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Karen Allendoerfer

Too much coffee

March 12, 2010 at 10:46 PM

 Or maybe it's not enough coffee to get through those evening rehearsals that end at 9:45.  

Does anyone else have trouble with pieces that are conducted in 1?  I'm starting to see a pattern.  In the fall it was Schumann, now in the spring it's Mozart.  I get very caught up in the moment, the adrenaline flows, my heart races, and I forget to watch the conductor.  Then I rush.  But, let's look on the bright side.  Fortunately, my problem is *not* that I can't play the piece fast enough . . .  

It still seems to be hard for me to keep an internal beat going in my head.  When it's in 1, it's just too long between one beat and the next one.  

I've started working with the metronome, first in 2, double time.  I don't rush then, but it sounds "beaty."  I go to 1 and I isolate the passages where it seems like I pick up speed.  There are 2:  both have arpeggios with string crossings followed by a descending scale.  I think it's the descending scale, I just can't wait to get to the bottom of it, or something.  It'll be okay, I just have to settle in, get more comfortable.

I had originally planned to play viola for this concert.  People switch in and out of concerts; we had enough violas but the 1st violin section was a little thin, so I'm back.  And having sat in the viola section for the 1st rehearsal, I'm a little behind, especially with the bowings.  More coffee, please.

Then there is the mysterious phenomenon called "scrubbing."  I used to think that in violin terms it had to do with putting too much pressure on the bow, and getting a scratchy, or "scrubby" sound.  I mean, when I scrub with a sponge, I usually press pretty hard especially if I have to clean something off.  But in my lesson, my teacher used this term to refer to using too much bow.

Among other things, Mozart is famous for needing to be played with a "light" touch.  So, here I am, trying to be "light" but still play forte (the conductor did ask for more sound out of the 1st violins).  I'm also threatening to get behind and having to rush to catch up.  And apparently, I'm "scrubbing."  Ugh.  

I play it again, after a demonstration, using less than an inch of bow for the 8th notes (all 6 of them having to fit into this single beat).  And I do use more pressure, just a bit more, to get the forte.  It's much better--no more "scrubbing," no more getting behind and rushing to catch up.  It's another example, to me, of how words are completely inadequate to describe what needs to be done to play Mozart.


From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 13, 2010 at 1:19 PM

Karen - it's good to have you back here after a few weeks.  I cannot believe that your rehearsals last until 9:45.  Mine go to 9:15, and I am exhausted by that time, particularly after a hard day's work.  Even an IV of coffee can't make me go any longer.  You are a bit younger, so maybe coffee can still get you there, but I find coffee has some negative effects on my playing as well.  Good luck!  I agree that pieces in 1 are tricky.  I don't do it enough to ever really get used to it.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 13, 2010 at 3:13 PM

 Yep, 7:30 to 9:45, with a 10-minute break.  They usually go fast.  I didn't have a chance to post about the Family Concert that happened a few weeks ago.  It was fun, but now we're on to the next.

From Ray Randall
Posted on March 14, 2010 at 2:27 AM

When counting, simply subdivide in your head, then one becomes two, three, or whatever you need.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 14, 2010 at 12:10 PM

"Simply?"  I actually find subdividing in my head to be a very difficult (I won't say impossible, because I eventually get there) thing to do.  In the fall, with Schumann, it went through kind of learning curve, where I first counted it in 3 and then, over time, was able to wean myself to one (mostly).  There also seems to be another kind of progression, in which I start out having to externalize the beat by tapping my foot (or toe inside my shoe) and then, again over the course of a few rehearsals, I can lose that.  It takes me significant time to be able to subdivide internally . . . I haven't found any shortcuts around it.

From Pamela Schulz
Posted on March 14, 2010 at 5:09 PM

We have rehearsals that go from 7:15 until 9:45.  However, I get so much charge from playing that it seems to fly by, although sometimes I do get tired as well.  This is after a full day's work.

From James Patterson
Posted on March 15, 2010 at 9:24 PM

Counting one beat to a measure:

if the  measure is marked in 3, try thinking like it's 6/8......or imagine a Strauss waltz to get the feeling of ONE per measure

if it's marked 2 or 4 beats to the measure, beating ONE is like a march in cut time. 

Looking at what I just wrote, it may not help you!  But it is part of what I think about when confronted with ONE to a measure!  

Good luck

Bill in Dallas


From David Rose
Posted on March 16, 2010 at 5:39 PM

I did find two things to be very true in my years of orchestra playing:

1. The more one fixates on ones own rhythm, the less good it becomes.  The thing which seemed to work most often was to enlarge my orbit, relax my arm, and listen to everything going on around me - and try to fit in.  I often find that foot tapping, bobbing, and other physical manifestations of trying to keep a steady beat only serve to isolate a person, and cut them off from others.

2. I spent all my years in viola section.  Often violas are called upon to begin a tempo from scratch (to set an engine of 16ths/8ths/sextuplets) before the violins or someone else comes in.  If one considers that the player must have a tempo memory almost equal to the conductor (who is totally responsible for finding the tempo from silence), this helps. 

If you can't totally remember the tempo, if you begin, or play the running notes slightly slower (or on the backside of the beat) it is MUCH easier - physically speaking - than playing too fast and trying to slow down.  Try it sometime - the arm will more naturally nudge a tempo forward than bring it back - at least for my experience.

See you,



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