Some players look forward to that call and some begin to shake in their boots for your first call to substitute for another player brings up many questions such as-
Can I play well enough to make the band leader/conductor happy?
How good did the original player do and will I sound pathetic in comparison?
What kind of job requirements are expected for the gig?
Do I have enough chops?
Will I be able to read the parts?
Is this my big chance and can I perform well enough to be called back?
The list could continue for some time but these thoughts go through everyone’s mind when we have not played with the band or orchestra before.
Questions to ask when accepting a sub job that you are not familiar with-
Does it pay?
Many friendships have been lost when the sub expected to be paid for the job and finds out later that it is a freebee.
Who will be on the job and what is the instrumentation?
If you are expected to sub in a combo, you will need to know if there are charts or if you will be expected to know the tunes from memory. If you do not have a library of tunes memorized, make sure you have with you a good fake book. Ask if you will be expected to sing!
If the job is a big band, the charts will be there for you to read. It is very important which part you will be playing for the lead part requires more range and the ability to play in the style required of the charts. If you are subbing for an inner part, find out if there will be many solos so you will be prepared for that also.
Does it require mutes or a flugel horn?
Even if they say no mutes, bring along a streight, cup, harmon anyway. Many times the original player forgets about one or tunes that require mutes and it is best to be prepared.
Where and what time is the job?
If you want to make a good first impression on a band leader, get there 30 minutes early in order to get some idea as to what you will be expected to do. Ask the leader if he/she needs any help putting the stage together for every leader first wants to be assured that the “new guy/girl” will make the job and offering to help assures you of a fond place in the leaders heart. Next time he needs a replacement, he/she will remember that you offered to help.
What is the uniform?
Showing up at the job in a sports coat when the dress for the evening is a tux can really ruin your evening.
Find out which part you are to play.
If you have not been told which part you are expected to play in a big band situation, ask the lead player first and if he/she has not shown up yet, then ask the leader. Leader’s before a gig are very busy and the more questions you ask will not help your cause.
In closing, you should consider these five points of fact-
• If they are calling you, they are in need of your horn as much as you are in need of a gig.
• If they are calling you, they have already called everyone in the area and have been turned down.
• If they are calling you, you need to assure them that you are not only interested but also qualified for the job.
• If they are calling you, they have gotten a recommendation from someone in the area who has some knowledge of your playing ability.
• The reason you have been recommended for the job is that they want to help you get work or they didn’t want to play the job in the first place, i.e. the leader is a jerk or the pay isn’t enough.
No matter what their reason is, TAKE THE GIG!
You may also find this helpful- Preparing for Your First Gig