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#1277751 - 09/30/09 05:23 AM Ensemble Playing  
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I was at a rehersal today, doing a vocal performance and I found a violinist who could play a counter melody, then I found a cellist who could play the base line. The pianist had some fun too keeping everyone together.

I think this area is neglected for pianists a lot in particular. I had a lot of fun, it was very social too. Do any teachers try organising ensembles?

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#1277813 - 09/30/09 09:15 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Nannerl Mozart]  
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I did this for my last recital, and while I think everyone had fun doing it and it made for a great concert, it was a *lot* of work trying to get everyone together. There was one student who didn't show up for rehearsals and I ended up playing the duet for that student. It was extremely stressful for me, to the point where I decided I wouldn't do that again. If students want to, they've had a taste of it and if they request they can do duets and such, but a whole recital, never again!

I wouldn't mind doing some piano duets and such for group lessons, though. Since I only have 2 pianos and a keyboard, it might be tough having an instrument for everyone to play. There is value, however, in making piano an ensemble thing. Learning to accompany instrumentalists and singers is hard for many, since they're so used to being on their own, but once they get used to it it's a lot of fun.


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#1277894 - 09/30/09 11:40 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Morodiene]  
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I do ensembles in my group piano classes regularly, even with my younger kids age 5 or so. I have 10 digitals plus my 'teacher piano'. There is not much music available for 3 and 4 part ensemble playing but it's also fun to take duets and just do 2-part ensembles.

The fun thing about digitals is that you can experiment with different voices so the kids can really hear the different parts. I use Melody Bober's 'Hats Off to You' duet book and match a great instrument voice with the title of the piece: Sombrero Song would be on 'guitar', Pirate Song on 'accordian', Secret Agent Song on 'pizzicato strings', Cowboy Song on 'honky-tonk piano', etc.... Kids love ensemble playing and it's wonderful for teaching how to play in a group setting like band or orchestra.

Investing in a couple of portable keyboards ($100 each) would be worth it.


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#1278091 - 09/30/09 04:31 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: dumdumdiddle]  
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I think you meant "bass line", Rebekah, not "base line". Not playing baseball! smile

I'll never forget the hairdresser I had that remembered playing "The Big Bass Singer" only she pronounced bass like the fish. When I said, "You mean "The Big Bass Singer" (with a long A pronunciation), she said, "Ooooh! That makes so much more sense now!"


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#1278096 - 09/30/09 04:41 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Minniemay]  
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This is a major weakness in the American system of music teaching. It is private relationship between a teacher and a student.

In Europe music is, in general, taught in municipal music schools or conservatories from a very young age. Piano students play in ensembles with other instrumentalists from very early on.


#1278099 - 09/30/09 04:47 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: landorrano]  
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Originally Posted by landorrano
This is a major weakness in the American system of music teaching. It is private relationship between a teacher and a student.


I agree, but to be more specific that is a weakness of piano teaching, not music teaching.

In the US voice and most other instruments are taught primarily in groups, supplemented by private lessons for a few. Even for adults there are community choirs, bands, and orchestras with a lot of performance opportunities at many skill levels.


gotta go practice
#1278101 - 09/30/09 04:54 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: TimR]  
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Quote
Even for adults there are community choirs, bands, and orchestras with a lot of performance opportunities at many skill levels.

Tim, if the subject is teaching, are you saying that these choirs offer learning?

#1278175 - 09/30/09 07:08 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: keystring]  
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Good question.

In high school, music instruction is group based. Kids take band and choir classes and learn to play an instrument or sing while in an ensemble. Some supplement with private instruction, some do not.

On the adult level the intent is performance rather than instruction, I think. On the other hand, I've learned most of what I know by sitting next to good performers in various groups and paying attention, so for me it has always been a learning environment.


gotta go practice
#1278219 - 09/30/09 08:36 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: TimR]  
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Thanks, Tim. Of course my question naturally goes to the adult end. Music instruction in school was dismal in the 1960's - we didn't even get note names. As an adult the intent is learning and growth. I'm wondering whether instrumental groups might be different from choirs.

#1278241 - 09/30/09 09:24 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: keystring]  
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My experience is that it would depend pretty much on the individual choir or orchestra. Some I've been involved with lean more towards the always-frantically-getting-ready-for-a-performance-next-month side, others do more in the way of workshops and so on.


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#1278279 - 09/30/09 10:38 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: currawong]  
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Thank you for your responses. I just graduated and did "time to say good bye"The Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brigt man duet

I feel like an idiot, no one in the audience noticed but the ensemble members were lost. I went on off differnt tangents becauseI was so flustered and also because I spent most of the time trying to keep the ensemble together rather than myself. I guess you learn from your mistakes.

The experience was fun I do have to say.

Anyways tell me about funny ensemble messups maybe that will make me feel better smile

#1278281 - 09/30/09 10:47 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Nannerl Mozart]  
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Originally Posted by Rebekah.L
Anyways tell me about funny ensemble messups maybe that will make me feel better smile
How much time do you have? grin

Just one, for now: I was accompanying a singer recently in a competition. If she had cut the music into 20 bits and shuffled them then performed them in that order she couldn't have done a more jumbled version of the song. Meanwhile, I was flipping pages back and forth trying to find where she was, playing something all the time. Afterwards she said to me "Was there something wrong? I could see you turning pages out of the corner of my eye."


Du holde Kunst...
#1278302 - 09/30/09 11:35 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: currawong]  
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WOW ... you sound like a great accompanist currawong! I sang the second verse during the first verse which would have been alright if it was just a change of lyrics but the melody was different and the pianist was playingmy melody. The poor violinist was lost and the cellist and pianist kept going while I sang the verse( and they played the chorus). No body noticed though...

After the introduction I sang and glitched then stopped everyone and asked to start again. I apologised to the audienceand everyone approached me saying that mistake was so beautiful. I wondered what on earth they were on about, turns out that they saw sentiment that I was so emotional about graduating and I was so emotionally overwhelmed. Sounds like a mushy touching story.

Thanks for sharing that currawong! I really want to work in an ensemble now, piano and voice is great fun, I loved that, its also very social I ahve to say. IN the proffessional world it proably isnt like that but we all had great fun during rehersal, I shouted drinks for everyone (non alchoholic ofcourse) we spent time looking for page turners. We'd stop each other if we didnt like each others sound.

Great ensemble, everybody's second instrument was piano (apart from the pianist's second instrument). I hope I can get together with them one day, piano, cello, voice and violin .. very nice together.

Keep sharing more if you have the time currawong!

#1278320 - 10/01/09 12:15 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Nannerl Mozart]  
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Originally Posted by Rebekah.L
No body noticed though...
Surprising, isn't it! But true. smile

The other funny story is not mine, but Gerald Moore's (it's in one of his books, can't remember which one). He was playing Beethoven's Spring sonata with some violinist, and if you aren't familiar with the last movement, it's written in typical Beethoven-in-joky-mood style, with the piano playing on the first beat and the violin chipping in on the next. Anyway, the reviewer of the concert was very scathing about the ensemble and particularly Moore because he "always came in ahead of the violinist".


Du holde Kunst...
#1278342 - 10/01/09 01:31 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: currawong]  
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I once had a soprano from the choir turning my pages. She was so busy singing along that she forgot to turn the page until it was almost too late, and when she did, she sent the entire folder of music onto the floor and flying across the stage.

Fortunately I had played this particular piece a number of times and just kept playing while she hastily picked up the scattered music. I didn't know until that moment how well I knew that accompaniment!

I once attended a viola/piano recital in which the accompanist sneezed quite loudly in the middle of the piece. Violist just kept going, pianist came back in a few beats later.


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#1278358 - 10/01/09 02:25 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Minniemay]  
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Originally Posted by Minniemay
I once had a soprano from the choir turning my pages. She was so busy singing along that she forgot to turn the page until it was almost too late, and when she did, she sent the entire folder of music onto the floor and flying across the stage.
That's why I always turn my own pages! smile

Originally Posted by Minniemay
I once attended a viola/piano recital in which the accompanist sneezed quite loudly in the middle of the piece.
I've always feared this - but it's never happened - yet...


Du holde Kunst...
#1278361 - 10/01/09 02:29 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Minniemay]  
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WOW! Amazing with what you can do with preparation. I didnt prepare that much (well the other ensemble members worried me more) since i didnt worry as much about myself I startedto sing the wrong parts! Keep 'em rolling, I do feel really good, much better now.

The crowd kept sayig encore! Encore, unfortunately Ididnt do an encore but that was teh first time I ever had people scream and clap and cheer so loudly during the song and after the song (like a football crowd). SO I guess thats what counts ... mistakes are just comical moments to talk about later.

#1278370 - 10/01/09 02:52 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Nannerl Mozart]  
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Originally Posted by Rebekah.L
Keep 'em rolling, I do feel really good, much better now...SO I guess thats what counts ... mistakes are just comical moments to talk about later.
Once when I was performing a Mendelssohn piano trio the violinist, who was a fairly high-profile professional with oodles of experience, simply didn't come in on her first entry. She'd just lost concentration. As it was right near the beginning, she stopped us and we began again. I was relieved, actually - if she could make such a silly mistake, then the rest of us didn't need to feel that perfection was the aim.

Reminds me of the story of Sir Thomas Beecham and Denis Brain - Sir Thomas was conducting, and Denis Brain, the horn player, who was noted for never stuffing anything up, no matter how difficult, made a blooper in rehearsal. Sir Thomas stopped the rehearsal, put down his baton and said "Thank God!"


Du holde Kunst...
#1278406 - 10/01/09 06:42 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: currawong]  
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I have hundreds of stories but this one is true.

I was playing trombone with a very good community wind ensemble, doing the first concert of the season in the park. The conductor had changed his mind about the opening march - half of us got the message and half didn't. So half of us had a Sousa march up and half had a Fillmore. We had a loyal audience so the crowd was pretty good.

Of course the trainwreck was so bad we had to stop. The director was furious; after glaring at us he turned to the audience and apologized. He said in his 25 years of performances this was the first time ever he'd actually had to stop a piece.

Then he glared at us again and angrily hissed, "The OTHER one."

Yup. We all switched. All the Sousa players were now on Fillmore and vice versa. I was young and impressionable, I didn't know a guy could get that mad without stroking out.


gotta go practice
#1278411 - 10/01/09 07:02 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: TimR]  
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Good one, Tim! grin


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#1278440 - 10/01/09 08:15 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: currawong]  
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Hahahaha, I like that one Tim! I stopped and had to start again today just because I glitched. Everyone has been thinking that I was highly emotional and they said that the mistake 'was beautiful as it showed a humane and genuiene quality to the piece'-- interesting.

About page turning, I once page turned for a pianist and forgot about the arrangement, he signaled me by nodding and whispering to me, I turned at the last second and my elbow made an interesting contribution to the piece of music!

#1279251 - 10/02/09 10:25 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Nannerl Mozart]  
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Does anybody know anything about arrangement? I now belong to an ensemble with a violinist, cellist and piano (and me the vocalist). Planning to work on an Aria from St. Matthäus passion,
"Er Barme Herr Gott", The cellist is playing the bass notes written for the continuo, and the pianist is going to play the 2 violin parts and viola, should he play the cello's part. I don't know how basso continuo works. The violinist will play the violin solo part.

Everybody in the ensemble except for the pianist plays piano as their second instrument. They all pefer to practice with the entire score with everyones part. With saying that, I wonder what is the best way to arrange in this situation, rewriting the pianist's part? what do people use? Finale?

#1279275 - 10/02/09 11:03 AM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Nannerl Mozart]  
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Rebekah

You might be interested in the music camp in France which I wrote about in this thread .

It is organized around ensemble playing, often with a great deal of wit. Everyone has a great time and all the kids come back, year after year.


Last edited by landorrano; 10/02/09 12:08 PM.
#1279464 - 10/02/09 03:40 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Nannerl Mozart]  
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Originally Posted by Rebekah.L
They all pefer to practice with the entire score with everyones part. With saying that, I wonder what is the best way to arrange in this situation, rewriting the pianist's part? what do people use? Finale?


You can get spectacular results with Finale, but be warned, the learning curve is fierce.

I understand that if you have the complete score in Finale, you can export individual parts. I've never used that feature.

I use Noteworthy Composer. It is shareware (I paid the small fee for full features.) It is relatively intuitive and there's a good user forum. The help file is comprehensive and well written, but at least on my version doesn't work on Vista, just XP.

Instrumentalists should not need the full score. Anybody in a band or orchestra is used to seeing their part only - saves on page turns too.


gotta go practice
#1279506 - 10/02/09 04:42 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: TimR]  
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If you want to come up with a whole stock of accompanying horror stories in short order, just sign up to be the on-call accompanist for a place that does weddings. For "The Wedding Song" alone you will quickly discover how many different time signatures a single piece can be sung in...all by different "friend of the bride who is such a WONDERFUL singer" soloists with questionable voices and very little memory for finer details like lyrics. laugh

Think: the most horrifying karaoke performance you can imagine, in the church in front of God and everybody, during the service, with you trying to salvage something of the performance (they all blame the accompanist).

But charge a lot if you do LOLOL


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#1279590 - 10/02/09 07:45 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: TimR]  
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Thanks. It's true that we should just look at our own lines. Afer sining lieder for a few years I can't live without the full score, I learn it by looking at the pianist's part. Later I memorise, I guess this would be the result of the ensemble. Everybody would look at their own lines later.

Arranging is a bit hard, I'm glad I'm a pianist though, since I need to arrange for him. My concerns rest in whether the arrangement will be comfortable for his fingers and whether it would sould decent.

Tim, I once had the free version with Finale and it seemed to be limited, do you know about the online software packages?

Also does any one know about Basso Continuo in Bach? It seems to just be one line shared by the Viola De Gamba and Harpsicord. How does one arrange it for the piano and cello?

#1279599 - 10/02/09 07:59 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: landorrano]  
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Originally Posted by landorrano
Rebekah

You might be interested in the music camp in France which I wrote about in this thread .

It is organized around ensemble playing, often with a great deal of wit. Everyone has a great time and all the kids come back, year after year.


Thank you for sharing. I live in AUstralia and a trip to France sounds like quite an expense. Still it looks like a fun event. smile

#1279661 - 10/02/09 10:10 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Nannerl Mozart]  
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Originally Posted by Rebekah.L


Tim, I once had the free version with Finale and it seemed to be limited, do you know about the online software packages?

Also does any one know about Basso Continuo in Bach? It seems to just be one line shared by the Viola De Gamba and Harpsicord. How does one arrange it for the piano and cello?


I had the free version of Finale, Notepad or something like that. It was limited enough to be useless for my purpose at the time (I was playing in the pit orchestra for a musical, and I couldn't read the handwritten score, so I notated it myself.)

I continue to encourage people to start with Noteworthy Composer as the best featured of the inexpensive ones. I haven't yet found anything I can't do with it. But my music is for my own purposes. Friends of mine who publish use either Finale or Sibelius and each has its adherents.

My brother uses only Lilypond and he gets great results, but he's extremely computer literate, I don't think I could manage it.

Noteworthy Composer will let you do as many staves as you want, add or delete staves as you want, hide or combine them as you want. So if you insist on writing a full score (I wouldn't!) no problem.

Nice thing about Noteworthy, you can play it back to check notes. (You probably can with any notation program) You can save as MIDI, which takes almost no memory because it's just on-off commands. When I had some choir members who didn't read music but were dedicated enough to practice, I would notate an SATB version, set dynamics so their part was mf and the rest mp, and email it to them as an 8k file instead of an 8 Mb .wav.


gotta go practice
#1279686 - 10/02/09 11:03 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: TimR]  
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Thanks Tim, I might look into it. Is it possible to save as pdf files from Noteworthy Composer?

#1279694 - 10/02/09 11:18 PM Re: Ensemble Playing [Re: Nannerl Mozart]  
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Originally Posted by Rebekah.L
"Er Barme Herr Gott", The cellist is playing the bass notes written for the continuo, and the pianist is going to play the 2 violin parts and viola, should he play the cello's part. I don't know how basso continuo works. The violinist will play the violin solo part.
If you're talking about Erbarme dich it should be pretty straightforward. Violin plays violin part, cello plays bass part, piano fills in the rest. Do you have the piano/vocal score? The pianist could just read from this, omitting the violin obligato, and it would be quite easy to write out the bass part for the cellist.


Du holde Kunst...
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