At the moment, I am currently working on a project with a very talented pianist Miss Gillian Hu. In our collaborative efforts of interpreting the Brahms Sonatas for Violin and Piano, we have been practicing regularly together. It is unmistakably important to have chemistry with whom you choose to play with and I am privileged to share an alike passion with her to deliver our best performances each time. This journey has been so rewarding thus far: sharing ideas together, striking just the correct balance to achieve what we feel Brahms would have wanted, and just making music together for a change from playing a completely solo unaccompanied piece.
On this note, as unaccompanied pieces are rare on the violin (aside from the more frequently played unaccompanied pieces like the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin and Ysaye’s Sonatas for Violin Solo), I am very happy to host Guest Blogger Austin from Consordini Musical Instruments to give us some important insightful information and tips to play with an Accompanist. This will be a very helpful read for anyone who has an examination (as most examinations require an accompanist), or anyone participating in a competition or for any reason or event to have to present your piece. These will be good pointers for sure.
Secret Tips for Playing the Violin with Piano Accompaniment
Written By Guest Blogger: Austin Consordini
Playing the violin is fun, but it’s even better and exciting when you are playing with other musicians or when you are accompanied by a pianist.
It might be difficult especially if you are a beginner because it requires specific skills and techniques to play as one.
If you want to play the violin with a piano accompaniment, it’s always helpful to know some tips and tricks such as the following:
Set the Tempo
Playing in tempo with an accompaniment requires your brain to focus on the music. You can try to practice by playing with a metronome alone so that you can master the timing. Then, you can record yourself and listen after.
In short, learn your part ahead of time. It might be boring but lots of practice time can help you get your part and your partner’s part perfectly synced.
Once you are sure that you can play the music in the right tempo, you can practice together.
It might be confusing at first to read sheet music with two parts (yours and your accompaniment), but it is recommended that you play along as a duet.
Counting is Key
This can be the same as setting the tempo. But it is better to dedicate a separate pointer because counting is the key to playing with accompaniment. Some opt to use a metronome, but you may count off quietly as you wish.
You can start both in slow tempo until you are both ready to gradually speed up.
Remember, it is vital that you both count in harmony and play together than just follow the written tempo on the music sheet.
Study the Pieces Individually and Together
One of the major pitfalls of playing the violin with a piano accompanist is that both musicians do not understand the music thoroughly.
The key to playing well together is to study the piece individually and get together to discuss things like character, style, and features of the piece that you both want to bring out.
You should also discuss who should play what part or when to enter and not, as well as if there are ‘echo’ phrases you want to show.
Talk about how you would like to deal with any tempo changes and cues that both of you should listen to. It will require a couple of practice sessions, but it could be worth the effort.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Practice is an essential tool to maximize the impact of training. After all, the only way to master a skill is to practice. It is the only way to get better and is the building block of expanding, developing, and maintaining skills in violin playing.
The hardest part of playing with accompaniment is getting used to another person playing a different part.
Practice and train your ear to adjust. If you can’t, it might be useful to ignore his/her part and focus on counting with a metronome.
Just be sure to play the same tempo as your partner. Focus one line at a time before going on to the next. Play the song line per line together.
When playing with a piano accompanist, it is often useful to let the accompanist play the melody once in a while. The alternating melodic material between the piano and the violin creates musical variety and texture.
There’s nothing worse than having a fantastic performance and then falling apart at the end because you and your accompanist never decided on an ending!
How the piece ends is just as important as how you commenced. If you want to get creative, you can arrange your own ending or have your partner finish with a chord accompaniment pattern.
Playing in a duet is an artistic endeavor, so no matter what the piece is, try to play musically. It might sound weird, but not all musician plays and performs artistically.
Music is not just about following and doing what the notes say; it is about expressing and making music touch everyone’s lives.
3 Main Points of Utmost Priority
in Playing with a Piano Accompaniment
Of all the tips listed above, with regards to playing the violin with piano accompaniment, three main points should be of utmost priority – time, tone, and tune. All of these three are to be regarded.
Playing in perfect timing seems to be the most challenging skill to harness when playing the violin with piano accompaniment. It is of course, very challenging for the accompanist if the violinist keeps awful timing.
But it must be remembered that the violinist must be the leader, just as a singer should lead when singing with piano accompaniment. If the violinist makes a mistake, the pianist should help and try to cover it.
Playing with accompaniment is a complicated matter, and it is not sufficient to be just a good musician. To facilitate correct timing, some of the tips mentioned above should be done such as practicing individually and as a group, setting a congruent tempo, and continuous practice.
In playing with piano accompaniment, there should be congruity between the tone of the violin and the piano or any instrument used as accompaniment. Pianos may vary considerably in terms of tone, so much so that a connoisseur can tell the piano maker’s name by just listening to the instrument.
However, co-existence in sounds and tones can be practiced. The key is to keep practicing together until both of your tones match and blend well together.
With regards to tune, there exists a difference between the violin and the piano. A piano’s tune is absolute, relative, and depends on the piano tuner. While on the other hand, the violin’s tune depends on the violinist.
To be able to sound good together, the secret is to keep the piano perfectly tuned, and the violin played in perfect tune.