What are the ideal lessons look like to turn an adult learner into a really good chamber player
If an adult student’s ultimate goal is to be a good classical chamber music player rather than a soloist, should the teaching be different from that which is designed for the usual solo repertoire building? If not, why? If so, in what way a program or focus of the teaching specifically geared towards the skills for play chamber music playing be different from the usual one?
Well, to play advanced chamber music you have to be a good player, so I don't know what technical things I would completely omit if an adult learner asked me to prepare them to play chamber music. I doubt many adult students would be interested in intensive scale training so I'd probably not bother with that. Bow control, especially a good, consistent bounce would be a critical focus imo.
I expect that it would be the same learning path until the student reaches the intermediate level, since the basic technical foundation still needs to be laid.
I'd say the curriculum is similar between the two disciplines. I would take the approach Ryan mentions. With any student, I would encourage plenty of repertoire exploration, plus necessary technique practice (scales, exercises, and appropriate etudes). I will only require students to do etudes that
Read through the Bartok Duos with them. If that doesn't help their reading skills, nothing will.
I think with regard to method the differences are not distinct but time and quality of progress vary a lot, etudes like Kreutzer, Dont, Rode are still very necessary to build solid and stable basic techiniques required in every level of violin playing. In fact, good chamber musicians are indeed professionally trained for long time, etudes forementioned are not sufficient at al.
"good chamber musicians are indeed professionally trained for long time"
This is a very good question Yixi!
I imagine that learning quartet and other non-violin/piano chamber music may have its place in learning, but it really seems like a logistically difficult way to do it. You have to have other players around, and if they're not that good, then what kind of sacrifices will you have to make to let the pieces be playable.
I'm going to assume that Yixi Zhang is the Adult Learner who wants to play chamber music. I agree with Lydia that playing duets is the pathway and there are a lot of great duets out there. Of course, playing with your teacher is one thing, finding a duet partner is another issue, and forming a chamber music group is very difficult. (I highly recommend reading: "The Ill Tempered String Quartet" (I.T.S.Q.) before trying to form one.
Yixi it's a great question and thread, as usual. I think you should still challenge your technique to the extent possible. But if I am working on basic technique I can do that with my chamber parts at my lesson, at least part of it. Double stops? I don't know about you but I feel they improve my intonation overall. And if you are playing in a quartet then the same intonation concepts do apply.
In addition to their regular teachers, my kids are part of a local chamber music program, where they are put into trios quartets and quintets at the beginning of the year and get 16 1.5 hour group coaching sessions throughout the year by local symphony musicians. They aren't taught individual skills in this so much as ensemble skills. I see a number of programs like this around the country. It might be neat to try to find or arrange something like this for interested adults.
This is where I come from. I've been primarily working on solo reps for the past 10 years or so since returning and I really enjoy doing it. I also play chamber music on a monthly basis with different groups, and I go to chamber workshops at least twice a year.
I think the ACMP* still has a chamber-music coaching service that can help a chamber music group get its "feet on the ground." Of course the techniques of good string playing are quite the same for solo and chamber work (orchestra too, for that matter), but some of the dynamic and intonation issues can be different. A coach can help balance your sound and especially help you develop pianissimo levels for your dynamic range (amateurs often play with a limited dynamic range).
Chamber music is quite different from either orchestra or solo playing. In addition to basic technical skills on your instrument, sight reading and counting become more important. You also have to pay close attention to the others in your chamber group and to the cues you get from their playing in a way that is different from orchestra. Playing duets helps to develop some of the skills. However, chamber is a somewhat different world from what most amateurs are used to, but lots of fun, and, if you are a violist, it's really where you want to be.
I'm bumping this thread because I would like to read more ideas from the members.
I believe it shouldn't be mutually exclusive (chamber vs solo), and that the student should perhaps devote more time to developing sight reading and building his/her chamber rep. while not completely forgoing the solo works. I feel the solo rep. and advanced, solo short works will help keep everything else in perspective, making violin-playing all the much easier, so the student only has to worry about music making.
Carlos, terrific post! These are all very valuable ideas and I'll bring them to my teacher when I see her again later this week. She was away last week so I got some time to think about my next stage of violin study.
Adalberto, I think my teacher would agree every single point you've made. I need to hear these from others to clear my own thoughts. Thank you!
Great thoughts above. I think there are many ways to organize chamber music programs with varying goals.
Adalberto: Obviously it would be a poor musician who would not try constantly to improve the skills in a neverending climb. It's not a point of neglecting some things, but to distribute time and energy in favour of those which can be more useful. Time is a limited resource. If I want to have exposure earlier and play with others, I'd rather practice the whole L'Estro Armonico than the Paganini Caprice's.
Here is the update: