Rehearsing virtually

March 15, 2020, 9:50 AM · Is there any way that works for rehearsing string quartets virtually given typical internet speeds and equipment (iPhones, iPads, PCs)? My son's quartet wants to keep rehearsing, but I am guessing we will soon get to the point where even that won't be advised. The main issue I suppose is lag and quality. Has anybody come up with solutions?

Replies (34)

March 15, 2020, 10:11 AM · Surely a quartet would be fine. Close attention to hygiene.
Not closely bunched up, but at least 1.5 m apart is the guideline in Oz at the moment.
Gatherings of under 500 are allowed here for now, but that seems a random figure.
Almost all of our cases can still be traced back to someone flying in from overseas, so you are considered low risk if you don’t have that connection. (Unfortunately, the US is the culprit for quite a few)
As long as no-one has physical contact and is not coughing and sneezing over anything or anyone the risk should be very low.
Can someone record them playing together in case this is needed to practice with at home?
March 15, 2020, 10:17 AM · The short answer is "no." There is no way to rehearse virtually. It's impossible to eliminate lag and even the smallest lag would destroy ensemble.
Edited: March 15, 2020, 10:30 AM · I am afraid I don't see on line rehearsals as a possibility. In your son's quartet you have four parties in four homes (unless there are siblings involved) this will make thing 16 times more complex than an online lesson.

On the other hand: As of now they are forbidding gatherings of 1000 and more people in many places; 150 in other places. "Gatherings" of four people who have met regularly once a week for some time already are at much smaller risk than the ones they won't allow any more where some people arrive from far away and carry the virus to new areas. If your son and his friends cancel when somebody has any symptoms and keep their distance while rehearsing (which they need to do to have enough freedom for bowing anyhow) and also before and after I'd think such rehearsals are tolerable (assuming they can reach each other on foot or bicycle or can get a ride, public transit may not be an option in a while--and is at any rate riskier than a rehearsal).

March 15, 2020, 10:31 AM · given that community spread is the major challenge the US is facing, I disagree completely with Rosemary - especially if any of the quartet members are going to be in contact with an immunosuppressed person or the elderly.
I suppose you could try that rehearsal technique where everyone sits in the extreme opposite corners of the room... (joking!)

maybe this is an opportunity for the quartet to develop their collective musical taste? for example, everyone listens to the same 5 recordings of their piece and then have a group chat about what they like and what they don't like and why.

March 15, 2020, 11:02 AM · I was pretty sure that was the answer regarding technology. Hopefully someone will figure it sooner or later while we are all sitting at home the next few months.

They are for the most part low risk in terms of their interactions. However, they all managed to give each other flu earlier this year, and another equally bad fever bug. I think they are starting to develop a collective immune system.

They already spend quite a lot of time chatting. They also send recordings of themselves back and forth at times to check on things like timing and articulations. They will continue doing that, of course.

March 15, 2020, 11:29 AM · If you want to be able to play string quartets virtually using electronic communication, then the first thing we need to do is to somehow figure out how to eliminate all of the total garbage that commands a tremendous amount of our total bandwidth.

Susan, I wouldn't assume that your son's group gave themselves any disease just because the timing seemed to make sense for that.

Just a thought, but it seems to me that one way a quartet could work productively by Skype would be to work on ensemble intonation with scale-based studies for quartet that could be done slowly, but I don't know if such ensemble "studies" exist. There are some slow movements (Borodin, etc.) where that could be explored.

March 15, 2020, 11:44 AM · If Stockhausen can split a string quartet between 4 helicopters I'm sure there must be a way to do it on terra firma
March 15, 2020, 11:51 AM · Were the helicopters in different cities?
March 15, 2020, 12:46 PM · Try JamKazam, which is designed specifically for collaborating music-making.

In this area, the recommendation is now to keep gatherings to no more than 15 people. I think if you're in isolation and the other families are in isolation, you can form an isolation clique that should be fairly safe.

March 15, 2020, 12:51 PM · My husband is a health-care worker. He works with kids, so right now he isn't needed, but he may be in the future. If that happens, I would definitely stop the rehearsals, because he will definitely be getting exposed. I guess for now we will let them continue as long as everyone is well.
March 15, 2020, 1:02 PM · tangentially related, I came across this graphic earlier today and thought it was a really good visualization of social distancing -
Edited: March 15, 2020, 11:42 PM · Are schools still open? Closer contact there than a restrained quartet.
Of course my thoughts don’t include any other increased risk factors, like elderly contacts, or frontline workers, and public transport is another issue.
They thought about closing schools here in Victoria , with 2 weeks till school holidays, but decided it was the lesser of 2 evils to keep them contained , than romping around in public, and would allow Essential services workers to keep working rather than babysitting .
Irene, that simulation is fascinating.
However, if done carefully and thoughtfully, I still think a string quartet rehearsal could be safely done while practicing social distancing.
An orchestra, with wind instruments , etc? Not so sure - our fortnightly rehearsal is due this Thursday, so will watch the inbox .
March 16, 2020, 12:50 AM · Rosemary, with all due respect, your orchestra rehearsal should be canceled and even if it is not, you should not go.
March 16, 2020, 3:55 AM · @Paul - It must have been hard to play in tune while in one of Stockhausen's noisy helicopters but that probably didn't matter. I suspect the ensemble wasn't great either. They were somewhat out of earshot of one another, so might as well have been on different continents.
March 16, 2020, 1:43 PM · Rosemary, the rehearsal should probably be cancelled. If you mean Victoria, BC on the island, there's 103 cases in the province as of today, but 95% of them are in Metro Vancouver. Let's just see what happens... The situation is changing so rapidly. It depends on what is closed/cancelled in Victoria. An orchestra rehearsal in Victoria is pretty low-risk, but it is probably safer to cancel.
March 16, 2020, 3:20 PM · ALL orchestra rehearsals should be canceled.

It is possible to be infected and contagious for DAYS before showing symptoms. And you may not ever get very sick but the elderly lady or asthmatic gentleman you infected at rehearsal or heck, at the grocery store, could end up on a vent--if one is available--if not, they could die.

It is not possible to have an orchestra rehearsal with a safe distance between people.

I can't believe there is even discussion about this. We are in a global emergency. Cancel the &*(%_*^% rehearsal.

March 16, 2020, 4:24 PM · I can understand the desire of a committed group of young musicians to keep practicing/rehearsing. After all it is "fun."

At the same time, at home practice is probably the best option. Perhaps they can share video's of them playing their part allowing the others to play along with the videos. No, it isn't the same but the performance they are rehearsing for, is probably not going to happen any time soon.

Of course, when things calm down, when we can see that the "light at the end of the tunnel isn't an approaching train" we can begin to return to a new normal life.

March 16, 2020, 5:04 PM · Everyone can treat this as a sabbatical.

I have some extra time on my hands - What are aspects of my playing that have been neglected, and that I can use to thoughtfully shore-up?

Maybe I'll get back to that Bach, or some other project. Maybe I will meditate ten hours a day until I can ascend to higher, more aseptic astral plane. Maybe I will emerge with the powerful set of abs that I deserve. Maybe I will concentrate really hard and grow back the hairline that was cruelly stolen from me.

All are possibilities.

March 16, 2020, 5:32 PM · There's also little point in an orchestra rehearsal when all performances like that are cancelled for probably another month or two.
March 16, 2020, 5:49 PM · *At least* another month or two.
March 16, 2020, 6:58 PM · "All are possibilities."

That's the spirit. Maybe new compositions will appear for memorials, celebrations, and other expressions afterwards.

March 17, 2020, 3:26 AM · @Christian. "Everyone can treat this as a sabbatical" and watch the money dribble away while worrying how their elderly relatives are surviving. You were being ironic (weren't you?) but that's a bit unfeeling, even by my standards!
March 17, 2020, 11:40 AM · I was certainly not being ironic. Don't go bother your elderly relatives and get them sick. It's called making the best of a bad situation.

March 17, 2020, 11:43 AM · I seem to have flubbed the markup on my last post, but here is this:

March 22, 2020, 10:29 AM · Hi,one way you could possibly rehearse with a Quartet without 'being in the room' with them,would be to make a MP3 recording of your part,and send 3 copies to the other members of your Quartet.You could then ask them to do the same for you,and play along with the recording(s). I think mp3s can be sent as an attachment in e-mail?

Just an idea.

March 22, 2020, 10:48 AM · Please remember that covid-19 carriers can be asymptomatic. NBA players who tested positive for covid-19 are probably one of the most visible example of this.

I like Malcom's idea of recording. Probably just make sure that they all agree on the beat or rhythm they will be using to play their piece/part, so they would be in sync with each other.

I believe it would be very irresponsible at this time to think one is not sick, therefore, it's ok to congregate with others.

March 30, 2020, 3:01 PM ·

To all who are still in doubt if it's safe to go to a rehearsal these days...
So please, stay at home!
Me and every other physician thank everybody who comply to social distancing!

Edited: March 30, 2020, 3:44 PM · Yes! Virtual rehearsing is possible, but not on cell phones-- it must be on computer. Attachable cameras are available (try the Alibaba site) cheap, but they are not as important as the microphone; you decide how much you want to pay for a mic: studio quality will be more expensive. Finally, you need software for group participation, like ZOOM. There is no detectable lag, as all input is sent from the same location electronically by the software (e.g. ZOOM.) That's it...then there is the learning curve. I am just getting started on this to start virtual rehearsals of my local group, Anarchy Strings. I hope someone else with some info chimes in!!!
Edited: March 30, 2020, 3:31 PM · Could they rehearse outdoors at a safe distance from each other?

Edited to add that if they met in a public park to play, those walking and exercising there might really appreciate it. I would!

March 30, 2020, 3:24 PM · Was the choir trying to do late Beethoven with murderous flurries of very fast parallel 16th notes?
March 30, 2020, 7:00 PM · I suppose you could try that rehearsal technique where everyone sits in the extreme opposite corners of the room... (joking!)

Well, this is possible not matter how large the room, need a good PA and microphones though..

JamKazam is also possible, but everyone needs a good set up, and even better if there is only four in the group. Sometimes there will be latency, but most of the time will be good for rehearsals.

March 30, 2020, 9:30 PM · Apparently they are going to try a new platform that is in beta testing this week -- we will see how it goes. We've been under a shelter in place order for about 10 days, so rehearsing at this point would be illegal -- as well as ridiculously dangerous. (We're in Chicago and the rest of the quartet is in the suburbs.)
March 31, 2020, 8:51 AM · I have read on Basstalk that JamKazam works but the current high traffic makes it difficult to get in! The users state that there is a tiny lag, but it is easily overcome, not at all something that "destroys the ensemble." Why not use Skype, ZOOM, or the new platform Susan refers to above? What is the name of this new platform, Susan?
March 31, 2020, 12:36 PM · All I know so far is that it is a "A new experimental web-based Network-Musical-Performance" according to his coach.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha YVN Model 3
Yamaha YVN Model 3

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine