The last “Tips” column (on avoiding injury), was a popular one. So let’s continue this series with some tips on freelancing.
1. Be Musically Prepared
If there is sheet music, review it. If there are recordings, listen to them. As much as possible, be familiar with all the parts. Be acquainted with the melodies, harmonies, key rhythmic devices, etc. inherent in the music. If it’s a sight-reading gig, then make sure you are a crack sight-reader before you take the gig. Don’t risk an unfortunate musical incident.
2. Bring Two of Everything
Cords give out, bows fall apart, strings break. Carry backups. Power strips, extension cords, tuners, batteries…anything you might need. I don’t carry two amps or two basses, but I would if it were reasonable.
3. Arrive Early
Arrive early, get setup and make sure all of your equipment is functioning (see above). Getting to the venue early will make things less stressful, not only for you, but also for your colleagues. Don’t make them wonder if they have a bass player for the night. Being there ahead of time will furthermore let the contractor, or bandleader, know you are respecting the gig, and it’s one less hassle for them.
In a practical sense, it also allows for the unexpected, such as bad traffic, parking issues, flat tires, etc. I suggest erring on the side of being too early, rather than cutting it too close. I plan my arrival early enough that even if everything goes wrong on my way to the gig, I won’t miss the downbeat.
4. Dress Appropriately
Some gigs require specific dress (i.e. tails, tuxedo, white tie, suit and tie, etc.), and you should certainly make sure you dress appropriately for these gigs. In some situations, of course, the dress is explicitly casual, but in general you can’t go wrong dressing professionally. If you arrive and you are over-dressed, ties can come off and sleeves can be rolled up. Finding a jacket and tie if you are under-dressed, however, may prove more difficult, however.
Since many of my gigs require tuxedo or suit, I also follow the “two of everything” idea with clothing: I’ve got both white and black bow ties in my glove box, for instance…just in case. Showing up in inappropriate dress makes you seem inexperienced or unprofessional, and it can mean that it’s the last time you play with that group, or get hired by that contractor.
5. Be Courteous
For many gigs, the ability to get along with your colleagues is an important part of being asked back. You should assume that there are many, many other bass players out there who have the skills necessary to play any particular gig. If you aren’t cordial, people may regret hiring you, no matter how well you play. In general, if you are difficult to deal with, someone else with the same skills and who is better at interpersonal relationships will get the next call.
How about you? What are your tips for successful freelancing? Please share in the comments.