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Community Orchestra participation
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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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November 3, 2018 - 3:22 pm
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Back in July when I first introduced myself on this forum, I "threatened" that I wanted to join a community orchestra. So after a half year of lessons, I went to the first rehearsal of the http://www.flioa.org/index.html  the other night.! I know, @pchoppin, you warned me, when I first introduced myself, that I needed adaquate skills first but some folks need to find out the hard way.
lumpy-2134
The orchestra accepts beginners... so far so good... and, even better, the conductor is talented, dedicated and well loved by the over 50 musicians who were there. Most of the players (from the school kids through to the senior and very senior citizens) could sight read the 6 pieces we rehearsed. Five to ten of the members are or were professional musicians...

... and then there's me b-slap
The conductor has said that she's happy to "string me along" and I wouldn't be the first bloddy beginner they've integrated. But I'd like to take some responsability for my predicament and come up with strategies to make this work. My thoughts go from:
- spending time until the first concert in January just shadowing a competent
  second violin (learning to follow the sheet music as they play) 
- to learning a few of the pieces well enough to play along. 

I'm a taker for suggestions on how to tackle the second option. The challenges I see (and there are probably others) are:
- The notes are playable... but the speed is breakneck.
- Not a lot of melody in 2nd violin so how to get the tune in my ear. (Youtube comes
  up blank for the sheet music arrangements I have.)
- Learning how to weave my part into the ensemble as they practice at speed.
- Generally, not screwing up my neighbors while trying to figure this out.

HEEEELP facepalm 

Holly

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pchoppin
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Hey @bocaholly 

First of all, congratulations on joining the orchestra.  It is still a goal of mine as well.  I will tell you, I am now in my 10th month of playing and I am still very apprehensive about playing in an orchestra and for much of the reasons you have cited in your post!

I am now with a new teacher, by the way (which I have posted today), and I have discussed this very topic with her because playing in an orchestra is a major goal for me.  We have setup a sort of step-by-step for me to get there:  

  1. Work on and know your scales.  Know the ins and the outs of major and minor scales.  Know all the notes and fingerings to those notes.  Understand how they relate to keys.  Know how to apply them to music phrases and passsges.  
  2. Move into shifting.  Begin shifting positions of fingering in a way that lets you learn the different positions, patterns, and placements for 2nd and 3rd positions.  Begin working on multiple octaves and know the proper fingering for the higher octave notes.  Learn when it is appropriate to move to these positions.  Listen for the proper intonation on these positions.  
  3. Begin vibrato exercises.  Learn vibrato for specific fingers.  Play the exercises carefully so as to achieve proper vibrato.  Learn finger, wrist, and arm vibratos.  

These are essentially my step-by-steps that my teacher will be working with me on over the next 1 to 3 months.  And depending on how quickly I pick up these techniques, I may be able to join orchestra even earlier.  

I hope this gives you some idea of some areas to work on as you are working with your orchestra.  Good luck!  I think it is awesome, what you’re doing.  

- Pete -

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bocaholly
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November 3, 2018 - 4:44 pm
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@pchoppin Thanks for the "Attagirl" cheerleader

It's only my cluelessness that made it possible for me to go for it now (which doesn't mean I don't have to figure out how to do it responsibly!)

As I mentioned, there are lots of experienced players in the FLIOA and they're very organized (orchestra manager and librarian too!) Yet ALL of the pieces we'll be playing in January are in keys with a maximum of 2 "#" or "b"s. The second violin parts are ALL playable in 1st position. Sure, some of the folks around me had lovely vibrato technique but I checked with the conductor and she said it was absolutely not essential.

Essential will be the timing (especially not playing when I'm not supposed to facepalm. I'll endeavour to throw in my best intonation, try to remember the staccato when called for and see if I have any left over brain space for the dynamics. In a pinch, I'll play with the Fiddlerman heavy brass mute coffee2

Maybe your community orchestra plays more challenging material? Or not. Is there a way you could find out. I hear you chomping at the bitdrummer

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AndrewH
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November 4, 2018 - 2:51 am
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If your orchestra accepts beginners, it's a great learning experience even if there's a lot of music you can't play. In that type of orchestra, stronger players are often happy to help you learn the music or give you technical pointers.

I started playing in orchestras after a year and a half of self-teaching. For ten years all the orchestras I played in were above my level (but they were willing to accept me), and people were helpful enough that it almost substituted for lessons. I credit community orchestras with getting me all the way from beginner to semi-pro as a late starter.

The single most important thing for an orchestra player is rhythm. Playing the wrong note at the right time is better than the right note at the wrong time. One thing that helps immensely: pay attention to what you're hearing around you. Knowing how your part fits into the big picture will help with both timing and intonation. Over time, I learned to do a lot more listening than counting. Not to say that counting isn't necessary at times, but I find that when listening does the job, it takes a lot less mental effort than counting. Also useful: start subdividing beats in your head a little bit before you reach the places where you have to play fractions of a beat.

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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November 4, 2018 - 7:47 am
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AndrewH said
... Playing the wrong note at the right time is better than the right note at the wrong time. ... Knowing how your part fits into the big picture will help with both timing and intonation.

That's a plan! Thank you @AndrewH for taking the time to share your tips. 

 Also useful: start subdividing beats in your head a little bit before you reach the places where you have to play fractions of a beat.  

Do you mean counting "1e &a 2e &a" instead of just the quarter notes for example?

Right now, I'm practicing the Radetzky March with a metronome and it's obviously helping.  

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AndrewH
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bocaholly said

Do you mean counting "1e &a 2e &a" instead of just the quarter notes for example?

Right now, I'm practicing the Radetzky March with a metronome and it's obviously helping.    

Yes... for example if you have 16th notes coming up, start counting in 16th notes at least a full measure before you get to them so that you hit them without changing tempo. This is especially useful if you have an entrance that's not on the beat, which happens often in orchestras.

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pchoppin
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November 4, 2018 - 2:39 pm
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I agree with @AndrewH 

Always be listening to the other instruments.  Other sections of the orchestra.  Often they can be queues for you.  But mostly you will get the big picture Andrew is talking about by listening to all parts of the orchestra. 

The conductor may also provide insight to how yours and other instruments should invoke feeling and perhaps some of the background of the piece and even the composer.  

- Pete -

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bocaholly
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Thanks, guys. Valuable input all around.

Besides practicing my 2nd violin parts on whatever pieces I can handle, I'd love to be able to practice that "listening to the other instruments" advice outside the weekly rehearsal. On Youtube, I checked out "Radetzky March, practice tempo" and came up  empty handed. I think there's a software out there that enables you to take a piece of music and slow it down while maintaining the pitch. So, questions:

- Does that make sense as part of my learning process?
- Anyone know which software does that? (If I can use a Youtube, that would be cool, otherwise there's always iTunes.)

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AndrewH
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I've never tried to listen to a piece slowed down. It's certainly useful, I'm just not sure what software to use for it. (I think VLC Media Player might be able to do it if you're able to download recordings.) But one thing I often do as early as I can is to listen to the piece while following with my part and a pencil, without my viola. I especially listen for three things:

1) Entrances after long rests. I try to write in prominent entrances in other parts during long rests so I don't have to count as much, and when there's something that I can easily listen for in another part I'll pencil in the cue -- at least the rhythm to listen for if there isn't enough space for the actual notes.

2) Entrances that are either with another section or staggered. For example, if the viola section (my section) is entering with the 1st violins, I'll pencil in "with Vn I"; or if we're entering playing a similar figure to the cello section but a beat or two after, I'll mark the spot where the celli enter so that I'm not tempted to enter with them.

3) Places where some figure is being passed back and forth between my part and other parts. I pencil in who has it at every point where I'm not playing it.

If I need to listen to something again, I can always rewind.

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Mark
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The software "the amazing slow downer" works very well slowing down a song while maintaining the correct pitch, plus allows you to transpose keys.

 

Mark 

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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Valuable tips in double pack, AndrewH and Mark. ¡ Mil gracias !  

I'll check out that software in the morning. I'm sure it will be easier to apply Andrew's suggestions if I can slow things down a bit. If not, I'll just have to wear a rut in my rewind button.

 head_phones-1274

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Jim Dunleavy
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I believe free software Audacity also has a 'slow down' feature.

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bocaholly
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Thanks, @Jim Dunleavy. I'll check it out too. I think @BillyG (BillyG) has mentioned Audacity because he uses it to drop the pitch of some pieces he plays. 

I'll check them both out once I've swallowed my first two coffees this morning.

coffee1

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Demoiselle
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I use the NERO Wave-Editor. The point is, you can slow down a tune by changing the pitch and then it sounds okay. The NERO Wave-Editor also has the option to slow down without transposing the pitch. That works, but the result sounds weird.

Wait, I can do it right now and load a short example up as MP3 -- just a few seconds long.

I'll be back soon....

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Demoiselle
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Okay, the mode is called Time Correction in the NERO Wave-Editor. It does sound a bit weird, but I think it should be possible to practice to it. The test music is the accordion voice I played on my synthesizer keyboard for my latest Molière/Lully project. First you hear the normal accordion, then the same recording slowed down.

Shall I time-correct on of your practice pieces for a try out? Please tell me then. We can share those files via Email then.

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My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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Wow, @Demoiselle thanks for taking the time to do that demo. 

Very generous of you to offer to help me out. I'll give it a muddle-through on my end   but stay tuned for my cries of frustration and a call for help 🙂

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Demoiselle
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bocaholly said
Wow, @Demoiselle thanks for taking the time to do that demo. 

Very generous of you to offer to help me out. I'll give it a muddle-through on my end   but stay tuned for my cries of frustration and a call for help 🙂  

Well-well, it was done in a couple minutes and I found it interesting myself. As soon as you feel like giving it a try we can check it out with one of your practice audio tracks. So then you can test it out before you download a program or buy one in a shop.

In my accordion demo I slowed down to 150%, but I can put in any value, be it 110% or 200%. Well I could also make it faster, but that wouldn't help you.

I think community orchestra is a good thing. Making music contains the chance to socialize and meet interesting people offline. Online is also nice, but offline is much better. 😉

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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Fiddlerman
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November 5, 2018 - 8:09 pm
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Holly, the first rehearsal is guaranteed the most difficult. Have Felix go through the parts with you. Through persistence and repetition, you will be fine, plus you will enjoy the heck out of it.
Congratulations on having the courage to follow your dreams and push yourself to those limits.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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bocaholly
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Fiddlerman said
... persistence and repetition, ... you will enjoy the heck out of it.

Check, thx! b-slap finally being stubborn will pay off lumpy-2134

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intrepidgirl
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@bocaholly Good for you to jump in with both feet! I joined a community strings orchestra last winter, and agree with the advice above. I am beginner level so the target is get the rhythm right (as you said, dont come in on the rests, very embarassing) as a good first goal. Our conductor breaks pieces down into doable chunks to focus on every week. Someone also puts all the parts in Musescore at a few different speeds and sends them out as MP3 files, so we have something to practice with at home. Rather than use just my part it is much more useful,as noted above, to practice while listening to all the parts. Then you get all the cues from the other instruments. Our conductor also points out that orchestras are quite forgiving, there are a dozen other folks playing your part so dont panic. Have fun and keep us posted!

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