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Keeping tempo during ensemble performance
#1499962 08/20/10 02:15 PM
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 191
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Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 191
The threat about embarrasing moments reminded me of many discussions I had in my younger days with singers and other instrumentalists about the responsabilities of the accompanist (pianist) during a performance.

I held that if during rehearsals they agreed to a tempo but during the performance, let's say, the singer begins to drag, it is my responsibility to pick up and keep it steady.

Others held the view that the pianist always follows the lead of the singer and if he/she slows down, I need just to follow suit.

What do you all think?

(Edit: I was just thinking now, specially in view of my post about embarrasing moments, that you can tell who wants to be the boss smile

Kawai K5 - Kawai CA61
Re: Keeping tempo during ensemble performance
JGonzalezGUS #1500128 08/20/10 07:26 PM
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 131
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Posts: 131

Singers have different levels of breath control on different days, or may be singing with a cold or allergies.

It's important to listen to them closely during performance. If they are slowing down, it may be because they want more time to breathe between phrases. If they are speeding up, they may be running out of air.

You can breathe with them. Take a breath when the singer does, then let it out as if you are singing their phrases with their words. If you are running out of air, they probably are too, and you need to adjust accordingly (i.e. go faster! Help them out).

A big clue is that sometimes a singer will start breathing in all the "wrong" places. That is, they may use a different breathing scheme than they did in rehearsals.

So when you rehearse, write in their breaths ~ in the piano part where you can see the markings. If that goes, your breathing with the singer will become quite valuable. If the singer has skipped a planned breath, their next breath will ALWAYS be at the next logical place: where they run out.

After you try this out a few times, it becomes much easier.

Good luck!


Gretchen Saathoff
Director of Music
Christ United Methodist Church, Northampton, MA
http://gretchenspianos.wordpress.com ~ website, blog.
http://wp.me/PE5t8-24O ~ E-book: "Goal-oriented Practice: How to Avoid Traps and Become a Confident Performer"
about making steady progress!

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