On being a virtuoso

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Mar 16, 2014.


  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

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    What would you say the natural ability / lots of work ratio is? And out of curiosity, would a virtuoso get automatic first chair in any orchestra, no audition - orchestras actually chasing you to join?
     
  2. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar

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    10000 hours of practice.

    that at least is what researchers concluded by interviewing conservatory students about since when they practiced, and how much. It's a figure that is said to be true for everything you're doing to be able to do it on a professional level. Don't ask me for sources, I'll try and dig them up and post them later.

    interesting: "Talent" is more or less meaningless unless reduced to the talent not to drop out before the necessary time is spent.

    i have no clue about whether or not This is a guarantee for a first chair. I doubt so. Chair's gotta be vacant first...

    Best
    sidecar
     
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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  4. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler

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    The true virtuosi I know are the guys and gals who *love* working on the basics. They're the ones who did the spider exercise while watching TV half an hour every day, worked out of Sevcik and Zimmerman until it was all easy, practiced their scales and arps with pitch reference over three octaves for years, went through all the fingerlings in Rabbath 3... And loved every minute of it. It's really about love and devotion. Natural talent is largely a pipe dream.
     
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  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    Ha! I didn't know Gladwell was the one that propagated the 10K hour myth. That guy is a total hack and it's no surprise that he can't even honestly analyze research properly. It's his method of selling books - sensationalize a falsehood and act like he's some sort of expert.

    I'm glad that myth can be dispelled.

    What makes a virtuoso still nobdy understands. Take a look at the "The Talent Code" and the thread we have here on it. Again, it's just another book that attempts to aggregate research into an idea but it too has faults.

    IMO, it doesn't hurt to discover one's learning style and then exploit the hell out of it. If your brain is not geared for rote memory, doing just that will be highly inefficient.
     
  7. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar

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    Oh, quite against my expectations, this is getting interesting. I had not heard of a guy called Gladwell, but maybe I was victim to another urban myth- still have to read the article Ed posted. But I'm happy to be proven wrong.

    Best
    Sidecar
     
  8. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

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    I think talent is a difficult thing to discuss, and even harder to separate from hard work when it comes to people at the top of their field. I do believe that there are both "naturally talented" musicians out there, and there are people who could put in millions of hours and still not be able to carry a tune in a bucket, but I feel like that distinction tends to be made much earlier. While we likely all know a few, typically non-musical or non-talented people do not become musicians.

    The "Great Bass Race" video that was recently posted is worth a watch and you will see some admittedly quite younger, but recognizable names in the game there. Since I know very little about his story but considerably more than the other virtuoso bassists, I can only really comment on Mr. Joel Quarrington.

    Joel loves bass. He has told a story about Tom Monohan (one of his first teachers) seeming like a rock star, and how he thought it would be cool to play bass. After that fateful day in his childhood, he worked his tail off. There are stories about him and his students in their UofT days being kicked out of the building because they were practicing too late. A bunch of them have stories about turning off the lights and waiting for security/the cleaning staff to do their rounds and practicing late into the night, every single night. Practicing might be a chore or "eat your brussel sprouts" for some people, but Joel and any other musician I know on that level is passionate about it. While 10 000 hours (of focused, productive practice) might be a myth, I am sure that Joel has put in that many hours several times over. He is definitely talented, but he is also exceptionally dedicated.

    After UofT, he went on to study with Streicher and Petracchi who were/are some of the best bass teachers in the world. And he soaked it up like a sponge. When he teaches bass classes at summer programs and private students, he uses the "el perro" exercise that was a Petracchi exercise with every possible bowing he can think of, and there is often a competition round involved. Technical exercises are fun challenges, not something that he feels obligated to do before he gets to "the real stuff".

    And he has kept on learning and improving and experimenting and growing as a musician to this day. Although I haven't had the pleasure of working with him in a few years, comments like "I've been doing this lately" or "this is something new I've been working into my technique" would pop up once in a while. He can already play circles around other players, but he is constantly trying to better his technique and evolving as a player. The "Joel Quarrington school of bass" and his students are known for that same dedication and drive.

    Sorry if that seems like too much story, but the point I am trying to make is that while Joel probably is "naturally talented" he is one of the most dedicated and passionate people I have ever met, and I think a large part of his success is due to the fact that comparatively few people in this world apply that amount of enthusiasm to their work.

    Was he "handed" the orchestra seats he has sat in? No. He has applied and auditioned for everything so far in his career. There is an entertaining LSO "Meet Joel Quarrington" video where he tells the story of "One night, I was on the internet, looking at websites, and I noticed that there was an advertisement for principal bass of the London Symphony. So I applied, I was invited for a week, and then it just snowballed from there..." Joel was back and forth between London and Montreal and Ottawa that year as the LSO was deciding whether or not to hire him. They eventually did and he lives there to the best of my knowledge now, but it was the same process that any other applicant would have had to go through.

    There are stories out there about well known players automatically advancing to the second or final rounds of auditions which I do think makes sense, but they all have to go through the process just the same. At the end of the day an orchestra wants to have some of the best musicians it can hire, but they have to fit within the orchestra as well. Just like you would not hire a whole hockey team of goalies, an orchestra of virtuoso soloists wouldn't necessarily be a good idea. Some of those virtuoso soloists are also exceptional orchestral musicians, and there are a number of them that see it as another aspect of the instrument that they should master. Some of them have very little interest in that path, and choose to do other things.

    Having some "star power" in your orchestra likely doesn't hurt, but other than Yo-Yo Ma, how many virtuoso classical musicians are really household names? Do you know who the big bassoon virtuosos are right now and if they play in major orchestras? How many people (other than classical double bassists) do you think have ever heard of Francois Rabbath?
     
  9. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler

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    Mike, many people know Rabbath, as he was a widely touted international soloist 30 years ago. Same for Gary Karr, my girlfriend is a vocalist and knows his name, if not his work.

    On all your other points however, I wholeheartedly agree. At IU, I woke up at 4 am to get in three hours before the practice rooms filled up. I am most certainly not a virtuoso, but this drive has guaranteed me a career in this field and the respect of my peers, which is all I every truly wanted. Cheers. Now I need to try the Petracchi stuff with different bowings today. :)
     
  10. PaulCannon

    PaulCannon

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    I suppose this all depends on your definition of "virtuoso." Usually the term is applied to classical soloists, not orchestral players. A bassist's role in the orchestra doesn't have much to do with our solo repertoire, though the very best orchestral bassists tend to be "over qualified" for their jobs.

    Regardless of definition, orchestra appointments without audition are very rare today -- particularly in the United States.

    Supposedly his first record sold half a million copies in 1963 and had heavy radio play, but Sony never released official sales numbers.

    By most people's standards, I think it's fair to call FR a virtuoso. He was self-taught and developed an important school of technique; enjoyed a fair amount of success as a soloist and composer; highly regarded among his peers and much sought-after as a teacher. Even so, he had to audition like everybody else when he joined the Paris Opera.
     
  11. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

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    Was his first record "Bass Ball?" Was it really 1963? There is no date on my copy and it is on the Phillips label. I only know that it impressed the hell out of me. I never knew at the time that he was a teacher with his own system. He replaced Gary Karr as my favorite "classical" bassist until Steve Gilmore told me: You like Rabath? You should check out Edgar Meyer.



    Supposedly his first record sold half a million copies in 1963 and had heavy radio play, but Sony never released official sales numbers.

    By most people's standards, I think it's fair to call FR a virtuoso. He was self-taught and developed an important school of technique; enjoyed a fair amount of success as a soloist and composer; highly regarded among his peers and much sought-after as a teacher. Even so, he had to audition like everybody else when he joined the Paris Opera.[/QUOTE]
     
  12. oliebrice

    oliebrice

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    whats the spider excersise? can't find anything about it searching this site...
     
  13. Space Pickle

    Space Pickle

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    My opinion:

    Natural Ability: 0%

    Hard Work: 100%
     
  14. Edvin

    Edvin

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    true talent for me is dedication, passion and disciplin. Those things combined can create so many great things, regardless what's it about!
     
  15. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler

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  16. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    One thing i remember from FR's videos... what's that he said?

    "You only need 2-3 hours of practice a day and you can be a virtuoso too". Something like that. Didn't he say that or was I hearing things?
     
  17. oliebrice

    oliebrice

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  18. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow

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    I think he says in Art of the Bow that you can become a virtuoso in six years, but you must work like a virtuoso.
     
  19. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler

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    Most of the *actual* virtuosi I know were in the shed 4 or more hours a day, religiously, for years. Some people may get there with less, but I haven't seen it with my own eyes.:eyebrow:
     
  20. bejoyous

    bejoyous

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    I was rehearsing with the music director of a local church. All the music was gospel/spiritual style that Sunday. I usually just read over his shoulder and follow the left hand of the piano part and add a few "bassisms" to enhance the style.

    He turns to me and say, "It's great playing with you, you're such a naturally talented player."

    I said, "Gee, thanks!"

    But in my mind I thought, "Dang, all those years of piano lessons, going to daily guitar scale class, taking music all through high school, singing in choirs, playing in the cadet band, going to youth orchestra camps and going to university for 11 years was for nothing. I could have just picked the bass up yesterday and started playing."
     
  21. David Potts

    David Potts

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    Sitting on audition panels for orchestral vacancies I used five basic criteria - In Tune, In Time, All the Notes, Musically and With Style. A good rank-and-file candidate had to be very strong in each. A would-be Principal had to be even stronger in order to set an example for the rest of their section, with something extra that commanded respect - leadership. Only extremely rarely was someone appointed to any position without first being on trial.

    I would dare say that the people we call virtuosos have all been able to lift themselves technically and musically to an even higher plane, with something extra to show that commands the respect of the listener. These people generally win this respect through recordings and performances of solos. In terms of personality they are not "shrinking violets".

    I do believe in talent. Some people are born "half way there" with things like sense of rythm or pitch, or sight reading ability, or inate musicianship. Technically things might come easy for them. I too have been up against them and envied them. The best of them have worked hard too and have gone well past me in ability. Hard, smart work with good teachers is ideal but does it create virtuosos and do these people make good Section Leaders? I'm not sure.

    Cheers, DP
     

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