Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lesson #110A (01/19/13): Orchestra pieces

I wanted to go over the orchestra pieces for fingering since I only have 5 weeks to practice before the concert. I'm still not sure if I'll be able to pull it off... oh well!

Symphony No. 8
  • We went over the fingerings for a few sections and we went over some orchestra etiquette. It's ironic, but I did some research on orchestra etiquette and even took a mini-workshop, but as soon as I had to apply it, everything went out the window!
  • Some etiquette we went over is if I share stands with another cellist, and I'm on the inside (which is where I'll be), than I'll need to turn the page. So Adam pointed out the measures where I should drop out and get ready to turn the page.
  • Adam recommended that when I receive any type of music, the first thing to do is research it! That is, look it up on YouTube or download the music and listen to it with the score a few times.

The community orchestra rotates between section leaders depending on who wants first chair. The current section leader knows I'm a beginner, so he emailed me some helpful tips.

Here is some info from Vera Matlin Jiji, Ph. D., who wrote a book on learning cello as an adult. Her advice is aimed at learning chamber music, but I think it applies to community orchestra work as well.

  • "... Get yourself a CD recording [youtube works fine] and a full score ... Also get a full size cello part. First listen to the music until you know how it goes, how the cello part fits in, and how the parts work together... 
  • " By the way, do not despair when you realize you cannot play the part as quickly as the professionals do. Most amateur groups play at about a half to 2/3s of the tempo professionals use, and not just because they can't play faster. Often, modern professional groups play as if the faster the better. This is a s silly as ordering a gourmet meal, then eating it as fast as possible. Savor the music. Let it breathe. 
  • "Practice these parts, both alone and, if possible, along with the CD. [it's possible to find programs which will let you play music at a slow speed without changing pitch.] 
  • "...Get a full score and listen, following the cello part with your eyes, until you can read it as quickly as the CD is playing. Now follow the score as the CD is playing again, but this time concentrate on how the cello part fits in with the other. That's when to edit your part, penciling in any cues you find helpful, such as when you are playing with or against the melody line; when you are soloing; when you have the melody; which other instruments are playing a pattern similar to your own, etc. These hints will help you to keep up with others, even when your skills are still shaky. What you are doing is called "faking," but being able to fake well when you can't play a passage as written is a skill every respectable amateur must cultivate. 
  • "Only after all of this should you begin to practice the cello part, marking appropriate fingerings and bowings as you go. Practice your part slowly at first, alone. When you think you have it in your fingers, then try playing the main notes (even if you have to skip the fast notes to keep up with the beat) along with the CD. The way I do this is to use headphones to cover only one of my ears. That ear gives me the recording's sound. The uncovered ear gives me my own cello's sound. When both ears are giving me much the same material, I'm ready to play it with others. 
  • "When playing with other amateurs, don't try too hard to play every single note correctly. I did that all the time at first, increasing my tension and the odds of slowing down. Play the main line. If necessary, play only the first note in each group of four when you have a passage of running sixteenths. If necessary, play wrong notes, but play them at the right time to allow your fellow ... players to keep the music going. Above all, keep counting and keep the time going. 
  • "When the music is fast, rest your bow on the middle of the string. Use only a small bit, say two inches, for each note. That helps to keep the pace going. 
  • "...[In a group, if you] are unsure of yourself, start by playing softly. First of all, if you are wrong, you won't be sounding a loud jarring note in everyone else's ears. Second, you will learn more quickly by hearing what the others are doing rather than by concentrating exclusively on your own part. 
  • "The beat is's stay exactly with the beat. That means that you shouldn't hesitate before the downbeat. If you do that in every measure, even the slightest bit, the piece will begin to drag. At the same time, when you come in on "one," don't hammer on the first beat of every measure. Play the music in phrases..."

Vera Matlin Jiji writes a wonderful book called Cello Playing for Music Lovers: A Self-Teaching Method which is a GREAT book!! I read through it when I first started researching method books and started learning how to play, and it seems that I should re-read it again!

Well, I guess it just boils down to practicing... so off to practice!

1 comment:

  1. wow those are great tips :) I'd be sure to reread them again when I am finally good enough to join those ensemble/orchestra in my area!

    Well for myself, I had only one experience to really play written music with a guitar soloist and what I did was to rewrite them again on noteflight and practice from there. Tedious yes, but really helpful as I can control the tempo etc. for me decipher the rhythm and all.
    I guess for orchestra music where it's too much to rewrite everything, I'd go with just rewriting the cello and melody (violin/oboe or combination of many) - just to guide where are we. Just a suggestion :)
    BTW, I love Mozart Oboe concerto - I must admit oboe was my 1st choice to learn back then before introduced to cello. Quite amazingly, it was this exact piece that really made me somewhat attracted to oboe's silky smooth sound! Remember, this piece is PINK!! check this out