How to Make It Playing Broadway Shows

Difficulty Level: Difficult / Time Required: ?

You Will Need:

  • Practice
  • Persistence
  • Patience

Here’s how:

  1. Get your chops into shape. Learn how read music, play the rudiments, practice 4-way coordination, and learn all of the dance rhythms. You’ll also need to learn how to sight read melody parts because pit drummers sometimes have to cover mallet and timpani parts.
  2. Get as much experience as you can playing amateur productions in High Schools, local theater groups, etc. This will teach you how to follow a conductor, an extremely critical skill for show drumming.
  3. Move to New York. Although there is some theater work in places like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, the vast majority of is in New York City.
  4. Join the American Federation of Musicians because all Broadway and many off-Broadway productions are strictly Union gigs.
  5. Create business cards for yourself along with a Web page and put your Web site and email address on your business card along with your telephone number.
  6. Take advantage of all the popular social media sites on the web, as most of them are free.
  7. Set up a business style message on your cell phone or look into using Google Voice as an answer machine.
  8. Get in touch with drummers who are playing theater gigs and try to become a sub for them. A good way to get to know these drummers and let them see your ability firsthand is to take some lessons from them.
  9. Once you get a shot at subbing a show prepare yourself well up front because, if you mess up, you probably won’t get a second chance! Prepare by sitting in on the show (called “auditing” or “watching the book”) alongside the regular drummer three times if possible- the first time study the music, the second time learn exactly what the regular drummer is playing and where, and the final time watch the conductor and “air” play along as if you’re cutting the show yourself.
  10. On the day of your gig, arrive early so you can set up and relax a bit before showtime. Be friendly to everyone, never complain, and do the best job that you can do.

Tiger Tips:

  • Be persistent and don’t give up and you’ll eventually get your shot.
  • When you do get that shot, the pressure will really be on you to make a great first impression. If the regular drummer makes an occasional mistake, the conductor might laugh it off but subs do not get that luxury!
  • It is extremely difficult to break into pit drumming on Broadway but if, and when, you do get a break – like subbing for the regular drummer on a show – being prepared will either make or break your career right from the start.
  • And, should you find you’re not making enough money drumming in a pit orchestra, there’s no shame in taking work in a different field on the side. It’s much preferred to starving! There are many opportunities to make money on the web for example, but there are just as many scams so beware! I suggest you check out the following legit sites that can actually help you with this. I can vouch for them because I own them myself. They allow me to make money working from home or wherever I happen to be, as long as I have an Internet connection: and

Until next time, have fun and stay loose!

–Tiger Bill