Maybe I miss people too much...

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Tyler L, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. Tyler L

    Tyler L

    Aug 16, 2017
    Urbana, OH
    Hey all, hope you're doing well in the dog days of quarantine. I hate it and miss playing in a section/with other people. Perhaps even too much because, when I was working on the 2nd movement excerpt of Beethoven 5, it occured to me that I watched a recording on YouTube of Bernstein conducting and I thought I'd try to join in as an unqualified last chair. I placed my phone above my stand so I could see the occasional shots of Bernstein conducting. It was fun, despite my wife judging/laughing at me and me bumbling around like a fool. I admit, it was fun, albeit fairly unproductive in that moment.

    Beyond the fact that what I did was kind of pathetic (although maybe less so now that everything is shut down), is there any merit in practicing orchestra repertoire with recordings? For jazz rep, sometimes I'll play along with recordings to pick up on some subtleties I may miss otherwise. Obviously this is totally different application. And I'd want to make sure that the recording is 440.

    This seems like a safe space to ask dumb questions so please share your thoughts! :D
  2. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    YES!!!! When I started at age 18...late bloomer...I joined a local Community Orchestra, and I would search for Vinyl Recordings (Google it, kids...) of the pieces we were rehearsing. I had NEVER played organized/written music with a conductor. (Self-taught, Elec Bassist, Non-reader, Ear player, Garage Band member, etc., FYI.)
    I found the recordings VERY helpful for my reading and performing - I would first listen and follow the recording along with the written part. I would also eventually practice along with the recordings. I found it very helpful on so many fronts.
    I did this for 4 years along with weekly private lessons with an excellent/demanding/cranky Orchestral Asst. Principal teacher, (and also joined a University Orchestra that was looking for warm bodies, that my teacher's stand partner suggested.)
    I auditioned and was accepted to music school 4 years later as a 22 yr.old Freshman.
    Why would someone NOT do this?
    My $0.03
    Good Luck!
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2020
  3. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Does not seem dumb or unproductive to me at all!
    Tyler L and leonard like this.
  4. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Yes. Like Don, I used to practice to vinyl recordings. I thought everyone did that. If it's not at 440, just re tune, or practice playing in tune when the bass isn't.
    Don Kasper likes this.
  5. I practice regularly with recordings. If I have the time when I’m preparing a program I’ll do a lot of listening and that includes playing along with recordings. First time I listen without any music in front of me just to experience the piece then I’ll listen while following along with a score, I usually mark the important parts in the score, then I listen while following along with the bass part, bracketing spots that I think might need attention when I practice, then I play along with a recording or two, I’ll put a star on the bracketed sections if I need extra practice and two or three stars if it’s a spot that needs some serious attention. Usually each time I follow along or play with a recording it’s a different recording. Getting to experience the music as fully as possible before going into the first rehearsal is the goal.

    Find some good recordings and have fun!
    Don Kasper and Tyler L like this.
  6. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I never practiced orchestral works this way, but when I was a junior in high school I was asked to play in a university big band. This was before I knew anything about theory, how to interpret chord symbols, or really how to craft a walking bass line other than blues.

    The director gave me sheet music and recordings of all of arrangements that had chord notation. I learned the parts note for note at first. Later I developed the ability to somewhat sub the patterns across like changes. Rehearsals went pretty much like any other big band rehearsal despite the fact that I was faking it. Sometimes the director would play a few bars of the recording so I could find my place, but most of the time it wasn't necessary.

    I played in the university band for about two years and I think I developed a pretty strong foundation to build upon when I majored in music and started learning to actually read chord notation.

    I see no reason why you would not benefit similarly from playing along with videos of orchestral works.
    Tyler L likes this.
  7. leonard


    Jul 31, 2001
    Isn’t playing with recirdings a standard way to practice? On jazz or pop music the recordings seem to have more accurate information than sheet music.
    james condino and Tyler L like this.
  8. Tyler L

    Tyler L

    Aug 16, 2017
    Urbana, OH
    Very cool! You seem extremely knowledgeable about this topic so if I may ask you a few questions about this. Do/did you run through the recording straight, mistakes and all, or did you stop and work on sections you struggle with? What main practice goals are you working on with the recording? How much of your practice time do you/did you spend on this method? Just reading your post, it sounds like even just one movement run through each practice session would be a valuable addition to my practicing. And I admit, it's fun to play with a recording.

    Honestly, this idea has intrigued me since I started. I just never knew it was a valid form of orchestral practice!
  9. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    Full Disclosure - this was a million years ago.
    I think seeing the visual written rhythms and notes, while hearing the same, was most helpful, as I was just learning to read music.
    Getting a feel for the tempo/tempi was also helpful, as I had never played under a Conductor, and it helped me anticipate and interpret the Conductor's physical movements in relation to the music.
    More Full Disclosure - I was NOT some Wunderkind/Idiot Savant! I shudder to think what I must have sounded like - there were passages that were well beyond my skills, but I tried to improve my Batting Avg. each week.
    I guess I would play along with the whole movement, and then circle back to the most difficult parts to add fingerings/bowings and then isolate those measures (without the recording playing) and try to make them less "impossible".
    I recall asking my teacher for some help, as well, on some of the "impossible" passages.
    Good Listening and Good Luck.
    Thanks for your interest.
    Tyler L, Wasnex and CaseyVancouver like this.
  10. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Yes, same boat here, used to practice with recordings, but these days use available software...So much better than the times I would play a 33rpm vinyl at 45 rpm so the bass would come out more..sigh!! Or playing along to Music Minus One ...