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#2058712 - 04/03/13 01:08 PM When does it start getting easier? (collab piano)
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
When does it ever start getting easier for collaborative pianists? It's only been 3 years since I started working as a collaborative pianist, but I'm feeling so overwhelmed by work right now that I'm wondering when it ever gets easier. I've had to start learning new music since February for 7 recitals this semester (2 done, 5 more to go!), on top of being a staff accompanist for entrance auditions and masterclasses, that I feel like I just want to disappear. And I also might have to give up my own audition for a fellowship position (coming up in a few weeks!) because I never have any time to practice my audition pieces since other people's pieces come first in my practice schedule. Now I'm even wondering if I'm a good fit for this kind of life.

So how long did it take for you to build up a good amount of repertoire that you no longer feel like you'll go crazy by the amount of work? 5 years? 10 years?

Also, if you have any tips on stress management and/or practice time management, any advice is appreciated.

Thank you for reading my rant and look forward to hearing your responses.

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#2058717 - 04/03/13 01:21 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Pick and instrument or two and focus on the standard rep for that instrument. In the last 4 years, I've pretty much learned the bulk of the standard saxophone and flute repertoire.

Also, stack your load with things that aren't difficult. Double reed rep isn't too difficult, and most of the vocal repertoire is easy enough that it doesn't eat in to practice time too much.

Be sure to get multiple performances of things. Now that I've played the Muczynski, Creston, Yoshimatsu, Feld, and Maslanka saxophone sonatas 4-5 times each, I can pretty have any of them ready to go in a week or two. The amount of time needed to practice something decreases a great deal with each performance you get under your belt.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#2058718 - 04/03/13 01:21 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Oh...and learn to say no. It's the single most important skill for an accompanist to have.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#2058733 - 04/03/13 01:35 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19647
Loc: New York
Hey, welcome back!
Been a while, right?
Good to see you! thumb

Just to add a little to what Kreisler said:
I found it to be like you said when I started doing much accompanying, and benefited a lot from what a friend told me when I 'ranted' about it. grin

Look through the music, see what 'the problems' are, and mainly work on those just to the point that you can handle them -- and except for performances, it doesn't have to be anywhere near perfect. And in general don't be afraid to simplify stuff a bit -- again, as long as it's not for a performance. (I worked out the simplifications in advance.) For auditions and rehearsals, I think all they care about is giving a good semblance, being musical, being in sync, and listening well.

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#2058735 - 04/03/13 01:36 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: Kreisler]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5281
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Oh...and learn to say no. It's the single most important skill for an accompanist to have.

thumb Stole my thunder on this one.. laugh
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2058745 - 04/03/13 02:03 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: Kreisler]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Oh...and learn to say no. It's the single most important skill for an accompanist to have.


Yes I'm learning that the hard way!!! although I have to say that I couldn't say no to 6 of the recitals I have to play because they are part of the (unexpected) assistantship deal I got this semester at school. But I realize I could have said no to the remaining 1 recital which was a freelance gig and my life would have been much easier!! (that recital eats a large chunk of my practice time - entire recital consisting of 20th century trombone rep)

And thank you for the tip on focusing on 1 instrument. I'm thinking of working on viola standard rep when I'm done with the semester and have some free time!

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#2058754 - 04/03/13 02:16 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: Mark_C]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Hi Mark! Thanks for remembering me!

My teacher also told me to focus on problem spots too rather than running the entire piece when I talked to her about being overwhelmed a few weeks ago. I've learned to ignore my perfectionist tendencies (it's really hard) and do a lot of simplifying and faking for lessons and rehearsals when I don't have enough time. But the problem is that 95% of the pieces I'm working on are for public performances!

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#2058770 - 04/03/13 03:07 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2290
Loc: San Jose, CA
It becomes easier when you can sight-read anything that is put in front of you. Sometimes that's the only way you can do the work you get. You can only get to that point with time, though, so stick with it.

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#2058772 - 04/03/13 03:17 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Auntie Lynn Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/04
Posts: 1105
Loc: San Francisco, CA
I hate to tell you this, but it never gets easier. I am one of those who finds that the more you learn, the more you find you don't know...HOWEVER, that said, what I DO know has seen me nicely through a very rewarding career as a dependable, responsible, creative piano player...

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#2058773 - 04/03/13 03:19 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4526
Loc: in the past
Yeah but sight reading at a rehearsal implies you haven't even thought about the piece which is not very professional especially if someone is paying you. If they give you the music AT the rehearsal, that's a different story - but also kind of terrible.
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#2058774 - 04/03/13 03:22 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4526
Loc: in the past
With time you will learn how to learn quicker. And eventually you'll have played most of the standard rep so it'll start repeating itself. Also do learn how to say no!!!!!
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#2058779 - 04/03/13 03:35 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: jeffreyjones]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
It becomes easier when you can sight-read anything that is put in front of you. Sometimes that's the only way you can do the work you get. You can only get to that point with time, though, so stick with it.


I disagree with this. I am a pretty good sight reader but I can't imagine anyone being able to sightread the second mvmt of Franck sonata or Strauss's Brentano lieder at a level acceptable for performance. And I think people would stop hiring me if all I offer them is my sight reading ability.

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#2058780 - 04/03/13 03:37 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: Auntie Lynn]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Auntie Lynn
I hate to tell you this, but it never gets easier.

What!!! noooooo......

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#2058784 - 04/03/13 03:44 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: Pogorelich.]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
With time you will learn how to learn quicker. And eventually you'll have played most of the standard rep so it'll start repeating itself. Also do learn how to say no!!!!!
That's what I'm hoping would happen. But such a long way to go until I learn all the standard rep. I wonder how long it would take??? And I agree about learning to learn quicker. Since I started accompanying, the speed at which I learn music has become quicker and quicker. A few days ago I had to learn the Sancan Sonatine overnight and I was able to do it!! (yay!) But for most 20th century and contemporary pieces, it still takes me much more time to learn than I would like to.

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#2058787 - 04/03/13 04:06 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21266
Loc: Oakland
Work on figuring out which notes you can leave out, at least at first.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2058790 - 04/03/13 04:14 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1048
Originally Posted By: pianist87
And I also might have to give up my own audition for a fellowship position (coming up in a few weeks!) because I never have any time to practice my audition pieces since other people's pieces come first in my practice schedule.


If this fellowship audition isn't for solo piano, is it possible to switch the rep to something you're currently playing?

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#2058797 - 04/03/13 04:34 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: Arghhh]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Arghhh
If this fellowship audition isn't for solo piano, is it possible to switch the rep to something you're currently playing?
It's for collab piano, but they contacted me with specific rep for audition about 3 weeks ago. I wish I could do something I'm currently working on!

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#2058808 - 04/03/13 04:46 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: BDB]
DanS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/12
Posts: 550
Originally Posted By: BDB
Work on figuring out which notes you can leave out, at least at first.
+1!

Learn how to fake things really well. Also, when I have a quick deadline, I find that I write in more of the fingerings.

HTH


Edited by DanS (04/04/13 12:35 PM)
_________________________
"Most pianists are poor musicians, they dissect music into bits-and-pieces, like a roast chicken" -Debussy

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#2059102 - 04/04/13 08:18 AM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Gerard12 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 757
Loc: South Carolina
I was once in your shoes. You need to look at the larger picture.

Maybe hindsight is too easy, but:

Be grateful for the opportunities you have now. Realize that despite the feeling of being overwhelmed, if you were not ready for this situation - one that I'm assuming you want, deep down inside - it would not have presented itself. Not every performance is going to be up to whatever standards you hold, but I bet that they come off better than how you perceive them.

OK, enough of the zen....... To what your teacher says - BTB & Kreisler, too: Pay heed.

Meeting the "deadlines" comes first. The soloists and their teachers may not appreciate this, but a deadline for a rehearsal is different from a deadline for a performance. Don't go to a rehearsal with the intention of performing or perfecting something. Go to a rehearsal with the intention of looking for things to work - or figure - out, and take the initiative to do so with the soloist.

Show that you have knowledge of BOTH the solo and piano parts (In fact, when you first open an unfamiliar score, focus mostly on the solo part - or at least, just the rhythm of it as you feel your way around the accompaniment). Know the structure. Be honest about your abilities when things go awry.

This is all wonderful experience for you - despite the nerves and sweat. Congrats!



Edited by Gerard12 (04/04/13 08:22 AM)
_________________________
Piano performance and instruction (former college music professor).

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#2059379 - 04/04/13 03:42 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: Gerard12]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Gerard, your zen talk helped me relieve some of my stress. Thank you so much!
And as I'm going through this situation, I'm slowly realizing that I don't need to be at the performance level for every rehearsal. I think part of the solution to my issue is to accept the fact that I can't always be perfect (which I never am, but always try to be!).
As for the last part, no worries - ever since I started working with singers, I learned to always read both parts while I'm playing

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#2059429 - 04/04/13 05:39 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2290
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: pianist87
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
It becomes easier when you can sight-read anything that is put in front of you. Sometimes that's the only way you can do the work you get. You can only get to that point with time, though, so stick with it.


I disagree with this. I am a pretty good sight reader but I can't imagine anyone being able to sightread the second mvmt of Franck sonata or Strauss's Brentano lieder at a level acceptable for performance. And I think people would stop hiring me if all I offer them is my sight reading ability.


Sight-reading music like that for performance, no.. for rehearsal, though, absolutely. It should be at least 95% there notewise, and 100% there rhythmically.

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#2059444 - 04/04/13 06:10 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: jeffreyjones]
pianist87 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 139
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
It should be at least 95% there notewise, and 100% there rhythmically.

So you can sightread the 2nd mvmt of Franck with 95% right notes? If you can, my hats off to you. I can't get 95% of the notes accurate even with practice.
How about a piece like Milhaud Concertino d'Hiver for Trombone? I thought I was a good sight reader until I had to learn that piece and tried to read through it. Learning that took me over a week until I got it up to tempo!!!

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#2059489 - 04/04/13 10:09 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
The thing about the Franck sonata is that it's familiar territory for most pianists. It's difficult, but it feels like a lot of 19th century solo piano rep.

One of the reasons the instrumental wind and brass repertoire is difficult (like Milhaud, or Creston, or Jolivet, or Sancan, or Hindemith, or Desenclos, or Ibert, etc...) is that it's unfamiliar territory to pianists. Very little of it is as difficult as a Prokofiev sonata, but we're often faced with a learning curve that's on a deadline, involves an unfamiliar harmonic or rhythmic language, and just doesn't feel like the things most of us were trained on (Beethoven, Chopin, etc...) Nor does chamber music lend itself well to the ways pianists tend to practice. When you play with others, you don't have the luxury of choosing the exact right tempo, articulation, sound, and timing that fits your technique and musical sensibilities. Sure, you get input on all of those things, but it's a collaborative effort.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#2059535 - 04/05/13 12:51 AM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1478
A question for hardcore accompanists..

I've done my share of collaborative work, but have never pursued it as intensely and habitually as those posting here. A lot of you (and other professional accompanists I know), say that once you have the "core" rep for a few instruments learned, it will be easy to bring back.

I don't know about you, but I find a lot of the piano parts to the major romantic string sonatas just as hard or harder than the major piano works - and just because I've played Rach 2nd sonata or Brahms 119 before doesn't mean I'd be able to whip it into shape again in a week or two (Unless I had 5 hours a day to practice just that..), as a lot seem to be able to be able to do.. How is this accomplished?

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#2062046 - 04/09/13 04:32 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: pianist87]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1048
Opus Maximus - That's a good question, that I don't have an answer to. I'm not a hard core accompanist *yet* but there is an additional difficulty to relearning a piece for accompanists. In my experience, I have noticed that the longer I spend learning a piece, the easier it is to bring back later. However I doubt that a "hardcore" accompanist will have that time luxury, and it is then the piece doesn't come back as quickly.

Now if I had to bring the same piece back a third time, it won't take as long as bringing it back the second time.

Is this what other people have experienced too?

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#2062364 - 04/10/13 12:15 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4526
Loc: in the past
Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
A question for hardcore accompanists..

I've done my share of collaborative work, but have never pursued it as intensely and habitually as those posting here. A lot of you (and other professional accompanists I know), say that once you have the "core" rep for a few instruments learned, it will be easy to bring back.

I don't know about you, but I find a lot of the piano parts to the major romantic string sonatas just as hard or harder than the major piano works - and just because I've played Rach 2nd sonata or Brahms 119 before doesn't mean I'd be able to whip it into shape again in a week or two (Unless I had 5 hours a day to practice just that..), as a lot seem to be able to be able to do.. How is this accomplished?


I'm not that hardcore either, but I feel having the music helps SO MUCH.
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#2062427 - 04/10/13 03:08 PM Re: When does it start getting easier? (collab piano) [Re: Arghhh]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2290
Loc: San Jose, CA
Originally Posted By: Arghhh
Opus Maximus - That's a good question, that I don't have an answer to. I'm not a hard core accompanist *yet* but there is an additional difficulty to relearning a piece for accompanists. In my experience, I have noticed that the longer I spend learning a piece, the easier it is to bring back later. However I doubt that a "hardcore" accompanist will have that time luxury, and it is then the piece doesn't come back as quickly.

Now if I had to bring the same piece back a third time, it won't take as long as bringing it back the second time.

Is this what other people have experienced too?


I've replayed pieces that I had done 5-7 years before and they were unrecognizable. It's starting from scratch - not at all the same as memorizing a solo piece and then being able to recall it on demand.

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