Update on Struggling with being accompanied by piano (Fauré: Après un rêve )

Edited: July 27, 2018, 1:35 PM · I promised to write an update. Unfortunately, my old post and all your thoughtful input seems to be lost.
Topic of my old post: Two month ago I was quite overwhelmed by my first experience of being accompanied by piano. I really got lost, could not hear my intonation anymore and my counting was all over the place.
My background: I am an adult student playing for four years and I am sailing the vast intermidiate ocean (doing Haydn G Major).

Preparations after all your input:

My piano was tuned which already helped quite a bit.

My friend (who supported me because meeting with the accompanist was not possible) and I met almost on a weekly basis to improve our “playing together”. Probably it was an interesting experience for both of us. I got familiar with the piano score and with the (for me) surprisingly present sound of a piano accompaniment; she was eager to figure out how to support another musician by giving clues by body language and phrasing.
The first time we met was just horrible, the second time we improved to “still very bad” and the third time it started to come together.

The violin part of the piece has many triplets on quarter notes while the piano is playing eighth. That really threw me off. Having to count a note consisting of four beats of the triplet pattern, e.g. three beats of one triplet and one beat of the next triplet followed by the two beats of the “rest” triplet, while listening to the underlying eighth of the piano gave me the hardest time. I am quite new to all of this and my explanation might be a bit incomprehensible. Struggling with those things I started to sing and clap and dance the melody while having the metronome on my iphone sometimes on triplets, on quarters or on eighth and even on triplets and eights together (what is interesting, not helpful :-) ).

Furthermore, the piece has a lot of shifting to higher positions. I sat down and noted where all the fingers have to be in all the different shifts (c minor). It supported the accuracy of my shifts to keep a precise positioning of (some of) the lower fingers as well.

Quite late in the process I found time to really think about the phrasing. I listened a lot to a vocal version, I had the lyrics in French (and English since my French is not to speak of). Somehow, I can relate well to vocal. To get an impression of phrasing I try to sing passages as well. Being a kid I sang for many years in a community choir, perhaps that´s why.

Watching YouTube I got the impression that quite some violinists on YouTube have a nice phrasing but give the cooperating pianist a very hard time. The violinist seemed to handle (to my unprofessional ears) timing rather freely. They did not borrow time and give it back, they just expanded it and the pianist had to stretch their eights or the time in between quite a bit.

Vibrato is yet not coming naturally to me in all situations. When I have to concentrate, struggle with something or get nervous my vibrato dies. Therefore I decided to go for some notes adding vibrato and to leave quite some others alone.

Performance coming up:

One evening before the student recital I met the actual pianist for the first time. She is very busy and there was no other opportunity. We decided to play a bit faster than I was planning on. I am not so sure if I would take that decision again. I did not have any problem playing faster, but as soon as nerves kick in it might make a difference.

Next evening the recital was coming up. I do a lot of international presentations but while those never trigger my nerves a simple student recital does. I was freezing and a bit shaky. The fun thing was, that all the parents were there to support their kids and my daughter was there to support her mother. The students in their late teens and twens were by themselves.

It is always an interesting experience because almost everybody is nervous independently of their ability. The younger kids less than the older students. Some play so well that I would pay to listen.

Evaluating my own performance, I would say “I managed”. While playing my nerves got worse and my bow lost some contact when playing on the upper half. Strangely my intonation suffered in unexpected areas. Unpleasantly in first position and less in the high positions. Even big shifts were quite good. Not sure why that was. My daughter made a video with my iphone. We just had this part in another post here on v.com . It is tough to listen to yourself in such a video. Makes you question if you will ever play enjoyable for others, why you are doing it, if you are making a fool of yourself and if you shouldn´t just play behind closed doors forever. To find some positive angle: I was pleased to see that my overall posture and my hand positioning looks fine. But my intonation (according to my teacher) was good during the rehearsals with her, during the performance it really was not what I was hoping for. The same goes for rhythm and phrasing. Sigh!

Do I want to do it again? Do I want to wait until I am 95% sure to deliver an enjoyable performance the way I would agree with? Yes, the second one sounds about right. But that would probably take quite some time. Do I learn with every performance a bit which helps me to be better prepared for the next one? I would like to believe so.

Thanks to all of you,

Replies (6)

Edited: July 27, 2018, 12:23 PM · Play whenever you've got the opportunity. You will never get rid of your nerves, as noone does. But knowing what expects you and how to deal with it is also a learning process. It will take some more years until you will perform "enjoyably" (in the sense that people might pay for listening), but be sure your performance level in let's say four years from now will be better if you keep performing than it will be if you don't.
July 27, 2018, 2:03 PM · Don't sweat too much about vibrato. There is a vibrato frenzy nowadays, where people try to conceal lack of musical imagination with vibrato. I seldom use vibrato myself. When I practice, I try to make the most beautiful sound possible without a vibrato. Then I just add a little bit of it on top, like a cream. So don't sweat it. Focus on the beauty of your sound instead.

Otherwise great job. Practice makes perfect, so keep improving. Nerves will go away with time.

Also, rhythms, not sure wether this is at your level yet, but you could try thinking in larger pulses. For instance, instead of subdividing by every triplet or eighth note or whatnot, try thinking instead in larger arcs, like half notes or even full bars. Of course you should keep a strong sense of rhythm within these pulses, but I personally find these greater subdivisions make the music flow much better, and it's also easier to do complex rhythms.
Otherwise, don't listen to the pianist, and just count by yourself and play your own thing.

July 28, 2018, 12:15 AM · There is one more reason to perform as you get an opportunity. It makes you prepare a piece much more carefully than if you just practice for the next lesson or for your own pleasure. This really helps.
Edited: July 28, 2018, 5:07 PM · Thanks for the encouraging words!

I am content if I get good enough for listeners to enjoy what I play ( family, friends) that would be nice. And for myself I am looking forward to being abel to play pieces like the Allemande in d minor just enjoying and not struggling. Might take some years, so what.

I agree, it would be better to see and feel the larger arcs of rhythms. I can use those when singing, I think it will become possible with the violin as well not too far down the road.

My teacher organizes recitals two times a year.
It really makes a difference if you have prepared a piece ( seriously) for a recital. That‘s great.
But I also tend to neglect all other violin studies before a recital and concentrate on this one piece which ist probably also not advisable.
How does everyone else handle this part? Are you restrictive with the time you dedicate for a recital piece for not to neglect your technical studies?

Edited: July 28, 2018, 5:58 PM · I recommend the following, even for a violin student. Go to the piano and play two A's, an octave apart. Teach yourself to play "two against three" (eighth notes in one hand and triplets in the other). Just put the second eighth note half-way between the second and third triplet notes. And be able to do it either way. This will give you a visceral understanding of this rhythm that will serve you the rest of your life. Pianists have to do this frequently, of course, that's why only you got freaked out, not your pianist. Haydn G Major is great piece. My only other suggestion is to take the tempo down at first when you rehearse with your pianist. Sort of like playing short-court tennis before you start hitting in earnest from the baseline.
July 28, 2018, 6:13 PM · My teacher was sitting down with me and made me clap with one hand on one knee the triplets and with the other hand on the other knee the eighth. It worked with her in front of me but at home it was a mess. I will try again on the now nicely tuned piano. Triplets are everywhere.

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