Preparing to Rehearse with a Pianist




At this point in my career, I have performed with so many amazing and kind pianists. They arrive, play 100,000,000 notes, and then go do the same thing for their own music and that of like 5 other musicians. I hope that many professors copy the link and share this particular article with their entire studios because this really does matter. Professors often assume that their students know what they are doing when they go to rehearse with a pianist for their recitals. Cough... they typically do not. I did NOT.


If you are new to classical music, or maybe you are wondering, "What don't I know?" here are some things I learned:

 

What to Know/Do Before Your First Rehearsal



Logistics

Know if they need payment: (If a pianist is performing with you as part of an assistantship, this doesn’t typically apply.)


If you are asking a colleague to play music with you, this is not in their program, this is not for a class, this is out of the kindness of their hearts. You wouldn't go to a restaurant and expect to get food for free. Ask in advance what their rate is and if you are unable to pay that, either find someone else or ask if you can have fewer rehearsals to lower the cost somewhat.


In terms of when to pay, I typically think it is kind and respectful to pay half before and half after.


Give the pianist their music ASAP:


A pianist isn’t like a Finale program that just inputs the music and plays it back. They have to learn the music; they need time.


Also, make sure it is the same edition (or version, arrangement, etc.) as the one you are playing from. It may sound like I am stating the obvious, but if you get music from your professor and then go to get a score for the pianist from the library, and that edition is different, there could be all kinds of differences that can be detrimental to your rehearsals and recital.


Offer to get a page-turner for the concert:

This is a courtesy that not many people offer, and after asking, I learned that pianists really appreciate this gesture even if they choose to find one themselves.


They are not your accompanist:

The word "accompanist" has been so misused I cringe every time I hear it. Gross.


Also, they are not your pianist. You are collaborating with another musician. You are chamber partners. Even if the only thing they play is Ooom Pa-pa, I wouldn’t refer to them as an accompanist. It oversimplifies the work they are doing to being a tool for you. Please, don’t.


Time:

Give them days and times to choose from so that they can be better prepared.


Show up on time to all your rehearsals; get there a little early. Sometimes schedules are tight, so go ahead and plan things out.


End on time. They have things to do, too.


Preparation

Recordings:

There are schools of thought that you shouldn’t listen to/watch recordings of your music because you will just copy someone else and have no thoughts of your own. To that, I roll my eyes with much drama.


Why wouldn’t you want to learn from a professional? Why wouldn’t you want to see what Martin Fröst’s technique looks like? Why wouldn’t you want to learn about the style of your music from Martha Argerich? Why wouldn’t you want to hear new ideas?


This doesn’t negate the importance of other modes of learning; rather, it puts a sound, technique, etc. in your ear that you would like to emulate. Having a role model is a normal thing in our lives, and one that so many people encourage, so please remember that musicians are the same.


Listen with the score:


Conducting, clapping, counting, and just getting to step away from your instrument — there are so many benefits to having the score in front of you.


SO many people get their part and never once look at the score before giving it to the pianist (a week before their recital). It’s like reading the SparkNotes and thinking you will ace the essay you have to submit in an English class. It may be "your” recital, but that music is made up of you PLUS your chamber partner.


**SIDE NOTE ** Have your own copy of the score before you give it to your pianist. Have it during your rehearsal so that you can mark in your part and you can reference the score if you are having difficulty putting the parts together.


Mark important parts from the piano in your part:


So you have the score and you have studied it, and now comes a critical part. IF you cannot play from the score, write some cues in your part. If you have something in unison or if you have a secondary part to the piano, mark it.


I will go ahead and take this opportunity to add that you really need to make sure you have your measures numbered. This will facilitate a smooth rehearsal.


Know the piece:


Pianists are not there to teach you your music, so make sure you are doing your part to prepare beforehand. If you have looked at your piece for about a week, you probably don't want to schedule a rehearsal that is really soon. They aren't expecting you to play flawlessly, but they also didn't sign up to be a bonus private lessons teacher.


Know what tempo you will play your piece. When you go into your first rehearsal, you don’t have to play it fast. Your goal should be to play musically together. This can often mean slowing things down. Know in advance what tempos you can do. If you can't play at quarter=160 when in your lessons, your rehearsal with your pianist isn’t the time to try that.


Kindness

Say thank you:

Yeah, this needs to be said because so many pianists are just expected to perform and do it flawlessly without breaking a sweat and then move on to the next thing. Um, no. They are humans and they worked to learn that music. A thank you will go a long way in building a relationship with that person.


Support them:


Little known fact, those same pianists are going to be performing other places. This could be with other ensembles or their own solo recital. It means a lot knowing that your colleagues support you.



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