Pit Playing 101

Getting Jobs:

  1. Go see musicals - hand out cards.
  2. Offer to Sub. For free if necessary.
  3. Play any show you are offered.
  4. Be amazing in every way
  5. Be willing to work your way up
  6. Find out who is conducting what - cold call them

Keeping Jobs:

  1. Be on time - Leave home EARLY - 20 minutes early = on time
    Warm-up time/Reeds/Electronics
  2. Commit early (yes or NO - no maybes)
  3. Find a conductor and stick with him/her
  4. Play well - Worry about YOURSELF only
  5. Keep your mouth SHUT
  6. If you need a sub, get a GOOD one
  7. Work as a team with someone else to cover ALL the performances
  8. Make the conductors job EASY.
  9. Come to rehearsal with your music LEARNED
  10. Notate ALL cuts in the music in a clear and concise manner
  11. When rehearsal is over - go home. If you have questions for the conductor come early the next rehearsal -

Getting Subs:

  1. Find players you like, or who you know.
  2. Treat them well.
  3. Pay them fairly
  4. Network - go to shows, band concerts, and hand out business cards.


  1. Business Cards
  2. Calendar - big one
  3. Email/cell - use them
  4. Communicate
  5. Pencil/Pen/$$
  6. Make a copy of your book - for future shows and to mark cuts.

What Do I Need?

  1. Tuner/Metronome
  2. Brass - ALL MUTES, oil, horn stand
    Reeds - learn to double/ extra reeds, horn stand
    Drums - Tamb. / Shakers / wood blocks / Glock
    Piano - keyboard, amp, cords
    Bass/Guitar- Amp, chords, pedals, bow (bs)
  3. Pencil, Pen, Post-it notes, Paperclips
  4. Magazine/water/snack


  1. Professional
  2. Helpful
  3. Positive
Playing in a pit carries a lot of responsibility. People are PAYING to see the show, largely because of the music. Tickets in this area can get as high as $35 a seat. You need to make sure that YOU PERSONALLY are giving the people their money's worth!


  1. Conducting
  2. Playing
  3. Vocal Coaching
  4. Music Preparation

Why Play Shows At ALL?

  1. Better Musicianship
  2. Earn Money / make friends
  3. Consistent employment - what else is there?
  4. Tax benefits
  5. Personal growth
Take traffic, set up time, parking, and tear down time (and any other mitigating circumstances) into account when accepting a gig. If shows start at 7:30 in Los Altos - and call time is 7pm - and you work in East San Jose until 6pm - you are probably going to be late. Factor in if the particular show is worth it. I recently played a show in SF - for $40. 1 hour up, 1 hour back, $10 in parking and a 2-hour show. Minus gas that is a $25 job for 4 hours of work. But I ended up getting 6 more gigs out of it. Even a show that pays $10 a service can be great in many ways.
  1. One check at the end - usually $120 - $200 depending on services.
  2. 3 hours at minimum wage comes out to about $17 after taxes.
  3. More shows means more shows means more money eventually.
Lastly -- Playing shows teaches you to play "on- demand" in a variety of circumstances. These skills can lead to other - more career oriented jobs like Vegas, Cruise Ships and Cabaret performances.

This page last modified on 29-Jan-2004

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