Quartet Rehearsals

July 23, 2020, 6:16 PM · So me and 3 others at my school came to together and started playing quartet music for fun, our orchestral teacher lets us play at end of quarter concerts, Dan it has been lots of fun. But cause of the pandemic we’ve stopped rehearsals but it has seemed safe enough to start rehearsing again. The cello, second violinist and me(first violinist) agee that we can rehearse again, but our violists dad are really against her going out. Is their anyway we can rehearse without a violist. This is especially bad cause we are playing Dvorak’s American quartet

Replies (28)

Edited: July 23, 2020, 6:47 PM · The viola part is very important and very beautiful (and fun to play) - check the score.
July 23, 2020, 6:57 PM · Go to her place.
Edited: July 23, 2020, 7:15 PM · IIRC, you are in an "active or imminent outbreak" (color-coded red) state? https://covidactnow.org/
Perhaps it depends on where exactly in the state (more or less dense, more or less affected area) and what other exposure you all individually (and your household/families) are having, but as an uninvolved outsider showing internet concern, I would urge you to unpack, at least for yourself even if not for the forum, the comment "it has seemed safe enough". What has led you to this conclusion, and what measures will you take or not take to promote physical safety and public health? From context, I believe you are all minors, so what do the other parents say?

The following may help you understand the violist's dad's perspective:
My state was "on track to contain" (green) until this past week and is now at "slow disease growth" (yellow). The only way I personally would do rehearsal is outside with distance, and I know that a local acquaintance/colleague's quartet (members who are in higher risk age categories, I think) does this. BTW, I'm a private teacher and although my own risk assessment tolerates meeting students outside with distance (even 2x the minimally required distance), some of my students/parents don't judge that risk to be acceptable and prefer to stay online. No mask at distance is acceptable in my state, some students/parents still wear them, but I've chosen not to because it inhibits my teaching and communication.

I'll let others comment on how to temporarily handle not having a violist, how to function online, arrange other logistics, etc.

July 23, 2020, 7:12 PM · At this point, for string quartet players, rehearsing outdoors, a minimum of six feet apart, with masks, is probably reasonable if you are otherwise close to zero outside of contact.

If you and your families are not otherwise observing strict quarantine, or can't do this within the safe parameters above, stay apart.

July 23, 2020, 8:44 PM · Mengwei: My state(TN) is red zone, but the part of it where I live doesn’t have many COVID cases. It has seem safe enough because around 90% of parents have stated that they don’t need a online school option, and I’ve been on walks around my neighborhood in the afternoon with no one criticizing me, and band practice and soccer training has started up again at our school before it starts. All of us have been suggesting all of what you’ve said above to our violist, being outside with mask with distance. The violists mom is fine with rehearsals but the dad is not.
Lydia: That’s what we’ve been repeating to the violist for the past week and we were planning on rehearsing over outside our cellists house, with mask and distance, where the cellist mom is home pretty much all day.
July 23, 2020, 8:45 PM · At this point, I’m mainly looking for advice on how to do quartet rehearsals without the violist, especially since it’s the Dvorak American quartet, with multiple viola solo parts imbedded throughout the piece(we are working on the first movement)
July 23, 2020, 9:45 PM · Have you studied the score? I would recommend going through it in advance of any rehearsal and looking for passages you can work on productively without needing to hear the viola.
July 23, 2020, 9:52 PM · A contrary opinion- If eating outside at a restaurant, without masks, is permitted in your town, than a quartet rehearsal outside in the shade would not be a greater risk. Just avoid excessively dry or humid air.
July 23, 2020, 11:54 PM · Every family has its own risk tolerance. Your violist might live with an elderly relative, or someone with asthma, or a diabetic, that makes them believe more stringent precautions are necessary.

This is a tough quartet without a violist. I suggest you could consider bringing in another violist for the time being.

Note that the state of the legal restrictions in a location is not truly an indicator of safety. If I recall correctly, TN has had more lax regulation and more emphasis on voluntary measures.

But I agree that a distanced, masked quartet rehearsal outside is less risky than going to a restaurant.

July 24, 2020, 4:31 AM · You can't play that quartet without a viola, and I wouldn't blame your viola player (or their parents) for being cautious at the moment.

Maybe time to look up some 2 violins and cello trio music?

July 24, 2020, 4:47 AM · It is not just the solos that make the violist indispensable. The viola is 25% of the ensemble no matter which quartet you choose. Even where there are no solos for the viola you can't really productively rehearse without it. How do you work on intonation for example if one note of the chord is missing consistently?

The middle parts in the Dvorak are actually particularly nice and interesting to play (and important!) well beyond any solos; I have always enjoyed playing second fiddle in it.

On the other hand: If your violist's family is not able to tolerate the risk you are taking (though it seems reasonable to the other three) you'll have to accept that for the time being and put your Dvorak on ice (everyone is of course able to practice their own part). And try out some violin-violin-cello trios. Admittedly a considerably less exciting repertoire but there you are. Blame Trump for everything, not the violist's parents!

July 24, 2020, 10:40 AM · If you want to hold off on the Dvorak, consider playing something for two violins and cello. Perhaps you could work on the Bach Double Concerto with the cello playing a bass part. Or explore the offerings on IMSLP (I think there are some Haydn and Viotti (!) pieces available there the last time I checked).
July 24, 2020, 5:39 PM · The inconsistency of restrictions is amazing.
Here in the UK we have different rules for the 4 constituent countries.
England insisted on masks in shops today - but not in the same shops yesterday.
Should "social distancing" be one metre or two?
I gather in the US, there are different rules in different states.
I'll keep my own views private, but it does seem the variety is political rather than scientific.
July 24, 2020, 8:17 PM · I live in another hot spot state (Texas) and in my opinion, relying on what the state determines to be "safe" is extremely risky. Just because restaurants may be open, or hair salons, or whatever, doesn't mean it's really safe to go to those, or to be around people who aren't in your own household. My state opened up too early and we are now paying the price.

In other words my sympathy is with your violist's father. I wouldn't be allowing my child to go to quartet rehearsals either.

My suggestion, if you're intent on rehearsing, is to look into trio repertoire. There are extensive and very nice gig arrangements of classical music for two violins and cello. But my honest recommendation is to take your violist's father seriously, because he seems to be the only one who really gets it.

July 25, 2020, 1:18 AM · I agree with the above. I would not let a daughter rehearse either, out of abundance of caution, and concern for her health-and I do not have any sons or daughters.

Politics cause more harm than people realize. Best wishes to everyone. Stay safe.

Edited: July 25, 2020, 2:38 PM · Either find some trio rep for two violins and cello, or see if you or the other violinist wants to learn some viola and play some violin, viola, and cello trios.

I agree with the others above. Take the perspective of your violist's father very seriously. He understands what's going on and it may not be wise to meet at the moment depending on where you live. I live in Texas like Mary, so I also don't really rely on what my state deems is safe either.

Edited: July 25, 2020, 8:13 AM · There are of course many locations where the danger is nowhere near Texas levels, Mary Ellen. There I'd think it is obvious that no rehearsals at all is the correct solution for now. No quartet, no trios either. People should stay home or be out by themselves except for essential purposes like shopping groceries or going to work if you have a job that requires it.

But we don't know where the original poster lives. I am in Switzerland at present and although the case numbers have gone up a little over the last three weeks they are still lower than anywhere in the US. I would consider the same 4 people meeting once a week for rehearsals an acceptable risk here. However, it is important that nobody is pressured to take part in anything they consider too risky for themselves or their children.

Edited: July 25, 2020, 8:49 AM · The OP lives in Tennessee, which is a hot spot. He gives his location in one of the comments above.
Edited: July 25, 2020, 10:21 AM · "band practice and soccer training has started up again at our school"

I hope that's outdoors - i.e. a marching band, as wind instruments in a closed setting would be high risk and indicate a lack of judgement.

"The violists mom is fine with rehearsals but the dad is not."

Everyone gets to make their own choices, and has their own risk tolerance. One might for example be very worried about others who are at high risk who might be potentially affected by an infection brought into the family - a grandparent, or someone who is immune-compromised or otherwise at greater risk than most.

In this case, I suppose the dad is considering viola playing in a group as a non-essential activity being not worth even a marginal risk of an infection which might have severe impact.

I think it's important to recognize that others may have different evaluations of risk and reward; that nobody knows what will happen, so we should respect others' choices and not try to impose our opinions on them.

July 25, 2020, 11:13 AM · We know someone in TN who found out yesterday that a person on their soccer team took a COVID test, still showed up to practice without telling anyone, then got a positive result. Still sorting out what testing and isolation needs to be done. Not good! I anticipate seeing this over and over again as schools try to start back in person.
July 25, 2020, 1:42 PM · Thanks for the feedback everybody. I agree with the setiment that being overly cautious can’t be a bad thing give then situation and will probably wait till next semester to see if things get any better before continuing rehearsals
July 25, 2020, 4:40 PM · Have you looed into rehearsing on line, using Zoom, JamKazam or Jamulus?
July 25, 2020, 11:04 PM · even the sound quality over me doing video violin lessons, was very unclear and quartet rehearsals with multiple people playing would be even worse. Ive tried doing zoom violin lessons and di not have a positive experience.
July 26, 2020, 12:22 AM · It isn't possible to rehearse via zoom or any other meeting app; the lag makes it impossible to play together.

I sometimes have my students play with me in a zoom lesson but they have to turn off their mikes and play with what they hear. I can tell by watching the screen how long the lag is.

Edited: July 26, 2020, 7:53 AM · People I know who have used JamKazam and Jamulus find them much better than Zoom. I see no discussion of these apps here, so I think they are not well-known yet. There is an app for music teachers, YouBrio, which I never see discussed here. Maybe these better apps are known only among pros.
July 26, 2020, 8:08 AM · Erin - I just quickly searched and read a review of JamKazam posted by a jazz musician in Australia. Several things were mentioned that make me not want to bother. Someone in the blog comments mentioned Jamulus and Soundjack and also that these two do not have video. I searched for your previous threads here on the subject and they were too old to reply to.

If you want to start a new discussion and share your experiences, I'll comment a "reaction" to that review so as not to derail this one further, but mind, that's the only one I read* and I have not personally tested it.

*I also saw one post on a bass forum that mentioned lag, which most posters here have also mentioned. On this forum, there was even a thread a while back where people were getting into extreme technical detail about stuff I didn't understand and someone said something like, oh I suppose it's maybe theoretically or technically possible in such and such circumstances with this and that specialized equipment that no typical user would just have lying around so it's still for all intents and purposes impossible.

July 26, 2020, 2:23 PM · If you've ever done a Zoom music class in Gallery mode, you'll see remarkable deltas in synchronicity when "playing together". It is clear that some of the participants have fast connections and are in extremely close sync. Some of the participants are a second or more behind. If everyone was lagging at the same rate, it'd be a different matter.
Edited: July 26, 2020, 3:04 PM · Playing together is possible with latency up to 20-30 milliseconds. The problem is: this is practically impossible with audio and video unless everyone involved has fiber optic lines from the same ISP, and at off-peak hours for internet traffic. With a more typical broadband connection, I average 30 ms latency just pinging my own ISP.

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