Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gig Book

A few months ago I joined my church orchestra, and on the same day a "more advanced" high school cellist joined. He brought his concerto music with him to every rehearsal and performance, played beautifully, and was lost most of the time. I helped as much as I could, but there's not a lot of down time when you have one rehearsal for half the music and get copies of the other half as you are climbing the platform on Sunday morning.

As I settled comfortably into the routine of rapidly preparing my music for practice and performing, I realized that I have either learned or discovered a bunch of common techniques for playing well in this kind of performance environment. I hadn't realized they were common until I saw many of my fellow orchestra members doing the same things, and I hadn't realized that everybody didn't automatically know how to do this stuff until I saw my fellow cellist struggling.

This is what I do:

Prepare a gig book
I have found a three-ring binder works best. Usually you are working with single-sided copies, and keeping them loose in a folder is just asking for things to get out of order. The music goes into the book in performance order. Save alphabetizing or other methods of organization for a separate archive.

Organize each selection
Start by punching holes in the music copies along both sides of the page. Then put the pages in the gig book in the best way to minimize page turns or disruptions in your line if turns are necessary. Ways that almost always work:

2 pages: 1st page goes backwards so you see p1 on the left and p2 on the right

3 pages: 1st two pages as above, p3 forward IF there is a good turning point at the bottom of p2. Vice versa if the best turning point is at the bottom of p1. Otherwise, p3 loose behind p2 and pull it out so you have three pages across stand BEFORE you start playing. If I have more than one crack at playing the piece I trim one side of p3 and tape it to p2, fronts together, then open it up to three across.

4 pages: usually p1 and p2 facing, page turn, p3 and p4 facing. If the bottom of p2 is critical, try p1 up, page turn, p2 and p3 facing, page turn, p4, or a variation with three pages across and one page turn. If the bottoms of both p1 and p3 are critical, there is one other option. Trim p1, tape to p2 facing. Trim p4, tape to p3 facing. Open all four pages across the stand, starting so you can see 1-3 with 4 falling off to the side. Mark "MOVE" at some convenient point after p1 and move the book to the left so you can see p4.

etc. Apply the above principles to group any larger number of pages.

Good page turning and moving points are not always long rests. Also look for rhythm motifs you can play on an open string. You can bow it while turning the page with your left hand. Or, if there are only one or two measures after the page turn before a good rest or open string part, write in those couple of measures at the bottom of the page and turn afterward. And ditto with one or two measures you can write in at the top of the next page so you can turn early.

Mark the road map
Choir pieces often have repeats, some of which become omitted. Cross them out boldly. Write in whatever signs you need to tell you where to go next. The lighting on stage or in the pit is, shall we say, suboptimal. Make sure you can see it.

Hymns. Seem simple. Play these four lines over and over. But how many times? At the top of each hymn, write down how many verses you are playing, and sometimes which ones to sit out, and sometimes which key to transpose to. My favorite to date:
v1 as written (was in D MAJ)
v2 tacit (organ)
v3 Db
v4 C
It may seem obvious during the run-through, but I guarantee it won't in the service when it is one of four tunes in rapid succession. Write it down.

Enough for one day. If I get around to it, I'll write a little bit about rehearsal and practice techniques I find useful in these playing situations.


Maricello said...

Excellent ideas! I do pretty much the same, but use plastic sheet protectors, only one side, so I can move music around as the program order changes.

For three-page pieces, I use the fold-out sheet protectors. If you use two, you can accommodate four pages at once.

The sheet protectors require you to take the music out to mark it, but it provides protection and extra weight in the wind, when we play outside.

For 4 or more pages, I often photocopy pages twice to allow for page turns. I might have pp. 1 and 2 open, then 2 and 3, for instance, if it makes sense to turn the page in the middle of page 2, rather than at the end.

I gently encourage others to make up similar books during the rehearsal phase, not the night before a performance, but still rehearsals tend to be slowed down by people looking for their out-of-order music.

I'm usually the music librarian, so have to have copies on hand for those who can't find theirs. "I never got that piece," they say, when they can't find it....

Good luck in bringing order to rehearsals and performances everywhere!

Funky Smith said...

At first I thought you were talking about "faking it" to keep up. But ah, I see what you mean. Although I can give you plenty of tips for faking it! :)

Anonymous said...

Aren't we crafty & clever adults!

I play in groups where all the pieces fit on one page, but the performance order is a surprise. I made a playlist sheet with the page number of each piece next to it (basically a TOC). That sheet is taped to the inside cover of my book.

The pieces all have A and B sections marked, and I kept confusing them with chord letters until I color-coded red for chords and green for repeats.

I'll be looking forward to your rehearsal/practice tips.

CelloGeek said...

great tips! I do the same things to prep for easy page turning. It's even more fun when I'm playing the piano for chamber groups - the pianist always has the most pages to turn! If I'm sight reading I have to decide which hand keeps playing while turning the page with the other (or if I can fake through playing both hands with one hand). If I've had time to rehearse, I figure out where I want to turn the page and memorize what comes after the page turn. I've had some spectacular misses, though - turning too many pages (good way to get lost!)...having the book fall off the stand...not being able to turn the page in time...having to figure out how many pages to turn back when there is a D.C....