violin soloing are they usually not reading music?

Edited: June 9, 2017, 10:32 PM · Like when a really good person stands in front of the orchestra, or like this Yanni solo are they not reading music.

Replies (12)

June 9, 2017, 10:35 PM · Depending on the level, environment, and person, a soloist may perform with or without the score.

In some traditions (piano, guitar, at the least) there is the expectation that a soloist in a concert/high recital setting will perform from memory.

For example, in the RCM grading scheme points are deducted after Grade 5 for performing with the score to encourage memorization.

From what I've seen of professional violinists it is the same.

June 9, 2017, 10:44 PM · so just starting out should I ignore reading or jump right in reading music? I personally would prob play more if I was just messing around to see what sounds cool. But would like recommendations. Thanks week 1 of playing.
Edited: June 9, 2017, 11:07 PM · Hey Dave,

I think I misunderstood the question - sorry.

At high levels players read the score, but they commit it to memory so they can play the same thing later without it. They are not making it up in the moment.

You should definitely do both - Reading a score is important to learn new pieces, while playing new music without it (Using recordings, videos ,called playing by ear) is also a very important skill and is good for intonation.

As far as messing around to see what sounds cool, that should always be part of your practice! I spend at least 10 minutes of every session just 'seeing what sounds nice'. It's good for both catharsis and the beginnings of improvisation. The better you get the more options you'll have. As you learn new scales and scale types, modes, etc, you'll have more options for that and you'll be able to make better improvisations.

June 10, 2017, 4:05 AM · Hi Dave.

After watching your Carlise violin video I feel that you are meant to play this instrument. You now need to find a good teacher and start from the beginning learning to read music and count. A good teacher will guide you in this and let you start working on the style you are interested in pursuing. Try to take a weekly lesson and practice a lot but for short periods of time with breaks in between to maximize your progress.

June 10, 2017, 5:16 AM · There are significant advantages to playing from memory and not being tied to the score, and we'd all do it all the time if our memory was reliable enough but it isn't so we have to read, at least when learning.
June 10, 2017, 7:49 AM · Dave, has Jeff said, you definitely want to find a good teacher and learn to read music. It will open you up to many different opportunities you would not have otherwise. Think if you wanted to play in some sort of group and they all read music but you couldn't.
Those performers have played those pieces so many times it is embedded in their brain. They learned it from the score they had been reading. Also how would they manage a 15+ page concerto with page turning and such in front of an audience? People also want to see them playing and not hiding behind a music stand baffling the sound.
June 10, 2017, 10:48 AM · Many performers still use music when playing -- you'll see plenty of soloists who do it these days, even. This is more common in recitals, where the repertoire is less familiar, than in concertos. But basically you push the music stand down to the point where you can just sort of see it when you glance down, and it's there to rescue you if you have a memory lapse. Page-turns have to be carefully arranged but are usually pretty doable.
June 10, 2017, 1:55 PM · Because I was exposed to "classical" music as a child (my father was a fan but not a musician) I can remember that soloists usually had the music on a stand as they played. However, the fashion changed and players started performing strictly from memory. This was when Stokowski was the music director of the Philadelphia orchestra and introduced conducting without a score. Gradually more-and-more performers and conductors were doing everything from memory - it was now mandatory for all "professionals."

To be sure, if you had prepared well enough you probably never looked at the score while performing but it was there if/when there was a problem.

Fortunately orchestral and chamber players have, so far, been able to keep their music desks and scores. However, there are a few chamber groups that are starting to leave their scores and desks backstage. Who knows where the trend will go?

It is all fashion, nothing more. Whatever is old will someday be new again...

Edited: June 10, 2017, 2:44 PM · I re-post something I wrote back in 2011 on a similar thread:

September 15, 2011 at 02:27 AM ยท

"Everyone feels differently re memorization - of sonatas, and even showpieces. One of my great teachers, Aaron Rosand, strongly believes that you should memorize everything, and that his older friend, Milstein, felt the same way.

There are a few issues here. Should you memorize, can you memorize, and does it make a difference what sort of repertoire that you do or do not perform by heart? With all due respect to Mr. Rosand, I feel that aside from all the hard work he did, he was blessed with a great memory that can't be taught. Some people can even memorize complex contemporary music - how, I don't know. The Kolitch Quartet played quartets - including, I think, Schoenberg from memory!! On the other hand,I had some lessons with another great violinist, Charles Libove. Though not as famous as Rosand, he was on the highest level in his own way. One thing though - he couldn't memorize 2 measures of anything! Should we have been deprived of his great art on that account?

Generally speaking, I take a middle view on this issue. Sonatas have aspects of solo and chamber music to them, and I'll usually use music for sonatas and try - if and when I can - to perform showpieces from memory. If I can't, I don't beat myself up over it. When I'm fairly secure with the memorization of a short piece, concerto, etc. I prefer to play from memory. It adds another dimension. I feel like I'm inside the music. I feel that performing is about communication and sharing. Some people are very communicative with their audiences with or without the music, and some people are not, with or without the music.

Fashions have come and gone in this respect. In the old days it was considered unseemly to perform by heart! When Paganini did so, some said it was another of Paganini's "tricks". Once Mendelssohn was to perform some of his own chamber music. At the last minute he realized that he forgot his part at home. He knew his music by heart, but asked to borrow any kind of music just to put it on the music rack, since again, it seemed 'unseemly' otherwise.

BTW re positioning oneself with the piano - Menuhin strongly advocated standing in the bend if the piano, and facing the audience, the way a singer would - even though I know he didn't always do it! I once worked with a pianist who wanted me to do so, and I got to like it. I like facing the audience for communication and projection, and it's easier for the pianist to see us, w.o. having to twist their necks back. Yes, sometimes a violinist can steal a glance at the music in the more typical behind-the-pianist position, and I once saw Isaac Stern with his own part on the piano rack!"

I'll re-emphasize that performing is about communicating. All things being equal, a confident, memorized performance my remove one more veil between the performer and the audience. Or it may not. Some people communicate with more vividness and immediacy playing from music than some others do, playing by heart.

June 10, 2017, 3:18 PM · A couple of month ago I heard Julia Fischer performing Britten with the music stand (way down ) in front of her.
Longer ago I had the pleasure to listen to Hilary Hahn in a quite small concert hall. She did a recital. In the end she took out her glasses, unfolded a huge paper something consisting of several note sheets sticked together next to annother and three levels high. She put it right in front of her on a music stand and was playing with her side to the audience.
She performed pieces from her at that time new Encores CD. Some for the very first time as she said. It was an absolutely lovely evening.
June 12, 2017, 12:36 PM · In the link you gave I'm pretty sure the performer is improvising. Not a score memorized, although clearly there are a bunch of licks in there. Standard improvised solo.
Edited: June 12, 2017, 3:12 PM · The OP is not talking about memorization, as he said in a later post: "so just starting out ... I personally would prob play more if I was just messing around to see what sounds cool. But would like recommendations. Thanks week 1 of playing"

David, Violin is one of the hardest instruments to learn. Learning to play it requires certain discipline. If you are not prepared to learn how to use the bow properly and how to play in tune, your messing around will not lead you very far and may take a very long time to recover should you later want to play like a decent fiddle player. Reading music is more than reading; it teaches you what a violin can do, which you may never know by just messing around.

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