Playing in a Pit Orchestra

What is a pit orchestra?

For anyone who doesn't know what a pit orchestra is, it is an orchestra that accompanies a musical. Pit ochestras can range from size from big to small, and from as many players from 50 down to sometimes even 5 players. Pit orchestras can have strings and winds and percussion, or they can be as simple as a few guitars and keyboards, for example the hit show "Rent" does not have any wind or string instruments, instead it has a few guitars and basses and a couple keyboard players.

The reason a pit orchestra is called that is because normally, in a broadway setting, for example, the orchestra would sit underneath the stage in a pit. Thus, it was called a pit orchestra. Pit orchestras are not a recent thing either. Pits have been around since they started making operas, in Mozart's time, for example.

Is it worth the time investment?

Being in a pit can be very time consuming with long rehearsals, as there are more components than there are to just a regular orchestra. In a pit you must sync everything with the singers and dancers, and even though it sounds easy, sometimes it can get to be a big pain.

Even though it is an investment of time, you do reap some rewards from the process. For example, pit orchestras always have crazy key signatures in the music, most of which novice to intermediate players are not used to seeing. Also, being in a pit, depending on your instrument, could mean that you will have a lot of solos.

I know from experience in my high school production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" that there was a couple solos for flute, from two notes to a whole couple measures. The fun thing is, is that the audience doesn't know who you are so it is kind of a mystery who was playing it, because it most cases they can't see you.

The best part is...

there usually isn't any other flute players, as most pit orchestras only have one flute player. This can either be a good thing, or a bad thing, from the way you look at it. You may think that this is your chance to shine, and you can take all the credit for your incredible solos. On the other hand, you take responsibility for yourself and that means that you can't blame anyone else for your mistake.

Building up confidence is something you will see though as you play by yourself. You will probably also see an improvement in your sightreading skills, as pit may play the overture at one rehearsal and then not play it again until opening night.

You will always have fun though!

I have been through my fair share of musicals and participating in the pit orchestra, and I know first hand that you will have a lot of fun while the musical is showing. You will make new friends and sometimes be invited to parties! Who knows, you may meet your future soulmate in the pit orchestra, so never let this kind of opportunity pass you by.