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My First Orchestra Experience
Hopefully an ongoing discussion... topics on beginning in orchestra, dealing with learning the music, following the conductor, playing with the section, being a positive contribution to the orchestra.
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (3 votes) 
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AndrewH
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Gordon Shumway said
Separate response:

@Fiddlerman , @AndrewH and others, do you have formal checklists? As I pack my case/bag, I fear arriving with something important missing. I've squeezed in reading glasses, pencil, diary, rosin, bows, spare strings, mute, tuning fork, Snark, music.

But I hate travelling without something to read, and there's no room for a book, so I'll probably have to take a bag too. I need to buy black shoes for concerts, and I don't know if I'll wear them to the concert or wear sneakers and carry the shoes, lol!

  

 

I don't have a formal checklist, but I keep everything I need for rehearsals in my case, music folder, or car. (By the way, I use the same black music folder for both of my orchestras, even though it has one orchestra's name printed on it, because the name is hidden behind the music stand anyway.) Everything goes back into the case or folder when I'm done using it, so I don't have to go looking for it on rehearsal night. The things I keep in my car are things I'll never use at home. Here's the full list of what I make sure I have and where I keep them.

 

In my case, other than viola and bows:

  • Shoulder rest
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Rosin
  • One set of used strings as emergency spares
  • Two Tourte mutes -- I keep one extra in case I remove a mute from my viola while practicing at home and forget to put it back in the case
  • Post-It flags to mark spots to practice at home

In my music folder, other than orchestra music:

  • At least two pencils, in a pocket expressly meant to hold them
  • Several paper clips attached to the folder that can be used to hold music in place when playing outdoors
  • A copy of the Bach solo cello suites, because I like to use a movement or two as warm-up material

In my car:

  • Heavy-duty folding stand (a Peak stand) in its carrying bag in the trunk; neither of my orchestras routinely asks musicians to bring their own stands, but it may be needed occasionally
  • Battery-powered stand light in the glove compartment

I do not carry a tuner or a tuning fork because I prefer to tune with a phone app.

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Gordon Shumway
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Ah yes, playing outdoors. Been there, done that, bought these: psc=1

Andrew

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Pete_Violin
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AndrewH said
Congratulations on getting through your first rehearsal, Pete! Sounds like an excellent start. G-flat major is a bit of a surprise for this level, but it sounds like you're doing fine with it.

@AndrewH Thank you for the congratulations!

orchestra1_opt.pngImage Enlarger

Most of this piece (the G♭ piece) looks like this.  Eighths after eighths. Not a lot of variation.  This is Violin II.  Violin I is very similar.  (The hand written marks are from a previous player).  And perhaps a reason the pieces are in the keys we have are because this is a combined choir and orchestra, the choir being the star of the show.  So the songs were probably chosen for the choir, and not as specifically for the orchestra itself.

About different keys...  I have noticed that many players are quite concerned over what key a piece is in.  It is less of a style or mood question, more of a concern over the difficulty of the piece.  Generally, the more sharps or flats in the key signature, the harder to play.  The key of C♯ is particularly dreaded.

This may be a music theory question, and I may post something in that topic as a general theory question, but I just wondered, for you, are you more or less concerned with the complexity of the piece?  My difficulties are runs written in 32nds and 64ths, notes that I play much less often in the higher ranges and positions, tempos that bring the speed of the 16ths and 32nds to a very fast speed (anything much faster than Allegro moderato gets my blood pressure going a bit).  

I'd like your insights on how you "rate" the difficulty of music.  What are the things you dread?

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AndrewH
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Oh, that's not bad at all.

I actually don't mind reading keys with a lot of sharps or flats, as long as it's not an extremely fast tempo. But I may be an exception because I was a pianist first and was used to reading in those keys before I started on any string instrument. (Chopin considered B major to be the easiest key to play on piano, because the pattern of white and black keys fits the hand especially well. I think he had a point.) What matters more to me is how the music fits the hand.

Fast runs are not especially hard if they're diatonic scales or arpeggios or otherwise fit the hand well. If they follow scales or arpeggios, then they're already quite well drilled through routine scale/arpeggio practice.

These days I look for patterns that dictate the hand frame: if I see a passage framed by an octave somewhere, for example, I'm likely to shift so it is entirely between 1st finger on one string and 4th finger on the next string.

Things I don't like seeing: complicated rhythms (especially if they involve unequal up and down bows), fast chromatic scales, passages that force me to do a lot of string crossing in irregular patterns or jump over a string, or passages that lack a discernable pattern. I have one further pet peeve, which is mostly because of my own short fingers: I don't like string crossing to 4th finger on a lower string. Finally, there are certain interval leaps that can be hard to tune, especially in fast tempo or in the upper register where shifting is necessary: the worst are 9ths and tritones.

Parallel 4ths and 5ths with another part in very transparent textures can be difficult even if the notes would otherwise seem easy, because there is much less tolerance for slight intonation errors than parallel 3rds or 6ths.

If I have time, I'll try to post some examples of both passages I found easier than you might expect, and passages I find especially hard, and explain why I find them easier or harder.

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September 27, 2019 - 7:17 am
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Thank you for the update, Pete. I love, “Over the Rainbow”. I have it downloaded, I think from Fiddlerman’s site. Don’t know if it is the same as yours. It sounds like a great  atmosphere to be playing in. 

So happy to hear it went well for you.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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starise
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Congratulations Pete and Gordon on your entry into the orchestra experience. To me Gb would be a challenge. Lower fingering would be easier. Higher positions where you're nudging a few mm here or there in an unfamiliar key definitely more of a challenge for me on violin. Having others around also in tune and hearing them would be very helpful.

I run into vocal ranges .vs keys played more that I like to admit. Vocals usually win. 

This community orchestra seems very laid back. A good thing for someone who is just starting out.

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bocaholly
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Congrats to Pete and Gordon.

I know you've both put in plenty of time in orchestras...  but playing other instruments ...  so it's extra interesting to hear your first impressions with a violin in tow!

That's an impressive collection of flats in the G♭ example you posted, Pete. Yikes. Glad you don't sound too phased. I wound be 🙂

Happy fiddling!

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cid
September 27, 2019 - 8:51 am
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Geeze, @Pete_Violin, your little thread is 5 pages now.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Pete_Violin
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@AndrewH 

 

AndrewH said
Oh, that's not bad at all.

I actually don't mind reading keys with a lot of sharps or flats, as long as it's not an extremely fast tempo. But I may be an exception because I was a pianist first and was used to reading in those keys before I started on any string instrument. (Chopin considered B major to be the easiest key to play on piano, because the pattern of white and black keys fits the hand especially well. I think he had a point.) What matters more to me is how the music fits the hand.

As I work on these pieces, I will be more comfortable.  I hope that my perspective changes as I work on the difficult areas and find it is not as hard as I first thought.  This happens quite a bit for me.

Fast runs are not especially hard if they're diatonic scales or arpeggios or otherwise fit the hand well. If they follow scales or arpeggios, then they're already quite well drilled through routine scale/arpeggio practice.

These days I look for patterns that dictate the hand frame: if I see a passage framed by an octave somewhere, for example, I'm likely to shift so it is entirely between 1st finger on one string and 4th finger on the next string.

I will post screenshots of some of the areas I find a challenge.  I'd love your input with how you approach these and any of your advise, as always.

Things I don't like seeing: complicated rhythms (especially if they involve unequal up and down bows), fast chromatic scales, passages that force me to do a lot of string crossing in irregular patterns or jump over a string, or passages that lack a discernable pattern. I have one further pet peeve, which is mostly because of my own short fingers: I don't like string crossing to 4th finger on a lower string. Finally, there are certain interval leaps that can be hard to tune, especially in fast tempo or in the upper register where shifting is necessary: the worst are 9ths and tritones.

Parallel 4ths and 5ths with another part in very transparent textures can be difficult even if the notes would otherwise seem easy, because there is much less tolerance for slight intonation errors than parallel 3rds or 6ths.

If I have time, I'll try to post some examples of both passages I found easier than you might expect, and passages I find especially hard, and explain why I find them easier or harder.

I'd love to see those examples and get your thoughts.

- Pete -

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Pete_Violin
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cid said
Thank you for the update, Pete. I love, “Over the Rainbow”. I have it downloaded, I think from Fiddlerman’s site. Don’t know if it is the same as yours. It sounds like a great  atmosphere to be playing in. 

So happy to hear it went well for you.

The piece was arranged by Mark Hayes and it has a 2007 copyright with EMI Feist Catalog, Inc.

It is barely recognizable as the song sung by Judy Garland in the movie.  I am sure the choir will make up for that.

Thank you!  All I need to do now is get comfortable with the music.

- Pete -

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Pete_Violin
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starise said
Congratulations Pete and Gordon on your entry into the orchestra experience. To me Gb would be a challenge. Lower fingering would be easier. Higher positions where you're nudging a few mm here or there in an unfamiliar key definitely more of a challenge for me on violin. Having others around also in tune and hearing them would be very helpful.

I run into vocal ranges .vs keys played more that I like to admit. Vocals usually win. 

This community orchestra seems very laid back. A good thing for someone who is just starting out.

There are some high position parts.  I am lucky though.  Most of them are held whole notes, so it won't be too complicated.

It's a good orchestra.  It will be a great experience.

- Pete -

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Pete_Violin
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bocaholly said
Congrats to Pete and Gordon.

I know you've both put in plenty of time in orchestras...  but playing other instruments ...  so it's extra interesting to hear your first impressions with a violin in tow!

That's an impressive collection of flats in the G♭ example you posted, Pete. Yikes. Glad you don't sound too phased. I wound be 🙂

Happy fiddling!

I won't say the keys are not a challenge for me.  I am not as familiar with them as some others and I will have to work on them.  The more challenging is playing the higher notes and higher positions. 

Thank you for the congrats!

- Pete -

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Pete_Violin
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cid said
Geeze, @Pete_Violin, your little thread is 5 pages now.

Ya... it's wacky!!  LOL

- Pete -

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Gordon Shumway
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This morning we had Puccini's Chrysanthemums thrust upon us. C# minor with lots of accidentals and rubato in every bar and lots of chromatic runs. It sounded terrible.

Andrew

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Pete_Violin
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Gordon Shumway said
This morning we had Puccini's Chrysanthemums thrust upon us. C# minor with lots of accidentals and rubato in every bar and lots of chromatic runs. It sounded terrible.

I don't mind saying that it relieves me that your piece sounded trashed.. So did ours!  LOL!!!  It's good to know that we're not alone.

It has been my experience that first run rehearsal is usually a disaster.  I am confident that both of us will get this.  

On a personal note... violin is what I live for.  I am happy to play in orchestra, no matter how bad it sounds right now!  This is a goal I have reached!!

And @Gordon Shumway, it can only get better from here, right!?

- Pete -

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Gordon Shumway
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I had a very good violin lesson afterwards - we changed a lot of the old-fashioned 'all on one string' fingerings. We looked at spiccato. Practised tricky legato arpeggio and scale passages. Unfortunately her next free time coincides with my other half's hospital visit, so total lesson and practice time will be restricted. But teacher doesn't think I've bitten off more than I can chew.

Andrew

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Pete_Violin
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I am certain my lesson content will be changing as well.  We have new keys to learn, new shifting positions and intonation to go over.  There are tremolos and double stops.  Lots to go over, none of which are covered in my method books.

I hope everything is well with your significant other...

- Pete -

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Pete_Violin
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@AndrewH and anyone who has advise...

run.jpgImage Enlarger

This run is particularly difficult for me (measure 35).  Not only because it is 32nds but because of one of the issues @AndrewH was mentioning.. String crossings in the middle of the run.  Correct me if I'm wrong but I need to switch from D string to A string on the B♭.  And then again to the E string on the high F.

 

 

 

Are there any clean ways to play this, other than making those switches, or do you have a way that helps make the switches smooth on this kind of run?

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AndrewH
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No real advice for this in the short run. You just get better at it over time by practicing your scales, at gradually increasing speeds.

(The Galamian scale book, one of the most popular advanced scale books, instructs students to practice "acceleration scales": start with one note to a bow in very slow tempo, then two notes to a bow, then three notes to a bow, then four notes to a bow, and so on all the way up to playing three octaves up and down in a single bow. Galamian adds a little turn to the beginning and end of each three-octave scale so that up and down is exactly 48 notes, divisible into bows of 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, or 24 notes.)

If I had this in my music, my fingering for this would depend on the tempo. If it's slow enough that I can shift during the run, I'd start in first position and shift to third on the D, in order to avoid crossing over to the E string. If it's faster, I'd consider playing the entire run in second position so that string changes fall on the half-beats and I'm going back to the A string for a full beat on 4th and 3rd fingers instead of just an eight note on 4th finger. I often try two or three fingerings for difficult spots to see what is most comfortable.

Usually it's back-and-forth string crossings during a run that I find more difficult. If all the string changes are in the same direction, it's not nearly as problematic because it's exactly like the scales I've practiced.

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Pete_Violin
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@AndrewH 

The tempo is about 𝅘𝅥=80.  Moderately slow.

So I believe your way, shifting to 3rd position makes the most sense to me.

Thank you for sharing the acceleration scale technique.  That will help quite a bit.  I always slow down my scales for practice, but I never have sped them up incrementally like that.

You're the best!!!

- Pete -

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