Get the book as early as you can, practice it thoroughly, and become very familiar with it. Not just enough to be able to play cleanly and accurately, but an extra level of familiarity that will help you play it efficiently, without working so hard.

2. Practice diligently, but don't wear yourself out. You want to arrive at the final tech and dress rehearsals strong and fresh, at your peak fitness.

3. Depending on the experience of the leading stage performers, the final tech and dress rehearsals can either be easy or a real nightmare. In amateur community theater, sometimes a talented but inexperienced performer will be cast in an important leading role. The final tech and dress rehearsals are when panic can set in, and directors sometimes run numbers over and over again to try and help the struggling performer get his/her confidence. To survive this onslaught, you'll want to play as little as possible, as softly as possible. Save yourself for opening night. All eyes and ears will be on the stage performers, so nobody will notice if you're sandbagging it.

4. Identify spots where your part is leading versus when you're supporting. The stage performers will rely on you to play leading parts with authority and confidence, so they can get their cues. They'll also be counting on you to get out of their way when you're playing supporting background stuff. This is a great time to save your chops. The stage performers will love you if you know when to lead and when to get out of their way.

5. I like to make a single-sheet setlist of all the numbers in the show and keep it on my stand. I format pieces that are a heavy blow in bold, pieces where I barely play in italics, and the rest in normal font. As I play through the show, I keep checking the sheet to remind myself what I still have left to play. This helps me resist the urge to overdo it by reminding me that there's still lots of blowing left to do.

6. Pace yourself for the entire run of the show, all performances, not just one performance. Don't use everything you've got in one performance in hopes of bouncing back fully for the next one. That approach can gradually wear you down 'til you're completely gassed before the end of the run. You want to end each performance feeling like you could have kept playing for awhile.

Good luck! Playing community musicals can be a lot of fun.
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jazzvuu
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First off thanks to all the replies. Lots of great advice to keep on the fore front of my mind.

I would say from people's advice that the lead parts in musicals are generally a specialized nature of endurance and range.

A few more extra info on my situation for the people mentioning and pointing out.

I am going to switch to a 3D 10-3/24 setup and give that a run to help with timbre and efficient. I play on a Yamaha Vizzutti Gen 2 trumpet.

I am not sure what to expect in terms of microphone. Last year pit mic situation was not good. I will say that I have zero experience playing on a mic so that will be a learning curve (I have mainly play in large ensemble performance).

I also just need to remember that this is a high school production to which I am technically a volunteer (I actually teach orchestra and Drowsy is a stage band pit to which means I don't have a technical teacher duty). I do it because I love music and growing and pushing myself for more playing.

Again, thanks for the advice and support.
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trpthrld
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mic technique.

Sometimes playing softer dynamic passages can be more taxing on endurance than those played mf or f.

If you have a soft segment to play, physically pull away from the mic maybe 6" or so. That way you can play at a more comfortable mf dynamic but it'll sound softer into the mic.

Conversely, if you're in a Harmon or Bubble mute, you pretty much hafta eat the mic, otherwise it won't get picked up.
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dstpt
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

trpthrld wrote:
Mic technique.

Sometimes playing softer dynamic passages can be more taxing on endurance than those played mf or f.

If you have a soft segment to play, physically pull away from the mic maybe 6" or so. That way you can play at a more comfortable mf dynamic but it'll sound softer into the mic.

Conversely, if you're in a Harmon or Bubble mute, you pretty much hafta eat the mic, otherwise it won't get picked up.

Tangentially…
Re: distance of bell to mic, one thing I’ve noticed is players often do not compensate when they have to play piccolo. You have to get the bell closer to the mic to be heard in the system. Sound engineers will not know when you switch to piccolo, so you have to get it just as close as your big horn.

Traditionally, we local musicians would show up for, say, a 10a-2p reh on a Tuesday for an “orchestra read,” then back for a sound check at 6:30pm, and open the show that night at 7:30pm…with no “advance books!” You would have to be a strong reader, obviously. Of course, this is how life has continued to work in the Hollywood/TV & movie score recording industry...not sure if that will ever change, knowing that composers/arrangers/orchestrators are conditioned to pretty much function under the duress of tight deadlines as details for what needs to be done is passed to them (like seeing the actual edited film footage of what they are supposed to match!)...which means that players typically don't see the music until it's time to record.

For a number of years, national tours have sent “advance books” to the next city (now even two and three cities out!), so that locally contracted players can review and prepare their parts. It seems that this practice started a little over 20 years ago, that is, where the national tours started consistently sending advance books, but often we would get those books only about one week in advance of the run dates we were to play. Typically, one of the touring musicians has librarian duty and collects the advance books at the orchestra reading and ships it out that day to the next city to receive.

Sometimes, the tour would even provide an audio recording on a cassette tape with each book. Then it got to where they would send a flash drive of an audio recording, then a video recording on a flash drive, and in more recent years, they have been sending a Vimeo link in an email to the local contractor to disseminate to the players, which would be for us to view the conductor and hear the orchestra (and a faint signal of the cast) during a performance. Sometimes, you can see a player or two in the pit captured by the camera, but it’s mainly to view the conductor’s beat patterns/gestures, while you follow your advance book. Many times the quality of audio is worse than a sub-par radio signal in a ’66 Chevy…you can just tell that it’s an oboe or flute or violin or trumpet, etc., and whether they’re hitting the notes and playing the right style in tune. It does particularly help in hearing the tempo of sections, since it is very common in musical theatre to have music written in 4/4 that is to be played in cut time and vice versa, et al.

Getting the music and recordings in advance has been very helpful, but with it, the expectations from the conductors and traveling musicians has risen. Yep. You gotta practice and prep things like mute changes and page turns! No excuses anymore. Just because you’re a good reader is no longer quite good enough. They want it as close to the original Broadway production as possible. Actually, this has always been their expectation, but I’ve noticed an increase in intensity in the tours in more recent years. You can just feel it, if you know what I mean. I’ve witnessed more “mature” players that have played these tours for years that have finally started to bow out of taking the gig due to the pressure they’re feeling from conductors that used to not be the case. For them the pressure has been to the point of completely taking the fun out of playing the show.

Back to the “bell to mic” topic: I have noticed consistently on these recordings (video/audio), and I mean very consistently, that trumpet players often, and I mean very often, do not take into account the distance of bell to mic when they switch to piccolo. I would be listening to the recording and when it would get to a piccolo trumpet passage, all of the sudden, you would no longer hear the trumpet. Bear in mind that some/maybe most/maybe all of these Vimeos are recorded in cities shortly after the beginning of their tour, very possibly in the very first city, so they can send it to upcoming cities. And bear in mind that the sound engineers on these national tours really know their stuff, but it’s been obvious to me that they can’t accommodate changes in their pre-programming the sound board for incidental passages like these (I guess, unless the conductor or trumpeter tells them), so you as the player have to be sure it’s equal distance to the mic. Just saying…
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 5:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey guys,

My hometown has a great outdoor theater that has a pit that is 10 to 12 feet below the audience. The floor and walls are all cement. You feel like you are in a tomb. In the old days with really poor sound systems we had to play very strong just to get the sound out. I go back home and play at least one show each summer. They now have a good sound system and a great tech running it. I discussed the situation with the conductor, the sound tech and a couple of friends planted in the audience for rehearsals. I found out that I could back off and pace myself very easily. Communicating with those folks is important.

These days at age 72 it is nice to not have to blow like crazy all the time. It is also nice to actually experience dynamics in the pit.
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Brad361
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I seldom play musicals, but play gigs using a mike every week (and really need to invest in a wireless, but haven’t yet).

The advice given is great, try to really make use of the mike (if the OP is provided one). Pretty simple, back off it for quieter passages, closer for fortes.

One thing to remember though, if the sound guy is not competent he can frustrate you by burying you in the mix, hopefully the OP will not run into that. I’ve run into situations where the sound person mixed according to his personal taste in sounds and tone colors, not what is necessarily correct and properly balanced.

Brad
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dstpt
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brad361 wrote:
...One thing to remember though, if the sound guy is not competent he can frustrate you by burying you in the mix, hopefully the OP will not run into that. I’ve run into situations where the sound person mixed according to his personal taste in sounds and tone colors, not what is necessarily correct and properly balanced.

Brad

Yes, the sound guys/gals "hold the power," and they cannot only bury you in the mix, they can actually turn you off...on purpose! It happened to all of the winds and brass on a show last summer. The reason? Out of spite, IMHO. This was a show with youth, and even though the orchestra, sound guys, stage hands, et al, were pros, the general atmosphere was fairly relaxed at this outdoor theatre. Since the guest conductor was in his own little world working on his keyboard settings (yeah, it was one of those shows, where you get head nods for cues), the sound check got started early...about 10 minutes early!...and the bass and drums on the other side of the pit went along with it. Well, guess what? Those players somehow forgot that we weren't on the clock, yet, and our orchestra manager wasn't there (another part of the recipe for disaster)...and, oh yeah, we're all union members, including the sound people!!!

Then the assistant sound tech came over to our side of the pit...and asked the horn to play. When he asked me to play, I politely told him that we weren't on the clock. He was very apologetic and relayed the info to the head sound tech via walkie-talkie. The next thing I see is that head tech walking down on the other side of the pit, giving us a glare as he goes up the steps backstage. He then came out after the official start time and resumed the sound check. The conductor was still in his own world.

I could tell we weren't in the mix once we got started with the Sitzprobe, but it wasn't until the 2nd weekend that a pro freelance (reed) player was in the audience to listen and give feedback, and he confirmed that none of the winds/brass were in the mix…not at all...and it was a rock musical, so there was no way we could be heard over the amplified keys, drums, and bass! NO WAY! And oh, did I mention it was at an outdoor venue?!

Long story short: Be careful how you deal with sound techs. It was one of the most frustrating experiences to know that you're putting out all of this energy into playing the part, and it wasn't being heard in the least. UGH!

Not all are like this, and this kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time, but so far we have two kinds of a negative sound tech experience, where they are either clearly lacking in perception or have a full-blown attitude…so be prepared!
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dstpt wrote:
Brad361 wrote:
...One thing to remember though, if the sound guy is not competent he can frustrate you by burying you in the mix, hopefully the OP will not run into that. I’ve run into situations where the sound person mixed according to his personal taste in sounds and tone colors, not what is necessarily correct and properly balanced.

Brad

Yes, the sound guys/gals "hold the power," ....

<snip>

…so be prepared!



Brad brings up a good point. I've dealt with the same thing all my career, from pit orchestras as well as other gigs as well. It's taken me awhile to adopt an attitude about it as to NOT go nuts when coming across a bad or uncooperative sound engineer.

I have my job as a musician to play the music to the best of my abilities. I should try to work nicely with everyone associated with the production. After that, the sound reinforcement is someone else's job and responsibility. If I'm not happy with what's going on, I'll ask the MD to listen. If he/she agrees, at least they have more power than I do to try to remedy the problem. If nothing can be done, I just make sure I protect my ears from any feedback or extreme volumes and play the show the best I can. There are some battles that are a waste of time to fight.
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