Criticism Open for Repertoire

October 4, 2022, 7:03 PM · Hello everybody,

As I mentioned in the recent performance anxiety+mistakes discussion, I would post a recording of me playing some of my repertoire. Below is a recording and if the recording doesn’t play in the google drive, you can download it and have a listen. Please give me any helpful feedback.

Special mention to Erik who suggested that I do this, I think this will be helpful so thanks a lot Erik!

In the recording, I played the Barber concerto and Paganini Caprice 16, I will also upload another link with my other two pieces soon.

Thanks and kind regards,
Jina (Jialin)

Replies (12)

Edited: October 4, 2022, 7:49 PM · Sounding great, Jina! I think your next live audience is in for a treat.

I don't have any critiques, but I'm sure Erik will come in with the good stuff soon. I think your sound is lovely and your phrasing is totally convincing.

Edited: October 5, 2022, 12:50 AM · Nice job on having the courage to post your playing here!

Keep in mind that I am merely an amateur player that can barely muddle my way through Suzuki book 1, so my opinions will not be very useful in this scenario, since you are clearly advanced. Hopefully others will chime in who are more qualified. However, I will attempt to give my opinion in a later post (probably later tonight) because my girlfriend is practicing piano right now and I can't properly analyze any audio. But make sure to take my input with a very large grain of salt.

My first thought is that you play very well, and more importantly (regarding your exam), you have a high level of consistency, which means that there is a lot less than can go wrong when you actually do the exam. You've left very little to chance.

I'm assuming you recorded that in one take, so the accuracy is very impressive. I think you already answered the question of "will I be able to do well in the exam?"

If you don't mind me asking (the answers to these questions will likely affect the advice you receive):

1) Which exam are you preparing for, specifically?

2) How soon is the exam? (if it's in the next couple of weeks, not too many changes should be made. It's better just to keep it as it is. But if it's several months away, then more specific advice can be given, as you have time to both implement it and naturalize it).

3) Will you have an accompanist?

October 5, 2022, 5:05 PM · Well, since no one else has responded yet, I will add some thoughts.

1) A video would be better, because it would allow people to see precisely *why* a particular sound happened, and advice on technique could be given. I also find that videos do a better job of testing my "nervous response," since I become more physically self conscious when I know I'm going to be seen. However, I understand for privacy reasons you may have chosen to do only audio.

2) If you can make it so people can listen to the recording without downloading it, you will likely receive many more responses. When I have posted videos in the past, I usually received dozens of peoples' input, due to the fact that it was easy for them to just click and watch.

3) Most importantly, by simply posting this here, hopefully you have already proven to yourself that you are capable of getting this exam done. I would be curious to hear your own thoughts once you have listened back. It could be good to put yourself in a panelist's shoes and say "If I was sitting here judging this, what thoughts/corrections would I make?"


Time for some (unqualified) thoughts:

(Like I said before, if your exam is in the next week or two, don't even read any corrections anyone makes here. Your material is already good, and it's not worth potentially adding confusion into the mix just to get another 1% quality in there.)

a) In the initial theme (measures 1-22), I notice you have a tendency to change the rhythm of the 16ths by making the 1st of each 4 a bit longer. I believe what you are trying to do here is rubato, but it comes across as simply changing the core rhythm, because the same pattern happens so consistently. And regarding rubato, it may be worth exploring playing espressivo without using tempo/rhythm flexibility. I have heard it said before that we should use tempo/rhythm changes as a "last resort" for expression (for example, use vibrato, tone, dynamics first), and then if it's still not enough, then we can be allowed to mess with the tempo. Hilary Hahn's recording of this piece from 2000 is a good example of this idea, I think.

b) Starting measure 49, I believe your tempo is a bit sluggish, considering this part is supposed to be pretty upbeat. It may be that due to the initial Rallentando in m. 49, you weren't able to get quite back up to speed in m. 50, and that tempo just sort of stuck with you. Or, this may be purposeful on your part, due to limitation on speed when you get to m. 57.

c) In m. 92, I notice you vibrate 4 beats of the D, and then play an open string for the 5th beat. I'm assuming you're using a 2nd finger here, and it's trapping you, so you're forced into using the open D as a transitional tool. If you used a 3rd finger for the D in m. 92, you wouldn't have to make this compromise.

Anyways, I have run out of time yet again, but generally, I'd say the main thing I noticed about the Barber was some of the counting/tempo/rhythm may have been neglected because you're focused on color/expression. This of course will be more apparent when you play with your accompanist, so it's a good idea to get it sorted out ahead of time if you are indeed going to play with a pianist. And of course, having ample rehearsals with your accompanist (if possible) will make a big difference.

Just to make a quick observation about the Paganini (since I don't have time for anything more at the moment): you *might* be spending a tad too much time on some of your bass notes. There's always a palpable difference between when someone extends the bass notes in a polyphonic composition because they're trying to enhance the music, versus when they extend them because it's a convenient chance to take a break, or to buy a bit of extra time for a big string crossing. I get the impression (and it could be WRONG), that some of the extra time you're putting on those bass notes is to help you, rather than because you wanted the music to sound that way.

Also - while difficult to do so - it may be worth exploring more color changes and dynamic variation in the Paganini. There is somewhat of a lack of "suspense" in some of the phrases, because they're generally starting loud, which doesn't leave you much room to "go somewhere" with the phrases.

October 5, 2022, 8:12 PM · Hello Christian and Erik! Thank you so much for all the feedback.

Erik, to answer your questions, my exam is in about 2 weeks. And I am doing this exam to achieve my Licentiate Diploma of Music from the AMEB (Australian music examinations board). This is the highest level examination and is my final exam that I will be taking. My aim is to get it with a distinction, which is the highest possible result you can get. And yes, I will be having an accompanist, it’s just that when I did the recording I was basically by myself, if I have time I could try and get another recording done with my accompanist.

I am so sorry that you had to download the recording, maybe I will try and figure out another way so that it can be easily accessible for everybody

October 6, 2022, 7:28 PM · Hi Jina, if you're playing all 4 pieces, I recommend making a video (or recording) with all 4 in a row, since that is what will be required of you in the exam.

The reason for this is you may be fatigued by the time you get to the 4th piece, so it's good to test yourself out on this.

If you want people to have easy access to the video for critique, simply convert the audio to mp4 format, then post it to youtube and drop the link here. But as I noted before, people are more likely to comment on videos than they are on audio-only.

Even if no one adds critique though, the important thing here is that you will have proven to yourself that you can go in and play all 4 pieces with consistency.

It sounds like that is a highly competitive Diploma you're going for, especially if you plan on getting it with distinction. It will be very impressive if you accomplish that goal!

October 6, 2022, 8:20 PM · Jina, you may find that making endless recordings for us is not a good use of your time ahead of your exam, so don't worry if you find it distracting. I'm sure you'll do great!
October 9, 2022, 6:11 PM · I think this sounds great, you have a really nice sound there! Good luck with your exam and I'm sure you will do amazing :)


October 9, 2022, 6:11 PM · I think this sounds great, you have a really nice sound there! Good luck with your exam and I'm sure you will do amazing :)


October 22, 2022, 6:13 AM · Thank you so much guys, once again, I actually finished this exam today and I think it went alright, although I felt like I could have done better
October 22, 2022, 10:06 AM · That's great to hear, Jina! Congrats!

I wonder how often people really feel like they are totally satisfied with their performances, but all the thought and preparation you put in, and just getting up on stage and being vulnerable and letting go of all the technical stuff, and the later reflecting back to think about what went as expected and what didn't - those are all really valuable experiences that you can learn so much from on one hand, and just enjoy that you did them on the other.

It's all money in the bank!

October 22, 2022, 3:50 PM · Jina - great to hear that you think it went ok. Feeling you could have done better is normal. All of us v.commers probably feel that way about all of our public appearances and performances. So, if you thought you had done perfectly, I would wonder. Next time, it will certainly go better based on whatever you learned from this experience.
October 23, 2022, 11:37 PM · Thank you so much, I think so as well! Performing is all about learning new things so that we can improve the next time we perform, it was definitely a valuable experience and since it's my last exam, this will be an unforgettable one!


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