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Piano quartet. It's a rock band with two vocals.

May 22, 2012 at 10:20 PM

I'm in Paris.

With three other guys.

In a cramped apartment (which houses yet another male).

In summer.

I'm not sure what exactly I did to deserve this punishment, but if karma's a b!tch, then I must have done something dreadful. Like, kill a baby then eat it in a stew.

I'm here because of a quartet crash camp hosted by one of my former professors, who is a sort of a pedagogue (or so I hear... who knows what the truth is. All I know is that she's a mean ol' lady who makes the piano lesson look like a walk in the park. Good grief). The pianist is a 24 year old British male who can't play French music even if his life depended on it. The violist is a 5'2" Asian whose hands were clearly not meant for a viola. The cellist is a German 6'4" who probably should have been in a rock band.

We arrived a few days ago, and ever since then, it's been: Music Theory from 9 to 12, lunch, Music History from 1 to 2, then private lessons with various teachers from 2 to [insert time here]. As none of us are professionals, pro wannabes or anything, this took its toll on us. A lot.

So today, working on Faure's Piano Quartet No 1, here is what happened:

Cello: Hey piano, can you slow down a bit there? I have a massive shift.
Piano: I can't. That'll slow everything down.
Cello: Then pick up after I'm done.
Piano: Can't do that either. I can't suddenly speed up.
Cello: Goodness sakes, this isn't about you!
Viola: Er, guys...
Piano: This is where all the tension builds! I'm not going to compromise musicality for your lack of technique. You can practise. I can't slow down.
Viola: Guys, please...
Cello: Oh, just because you can play anything doesn't mean you can sneeze on others! You're such a snob! It's always "I can play this, I can play that". Well, here's a news, pal! This is teamwork! So slow down when I say so!
(three turn to me): Hey, violin? Who's in the right?
Me: Er... can we just skip this part and ask the instructor tomorrow?
[taken verbatim from recording]

Piano quartet is possibly more difficult than a string quartet, mainly because a piano's an independent player. We have a violin (generally going me, me, it's all about me! Look at me! Don't look at the cello [slap]), viola (I'm the glue that holds this together. Without me thou cannot exist. Muwahahahaha!), cello (Oh yeah, violin? Wanna bring it on? Well I HAVE A LARGER INSTRUMENT SO IN YOUR FACE!). Now, with a string quartet, there's another, less pushy violin going "hey guys, can we listen to the viola for a second? And me? We're gluing you two together". But without the 2nd violin and a piano going "I'm a free spirit, tralalala", it turns into chaos without a very precise balance. Not to mention a piano's larger than the cello, viola and a violin put together.

We went back to the apartment with piano and cello not talking. I now have to go record Bruch's quartet, 3rd movement so I can send it across the pond, then I have to mix the tracks I received from my other quartet, overlay it, then send it out so we can analyse it. The piano's playing Diablo 3 like it's the apocalypse, and the cello has gone out.

I think 3/4 of quartet practice is just building rapport.


From Skye Taylor
Posted on May 23, 2012 at 11:03 PM
I can relate. My current project IS a rock band and consists of myself on 5 string electric violin, two electric guitars down tuned to A, an electric bass, giant drums that jack must have brought down the beanstalk, a Hammond, sampler, the occasional acoustic guitar and 4 vocalists. All at well above 120db, hearing protection is a MUST even in rehearsals. Though they are slowly seeing the light as I rearrange things and square away the room acoustics. It gets crowded to say the least.

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