V.com weekend vote: Do you look at the score?

June 23, 2017, 10:23 AM · In an article earlier this week, violinist Nicholas Kitchen shared the system he has devised so that his entire quartet (the Borromeo Quartet) can read straight from the score of any given quartet they are playing. That means that at all times, they can see all four parts: violins, viola and cello. He said that this has absolutely revolutionized the way they work together, in a very positive way. They like it so much that now they always read straight from the score, whether in rehearsal or performance.

Is it necessary to look at the whole score of something you are playing, to see what the piano is doing or what other members of the chamber group or orchestra are doing? To be very honest, no. You can get by without doing that, and I certainly have.

But is it a far richer experience? Will you have a better sense of the music? Will you work better with a pianist or with a group, if you know what the other musicians are playing and have thought about why? Certainly.

Mendelssohn score

You might be thinking, "Look, I'm a beginner. What score?" In many cases, it's simply the piano part, and it can be very enlightening to see the harmonies and other voices -- even if it's hard to process at first, the more you look, the more you will start to see.

If you are more advanced and playing a concerto, you might start with a piano part. But if you want to get more in-depth, you can try going to IMSLP and downloading the orchestra part. A few examples of what you can find: Seitz Concerto No. 5; the Accolay Concerto;the Bruch Concerto and hundreds more. Scroll down on this page and find a huge list of student concertos.

If you are studying something for a recital, competition or to be part of a concert repertoire, well just go buy the score, or download it in a way that you can mark it up and keep it. If you are new to score-reading, University of Texas violin professor Brian Lewis recommends beginning with Mozart Concertos: get the Dover score (or follow the score on IMSLP), then while listening, follow the solo part, then violin parts, other treble-clef instruments, then expand from there.

Please participate in the vote and share your experiences and thoughts about using a score and how you get to know the other parts in a piece you are playing.

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June 24, 2017 at 12:45 AM · my favorite thing to do with a new piece of chamber music is to find a youtube video with the score as the video to follow along with.

June 24, 2017 at 03:43 AM · For chamber music, especially quartets and the like, you have to hear what else is happening. The score provides a visual short cut to getting there much faster, because it shows you what you should be listening for. But ultimately you have to hear it. I'm surprised a professional quartet would want to play with the score -- that would seem distracting.

For pieces "with accompaniment" the score is less vital in my experience but still useful for extracting information about harmony and such. However I have never performed with orchestra, only with piano (playing reductions).

June 24, 2017 at 10:14 PM · Like Mendy, I like to play along the YouTube score as soon as I've learned notes, not just chamber music but also concerti and sonatas.

June 24, 2017 at 10:34 PM · I like to follow a score when listening or studying a piece. For actual playing, though, I just follow my own part.

What the Borromeo players are doing would undoubtedly require far more frequent page-turns than I'd care to make in chamber playing. In orchestra, which I no longer do, it would be even more awkward -- possibly a page-turn every 10 seconds. Then, too, unless you really know your own part well, there's the risk of playing from the wrong line.

June 25, 2017 at 12:15 AM · I almost always read from the score when playing chamber music or duo sonatas, but generally don't for pieces with accompaniment. I assume that I'll have to start reading from the scores when I get to more advanced pieces than the easier Mozart concerti.

June 25, 2017 at 01:36 AM · Heh ... I'm not aware of any "easier Mozart concerti."

One thing that I do that's great fun is to listen to chamber music while reading the score when I'm on the treadmill. I really need both stimuli to counteract the horrific boredom of the treadmill.

June 25, 2017 at 01:45 AM · I always try to find a score, or find a piano score on imslp to follow along while I listen to a new piece.

June 26, 2017 at 02:48 AM · I cannot look at a score due to disability, unless it is reproduced in a specialized format. I practice with recordings to learn how I fit in with the ensemble.

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