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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I am not naive enough to expect great musical moments from a wedding gig, but enough is enough. I have just finished playing a gig which involved driving an hour and a half each way, playing 4 hours with only a 15 minute break after two hours of playing (no other breaks...). Also, playing 15 minutes over what was scheduled. The worst thing, perhaps, were the arrangements--mostly two tenors playing in unison or often in the lower register, such as repeating the guitar riff on the tune "Satisfaction" for most of the tune starting on low c#. Man!

(I am aware the choice is there to not take the gig in the first place, but even though the money wasn't that good I need the money--what can you do...)

As a disclaimer, I usually read posts similar to this without much empathy, so my apologies if this is too much whining...
 

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Welcome to the reality of playing pro. Most of the music you have to play isn't the big time shows on the big stage under the big lights. You will have to either play the game and do these gigs from time to time for the money or else get a day job. The glamour is there from time to time, but reality is that you have to pay the bills, feed the family etc.....
 

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a different type of gig

On the flip side, I did a wedding a couple of weeks ago where I played a total of 20 seconds...yes, that's right...20 seconds! A vocalist sang a tune for the ceremony and it had a sax solo in the middle. That was it...I played my part and was free to go.

Sadly, though, I was told that the couple had a dj at the reception. :-(
 

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I played a great wedding gig two weekends ago, with a classical woodwind quintet. I'm mainly a clarinetist (who doubles on saxophones). We played for an outdoor ceremony in an idyllic setting, then about 45 minutes of light dinner music.

We then gave way to a live dance band - complete with tasteful alto sax soloist - and were fed a sumptuous meal while the guests danced. All in addition to our rather princely fee.

Gotta love folks who still hire live musicians. :p
 

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Here's one you all will like ..........................

Dear Band Leader:
> >
> > We look forward to your performance at our
> daughter's wedding. If you
> > don't mind, we would like to request a few of our
> favorite songs. Please
> > play these during the reception:
> > A Keith Jarrett composition from his solo series.
> Please arrange it for
> > full ensemble in the key of B but nothing in 4/4
> please.
> > Mahavishnu Orchestra, "Dance of the Maya" and
> please have the guitarist
> > play John McLaughlin's solo from the live
> performance Nov. 16, 1972 at
> > Chrysler Arena. My wife and I were at that show
> and we liked his use of
> > polyrhythms.
> > One of John Coltrane's duets with Pharaoh Sanders.
> Our guests love high
> > register tenor saxes.
> >
> > We thought a little Stravinsky right after the
> toast would be nice. So
> > please play "The Rite of Spring." We like a tempo
> of about 1/4 note = 93
> > and transpose it down 3 half-steps - it will be so
> much more appropriate
> > for this occasion in the slightly lower register.
> >
> > Then for the candle lighting ceremony, please play
> Frank Zappa's "The
> > Grand Wazoo." The original key of B flat, would be
> fine but my cousin
> > Jeannie
> > would like to sing the baritone sax solo in the
> key of D - she has kind of
> a
> > high voice.
> >
> > When my new son-in-law takes off the garter,
> please just a little of
> > Varese's "Ionization." It's such a funny piece, we
> think it would go over
> > real well.
> > Much better than "The Stripper."
> >
> > And for the bride & groom's first dance, please
> slow things down a bit by
> > doing Barber's
> > "Adagio For Strings." It's so much better than
> "We'veOnly Just Begun" or
> the
> > "Anniversary Waltz."
> >
> > When my wife and I join in the first dance, could
> you segue to Thelonius
> > Monk's "Ruby, My Dear" - it's in honor of my
> wife's grandmother whose
> > name was Ruby. It would mean so much to the
> family.
> >
> > Thanks for all your help. Depending on the outcome
> we'll certainly behappy
> > to recommend your band to our friends.
> >
> > We'll have your check for the fee of $250 (minus
> our expenses in
> > contacting you of $12.50) by the end of next
> month: we're a little short
> as
> > the
> > young lady doing the balloon arch wanted her
> $1,850 in advance and the DJ
> > had
> > to be paid up front his $2,500 as normal. Our
> daughter assured us that
> > your love of music was greater than your need for
> money, and that you
> would
> > welcome the exposure you would get from playing
> this wedding.
> >
> > Before you leave, please feel free to ask the
> caterer for a snack
> > sandwich and a soda (the bottles are returnable or
> you can pay the deposit
> > to the butler).
> > Please use the back entrance to avoid disturbing
> the guests."
 

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weddings

Ving,
We all need money and take gigs that can suck. I try to look at the lame gigs as something I am working on replacing. A leader that is not taking care of his players is a leader I will bail on as much as possible and soon add to the never again list. It just helps if you are thinking in that direction. You don't need to tell anyone, just begin displacing the lame work with stuff you can grow in.
I have some casual leaders that have not called in years and I am so glad. I have some leader friends that I would do anything to play with because the band is gonna be great and they are going to take good care of good players. It took a long time to see weddings I could be excited about but it does happen.
Some leaders call and I just rustle a paper without even looking at my book before saying no because I don't want to see that night open and have the personal drama in my head for turning down a gig on an off night.
I would not have been very excited either. Sounds like a lame gig and a horrible leader. Keep working toward something a bit more bearable; and, by the way, we all get to the point that we HATE weddings for a while. This too shall pass.
SAXBOY
www.gregvail.com
 

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saxboy said:
Sounds like a lame gig and a horrible leader.
You said it!

Ving and a few others are pointing up the difference between a wedding gig and a gig with a wedding band. I contract weddings fairly frequently, but always on recommendation from planners or agencies that I know, and that know my music. As a result I get calls for more intimate, upscale, low-key events.

I work with the bride (and/or groom these days) and together we plan an evening of pleasant music, with special features as needed. They're usually happy with a first dance and a few special requests - the rest is romantic ballads and old standards, nicely paced, always with jazz feeling. (I admit this might not work outside major metropolitan areas.) We've played anything from Rachmaninoff to Joe Jackson if people give us the time to work it up, but we make no pretense to being request *****s, and our clientele doesn't require it. It's a celebration for them, not a Big Event.

I stress the need for pacing - always ask if there are speeches or testimonials planned, and plan our breaks around them. There's almost always a way to make it work. And if dinner is served, as it usually is, I ask if arrangements can be made to feed the band, as they'll be on-site for so long as it is. Almost always the answer is yes.

There's more work out there if you get with a real wedding band leader - basically a ready-made, musical catering service for mass-market weddings that are more "events" than celebrations, where everything is right out of the yellow pages. The tinfoil trays are right out on display, the list of dances is as long as your arm, and the bridesmaids' dresses are one size fits all. There you're not a musician. You're an assembly line worker with a weaker union. I can't, won't and don't provide that service as a leader, and I doubt I'd be happy doing it as a sideman.
 

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yup, zounds to me like you've got a serious lack of band leader on the bandstand...gigs, as in real life, often operate under the "tread you as you'll allow them to treat you" mode, ala, if you don't do anything about it, why shouldn't they have you play 3 days straight?

OTOH, if the leader had negotiated the gig correctly(stating performing terms, instead of just $$), or had acted appropriately on the stand, you'd of gotten breaks...

QUESTION IS, are you gonna work under these conditions in the future, knowing how they are? IF SO, you have only yourself to blame... :wink:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Yes, it is my fault for accepting work with this particular leader--every time I play on the drive home I think "Thats it--no more!" and then struggle with what saxboy eluded to--turning down work on a night off--the next time I get the call. In fairness, I do not have an absolute hatred for variety band work--I do play with other groups that are top notch and a pleasure to work with. Bad monitor mixes, though, thats another story...
 

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A lot of wedding gigs are huge fun...happy people, everybody gets plastered and dances, you get the weirdest requests, good food, generally get to drink champagne for the 3rd and 4th sets...whether R&R, jazz combo, or big band, I generally look forward to these (although yes, they are long and hot and the drive home is generally miserable, etc). Maybe we have better weddings here in NOCAL...
 

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...or maybe you're working a better cla$$ of weddings.

Speaking as a musician-leader, I wonder: is it the musician-leaders or the "business" leaders who are more likely to treat bands better and ask that they be treated better? What do people think?

I've been rethinking my position expressed earlier about not taking pickup wedding work. It seems like it'd be a great way to learn the more crowd-pleasing, work-for-hire side of the business. Can a guy with exceptional multi-sax, clarinet and vocal chops, but no flute (I'm working on it!), good stage presence, appearance and showmanship, work into this type group with only modest sightreading ability and no more knowledge of post-60s pop hits than the average layperson - but an exceptionally good ear?

There's a wedding booker about a mile from me with his own storefront - been there for years, so he's probably doing okay. Should I bother dropping off a disc, or is that not how they usually book sidemen? If I do get called, will they treat me like smallpox if I tell them I've been a leader myself? Will I get any useful contacts on these jobs? Most of all, will I learn anything (other than possibly "don't do this")?
 

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Wedding gigs

I've been in this business 39 years. I've been in Frank Sinatra's band, I've recorded with Jaco Pastorius, the Baja boys (Who Let the Dogs Out), I did the soundtrack to Something About Mary, and many weekends I work jobs much worse than yours. Stop Whining or get out of the business. Nobody who makes a living in music wants to hear it. We all suffer, so shut up.
 

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I'm going to assume you're addressing Ving and not me, because what you wrote has nothing to do with what I wrote.

But be that as it may, I don't exactly see any "whining" on this discussion. What is your problem with someone b*tching about a crummy job or a lame leader?

"We all suffer" - yeah, maybe, but why make it an obligation?
 

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Wedding jobs

There are good wedding jobs and bad wedding jobs. Most of them are bad. If you make a living playing music, you play all of them and keep your mouth shut. If you want to make an artistic statement at a wedding gig, you shouldn't be there. You just work the job like a waiter or parking attendant, which is basically what you are.

At the end of the job, you thank your boss, who paid you to suffer through the last few hours, and drive home. A drive of over an hour is not bad enough to complain about.

Most of those who complain about not getting to eat, not getting to play the "hip" tunes, bad sidemen, stupid leaders, long hours, going in the back way, dumb requests, etc. should make room for those who can do the job with a smile, do choreography, be nice to the guests, and tell the host the party was great (when it sucked).
 

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your pick

I still say it is up to you to decide what gig you are gonna take and if you stay on jobs you know you are going to hate and complain about it, that is pretty lame.
Just pick the better leaders and better jobs if you are contracting. I give a lot of jobs away if I see problems in just trying to get the gig booked and gladly give the bad paying jobs to anyone that will take it. I charge a lot and give a lot and don't cry over gigs I did not get booked because I would have been unhappy or a jerk trying to do them.
Pick better jobs. Don't keep working for no money and lame leaders and you will be able to enjoy these gigs again.

SAXBOY
 

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Saxboy, I think you maybe missed Saxtek's point:

"If you make a living playing music, you play all of them and keep your mouth shut."

If I understand that correctly, it means that taking crap has to become part of your work ethic, and that being choosey about how and where you work is not just unprofitable, it's unprofessional.

I don't agree, in fact I don't even totally understand it. But everyone's got a right to an opinion, and part of me says that the opinion of someone with 39 years in the biz counts for something even if I don't agree with it.
 

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The non-fun, non-creative gigs are very trying on the head, heart and soul as many have described.

When I'm on one of these I try to make the best out of it-- I look at it as a paid rehearsal. I pick a few things I want to work on-- intonation, phrasing using rests, specific rhythmic exercises or cultivating a stage presence (when I don't want to be there)-- for example-- and concentrate on improving in those areas. Somehow this allows me to tune out the bs a lot more sucessfully.
 

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That's a good way to approach it, but that's a whole different issue. I think what Saxtek was getting at was a kind of blue-collar work ethic thing: they pay, you play, period.
 
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