#MusicMonday Some of the Benefits of Playing Small Ensembles

I love playing all kinds of music. Large ensembles, solos, new music, Romantic, Classical and of course chamber music. Small ensembles are great for a variety of reasons and here are just a few.

It's Fun!

It seems that no matter what small instrument combination you have someone has written a piece for it. So whoever you decide to spend extended periods of time with playing music you will be able to find something. You can find a friend or a few and put together an ensemble. Make some cookies, choose who will host this round of rehearsal and start playing. 

Practice Accountability

Sometimes practicing can be challenging but just like going to the gym is easier with a buddy so can practicing. If you have a set rehearsal then not only are you scheduling a practice together but you will be preparing for that rehearsal. It will help you keep a schedule going during times of fewer performances (like summer). 

Challenge!

I have found some challenging chamber music over the years and you can too. You can use the Canadian Music Centre to search for your instrumentation and borrow or purchase music from them. I love getting a stack of music to read through, it can improve your sight reading too! Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe a particular passage is very awkward on your instrument, here's a chance to make it sound easy.

Tuning

Small ensembles are great to work on tuning. With only a few people to listen to you can really pinpoint which notes are out and get a good sense of where your instrument sits. You can also ask your ensemble members which notes tend to be out for them and work together to make everyone sound great!

Scheduling

Fewer people means fewer schedule conflicts. People are busy and it can be really hard to find a time that works well for everyone. With just a few people you have more opportunities. 

Learning

I have learned so much from ensemble members about their instrument and what is challenging for them. Smaller ensembles let you ask questions that you don't get to ask in large ensembles. You can also get feedback if your dynamic is consistent throughout your registers, does this note stick out in this passage, is my tone consistent. You also learn a lot about a person when working in a small group like this. 

What other benefits can you think of? Do you love/hate playing in small ensembles? Leave a comment!

#MusicMonday Playing (Less) Hurt

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I hope you are one of the lucky musicians who never have to deal with a serious injury. It is very scary and sometimes the injury is invisible and professionals are not sure how to help you. This book by Janet Horvath will not only help you once you have an injury but also will give ways to avoid injury in the first place. You might also find her website helpful.

Musicians are athletes too, we just use smaller muscle groups. Stay healthy and stay happy and stay playing!

Back from #ClarinetFest2018

We are back from a wonderful experience in Belgium full of performances, lectures, relationship building, good food, and of course our own performance. Thank you to everyone we met and especially to Shelley Marwood and Kendra Harder for sharing their work and this experience with us. It was inspiring and exciting to see so many clarinetists and clarinet ensembles including a 40 bass clarinet strong clarinet choir premiere a new set of works composed for the festival! 

We're now working on getting back into our regular routine and will have more concerts and posts coming. We are hoping to take advantage of more opportunities like this one in the future! In the meantime check out these pictures:

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 Taken during our performance of Dialogues: Oblivious

Taken during our performance of Dialogues: Oblivious

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Recent Concert Thanks

Thank you to all those who came out to support us at our concerts in British Columbia. A special thank you to those who helped spread the word about our concerts, it makes a big difference when people tell their friends about a concert. 

Another thank you goes out to the venues for allowing us to use their space. Check out these pictures of those venues:

 Langley Community Music School

Langley Community Music School

 Phillip T. Young Recital Hall

Phillip T. Young Recital Hall

 Phillip T. Young Recital Hall

Phillip T. Young Recital Hall

 Murray Adaskin Salon

Murray Adaskin Salon

 Murray Adaskin Salon

Murray Adaskin Salon

A Great Pianist Will Save Your Bacon! #MusicMonday

It can be stressful working with another musician but if you get a pianist that knows what they’re doing they can help you sound amazing! A good pianist will find you if you make a mistake, a great pianist will make your audience unaware that you made one.

Instrumentalists and vocalists at one point or another will have to perform solo repertoire that requires a collaborative pianist. I use the term collaborative pianist instead of accompanist because there really is so much more to their job than just playing the accompanying music to your solo. If you are performing a sonata that is chamber music and the piano part is often just as challenging as your part. If you are performing a concerto the piano part is taking the place of an entire orchestra and sometimes the orchestra part is reduced into a very challenging piece of music. In some cases that means the pianist will have to decide which notes to drop to make it playable. In addition to playing what is on the page the pianist must also play all this music with another musician. Playing the accompaniment for someone is a learned skill and doesn’t come easy. 

So when I tell a student they need a pianist to play with them they will often tell me they have a friend who can play piano. I will often have to break it to them that they need a pianist who is used to being a collaborative pianist. If we have enough time and both students are willing to meet for a number of coaching sessions I am happy to help them work to be a collaborative pianist, but it takes time and practice.

Tips for the soloist: Learn your part as well as the accompaniment. Some pieces (and I say this from experience) sound VERY different with the piano part. Take a look at the piano score and see where your part should line up. Listen to quality recordings, you will most likely find a recording of your piece online but it could be full of mistakes. Be aware and be skeptical of other interpretations of the piece you're working on. Meet with your pianist early so you have time to fix mistakes as there will be sections of your piece that will not go as well as they did in the practice room. If possible have a good idea of the tempo you would like to take your piece beforehand so you can let your pianist know. If in doubt of how to proceed finding a suitable pianist ask your teacher.

Tips for pianists: If you are new to this give yourself time. You may find that you have to drop awkward notes to make a passage work and that’s okay. Find a vocal teacher or instrumental teacher willing to work with you and ask your own teacher for guidance. You will have to be flexible while playing in a performance as soloists can get very nervous and things can go wrong. You may not be used to performing with another musician on stage (and a non-pianist at that!) other instruments and vocalists have different challenges associated with their instrument such as awkward fingerings, leaps or notes at the edge of their comfortable range. Be understanding and learn about different musicians. 

Communication is very important both when performing together as well as coordinating rehearsals. Always be polite, respectful, and understanding. The relationship you build with each other will make all the difference in performance. When you have trust in the other person you can take artistic risks and make beautiful music together. There is a lot of great comeraderie that comes with performing as a team. 

For more insight into the experiences of a professional collaborative pianist and to make sure you don't commit any faux pas check out this article from Jenna Douglas, writer for Schmopera:

https://www.schmopera.com/in-defence-of-pianists/

Schmopera focuses on opera related news with interviews, articles and insights. They have many different posts that you should check out!

 

Have you had experience with a great collaborative pianist? Share it in the comments!