Your playing buddy....

April 5, 2012 at 04:05 PM · I've been back at the violin for 4-5 yrs now and I feel things are coming together. One of my goals has been to find a pianist not only as an accompanist (playing show pieces, orchestral reductions etc) but also for duet work - sonatas.

Yesterday I may have found one - its early days but we meshed very well and he was very easy to play with - not only that but he seemed to be as excited about me as I him (essential eh).

That made me wonder about other's playing partners - I'd love to hear what worked and what did not, especially where the connection really was only about music....

Replies (20)

April 5, 2012 at 04:27 PM · Have had several fun musical partnerships--a fabulous pianist at my last school job; a dear friend who doesn't sightread easily enough to love accompanying but we can totally write our own arrangements together--and my sister, who is probably my favorite pianist to play with except that she lives 100 miles away now and has no piano!

I had one notable non-success in college and it was with a guy who was really a great pianist and accompanist--the year I worked with him was a really important one but also a really rough one for me and I think he got sick of me. I had thought of asking a different pianist that year, one who was also a great accompanist and a fairly good violinist, who I probably could have learned a lot from--but I had a secret crush on him and didn't dare!

For non-pianists, I had a violist friend in college who minored in music just for fun; we would trade instruments and fiddle around together and I ended up doing my first real composition as a duet that we played together for her recital. My last couple summers at home I had some friends who played guitar, banjo, and whatever they could pick up. We got asked to do a wedding together and had such a blast that we would just get together and pick up and play, fiddle or bluegrass or whatever we felt like. Took a summer day and went and played downtown just for fun (little tourist town in MI)--we made enough to buy ice cream! :) I was actually disappointed to move from there--even though I'm now in a city that's a real arts center, in six years I haven't found people to just get together and play for fun with, like that. Everybody is so busy or takes themselves so seriously! Someday....

April 5, 2012 at 04:37 PM · my playing partner is my dad. he's a pianist/keyboard. I don't play often with him, though. His genre is jazz. But if we play, it will be Gospel music.

April 5, 2012 at 07:14 PM · My best friend is a flautist, she is married to a harpsichordist, and I am cose friends with a handsome cellist. We are pretty well equally advanced so chamber music is fun and very connected and engaging.

April 5, 2012 at 08:40 PM · It would be kinda interesting to map out the playing buddies in a town and see if you can get back to where you started from!

I play with a quartet and a small string ensemble - but none of these really qualify as playing buddies, that has to be someone you feel almost guilty about if they are not included in whatever you get into....

April 6, 2012 at 03:01 AM · Late last year I performed the third movement of the Franck Sonata in a small informal recital, with a pianist who is a retired colleague. She is approximately 70 years of age. We had a blast rehearsing because we both love to play -- and to analyze. Our next project is the first movement which is easier for the violin but harder for the piano.

April 6, 2012 at 04:31 AM · My wife...who happens to be a much better violinist than me (though she claims I tend to exaggerate). :)

April 6, 2012 at 05:15 AM · Sounds like we need to get Mrs Wie on here for an opinion :D

As a teenager my elder brother was my playing buddy - but playing rock and folk on guitars and singing together; busking, bars and beaches!

April 6, 2012 at 02:27 PM · aw John, wanna come over for bach duets and crumpets? Crumpet....

April 6, 2012 at 11:55 PM · maybe we'll make that a welsh rarebit - check over at the Bach topic...

April 7, 2012 at 11:31 AM · My stand partner in orchestra has become my playing buddy. I met her first through and it turned out that she lived in the adjacent town where the orchestra we play in is based.

Like me, she returned to the violin in middle age after a long break. I think at one point as a teenager she was much better than I ever was, but as adults we have different, complementary things we have to work on . . . she has a more beautiful singing tone, and I like the fast 16th notes. I've been playing longer since returning, and I take private lessons, so I can keep up. She usually wants to be second violin in the chamber music that we play, but we also switch off the parts. We are in a string quartet together and we've played at the Farmers' Market a couple of times.

The thing I am most grateful to her for, I think, is the time I forgot to bring refreshments to orchestra rehearsal, and we were sitting there while another section was rehearsing and all of the sudden I remembered, and whispered, "sh**!" under my breath. She said "what is it?" thinking it was something about the music. I said "I forgot to bring the refreshments!" and she said "I'll go get them," and she got up and ran out. It only took her about 10 minutes because she lives in that town and knew where to go, and she was back in time for the break, with juice that was the coldest and freshest we've ever had at rehearsal because it was right out of the fridge.

This afternoon we're going to get together and try to puzzle through a piece that the orchestra is premiering. The composer (who is also conducting it) has told us that we (the strings) are the ocean, and the woodwinds are the birds. But it's a brand new piece, there are no recordings of it, and it's hard to practice the 1st violin part by yourself. We've gotten lost in rehearsal too many times ;) so we are going to try to do something about that.

She really has my back, and I really couldn't ask for anything better in a stand partner or playing buddy.

April 8, 2012 at 06:29 AM · I have a friend I met when she was pregnant with her daughter who is just a few months younger than mine. We hit it off because we are both statisticians who also love to do art projects. She now lives in England but when she's visiting we spend hours together playing klezmer. (She plays flute.) She's the only person I know who is at my level and makes music a priority in her life, even with a career and kids. She hopes to be here on sabbatical next year and I'm looking forward to it.

April 9, 2012 at 03:40 AM · Well, with my school and private lessons, I don't get to meet much musician buddies. When I did, it was complicated because I'm very busy in school and them too...

I love to play with my teacher and had a few different wonderful pianists. But they are music friends I have to pay... maybe a different relationship than music "buddies" even if just as fun : ) Perhaps, I understand why they want to get payed to play with me at their level!

My best music "buddy" so far with who I really have a great instinctive musical connection is my twin sister who made a clarinet return 2 years ago. We think alike musically, come from a similar background, are of a similar level, are both students, have the same strenghs and weakness (different instruments but same height and constitution...)

So I'll say that family chamber music rocks and that... no matter the little fights, life events etc, you always come back to it as a sort of home sweet home thing!

April 9, 2012 at 03:45 AM · No, I don't have a playing buddy. There are a couple of people who have come in and out of my life that I have connected well with, but they have children and do not make time for music.

Also, over the years, I've had the privilege of watching my students grow into playing buddies, the kind that I can connect with as friends and musically. I will probably always remain the mentor in these relationships, though one or two have become legitimate friends as adults. Unfortunately, they all move away fromt here once they're adults.

April 9, 2012 at 06:00 AM · Emily - we could skype :)

[Of course first I have to figure out how that works!]

April 10, 2012 at 03:02 AM · Ha, I don't have a clue about Skype, and I would need to buy amazing speakers/microphone so that we could pretend we were actually in the same room!

I talked with my friend Garrett today, who is taking a year off from studying composition at Berklee. He plays piano, and we connect surprisingly well. I used to dislike him a lot when he was a kid because I thought he was a brat (--staff kid here at the summer camp where I live), but his cousin Britney and I were best friends there for a while, until she got into drugs and moved to Vegas. (Check my August or September 2006 blog for an explanation of that whole relationship.)

Anyway, Garrett is a legitimate musician with good ideas who wants to play classical music with me. It's just difficult to want to work toward a piece when I know he'll be leaving town again. After talking to him again today, I decided that a little while is better than nothing, and certainly better than sitting here feeling sorry for myself, so next thing would be to pick a piece. He wants something perhaps 20th century. My dream piece is Tzigane, but I don't think we're quite there yet. Any ideas?

April 10, 2012 at 05:06 AM · Had a keyboardist buddy I loved to jam with. We'd play off each other and around each other and against each other and still land notes together. Jam partners that click are a real treasure.

April 10, 2012 at 09:48 AM · Emily,

I don't think Skype would work anyway - it has a delay built in so you would always be playing fuges :D

Pieces for violin and piano with an accomplished pianist? Where to start!! My favorites right now (though I can't get through them) are the Brahms 1st sonata and the beethoven 10th. [For the latter check out Grumiaux/Haskil.] IMO the key to playing with a pianist in my mind is to pick pieces that are equally challenging and interesting so that they aren't just accompanying. It depends on the individual but its not so much fun doing an orchestra reduction.

April 10, 2012 at 09:49 AM · Jenn - and its so easy to take them for granted when they are there right? Its only after that you realize how special it was...

April 10, 2012 at 02:17 PM · Emily, does Garrett know James Russell Smith? I would assume he must, because Jim is the Assistant chair of Composition at Berklee. Jim is also the Assistant Conductor of the Arlington Philharmonic (the orchestra I play in). We are premiering Jim's piece, "Memories of Cape Cod Winter Birding" on April 29. I think he would be cool to study composition with!

April 10, 2012 at 11:55 PM · I'll ask him.

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