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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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September 27, 2019 - 11:56 pm
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One more thing I thought of: since you mentioned "double stops" I think it might be useful to bring up some orchestral playing conventions for divisi and other things.

Unless otherwise directed (by a printed "non divisi" or by a conductor or section leader), orchestral string players avoid double stops and default to playing two-note chords divisi. The "outside" player (closer to the audience) plays the upper note and the "inside" player plays the lower note.

If the chord is three or four notes, then it depends on context. If you see a single chord, or staccato chords, the default is: outside plays top two notes as a double stop, inside plays bottom two notes. (Overlap is normal in three-note chords.) But if it's a more flowing passage, or parallel lines, the conductor or section leader may ask you to play divisi "by person" or "by stand", in which case you count off people or stands from the front of the section. (For example, "by person" in a 3-note divisi passage means first chair plays the top note, second chair plays the middle note, third chair plays the bottom note, fourth chair plays the top note, fifth chair plays the middle note, and so on.)

The outside/inside convention applies to a few other things.

When sharing a stand, the inside player always turns pages, and it is OK to stop playing briefly in order to turn the page. The page should be turned early enough to allow the outside player to continue without stopping.

If you have to write fingerings in a shared part, you should write your fingerings above the note if you sit outside and below the note if you sit inside. This is so both players can use different fingerings to suit their own preferences.

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Gordon Shumway
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AndrewH said
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.  

I'm wondering about starting in 2nd position, then shifting on the second finger from G to Ab into third position. Would that make sense?

Andrew

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AndrewH
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Gordon Shumway said

AndrewH said

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.  

I'm wondering about starting in 2nd position, then shifting on the second finger from G to Ab into third position. Would that make sense?

  

In the middle of a fast run, I tend to find that shifting on one finger isn't that reliable. Intonation after the shift gets questionable. For me, I think it works only if it's a half-step (semitone) shift where I can keep another finger stationary as a reference point and either stretch or compress the gap between fingers, or if I'm shifting into first position.

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Pete_Violin
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@AndrewH 

Progress with acceleration scales...

I am working on D♭ major.. one of my pieces is written in this key.

OMG!!!  It is going sloooooowwww for me!!!  I am beginning to understand why people freak out about certain keys.  In this key, I've only got F♮ and C♮ not flatted.  All the rest, as you know, are flatted, which is only 6 notes an octave, but that's deceptively simple.  I have several D♭ and A♭ notes in this piece, and a few E♭ put in for good measure.  

The issues I have with these notes is playing in tune.

So it is slow going... I have not gone faster than 2 notes per bow on the acceleration (accelerando). 

But, I really am making progress, albeit slowly.

- Pete -

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Pete_Violin
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@AndrewH 

I just found the fingering pattern on this key (D♭)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1st.......2nd.3rd.......4th

That is so exciting!! do you know what this means?  I can find the fingering!  At least in 1st position, and as long as 1st finger is positioned close to the nut (A♭, E♭, B♭).

-----

Except the E string, which begins on F♮, then half step, and 2 whole steps.

1st.2nd.........3rd..........4th

The reason I am working with the pattern is to help my intonation.  I play better with points of reference, but also to create the muscle memory in this key.

I will be trying the same thing with G♭ major.

What do you think?  Also, is this what is referred to as violin tablature? I've never really understood that, or even if it is helpful to know.

- Pete -

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AndrewH
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I've never used violin (or viola) tablature, but I've seen it. It's written much like guitar tablature: four lines for four strings, and numbers indicating fingers. What you've posted is not guitar tablature.

Still, being able to quickly find patterns of whole and half steps in the key of the piece is crucial for orchestra musicians who have to read too much music to memorize every note.

More experienced string players sometimes shift positions to make the pattern of whole and half steps as comfortable as possible. (For example, I sometimes shift to avoid having to play two whole steps between 2nd/3rd/4th fingers.)

One further note: In orchestra music, especially if the notes are moving quickly and there are a lot of accidentals, I sometimes mark half steps in my part. There's actually a common notation for those. You'll see them immediately after rehearsal O in the attached excerpt (from the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, viola part). The upside-down V markings that I penciled in above the staff indicate that the interval between the notes is a half step.

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Fiddlerman
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October 1, 2019 - 2:16 pm
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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.  

Like Andrew, I always had everything in my case that I needed. When I was employed full time in Malmo Symfoniorkester and Gavleborg Symphony Orchestra before that, I had a place to keep things. We had lockers and even practice rooms. The orchestra music was always available on site.

I did from time to time bring food with me. 🤪

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

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Gordon Shumway
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Yesterday there was light rain, so I had to take my umbrella. So, shoulder bag, can't really do without one, in addition to the violin on the back. Maybe in the winter my coat will have a pocket I can put an umbrella in.

Andrew

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Pete_Violin
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2nd Rehearsal

The conductor was not there... he had an assistant go through it with us.

It's getting better.  I got smiles from the conductor!  That's always a plus.

Not that I didn't make mistakes... I made tons of them.  But this is rehearsal, not performance.

Rehearsals are 1 1/2 hours... they fly by.  But when the conductor says, "let's go through it again" for the 4th time, I start to wonder when we will be done with that piece.  LOL!

There were more instruments this time.  (only 1 more violin though).

Hopefully, when the regular conductor returns next week, things will be sounding much better.

- Pete -

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Gordon Shumway
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Pete_Violin said

2nd Rehearsal

...

Not that I didn't make mistakes... I made tons of them.  But this is rehearsal, not performance.

...

"let's go through it again" for the 4th time, I start to wonder when we will be done with that piece.  LOL!

...

Hopefully, when the regular conductor returns next week, things will be sounding much better.

What you don't want is a conductor who hears something he doesn't like and asks each section to play on their own, then he asks each desk to play on their own, then each musician, until he hears the culprit, lol!  

I've told this anecdote before, but I'll tell it again. We were rehearsing Prokofiev's Duenna under Howard Williams of the ENO, and at one stage he screamed at a violist - "You! Yes, you! Third note of bar 183, you played A# instead of A##!"

Gordon Shumway said
Yesterday there was light rain, so I had to take my umbrella. So, shoulder bag, can't really do without one, in addition to the violin on the back. Maybe in the winter my coat will have a pocket I can put an umbrella in.  

Maybe a modification to my violin case would be a good idea. Also permanent rain-proofing. Perhaps I should get some waterproof tarp and make a customised cover with an extra pocket in it?

Andrew

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Fiddlerman
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October 7, 2019 - 2:10 pm
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Cool. looking forward to hearing when the conductor shows up. 🙂

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

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Pete_Violin
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@Fiddlerman 

He was there at the first rehearsal.  This rehearsal is the 2nd one.  He had a family thing.

- Pete -

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Fiddlerman
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Yes, then I suppose he'll be there for most of the rehearsals. 🙂
That's great.

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

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Pete_Violin
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Yes! He is a good conductor.. he works at the university as the music director.  Our orchestra and choir are part of the community and the university.  So he is heavily invested in the music program.  

- Pete -

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Gordon Shumway
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Here's a repertoire update: -

Vaughan Williams Charterhouse Suite (aka Slaughterhouse Suite), probably rejected.

Sibelius Andante Festivo

Puccini Chrysanthemums

Karlowicz Serenade for Strings op2

Robert Volkmann Serenade for Strings nr 2

Too much to practise efficiently at the moment, especially in addition to the stuff I'm supposed to be practising privately!

Here's the coda to Karlowicz's (quick) march. I've been trying to work out a fingering for the lower voice that suits me!

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AndrewH
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Pete, how did the performance go? And how are other people's orchestra adventures going?

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wtw
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Doing good here. I'm having a bit of a hard time with what we're playing, but still making progress. I'm using musescore to practice a few passages at increasing tempi (is that the plural of tempo 😐 ?), it's useful. I know I won't get to the required speed though, so there'll be quite some faking involved at the concert 🙂 Like with this - with some more practice I think I'd manage at 85, but at 100, no way for now :

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AndrewH
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wtw said
Doing good here. I'm having a bit of a hard time with what we're playing, but still making progress. I'm using musescore to practice a few passages at increasing tempi (is that the plural of tempo 😐 ?), it's useful. I know I won't get to the required speed though, so there'll be quite some faking involved at the concert 🙂 Like with this - with some more practice I think I'd manage at 85, but at 100, no way for now :

Dvorak-viola.pngImage Enlarger

  

Often a well-chosen fingering can help. This passage is much easier if you play most of it in 2nd position with some bits in 3rd position. For example, I think it is easiest to play the entire first six measures in 2nd position both to avoid 4th finger on the C string and to avoid crossing over to the D string. (I would play the entire passage on the C and G strings.) After that, I would note that I have to be in 3rd position to play the high F#, and 2nd position to play the low E, look for the most comfortable places to shift to put my hand there, and pencil in those shifts.

Of course, I realize intermediate players may not be secure enough in 2nd position to do this, and the concert may be too soon to avoid faking. If this isn't useful immediately, I hope it's at least a bit of insight into how more experienced orchestral players think about these things.

(BTW, I may still have a marked-up copy of this from when I played it three or four years ago.)

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CyndieZ
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I am really enjoying reading this thread - keep sharing everyone!

I'm hoping to join my first orchestra in the spring. There are two within traveling distance for me. My gut is telling me that one does more challenging music, but I'm going to try to go to a couple of their performances to see if I'm correct. I'd like to ease in to the orchestral experience by joining the who's rep is less challenging. I still call myself a beginner (well maybe adv. beginner), but my teacher tells me I am an intermediate player. 

I've been taking a Chamber Ensemble class to get experience playing as part of an ensemble, and I'm hoping that will help. 

Excited at the prospect of joining, and a little nervous too!

Cyndie

Cyndie 

Come and let us reason together.

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wtw
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@AndrewH Thank you, I was playing it in 3rd position (and going down to 2nd when necessary), but will try it in 2nd from the beginning. It may be more comfortable indeed for the 4th finger. I don't have much hope of succeeding though, this whole piece is way above my level.

@CyndieZ, I'm sure you'll be fine, it's just a matter of taking the first step. You haven't heard them playing yet ? Do you know anyone in those orchestras ?

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