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I'm start a new 12-week class at Manchester College this coming Saturday, Feb. 04. It’s titled “Advanced Strings with Ensemble”. I just picked up the course book and I’m feeling a bit intimidated. It immediately gets into shifting positions, finger patterns and advanced rhythm and bowing studies. There are currently only 5 students signed up for the class, so that might be a good thing. I have a feeling that I’m going to have to increase my daily practice time to keep up with this one.
There is a community orchestra in the next town over from where I live. They accept players from a wide range of playing skill levels. The idea is to give intermediate musicians like myself an opportunity to experience the orchestra and grow with a performing group. They perform for various charitable events in the area. There are about 60-70 members. You don’t really audition. You come and introduce yourself, purchase the sheet music for the pieces they’re currently performing and do your best to assimilate into the appropriate chair. After a few weekly sessions, the conductor will either invite you to stay or make constructive recommendations for areas to study and send you on your way. It’s my goal to do my first “sit in” by the end of 2017 and I’m hoping the class I’m starting and the next ensemble class this fall will help me adequately prepare.
I hope things go the way you want them to go and you achieve your goals.
There is a part of me that would like to find a small group of people in my area, but I have no desire to be a part of a large orchestra. But it would be nice to find a few people to work with on small projects.
Thanks. I guess you never know if you don’t try.
I did small groups for a while, but was invariably the least proficient violin/fiddle player and struggled to keep up. I’d end up playing an instrument that I have more experience with and setting the violin aside. Schedules always seemed to be an issue as well.
I may find that the orchestra is not to my taste either, but I’m looking for a consistent musical community environment and the prospect of being a bit more anonymous while playing, so I can concentrate on blending, sight reading, intonation as well as technique and progress slowly without much of a spotlight.
Thanks. I guess you never know if you don’t try.
I did small groups for a while, but was invariably the least proficient violin/fiddle player and struggled to keep up.
That would be my most likely issue right now. I am talking about future possibilities for me, not right now. I am clearly not ready to mingle with others just yet.
I had my first class yesterday. Talk about cold water in the face. There are 10 of us in the ensemble… 2 cellos, 2 violas and 6 violins. The professor handed out sheets covering 3 short works (1st vn, 2nd vn, va & c) by Handel, Scheidt and an unknown composer. She had us play one right after the other as an ensemble… cold sight reading without any preparatory discussion… ow.
I asked her later if she was trying to thin the pack. She responded that she didn’t expect anybody to do well. She was trying to see who would give up and who would push through. I’m thinking, this is going to be real interesting.
Regrettably, give up is what I just did. I withdrew from the class after 3 weeks. At the start of each class session we were given three new pieces to play together. My skill at just playing a piece cold without an opportunity to look it over first and clear up any rough spots is poor. The other students have been engaged with this type of approach for a while, a couple doing this in parallel with other similar classes.
The stress of trying to read and keep up would totally blow my concentration on tempo, rhythm and other technical aspects… way too much stress. It was beginning to affect my desire to practice or even pick up the instrument. I figured, best to get out.
What I did learn though is that I rely heavily on memorization to the detriment of sight reading… something developed from playing Old Time and Irish tunes. I’m not sure what direction I’ll go from here, but at least I’ll get back to enjoying the time I spend playing tunes by myself.
I hit a rocky patch in my own playing recently, and my teacher reminded me of something I'd known (in my head) for some time, but don't really have in my gut yet.
You have to play slow to play fast. Specifically, he told me that, when sight-reading, perform the song slow enough that you can look 3-4 notes ahead (and do some planning about how you're going to do them, and to always know what you're going to do next.
That's mean a drastic slowdown on a couple of new pieces that have been giving me grief for weeks, but the improvement in them in just a few days has been considerable.
The more you read music and play it as you're reading it, the better you get at it (just like anything else). If you play from sheet music slowly enough, you'll get it right, and you'll be building your skill at sight-reading. Once your skill at that is comparable to the rest of the people in the class, you'd probably find it a much more enjoyable experience.
One thing I've found for sight reading. Knowing the note (by name) is useful, but you really want to see the note on the page and know it as X finger on Y string. (Which is a little more complicated once you start shifting, but I haven't gotten there yet, so it's always one note=one spot for me.) Ideally, you want to know both, but the one thing you want to avoid is making a double-translation. "That's a middle G, and middle G is 3rd finger on the D string." I'm trying to get to where both pieces of info (the name and the location) are just "recognized" when I read a piece of music. Like most stuff with violin, it takes patience.
You probably did the right thing (for now) dropping out of the class. If it chases you away from playing, it's obviously not going to improve your playing.
Hope this helps.
Charles – I appreciate and value your input. Beginning slow and working up to speed in sight reading a piece is pretty much where I am, thus the problem playing new material at full tempo without stopping in an ensemble setting. I would sort of hold my own until we got to areas with multiple hooked bowing and other complexities and then I’d completely loose it.
I did receive an email from the professor this morning, offering to place me in an intermediate class that focuses less on immediate sight reading and more on various bowing rhythms. I may opt to take that opening and at least stay with some instruction and association with other players.
I’ve done two classes with the intermediate group. Unfortunately, this whole experience has been a very disappointing eye-opener. It would seem that it doesn’t actually matter what level class I sit in, I’m simply not able to perform. At home I play tunes like Devil’s Dream, Cooley’s Reel, Tennessee Waltz, etc from memory with relative ease… rarely making an error.
Sitting in a class with people all around, I’m lucky to complete a single-octave scale without choking. I lose track of where my fingers are going and I have problems orienting my hand correctly on the neck. I look at the sheet music that I’ve practiced all week and it’s like I’ve never seen it before… zero focus or concentration. I told the professor that I was going to record myself playing at home and bring it in, so they would know that I can actually play music.
Playing with an orchestra is absolutely out of the question. Regardless of whatever skill level I attain, performing or even practicing with other musicians is a complete no-go. I didn’t anticipate that nerves would be this debilitating. The anxiety just builds on itself… it’s over the top. I appreciate everyone’s support, but I’m done.
Hia @Rosco - how would you feel about playing on StreetJelly if we set up another "Amateur Hour" ( which was well attended I might add ! ). If you are unaware of what that was - then in summary what we did was this - we got 4 or so players, 3 of which, myself included, were at most 3 years into playing, and are "regulars" on SJ.
We were NOT giving a "performance" in any real sense of the word - we discussed (and showed by playing) what troubled us as beginners. We did walk throughs, talk-throughs and play-throughs of very simple pieces, all very relaxed, no pressure. We also then had several other beginners - their first time on SJ - join in and demonstrate "where they were at" and what their current stumbling blocks might be.
If your issue really is "nerves" - sharing and participating in this small friendly group experience might "ease you into it" - just a thought my friend !
There is VERY little violin or fiddle playing to be seen on SJ, and although the entire world COULD tune in, most visitors who are not forum members don't really hang around (they are probably looking for baaaad rock guitar or kbds, vocals etc ). Even on our more regular actual "shows" ( the Strings on Sunday regular event ) virtually every viewer is a forum member - it's like playing to your family.... Maybe give it a thought ? It's cool and although not the same as playing-along with others which presents its own problem-scenarios, you are playing to a friendly and non-judgmental audience...
I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh -
Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)
StreetJelly can help you work through performance anxiety Even taking lessons in person with my teacher, I would get nervous and screw up (still do, haha). A couple months ago I added doing a StreetJelly show once a week (Strings on Sunday :D) as part of my practice to work through that anxiety. I still screw up, I still get nervous, but it's getting easier for me to ignore it and keep playing through it. Making my little progress videos is getting easier to do now, too (just playing in front of a camera would mess with me, haha). So I think it is totally worth it to try out StreetJelly
World's Okayest Fiddler
@Rosco - Hope you continue to enjoy the music and play. Street Jelly is fun and easier than I thought.
I have severe performance anxiety. I actually quit my lessons the first year, even after 10 lessons, the cost I paid in anxiety was not worth it.
My very first meet up from FM.com that first year I could hardly play in front on a beginner.
I had one recital... It was a blur, but the video assures me I kept up. But at the cost of days and days of angst. Yes.. true story.. that much angst to play Twinkle Twinkle with 7-10 year olds.. sheesh.
Flash to the next year.. I was able to play a bit more. One time a young male came to the door selling something and I was holding my violin and he asked me to play... I thought about it for a minute, I said no. He literally begged... so I played for him.
Flash to the next year and an online Fiddle gathering on Street Jelly. I did it. I don't remember it, I played very fast and..but I did it.
Flash to the next year... I can relax and play on Street Jelly and enjoy a little. I also can play with others and I am not as bad. I will always be a bit shy...but I am contemplating lessons again.
I guess I am saying.. Just keep playing and as Pierre said, If there is anything you need, please post.
Great to hear your story and good luck.
Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato