Percussionists; A Breed Apart

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by David Francis, Sep 20, 2005.

  1. David Francis

    David Francis Member

    Is it just my experience, or do other band secretaries feel the same. The number of times my band has had to pay more than £40 to a percussionist, who is obviously far above the standard of the band with which he is playing. The job is a charity job, the band gets no remuneration, but the percussionist has to be paid.
    Obviously, all percussionists are not like this, as the percussionist helping us at the moment is a real nugget!
    However, 80% of percussionists that i have had to deal with in the past have no empathy with the band ideals, and quite simply are there just for the money.

    Our band decided to pay guest players £15. plus mileage. However, this rule does not apply to percussionists, who often demand £50 for a concert.
    I could be biased in my thinking, but I am always beseeching the M.D. to play music that does not require any percussion at all. a very difficult ploy with modern arrangements.
    Maybe, Band secretaries could get together and decide that percussionists will be paid a basic fee which will be the same from all bands in that particular area.

    I am sure this could be achieved with the help of local band associations.
    Fire away boys and let's hear your views.
    Dai. Francis
  2. michellegarbutt

    michellegarbutt Supporting Member

    At our band borrowed percussionists get exactly the same amount as any other borrowed player. The only time I might consider paying more is at contests where borrowing is not allowed
  3. Tubafreak

    Tubafreak New Member

    Why do your bands have to borrow drummers? Over here they are a dime a dozen. They should audition like every one else.
  4. michellegarbutt

    michellegarbutt Supporting Member

    They're a rare breed over here. The ones that are around all seem to want to play for rock bands ect. It's hard work to find a percussionist
  5. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    The reason that the good percussionists often ask for more is that many of them make a living from music. This is a very different situation to the vast majority of brass banders.
    What you are paying for is a professional service.
    You wouldn't ask your accountant to do the job for £10 and a pint afterwards. Your lawyer wouldn't get out of bed for that much. Why should musicians be regarded any lower?
    If you can honestly say that you would do your job, on a day off, "to help out," for practically no money - I look forward to passing on that information to your employers.

    It is a huge peeve of mine that if a band (or orchestra - some of them do this too) asks you to help out, then says that it is a charity gig, they expect you to respond with something along the lines of "well, if it is for charity, don't worry about a fee." What the groups fails to appreciate is that it is not just the fee for that concert you are missing out on, it is also the time taken - for whilst you are doing that gig, you can't do any others, which may be paid.
    People have to earn a living.

    If you want good players, be expected to pay for the quality. Percussionists have to be a master of many instruments - that sort of training takes a long time, which is why many of the players you will be asking to do your gigs are professional musicians.

    Rather than complaining about percussionists asking for what is still a basically insulting fee, I would be writing a post thanking the many players who will come out and help out bands for money that frequently only just covers mileage, meal and a drink. Without the deps, many bands would struggle to put on concerts.
  6. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    For me this highlights yet again the problem regarding banding's attitude to percussionists. It is almost as if they are seen as optional extras, just called upon on special occasions, and dropped equally as readily if the mood takes us.

    The situation in contests can be quite farcical at times, with the two extremes of bass drum, side drum, cymbals at one end, and considerable, and often very difficult, work for tuned percussion at the other. If percussionists are given enough to do, and given proper consideration when allocating rehearsal time, the it should be much easier to attract and keep players of the requisite standard.

    If they find they are doing nothing but stand around - and hump kit to and fro - then they are much more likely to move off to pastures new.
  7. Lotta

    Lotta Member

    I completley agree - My other half is a fantanstic percussionist and does dep for bands several times times a year. He could do more jobs but the thought of going and collecting his own perc (which he is asked to bring 95% of the time), travel to the venue, set up (and you now this is no 5 minute job), play 2/3 parts in the concert, then go through the procedure of setting everything down and returning his equipment. I hardly think £15 is enough - I personally think its a bit of an insult!

    What do other peeps think?
  8. kevthedrummer

    kevthedrummer Member

    :mad: :mad: mmmmmmmmmmm percussion is a hell of a job and is not a walk in the park. we dont just stand there playing a triangle we have to be able to play most of the equipment and know how it all works...
    You have to have a knolage of a wide range of equipment, and every thing has a diffrent way of being played. u even have diffrent ways of shaking a tamborine

    So give percussionists a brake....
  9. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    If percussionists want to be treated as an integral part of the band (just like any other player) then this should work both ways - i.e. same pay for helping out other bands (normally £0 or at most a small amount towards petrol costs)
  10. kevthedrummer

    kevthedrummer Member

    Percussionists do get treated as part of the band if there in the band it just if u want a dep expect to pay for one
  11. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    I think this sums it all up - you could probably borrow a 'lower standard' percussionist for less money (just as if you are a cornet short you might borrow someone of lower standard who could sit 4MD or back row) but because the perc part stands out so much and is so difficult to sight read it is usually necessary (/preferable / safer) to get in someone better - in which case surely they are worth paying a bit for? At the end of the day it comes back to supply and demand - and trying to set 'fixed rates' for deps may well just end with no perc being available at all - or could end up with all the percussionists getting together and setting a rate that they all would charge (or joining the MU and charging full union rates).

    The fact that the job is a charity job and the band gets no remuneration shouldn't enter into it - if the band feel like giving up their spare time to give free concerts then that's fair enough, and if outside players agree to help out your band for nothing thats fair enough too, but if you can't manage to put out a full band then you shouldn't have agreed to do the job in the first place - or you should be prepared to pay for the necessary deps - It was your decision to agree to play for nothing, not the percussionists !

    I think Trumpetmike has an excellent point about professional services, and one which can be explored through many different areas - If the bandroom pipes burst just before a concert would a plumber come out and fix them for "tea and sandwiches"? If the band van broke down on the way to the charity gig would the garage come out and fix the van for the cost of a pint?? No - they would all perform a professional service and charge a professional fee.

    At the end of the day, my personal decision is that I have always depped for nothing - I earn a living in other ways and enjoy the chance to get out and play somewhere new. But I respect the fact that other people have to value their time more highly and at the end of the day there is no reason why they should help you out just because you feel everyone should have "empathy with your band ideals" - if they did then they would presumably be members of your band in the first place!

    Be glad that someone is there who can do the job so you don't have to cancel,
    and be particularly glad for the deps who do give up their time for nothing - complaining about those who charge simply belittles the fantastic service the 'free deps' are giving you.
  12. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    One further thought - if a percussionist who was not a member of your band phoned up and asked if the full band would turn out to play at his wedding - but didn't want to pay the band for it - what would your response be ??

    I bet more than 80% of bands would turn out to be "Just in it for the money."
  13. drummergurl

    drummergurl Active Member

    personally, i think that those people who's job is playing percussion, are allowed to charge more, because its what they do to earn a living.
    at the moment, the only money i get (besides pocket money) is from depping, there is no way that i could get a small job along with college, bands, and everything else. and because i cant drive, i have to check with my mum first, and depending on where the band i would be deppin for is playing, i would see how much my mum would want for travel expenses or if i would have to get a train somewhere, in which case i would ask the band for the expense spent there, and after that, i would let the band decide how much they wish to pay me.

    in all honesty, i dont know why some people charge £40 to sit in one rehearsal on a day before the concert/contest, i have heard of it being done! i wouldnt charge for the rehearsal, just the expense for actually gettin there and home again.
  14. Just one other point on all this, as a percussionist you are usually playing your own individual part, which sticks out from the whole texture. Im sure you wouldnt expect a top notch principal cornet to play for £15, and you shouldnt expect a percussionist to play for that fee either. Both parts are equally noticable, and carry the same risks, if you have another bottom third cornet and they blob in, then you might just pick it out. If the timp player blobs in then everyone can spot it. Therefore you pay for a quality player that wont blob in, one who has played with bands, knows the parts, or is a quality sight reader.

    There is a simple solution to all this, if you want a good player to come and dep for you then Pay for it. If not, play without one.
  15. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    We have a similar problem with our kit player at present - he's been in the band since he was about 10 (he's now 17) - over a number of years we nurtured him in the band and put up with not the best of playing when he was younger. Over the years he's got better and at the moment we would be hard pressed to find as good a kit player anywhere.

    The band have invested considerable amounts of cash to the percussion section - kit, timps, xylophone, etc and time as well. Whilst he learnt his trade he did that on band gear and time. The big problem is that there is always "work" for good kit players, shows, orchestras other bands needing deps etc so they expect to be paid. Consequently he's in demand for these so that when it comes to a choice of band job or paid job he'll be at the paid job.

    So now we start again, find a player who's not good enough to get paid - let them play on our kit for a few years whilst they learn and then see them disappear in the future for all those paid jobs.

    I suppose the reason that it's like this for kit players is just the fact that they can; not a lot of demand for jobbing baritones, tenor horns or euphs, not all cornet players play trumpet and most tuba players don't read bass clef.

    I suppose I could do the same on tuba as I've currently been asked to play for two separate orchestras but tubas my hobby I work for a living why would I want to "earn" from my hobby?