How to keep up chamber music repertoire without having a regular group to play with?

Edited: December 6, 2017, 8:07 PM · There are some very good advices about how to keep up solo repertoire in Repertoire Restoration: How Do You Keep Up? Nathan Cole advised us to learn each piece from memory so it will come back more easily. Lydia's advice ties secured memorization to mental practice/performance by running them through in one’s head. Buri recommended creating a schedule to play through some of them. Do a quasi-recital if one has big enough repertoire.

That's a lot already, but then there are chamber works. I take them as quasi-solo works and I learn them well before first rehearsal. By the time of performance, I’ve got them memorized, but not to the degree that they’ll be retained for very long.

How do you restore chamber repertoire, if you don’t have a regular group to play them frequently?

Replies (8)

December 6, 2017, 9:17 PM · Yixi, I think you have the right idea.

It's been 40 years since I had a regular weekly string quartet - and I've been a violist for the past 3 years and mostly cellist until earlier this year. My right hand for violin has gone to pot so I decided to work on some Beethoven violin sonatas and 1st violin parts of the Op. 18 string quartets. I was amazed to find that even after 40 years, they are still in there - in my head and my hands. I never was a memorizer - at least not for complete compositions, but once I get started and the music is in front of my it's like a "time machine" carries me along. Sounds like the same think may be working for you.

Actually I'm now finding that practicing violin right now seems to be doing more for my viola playing than practicing the viola.

December 6, 2017, 10:13 PM · You could try Sit-Ins:

I've never paid for this myself, so I don't know what the quality is, though.

December 6, 2017, 10:50 PM · Maybe you could do something along the lines of "temporary" grzps that just play for one concert and break up, or have a circle of chamber music buddies that don't stick together all the time.
December 7, 2017, 2:25 AM · If you play viola you can also use it to play cello parts an octave up. The bass clef stave is then one note higher than alto but it's surprising how quickly you learn to throw a mental switch. Then using Audacity or similar software with a click track to keep time you can multi-track a string quartet or whatever and drop the "cello" line back to the proper pitch digitally. Learn a few more Audacity tricks to take care of tempo fluctuations, balance problems etc and you really can play and record string chamber music all by yourself. Of course it's no substitute for the real thing, but it avoids a lot of dispute!
December 7, 2017, 11:01 AM · Lydia, the Sit-Ins looks really great. Thanks! Will try it and let you know what I think.

Andrew, I think I'm too picky and kind of impatient when other players weren't prepared or play with poor intonation. I should just play with anyone who wants to play chamber music with me so I get to review chamber reps more often. New year's resolution :)

Steve, I've heard about Audacity. Will look into it.

December 11, 2017, 9:34 AM · Sit-Ins looks cool. No Android app though. I just play along with recordings.
December 11, 2017, 10:29 AM · In any case, one can play along with normal recordings..
Edited: December 11, 2017, 11:04 AM · I looked at the Sit-Ins. It's helpful for learning some new pieces because of different tempi it provides. I personally find this app not useful though because it's extremely limited repertoire.

Playing along with the professional performances on YouTube has been helpful to me, as I can listen and learn different bowings, even fingerings from the players. What's more, YouTube setting includes "Speed" so you can adjust it when playing along under tempo.

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