Where you stand when you play with piano

May 15, 2018, 6:10 PM · My middle school age son plays with a bunch of different piano accompanists and some of them have preferences on where they want the violinist to stand during performance. My son sometimes is uncomfortable in certain locations if he doesn't feel he can communicate with the pianist directly.

I'm curious where performers prefer to stand and why. Do you stand in front of the accompanist? In front of the keyboard? In front of the logo on the piano? In front of the curve? Somewhere else? And why?

Replies (14)

May 15, 2018, 6:22 PM · In my opinion, it is up to your son to stand where he feels most comfortable. After all, he is the performer. I think most like to be in front of the curve and within eye sight of the pianist.
Edited: May 15, 2018, 6:43 PM · There are a lot of things to consider here.

What type of piece is being performed? Is it a virtuoso showpiece that features the violin? Is it a sonata which features both instruments equally? Is it a violin concerto in which the piano must emulate an orchestra? How big is the hall you're performing in? How live is it? How big of a tone does the violin produce naturally? I could go on and on.

Obviously these factors need to be addressed on a case by case basis. I think eye contact from the violinist to the pianist in most cased is overrated. Give a glance to the pianist before you begin each movement to make sure they're ready. After that both of you should be able to play the piece with good ensemble with a wall separating you if you had to.

The most important aspect of violin performance (in my opinion) is that the audience gets a great visual and aural report form the violinist, and that the pianist doesn't drown him or her out. Base your placement on that factor first and foremost.

Edit - a lot of pianists I've encountered feel the right to enforce their will on student violinists. In an extreme case one even had the gall to scold one of my students for not playing Humoresque in a COMPLETELY STEADY TEMPO WITHOUT ANY RUBATO WHATSOEVER.

You can imagine my feelings about that one. Do NOT allow this to happen if you are able.

Edited: May 15, 2018, 7:02 PM · In general, I prefer to be in front of the piano, on the pianist's right, directly parallel to the keyboard, so that I can glance over and have eye contact.

The constraints of the venue may dictate where the violinist has to stand though.

May 15, 2018, 7:54 PM · If you draw a line along the length of the piano bench and extend that towards the edge of the stage, that's where I like to stand. Easy communication and my violin still projects out towards the middle of the audience.
May 15, 2018, 8:48 PM · Agree with Lydia. Don't stand in the curve! Either you will have your back to the pianist, or you'll be directly facing the audience with your f-holes pointing toward the side--both are terrible options.

It is instructive to go to Youtube and look up violin recitals at Juilliard or similar schools, or of professional violinists.

May 16, 2018, 8:10 AM · I've seen youth concerto competitions in my area where the teachers let (or didn't prevent) the student from standing about 15 feet in front of and way to the house right of the piano. It looks very tacky and 19th century.

I heard that Ole Bull would stand up on a stage while the rest of his quartet would be in a pit. I don't know if it's true, but that's the feeling I get.

May 17, 2018, 12:58 PM · Thank you for your feedback. Mary Ellen Goree we've done exactly that -- watched videos of performers, and we were quite surprised at the diversity of choice! My son is comfortable between the piano bench and around the keyboard, and prefers to be closer to the piano bench. If he stands in the curve he ends up spinning to try to see the accompanist. I guess he will learn to be more assertive in justifying his choice!
May 17, 2018, 8:56 PM · Diversity of choice among professionals and pre-professionals? hmmm. All the ones I have seen stand more or less where I stand, which is to the right of the pianist, parallel with the keyboard.
May 17, 2018, 9:07 PM · It's also fairly common to see violinists stand to the right of the pianist, slightly behind the piano bench, so as to not block the pianist from the audience's view. This is more practical in larger venues than in small ones.

May 17, 2018, 9:20 PM · Actually upon reflection I think I stand slightly behind the keyboard.
May 18, 2018, 5:00 AM · It depends exactly on many factors: importance and presence of the violin, acoustics of the concert hall/auditorium, sometimes the piano can't be moved and you need to experiment with different position to see which one worka better, etc...

I was a few weeks ago in a concert and the violinist faced the public, as you expect in a solo recital, and the pianist was behind. They didn't look at each other except in key parts.

May 18, 2018, 9:58 AM · Actually I’m very surprised whenever a violinist faces the public. It is the F holes that should be pointing at the public.
May 18, 2018, 10:12 AM · Well, a violinist is not a statue. Violinists, specially soloist, tend to move a lot to not make the show boring. The f-holes are pointing all around, and actually never at the public. The f-holes are pointing specially at the ceiling. Also, in an auditorium, it doesn't really matter if the f-holes are pointing to the ceiling above the public or to the right or to the left, the sound will be huge everywhere. Sure there will be exact points and angles where the sound is the best possible, but that's just impossible to make since the violinist is not a statue. Also, the public is in many auditoriums all around the soloist/pianist, so there's actually no "public" area. Anyways, even if you consider the front public the "public area", soloist face them, just watch any video. You will notice the f-holes are pointing to the ceiling most of the time, and the soloist moves a lot and it's all around.
Edited: May 19, 2018, 6:49 AM · I agree with Mary Ellen. I was taught (and have found this effective) that the baseline position should be directing the F holes to the audience, to the extent possible. Usually that means you'd want to stand at an angle toward stage left, which incidentally gives you a better view of the pianist than if you stood with your torso directly facing the audience.

Of course some people move around, but as with other technical issues, you want to start with a good default. Whatever Joshua Bell does, he can do, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate for a student playing at a typical recital hall.

Tim, it is false that in an auditorium, the sound will be huge everywhere. It depends on the engineering of the hall, and also the violin. For example, at a performance (by Daniel Hope), I sat in a seat facing his back, and his sound was completely muffled. It was not enjoyable. After intermission, I moved to a seat facing the front of the stage, and his sound was terrific.

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