It is my pleasure to be a pianist in the wind orchestra. Not only do I have a chance to get to know many wind ensemble repertoires, but I gain more experience in playing the piano in a large ensemble. Through rehearsals, I have found some ways for a piano, a somewhat “isolated” instrument, to fit in the whole orchestra.
As you know, the piano is an instrument whose sound is often ignored or sunk in the orchestral sounds. Unless there is a solo melody, it usually plays a “decorative” role in the music, and often there are many bars of rest in the part. (However, it never means that this part is not important otherwise the composers would not have written the piano part in their compositions.) In order to come in at the right time without hesitation, counting is fundamental for not missing the entrances.
In addition to counting the right beat in tempo, following the conductor’s gestures and conducting patterns is also helpful, especially in a music piece with lots of changes in time signatures. I have gained knowledge about conducting through conducting classes during my undergrad; therefore, if I get lost during long rests or any other difficult parts, mostly I can easily get back on track by following that. Sometimes if the conductor kindly provides cues, having eye contact with the conductor will be a good way to follow up the music. Moreover, the conductor not only shows things about tempo and beats, but also expresses the music by using different body movements. By recognizing that, I can know the mood of the music more precisely.
Listening always plays an important role in music, no matter what genre or instrumentation. When playing in the orchestra, I found listening beneficial. To find the entrances, I listen to other parts and try to find some hints from other instruments’ rhythms or melodies. By listening, I can find out which instruments I am doubling with (usually percussion!); accordingly, I will write down some note names, instrument names, or expressions, on my score to remind me of what’s going on in other parts. I also listen to recordings and repeat again and again the passages that I was not so sure about to help familiarize the music. Furthermore, no matter when it’s in rehearsal or performing, especially when playing in a larger concert hall, I adjust my balance or dynamic according to the sound I heard.
4. Practice and be brave!
Practice is of the utmost importance! After I got the scores, I started practicing immediately. Being well-prepared makes me more confident for the rehearsal. When there are solo passages, I even treat them as if they are the solo pieces I am working on. I also tried to find full scores or listen to recordings. Having the whole idea in mind will make me feel more at ease in the rehearsal. Last but not least, every sound is indispensable in the orchestra, so be brave and play out loud! It is everyone’s effort that makes the music so wonderful!
- Chin-Hsuan Sharon Cheng
- Chin-Hsuan Sharon Cheng