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My first orchestra rehearsal tomorrow!


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I am off to my first real orchestra practice tomorrow, as an adult who has studied for just five years. PANIC!! But I am excited too, and anxious to see where I stand. We are going to be performing Beethoven's 4th (2nd violin for me).

My question is this: What should I know about protocol in being in an orchestra, other than the obvious things of arriving on-time with music/instruments/stand/pencil and watching the conductor??? I am sure many of you more experienced players could give me some hints as to what I should do, or know, that I don't! Thanks!

And cross your fingers that all goes well!


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Are you principal 2nd violin?

Also, when a conductor is working on another section of, dont just tune out. Some of what he has to say may affect you, and also, it is a chance to see how your part works out with the rest of the orchestra. As a teacher once told me, the time you DONT play is more important then the when you do.

Cheers. Good luck.

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At some point, the conductor or principal may specify up-bows here, down-bows there, or provide other instructions not indicated in the music. Be sure to write that stuff in. Be nice to your stand partner. Turn your share of pages.

I wish I was going with you. It's been awhile since I had an opportunity to play with an orchestra. Have fun!

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Follow the section leader, even if he/she is wrong. If everyone does that, problems are easy to fix.

And while I wouldn't INSIST on it if you find yourself in the outside seat of the stand, often the inside player takes on secretarial stuff like copying bowings. Certainly, that person should turn pages unless it is really easy for you to do with your left hand.

Chords are often divided-- outside player plays the top. Also, when the part is divided, someone will have to decide if it is divided by player (e.g., outside/inside or 1,2,3; 4,5,6; 7,8,9, etc.) or by stand. Normally, it will be outside/inside unless it gets really complicated, as in Mahler or Debussy.

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A Player's Guide for Keeping Conductors in Line

by Donn Laurence Mills

If there were a basic training manual for orchestra players, it might include ways to practice not only music, but one-upmanship. It seems as if many young players take pride in getting the conductor's goat. The following rules are intended as a guide to the development of habits that will irritate the conductor. (Variations and additional methods depend upon the imagination and skill of the player.)

1.Never be satisfied with the tuning note. Fussing about the pitch takes attention away from the podium and puts it on you, where it belongs.

2.When raising the music stand, be sure the top comes off and spills the music on the floor.

3.Complain about the temperature of the rehearsal room, the lighting, crowded space, or a draft. It's best to do this when the conductor is under pressure.

4.Look the other way just before cues.

5.Never have the proper mute, a spare set of strings, or extra reeds. Percussion players must never have all their equipment.

6.Ask for a re-audition or seating change. Ask often. Give the impression you're about to quit. Let the conductor know you're there as a personal favor.

7.Pluck the strings as if you are checking tuning at every opportunity, especially when the conductor is giving instructions. Brass players: drop mutes. Percussionists have a wide variety of dropable items, but cymbals are unquestionably the best because they roll around for several seconds.

8.Loudly blow water from the keys during pauses (Horn, oboe and clarinet players are trained to do this from birth).

9.Long after a passage has gone by, ask the conductor if your C# was in tune. This is especially effective if you had no C# or were not playing at the time. (If he catches you, pretend to be correcting a note in your part.)

10.At dramatic moments in the music (while the conductor is emoting) be busy marking your music so that the climaxes will sound empty and disappointing.

11.Wait until well into a rehearsal before letting the conductor know you don't have the music.

12.Look at your watch frequently. Shake it in disbelief occasionally.

13.Tell the conductor, "I can't find the beat." Conductors are always sensitive about their "stick technique", so challenge it frequently.

14.As the conductor if he has listened to the Bernstein recording of the piece. Imply that he could learn a thing or two from it. Also good: ask "Is this the first time you've conducted this piece?"

15.When rehearsing a difficult passage, screw up your face and shake your head indicating that you'll never be able to play it. Don't say anything: make him wonder.

16.If your articulation differs from that of others playing the same phrase, stick to your guns. Do not ask the conductor which is correct until backstage just before the concert.

17.Find an excuse to leave rehearsal about 15 minutes early so that others will become restless and start to pack up and fidget.

18.During applause, smile weakly or show no expression at all. Better yet, nonchalantly put away your instrument. Make the conductor feel he is keeping you from doing something really important.

It is time that players reminded their conductors of the facts of life: just who do conductors think they are, anyway?

Donn Laurence Mills is the NSOA contributing editor. He holds music degrees from Northwestern University and Eastman

School of Music. A conductor and music educator, he is also the American educational director for the Yamaha Foundation of


("Cues"? What are they??!)

Have fun!!


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other than the obvious things of arriving on-time with music/instruments/stand/pencil and watching the conductor???

that 'watching the conductor' thing can never be over-stated

My credo for group music is: The right note in the wrong place is worse than the wrong note in the right place.

When the music starts getting tough, the natural tendency is bury yourself in the music-reading at the expense of things like watching the conductor. In section playing, a wrong or missing note here & there for the sake of staying in tempo is preferable to someone hitting every note but compromising the tempo in the process, this throws off the rest of the section.

also: master the art of air-bowing!

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Hi! I find myself in a similar position. I tried out for our community orchestra and was accepted. Since I have only been playing for 3 years, I do find the whole experience a little overwhelming, but I am so excited and extreemly greatful to be able to be play with such talented musicians. My teacher also plays in the symphony and she is breaking down the music into sections for me to practice. I just think of them as studies. Gradually I am piecing everything together. Everyone is very welcoming and even though I cannot play everything yet, I am certainly getting my feet wet. My stand partner told me to remember 3 things. 1. bow in the same direction as everyone else. 2. Never play during a rest and 3. Do not loose your place in the music. Most of all you need to enjoy what you are doing and do not get all stressed out about it. I think the conductor saw some potential in me when I auditioned so he let me in. He knows that I am still learning to play, but the experience along with my practicing should help me to improve. We are playing Beethoven's 7th, Tchaikowsky's Violin Concerto and a Glinka piece. I may be the last person in the violin section, but I am loving it. (It sure is a lot of work, but I am not afraid of that!)

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Adding to crazy janes's list...Bring an ipod/cd/mp3 player and listen to it during rests. They love that. Look as if you are being imposed upon when you must pause it to play. Turn around and conduct half a beat ahead if a section behind you is messing up.

Practice plucking chords when it isn't your turn to play.

Play along with the first violins when the seconds aren't playing. (or if you're a first, play with the seconds)

Blow your nose during the quieter parts, then loudly complain about the pollen.

If asked to fill out a sheet listing which rehearsels or performances you can't attend, put "all Jewish, Christian, and agnostic holidays."

Pretend you're a small child and ask the conductor if you may borrow their instrument to perform with...This is even better if they don't play the violin.

that's all I can come up w/ now.



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To all of you who wrote with great ideas and supported me at my first rehearsal, I want you to know that it was just fantastic! I loved every moment!!!! Not only was it fun, but also I learned so much about Beethoven's intent in the way he wrote down the music. (For eg., when you see a series of measures, each of which is marked "f," what was intended at that time period was a crescendo!)

I tried to apply as many of your ideas as I could, and they helped. And hey, maybe I didn't play every note perfectly, but I did OK - better than I thought I could. (Though the conductor's tempi were slower at this first rehearsal).

But more importantly, what a joy to be able to play through one of Beethoven's masterworks. It was a blast!!

Can't wait 'til next week.

Love this Maestronet forum, as I have found some many great folks willing to share their interest and experience with those of us who are just moving up. So many many thanks to you all!!


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(For eg., when you see a series of measures, each of which is marked "f," what was intended at that time period was a crescendo!)

I had a very literal-minded conductor in college who rehearsed a Mozart Symphony until each of a series of Fs was EXACTLY the same as the one before it. He was not a long-term success there, although I note that this gig is not on his resume, either.

Lucky you playing the 4th. It's the only Beethoven symphony I haven't at least rehearsed, and it's one of my favorites.

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