Beethoven symphony no 3 and violin concerto orchestra part - what level are they?

March 30, 2013 at 11:01 PM · Hi everyone,

My name is Thuan, I am new to posting on this forum, but I have enjoyed reading all the various threads posted here.

Anyhow, a bit about myself, I have been learning violin as an adult beginner for about 6-7 years on and off. So far my teacher has been assigning pieces of various grades from AMEB 6 to AMEB 8. My teacher reckon it would be beneficial for me to join a community orchestra of the same level. So I started looking, and found one near my place and they are in need of violins.

I looked at the upcoming concert, and they are playing Beethoven Symphony No 3 and Beethoven violin concerto. I was wondering what levels are these pieces? I had a quick browse through the music sheets for first and second violins, but the second doesn't look a whole lot easier than the first.

In particular I was wondering about tempo (first mvt of symphony no 3 is supposed to be dotted half note = 80, and there are sixteenth notes) as well as the length of the pieces. Total duration for the pieces is around 1.5 hours. There is only about 8 rehearsals before the actual concert which doesn't sound like heaps.

Would this be a good starting point for someone relatively new to orchestra?


Replies (29)

March 31, 2013 at 12:32 AM · Hopefully, this is a community orchestra that welcomes all players, and doesn't expect a new player to get all the notes, because quite frankly you won't if you are new to orchestra. So go in expecting that you will get some, and next season you will get more, and each time you play you will get more and more. While it is related to your general level of playing, there are so many other skills to learn in orchestral playing, and how you personally deal with that is an unknown - can you screen in and out of the noise of other players, the conductor, seating, lighting, focus on music, getting lost and finding your position, sight reading, playing in and out of 2nd and 4th position in particular if playing 2nd violin, start playing at random spots and finish at random spots in a piece, play through a piece at or close to marked tempo the FIRST time, not faint at the sight of dots, the list just goes on and on.

those pieces sound great for a community orchestra (! not, meaning you want to be able to depend on a really solid cast of string players, which so often community orchestras can't do, ti seems from reading posts around and about the forums)

March 31, 2013 at 01:49 AM · Thuan, a community orchestra that plays Beethoven symphonies usually expects a grade 8-ish standard, or equivalent, but don't worry if you're not quite there yet. You may be surprised at how your ability improves after a few lively rehearsals where you're pushed up to and beyond what you thought was your limit.

The second violin section is one of the best places in which to learn what orchestral playing is all about, especially if you're towards the back of the section, which is normal for an orchestra starter. I played cello in orchestras for many years until I switched to violin just over three years ago, and the first thing I noticed was the detail I was picking up from all over the orchestra, as opposed to when I was in the cellos and didn't have a very good idea of what was going on in the violins.

The second violins should never be thought of as being in any way subordinate to the firsts: both are complementary to each other and are both equally important. The two violin sections are like the two sides of a coin which has essential information on both sides and would be quite useless if one side were blank.

If you look at a full score of a classical symphony you'll easily spot some of the differences between the first and seconds. The firsts tend to play in the upper register and have the tunes a lot of the time (but the music is sometimes doubled by the seconds an octave below the firsts, for which the firsts are sincerely grateful). However, if you get to play 20th century music don't be surprised if the seconds are sent up into the stratosphere to accompany the firsts!

A few more practical details on playing in the seconds (and the firsts, for that matter), based on my own experience:

1) Learn to count the bars religiously until it becomes automatic.

2) I like to watch the section leader for entries and bowing, whether up or down bow, and whether it starts in the middle, tip or near the frog. The conductor is usually of not much help in this particular respect, unless he is a good violinist.

3) Use a long bow as much as you can from end to end (appropriate to the music of course). It looks better, gives better tone because you're using bow speed as opposed to pressure, and gives you confidence. Again, try to copy what the first desk is doing.

4) Don't worry if you think you sound too loud. The chances are that amateur string players are rarely loud enough, and what you think is loud under your ear doesn't in fact travel all that far. If you really are too loud for a particular section of the piece be sure that someone will advise you accordingly ;)

5) If you find a passage is genuinely difficult at speed then just play the first few notes (this is important to make sure you get the entry right) and work on the tricky passage at home slowly with looping. You may need to get advice on fingering or bowing from a more experienced player in the section.

6) Don't worry about the occasional wrong note, for everyone plays them some time or other, because it really won't be noticed by the audience, unless it's in the middle of a silence!

7) As Sharelle hinted, get well acquainted with shifting in and out of the 3rd and 4th positions. The 3rd position is often your best friend because it is surprising how easy it can make some awkward passages and avoid string crossings.

8) If you have to play a high position note out of the blue, say in the 7th position, try to hear it in your mind's ear first. This really does help the finger to hit it accurately.

9) If you're faced with playing a very quick dozen or more notes in some strange rising scale (which is probably not in any book) remember that these things are for effect. The most important thing is to get the start and finish right, and the detail of getting every note dead accurate in a run of 14 notes spread over just two 1/8th notes in allegro time is neither here nor there. People find that the momentum of the orchestra carries them through such passages with very little trouble.

March 31, 2013 at 10:55 AM · Thanks for the inputs. I got the part for the second violins, and the tough part is the seconds are harder to hear on the recording so it's harder for me to form a mental picture of the parts. I had a look at the first 2 pages, and I am surprise to say despite the notes look simple, it's actually not easy to play, at least at the marked tempo.

Anyhow, I got 2 weeks to prepare for the first rehearsal and I will see how I go. Just don't want to be lost half the time and sit there like an idiot.


March 31, 2013 at 12:04 PM · Thuan,

It often helps to play along with a recording, at home, so that you can get used to the sound of the orchestra around you, and learn how your part relates to the whole of the piece.

Even reading your part while listening to the music helps!

There exists software (Audacity, for one) that allows you to slow a recording down without altering pitch.

Good luck!


March 31, 2013 at 02:47 PM · Its very important to establish a good working relationship with your stand partner. You should work as a team so that if one of you gets lost the other can call the bar number or point to the music. It also makes it WAY more fun.

The above may sound obvious but for some reason stand mates can get competetive - with one or both trying to out play the other. Aggressive players are likely thinking more about their own promotion within the orchestra than working as a team. Frankly, I find this a total drag and, if you are the friendly type, can be enough to cause you to quit the orchestra. If this happens to its best to be proactive and ask the concertmaster if you can switch with someone else - and don't worry if that means 'moving back', in the long term its totally worth it.

March 31, 2013 at 08:46 PM · Jump right in.

The notes will be within your grasp. If you read through the music a few times before the first rehearsal that will really help your confidence. (Most orchestral string players - at all levels - never really look at the music outside the rehearsals, so you'll be at an advantage.)

You'll be able to focus on orchestral technique. All I can say there is listen to your desk partner, listen to your section, listen to everyone, and count the rests. Once you can listen while counting, playing, and watching the conductor all at the same time you have orchestral performance sorted for the rest of your life. Easy!

March 31, 2013 at 08:57 PM · My first violin experience with a community orchestra came after about two years of playing. They were doing Beethoven 6 and I can't remember what else. After the second rehearsal I went up to the conductor and said that I'd love to keep coming to rehearsal, but I should probably sit out the concerts until I was better able to handle the part. He put his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye. "Tim...," he said, "I think you'd better plan on playing." The answer is that it really depends on the group.

April 2, 2013 at 09:25 PM · I second what Trevor mentioned. I am also a member of a community orch and play in the first violin section, same symphony Beethoven 3rd, as our opening piece last season. It was technically difficult, but our orchestra has a good conductor and concert master. The B part of the first movement was the audition piece, and the audition are for sitting purposes, so they know where to sit you. The tempo was a challenge of course, but as a community orch they usually play them under tempo. I highly encourage you to join, and not be intimidated by it. There's tons of things to learn in a group like that. Keep counting and try to get a stamina to play the whole symphony, for they really long. No matter where you are in the orchestra, what matter is the opportunity to play with fellow musician, in all levels. Orchestra music are so richly thick, you'll enjoy them. Goodluck!

April 16, 2013 at 07:09 AM · Thanks for all the responses. Finally got to the first rehearsal having prepared the first 3 movement of the symphony. Turns out the conductor decided to start of with the 4th movement :( Boy, I am surprised by the quality of the community orchestra that they were able to play it at a tempo which i reckon is not any slower than the recordings I have been listening to. The conductor was also pretty demanding and has certain expectation that we all know out parts. In some way it was very challenging, I couldn't play any of the fast passages sight reading it, but the great sound the orchestra produced makes me excited to be part of it. Any the conductor was very motivated to make music rather than spending rehearsal time for sections to learn their parts. Guess I just have to learn my notes. Hope it all goes well.

April 16, 2013 at 04:56 PM · You'll find that in most community orchestras, you'll be expected to come prepared -- the rehearsal isn't intended to teach people the notes, but to work on ensemble and interpretation. (There are exceptions, but generally this is the case.)

April 17, 2013 at 03:35 AM · Also, if you can at least get to the first of each group of say a run of semi quavers or demi semi quavers. that will keep you in time (just be sure to know what you are doing with your bow if you do this, compared to the rest of your section), and don't feel embarrassed about marking lots of your bowings and fingers - better to have it and not be stuffed up. If the music is moving quickly it can really help to realise that the phrasing brings you back to a down bow on THAT note and you can pick it up by feel rather than waiting until someone points to the bar.

and even though it seem sas though the orchestra has gone at it and gotten the tempo, as you become accustomed you will realise that there are a few very good and dependable players who make the most dependable noise and a lot of other players who are hoping for the best, so don't worry. No one is out to make you feel bad.

April 17, 2013 at 12:09 PM · Thanks for the advice. I guess I will need to brush up on everything :D :D Still working through the piece trying to figure out a good fingering for the fast passages. It seems like a highly individual thing, my teacher and the leader both have different preference on when to shift. As another post suggested, 2nd position is indeed a good friend :)

And sight reading at tempo is quite a challenge. I guess for the fast passages it more of repetition and identifying the pattern?

April 18, 2013 at 01:31 AM · Greetings,

Sharell's advice is very good except for one point that I respectfully take issue with. It is not, in my opinion, a good idea to mark a lot of fingerlings and bowings in. The first reason is purely practical. Bowings are decided by either the conductor or section prinicples, and should be written in anyway, so that is not a problem, except you must get them copied in without fail as quickly as possible. However, you cannot just put your fingerlings in because they may conflict with your stand partner. In some orchestras, including professional, there is an agreement that the left player writes underneath the line and the right above. This may be an option. One thing you need to check is whether you are actually allowed to write fingering so. Some publishers have rules about this and will charge for cleaning the parts up.

On a technical level, playing by reading fingerlings will hold you back. Your practice is about gradually assimilating patterns of black dots so that when you meet the same patterns in orchestra you can play the without thinking. The idea of not paying maximum attention to the actuall notes is a little scary to me. I have seen amateur players over the years who write in every fingering and they are consistently the weak link in the section. Both in terms of sight reading and technical skill.

Mastery of second and four position will help you tremendously. If you don't know the even positions you are only half a violinists. Also practice a great deal of basic bowing exercises right at the heel of the bow.



April 18, 2013 at 01:32 AM · and what's, may I ask, is a fingerling?

April 18, 2013 at 02:22 AM · Ohh cripes, Buri is back with energy tio burn.

I think a fingerling is a fingering that lingered too long.

And I don't mean EVERRY finger, eye rolll, with an upward inflection of voice there, and a wry smile, although I have tried to read through scores where people have done this and it is not a pretty sight.

Just those bits where it really helps to know that you will go 2 -2 here, or 123, 2234 or something, because if there is suddenly something that breaks out of the pattern I find it helpful to remind mslef that it is going to happen now, rather than that it whas that one that just happened then.

Of course, as Buri says, uyou may need f to ask if its okay to mark the music, if not, then copy for practise purposes, and if you are marking the stand copy then for goodness sake don't use a pen (I have seen it happen!), but use a soft 4B pencil and dont' press like your life depends on it, because you can see it well enough with a little bit of pressure.

Something that I have found helps is the thin post it note page tage, and some times I cut them in half again (the ones that are to show you where to 'sign here') and cut them shorter - I can then use them on repeat markings as I have dreadful problems with scanning and getting my eyes to come backward and forward between different sections of music and land in the right place. Its something that only slightly improves with practise on a particular piece, and I need lots of bright sign posts to help.

April 18, 2013 at 02:43 AM · Greetings,

yeah, the modierase version is reasonableness. It is a general failing to err on the side of too many though.

The post it's is great. Makes me think scratch and sniff scores may have a market too.



April 18, 2013 at 03:16 AM · scratch n sniff could attract cats. imagine attracting and repelling cats to violins simultaneously. Wouldn't know if they were Arthur or Martha.

April 18, 2013 at 04:01 AM · catatonic cats catastrophe?

April 18, 2013 at 01:28 PM · Thanks Stephan for your insights and input. I was wondering how about writing in position changes (i.e. indicators of when to shift). Do you reckon that would still take away the learning of ability to translate those black notes into notes on the fingerboard?

My teacher always have me write the position change indicators, and markers to indicate 2 notes are semitones apart so I know to place the fingers close to each other. I wonder if that actually take away the chance to learn proper sight reading. So I am wondering will I get better faster if I train myself to read musicsheets without any of these helpers.

April 18, 2013 at 01:35 PM · I'm glad that the rehearsal went well for the OP. Keep going at it - you souns as if you're on the right lines. I wouldn't worry about the shifts so long as you stay in tune.

Is it a good and courteous idea to rub out pencilled bowings and fingerings before the parts go back to those who hire them out? I recently played in a performance in which a previous user of the printed music had bowed in every last stroke and phrase and in doing so had obscured the printed phrasing, and then sent the parts back to the hirers in that condition.

April 18, 2013 at 07:21 PM · Greetings,

writing in the position changes is fine. Noting where the semitones are is a crutch which you don`t need. Remember that the most imortnat thing about learning the violin is to have a clear mental image of what you wnat to do before you do it. It is the same a sprogramming a computer- a program which is not clear results in an application that fails. In the same way, when you practice, take the time to work out what the relationships between the fingers are, not only on one string but between strings. If you donT have a clear image of this then dont put the bow on the string until you do.

If you wnat to develop this skill really fast then Drew Lecher`s book on violin technique is invaluable. But the relationship between fingers is also learnt during varied and intelligent sclae practice. Doing a lot of differnet scale sin the key of the piece you are working on is extremely useful.



April 18, 2013 at 08:49 PM · Nicky, if your music is borrowed from a library somehwere else, as opposed to owned by your orchestra, you are likely asked by your librarian to erase all markings before handing back? We have a mad erasing session at end of performance, although I notice that usually receive parts from libraries that previous recipients haven't bothered to erase, and sometimes the markings are so obvious and tedious that its unecessary to erase to to them exactly the same again. And the quality of some manuscript means that the pages don't hold up to repeated marking and erasing so ... that's why i rehearse with a photocopy.

April 18, 2013 at 09:37 PM · I'm the concertmaster of a volunteer community group like this. I pencil stuff into the music, every concert. I'm not proud. Maybe it's one of the perks of being the section leader and doing the bowings(that and the extra pay ;-). I know a few players in the group who have an aversion to writing stuff in parts, and guess what, they make more mistakes than I do in performance. I'm not sure what purpose that serves. It doesn't make the orchestra sound any better.

So, I think it is okay to write in occasional fingerings, using the convention that the outside player puts the fingerings on the top and the inside player puts the fingerings on the bottom, and it's also okay to put in a few half steps, especially in high places where there are a lot of ledger lines and it may not be immediately obvious what note it is.

Other useful annotations are well-placed reminders about accidentals, or IDs for very high notes (such as the C 3 octaves above middle C, which is wicked high on the E string, and can look distressingly like an A if you are reading really fast), especially in handwritten manuscript music.

For me, these can make the difference between a performance that is close to error-free and one that is riddled with annoying and embarrassing mistakes. I think the key is not overdoing it. Don't put markings in every measure, don't make them dark or large or sloppy, consult with your stand partner if you think they might mind. I've learned useful information from my stand partner's fingerings, sometimes hers are better than whatever I might have come up with.

April 18, 2013 at 10:05 PM · I may have shared this here before, but I remember how shocked I was when I joined Chicago and found out we weren't allowed to put any fingerings in! There were good and bad points to that... but it kept the parts clean. :)

April 18, 2013 at 10:24 PM · I find there are some passages where there's a key fingering - if you get a 2 on this note you're fine - else you're totally lost. In that case, I'll put the "2" in the part. The rest of it - I doubt if I do the same fingering twice. Depends on the passage - obviously sometimes there's an obvious one, other times it doesn't matter. So I'll put in fingerings where absolutely necessary (and in agreement with my partner) - otherwise keep it clean

April 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM · Lucky for the upcoming concert both the Beethoven pieces appear to be available online.

I am slowly practicing reading without these clutches but I guess for now, I have to put in the indicator for position change.

After reading and practicing the fast passages many times, the notes seems alright, but now the bottleneck appears to be my bow arm is unable to do the measured tremolo at the marked tempo. It's weird, all the videos I have watched, the violinists seem to be able to use heaps of bows for the tremolo. I can barely do the semiquavers (16th notes) at 168 bpm and that requires me to use the tiniest amount of bow :( Which after a while my bow arm just gets confused and things start to fall apart.

Can one get away by playing quavers instead in such situation?

April 21, 2013 at 04:38 AM · Use less bow pressure. Don't tense.

Using more bow and less pressure gives the sound of the whole section more bloom and ring and resonance; lots of short bows, especially if people are using too much pressure, results in a harsh "scrubbing" sound.

May 2, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Sorry to bump this topic again, I was just looking at the moment again, wondering if anyone can tell me what's the tempo of the Presto in the Finale of the Symphony 3? The marked tempo reads eighth note = 116 is that the same as quarter = 58 and since it's in 2/4, meaning I have 2 approximately 2 seconds a bar?

I have listened to a couple of recording and it seems like they are playing it at twice this tempo at quarter = 116 or I must be counting wrongly.

For example:

May 2, 2013 at 09:53 PM · No, you're right! But it's always played much closer to quarter=116. Whether that was indeed Beethoven's marking I can't be sure. But many of his markings seem crazy, usually much faster than we play today. Some seem crazy the other way, like this one. Although I'll say that the last page of the violin part is nearly unplayable at the usual performance tempo. Oh well, as Beethoven said to the first violinist of the string quartet that premiered many of his works, "Do you think I care about your lousy fiddle when the spirit speaks to me?"

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