Any recommendations on how to tackle or prepare for being accompanied by piano?

May 27, 2018, 8:28 AM · I have a student recital coming up in six weeks time. My teacher asked a lady to accompany me and others on the piano but we will probably just meet once before. Therefore I asked a friend for help. We met for the first time today. ... and I really messed up. My friend plays great but I never played serious stuff with piano before and I got totally confused. My intonation was off and my timing similar bad. Somehow I heard myself but it sounded so unfamiliar and I couldn’t figure out if my intonation was all right which it wasn’t.
I recorded her playing the piano for me to use for practice.
Any recommendations on how to tackle or prepare for being accompanied by piano?
The piece is Après un rêve by Fauré.
Thanks a lot

Replies (13)

Edited: May 27, 2018, 12:15 PM · There’s always an adaption period needed when you first play a new piece with piano or orchestra.

What happens is your ear is used to hearing only your part, and you can only imagine the other parts, and a lot of violinists don’t even do that, they just play their part without any awareness of the other parts involved.

So when you play with accompaniment for the first time, you get temporarily lost.

The main issue is tempo, and the accompanist not yet knowing what you want. Once the pianist knows how you play the piece, more-or-less, then suddenly there is much more freedom, because you are not trying to listen to be together with the piano, but instead the pianist is listening to you so he can follow your playing.

I’d say, know the accompaniment, in this case the piano part. What does the accompaniment consist of? Where do you play together? Where are you accompanying the piano? Etc etc.

You must know the music and have it in your ear.

Then once in rehearsal, play through once and dont expect much. The second time will already be much better

May 27, 2018, 12:28 PM · Part of the problem is adjusting to the equal temperament of the piano.
Edited: May 28, 2018, 1:01 AM · Truly interested in your request above, I would strongly suggest you, Eva, listen to expert CD's or LP's of the work you are preparing to play, Firstly! There isn't in your own self described musical experience situation, a prior acquaintance with practising or performing a piece for Violin w/ piano accompaniment. This process is a 'normal' one employed by professional & avid amateur musicians, but if you are 'new' to Music & the Violin (I think?), this natural relationship has obviously, from your comments, thrown you off completely and before your writing in. Before engaging any pianist or piano (accompanist) you must have heard the piece of Faure performed by a fine violinist with piano accompaniment a number of times! The goal of sincere piano accompanist's is to avail/adapt themselves to the person playing the composer's main melodic part but never 'happen's' without a full harmonic accompaniment ~ A reasonably experienced accompanist will always defer to the solo part, aka, violin soloist, yet as the violinist playing the premier part, you must do your homework which, amongst other 'duties', requires you listening intently to a fine recording & absorbing the Whole of the piece well Before rehearsing w/a pianist! Your intonation experience as described could be attributed to the Piano played upon being dreadfully out of tune. For your perusal (A = 440, 441 or 442) & if this was/ is the case, then it's perfectly understandable your first-time rehearsal w/ piano would really throw you as a first-time violinist in rehearsal with a pianist! If the Piano wasn't tuned (ask the pianist) then the pianist really should find a decent Piano, tuned professionally, to rehearse with you. Being 'brand new' to this violin w/piano rehearsal technique can be off-putting. However, it is the sole & absolute responsibility of any soloist to know the work in its entirety by heart, & not only for purposes of rehearsing with a pianist but in seriously knowing the score of the work. Always learn piano parts as a mandatory requirement so you know everything going on in any solo work for your own musical understanding/inner feelings for the emotional sentiments inherent in the score. One other point: more often than not, the full score of a work for Violin w/ Piano 'reduction' score (piano accompaniment) is also scored for Violin with Full Orchestra. Translation! All Violin Concerto's are for Full Orchestral accompaniment, & almost always have a 'piano reduction' part which is a shrunken version of the full orchestral accompaniment to a more 'intimate' piano version accompaniment!

In earlier parts of Twentieth Century Violin recital's, many artists performed major violin concerto's with piano as their final works on a full violin recital concert programme ~ Not common these days, it would be 'nice' to see this violin concerto with piano combination in public favor once again!

It is my sincere hope you are not confused by the explanation's above, nor wondering Why (?) I wrote about the differences in piano accompaniment
& full orchestral scores. My reason for so doing is a perception on my part that you may be new to playing or playing in public with piano which you may not yet have done nor played a violin concerto with orchestra ~ If I'm
incorrect I offer apologies! If close to correct, I wish you every positive thing in your journey studying the violin and all this wondrous experience entails ~

With cordial best wishes!

Elisabeth Matesky *

Music Career available here under Biography (after Performer/Teacher in Illinois ) music career, Elisabeth Matesky

YouTube: Jascha Heifetz Violin Master Class, USC - Khachaturian, JH-7,
Elisabeth Matesky (Russian, Library of Congress Master Performers )

Edited: May 27, 2018, 3:36 PM · Well... one can approach this as
1. being accompanied by
2. playing with
a piano.

Sooner or later, a good violinist will come to terms that the role of piano is not to follow your majesty, but to make music together in true spirit of chamber music.
1st approach goes to extremes when a CD cover states so-and-so sonatas for violin and piano and than omits just any comments, photo or biography of the piano player. Some piano players are, unfortunately, encouraged to follow, or take a passive role. Musical results are.... not worth mentioning.

In your particular case.... ask if you could have more than 1 rehearsal. It is not about playing your part.... but playing together.
If not, listen to a recording, get a score and follow both parts while listening. There will be anchoring point (where piano supports violin section), there will be times when violin plays the counter point, or harmonic background to the theme played by piano, etc.

No mater what, have fun and enjoy the ride!

May 27, 2018, 6:00 PM · If this is your first time with a piano, you might want to play under tempo the first few times. That will give you an opportunity to adjust to the experience. Then, as you get used to it, speed up gradually.
Edited: May 27, 2018, 7:17 PM · If you are new to this then schedule an extra session with the actual accompanist who will be performing with you, even if it increases the fee. Your friend may be a good pianist but if (s)he is inexperienced as an accompanist then you can well expect the kinds of problems you experienced. Accompanying is more than just having reasonable chops and a willingness to listen. There are skills and techniques specific to the task that must be learned. The same is true of performing as a soloist with a pianist, of course. You and your partner need to agree on certain conventions, and your teacher should be instructing you in that language. When I agree to accompany, my preference is to appear at the student's violin lesson so that I can learn the teacher's preferences first hand. Furthermore I agree with Tom Holzman.
Edited: May 28, 2018, 1:59 AM · After a bit more thought, if a 'friend' was at the Piano when you "really messed up", this might likely remain in your memory which doesn't bode well for a next time if the same pianist ~ Confidence is built upon good experiences from the start point. Please concentrate on the current goal of a public offering of this piece by Gabriel Faure, & if necessary, after much undisturbed practising of your part plus intense concentration on the piano accompaniment as the harmonic 'better half', try a 'mini' second rehearsal w/ your 'friend' & w/the slightest hint of feeling thrown off/disoriented please politely cease, & claim being 'still not fully prepared.' But do have another pianist to turn to in your hip pocket. My concern is your current goal - the public performance upcoming which can further determine your confidence level by lasting notes of your recital appearance in the Faure ~ btw, one of the contributor's here offered a time honoured bit of advice: try your piece w/the pianist under tempo and keep it in 'Under tempo' range affording you both time to listen carefully to each other whilst beginning to fuse together ~ The process of building a work for public performance is a calculated exercise & in fast passages of both instruments demands metronome notch at a time walk-through's to build technical symmetry together as One. I must add- the for-sure 'route' needs determined patience on the part of both you & pianist. Look at this from an athletic perspective: a seriously invested Track Runner builds up for a race with patient non-stop coaching on the track, but doesn't "practise" in tempo or at top speed! To the contrary, those w/ due diligence build up from slowed motion to check technical imperfections & addressing them in the slowed motion speed which revealed the fault/s, then correct & rework at least 5 times firstly & only then, do Runner's move up the speed, i.e., notch on our own 'track' - the metronome! I can verify, Eva, from over 45 years of international concert playing, that flawless technical/musical performances come through 99% perspiration (hours of patient practise) & a strict regimen of calculated practising (alone) & then fusing together with one's steady pianist!

You are Wherever you are right now & this is okay. Start a bit behind your May 27, 2018, practise to begin practise w/the metronome passagework, & slowly build up one notch at a time. As my Master Mentor, Nathan Milstein, said, 'Go contrary!' You go slower when less time to prepare as opposed to faster!! Slower gets you "there" faster & much more on terra firma upon arrival. Never giving a 'lesson' here, I sense you need help w/ experienced help tailored to your present circumstances. The more lyrical moments will fall into place when more obvious passage work is solid & secure! Take this as a Gift but use tough inner discipline to retrace your steps revealing faults & correct them as best you can in 'from behind' tempo & begin building up. An approx estimate of time on the Faure, away from the pianist this week is at least 3 & 1/2 to 4 + hours daily, & split the practise into hour segments at first, then 1 & 1/2 and grow to 2 hour segments by Sunday next, & try that 2nd 'mini' piano rehearsal (w/your metronome quietly ready in hip pocket!)

A word to Contributor's for now ~ It might be best to limit comments now to well wishes for Eva, in order to get down to the nitty gritty work on the fiddle she needs alone & when more solidly prepared, w/a pianist who will sense she is reasonably in command in the Faure 4 weeks away from recital time, who will more congenially comply both technically & musically when asked by Eva to 'Drill' specific passage work with the metronome to build up warm blended ensemble at various tempi & so forth ~

If possible, I suggest an "Eva Report - In" Sunday next or even Saturday in later afternoon!! This might be a goal to aim for & if pianist troubles, we can figure out more viable options ...

For now, the very best of everything dear Eva, this week!! Start now & Go!!

Musically yours ~

Elisabeth Matesky *

*It is hoped my suggestion of goodwill comments minus extra ideas (tho'
surely excellent) not be mistaken. We'll all convene on Sat./Sun next to
hopefully read Eva's "Eva Check - In" ~

My sincere apologies to any who might mistake a well intentioned footnote,
please accept kindest Memorial Day Greetings to All ~ Elisabeth 'M.'

May 28, 2018, 4:43 AM · good luck Eva. like Elisabeth said, you should actually take the lead. if you don't or you can't for whatever reason, the confusion you described will result. Rocky said that ideally you should play together and the violin should not really be the "boss", and he is right ideally, but in your present situation you should know the piece inside out with a clear "picture" in your head how it should sound, and absolutely take the lead here, to ensure a good result.
May 28, 2018, 7:49 AM · The good thing about professional accompanists that are familiar with the violin literature, is that they will generally stay with you no matter what you do.

However, you also need to not make their job terribly difficult.

So, first, rhythm and a steady pulse. Play your piece with a metronome, Make sure that you are staying exactly with the metronome, and that your rhythm is what is printed. Any liberties taken need to use borrowed time -- i.e., anything you take time on, you need to give back. (Yes, there are plenty of nuances around this, but for a first performance, reckon that "be with the metronome on every downbeat" is a must. Musical communication, in which you clearly indicate where things are going, will probably have to wait for a future date.)

Once you're pretty confident you're staying with the metronome, turn off the metronome. Turn on a recording device. Record yourself. Now put the metronome beat against the recording. This will help you identify every place you were off from the metronome. Go back and work on those places again.

And listen to several recordings of this piece, as much as possible, so you know how it all fits together.

Edited: May 28, 2018, 3:18 PM · I'll repeat some of the ideas above, but maybe more concise. There is a real difference between the solo violin/piano accompaniment genre, and the Sonata genre. For the Sonatas, mentally relabel them chamber music, piano-violin duets, and let the pianist be the music director of the ensemble. They play more notes than you, and frequently have the more technically difficult part. Take good care of your pianist. Pianists that want to do this are uncommon. After listening to different recordings sit down at a desk, with a metronome, without the violin, and decide on the tempos that you want the audience to hear, not necessarily how fast you personally want to do them, mark the numbers in the part. Also mentally calculate the rubatos, accelerandos, ritards. Then, of course, work up to those tempos with the metronome. Do look at the piano part, to spot potential rhythm and ensemble spots.
For intonation; when you practice your part alone, for single note passages, if your pitch sense is good, you will naturally gravitate to what is sometimes called Melodic tuning; large whole steps and major thirds, short half steps and minor thirds. Then when you work with the pianist there will be a clash with the tempered tuning. You then have a decision to make; adapt to the piano tuning (the differences are very small, 10% at most) or ignore the problem. I once was taken aback when a violin soloist, much better than I, said Not to match the piano tuning! That third form of intonation, Chordal, with variable sized intervals, is what you do for double stops, and what skilled Quartet second violins and violas do. ~jq
Edited: May 28, 2018, 3:20 PM · I remember I was accompanying my daughter at one of her lessons, preparing for a recital. Her teacher wanted certain changes, and he decided to save time by demonstrating. Wow! As the accompanist I felt like I had been grabbed by the arm and brought right along by a combination of eye contact, gestures that represent a conversational language among stage performers (which he teaches all his students), and of course his playing. Because I play the violin too, I suddenly understood what it means for the violinist to lead. A great lesson for us both.

Respectfully I must disagree with Elizabeth that we should limit our comments at this point to well wishes -- for two reasons. First, the performance is not for another six weeks; during this time a lot can be accomplished. Second, had Eva not wanted suggestions, she might have said, "I've a performance coming up -- wish me luck!" rather than "any recommendations?"

May 29, 2018, 12:46 PM · First of all many thanks to everybody for putting in the time to reply so thoughtfully, helpfully and encouraging!

Roman, yes for sure it will be better after an adaptation period. And as Paul pointed out I still have six weeks. So some time left to take all of your kind advice into action.

We used my daughter's piano. I will have it tuned next week because indeed that might have contributed to the misery. Although unfortunately it was probably the smallest part.
Bo, I hope the equal temperament of the piano will not through me off since I am not sure if I will tackle this irritation in 6 weeks time.

Elisabeth, I will try to listen to a variety of interpretations. Actually, I like a vocal and piano version a lot. The vocal interpretation gives so much inspiration in terms of phrasing.
Yes, I am pretty new to this. I (re)started playing the violin 4 years ago.
As you, Roman and Jean pointed out I will really sit down and listen to the piano part with the score in front of me. Yet it was easier with violin duets since I could just learn both parts, record one and play the other for practicing. That gave me enough insight to feel comfortable. Thanks for your explanation about the ´piano reduction part´. I am an egineer and my usual life is quite far away from all of this. Always helpful to learn and understand more!

Rocky, I think we did neither 1. nor 2. we rather played without eachother :-). My friend plays so much better than I (she won inernational competitions). I guess my total confusion took her by surprise as well. But I recorded her for practicing during the week, we will meet every sunday and I will try to get two rehearsals with the actual accompanist as Paul suggested.
Rocky, you are spot on, I will focus on the enjoyment, and rightly so. For a fortysomething engineer it is interesting to feel completely out of your depth and to learn "swimming".
Elisabeth, please do not be concerned on my behave. I am a weathered tree just in totally different fields. All of your suggestions are most wellcome and helpful.

Tom, good advice I will try to play under tempo together and speed it up.
Joel, my teacher and I agreed on the performance tempo yesterday. Hence, good to know the goal.

Lydia, yes I have to focus. My abilities are what they are. I would love to be just a bit enjoyable for the audience. Higher goals must wait (a bit). I hope I am not in for the next surprise listening to my own recording.

Thanks again to all of you and I will do "Eva Report - In" :-)

A nice evening to those on my side of the world, a nice mornign or day otherwise

Edited: June 20, 2018, 12:40 AM · In kind response to Paul Deck ~

In over 45 years experience as a teacher & artist teacher (there is a huge difference), I've learned to pamper, if you will, the growing confidence or lack thereof of many adult pupil's beginning to ready themselves to play a piece w/ piano or an audition or a small recital of their own comfortable choosing. It's desperately important to 'protect' the building of terra firma confidence, which in initial stages hardly needs off the cuff comments from many contrasting offerer's, whether asked or not invited! The finest public performances are those prepared in an (excuse the expression) 'inner sanctum' Bubble - away from this or that opinion. A young Giraff never having walked & balanced its long neck to carry a reasonably not balanced head needn't be told many different 'How To's' in the basic #101 learning to walk process. This parallel may not be the best, but I have witnessed 100's if not 1000's of wobbly performances or practise's in which the new to the routine 'soloist' is thrown for six w/ the inclusion of a pianist, & a Pianist unsure of How to follow and, also (JQ's point well taken) How to Lead (but subtley, not in one's face or aggressively) ~ This process is truly delicate, psychologically, for a soloist untested or never before in this new (delicately put bluntly) 'directorial' "We" situation opposed to the "I" situation in that the novice soloist still has control because a pianist isn't there on the piano bench & the novice soloist just imagines the pianist accompanying/ playing with him/her in a very familiar sanctuary of 'I'm used to this' routine & it's comfortable ~ Living alone is a long way from living with another & making mutual accommodations for each other! Playing alone & musically 'never' have 'gone steady' or been 'married', are 4000 miles apart. I truly believe, & based upon enormous experience, the near-novice needs a protected environment starting out, Not many Voices with Opinions X, Y, T. P, etc.! If I may interject for Eva's sake, 'God is not the Author of Confusion ...' This Biblical wisdom & warning is Clear, True & Simple ~

When pupil's come to me performing the Korngold splendidly at 14, I Don't Ever Tell Them, 'Do you realise how hard this music is!' That's dangerously risky & potentially suicidal in wrecking innocent confidence of a gifted violinist w/ little training, great attraction & compelled emotion to play the Korngold Violin Concerto out of dazed Love! Don't ever mess with that, folks!!! Eva's situation is a bit different, requiring great sensitivity from a Someone guiding her yet not saying 6 weeks is plenty of time to listen to multiple ideas & assimilate all whilst learning the Faure piece & beginning to partner it with its 'better half', the pianist & the piano accompaniment!

Eva, please focus on building your own knowledge & musical sentiments in the violin part so securely that no pianist (& there are plenty of insensitive one's) will throw you if he/she is off & not with you. I say it as a Command because your preparation time is running short! Accept where you are yet grow your violinistic skills from within your current margins, & little by little, (with an absolutely determined calm) your confidence will grow alongside more secure technical note-health, & in turn, with your playing of this very particular piece of Faure, you will collaborate with a pianist (and I'll say it) with a slightly upper hand of musical-technical growing authority ~

Keep your eye on the doughnut, and not on the hole ~

Elisabeth Matesky

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