06. August 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Ramble

A while back — long enough ago that no one can connect this to a concert I played — a string player admitted to me that absolutely no practice or study really took place before a major work. Too much was going on in the player’s life and schedule, and there simply wasn’t any time. I’ve heard several players sit down at the first rehearsal apologizing, “Please ignore my playing tonight. I haven’t looked at the part yet.”

I understand.

BUT … if I ever did that I’d be in a heap ‘o trouble.

I’ve had string players nearly bite my head off because I foolishly implied that my part was more stressful than theirs. I didn’t mean to imply they were less important. I didn’t mean to imply they were less difficult. I’m fairly sure, in fact, that string parts are more frequently more difficult than mine. But I’m in a solo position when I’m playing principal oboe or English horn, and even second oboe is a one on a part deal, and due to the low notes and more is actually, to me, more scary than the other two positions some of the time. (Uh-oh … now principal oboists and English hornists of the world will bite my head off too!). If a non-principal string player makes a little boo-boo odds are a reviewer won’t single that player out. If I make one, my name — or at least my instrument as some reviewers are kind that way — just might make a review.

Still, can you imagine if I didn’t study my part at all?

I sure can’t.

That’s not to say I always feel completely prepared. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I struggle through a work until the bitter end. I’m hopeful, though, that listeners don’t know how I’m feeling.

Someday, though, I want to shout out at the end of a successful concert, “You need to know that was incredibly difficult and I just want to totally fall apart now that I’m done!”

Yeah. I want to. But I never will. 😉


  1. I can’t imagine going to a first rehearsal either without working on my part. If I’m swamped, I’ll at least look through it and isolate the parts that need practicing and leave the whole/half notes for the first rehearsal. An EH part definitely needs to be practiced but even when I was playing 2nd oboe, I would find it helpful to listen to the recording with part in hand because you can’t always tell how the 2nd part fits in just by playing through it. I’ve known players though that have said they didn’t look at their part and so far I haven’t heard anyone who can get away with it. Some people sight read quite well but it’s very obvious when a well known solo is just butchered with incorrect rhythms, wrong notes, etc. that the player didn’t look at it at all. These days with fewer positions available, one cannot take chances like that.

  2. Yep, I’m with you, Janet.

    But I also wonder about people who will admit to not preparing at ALL! If I did manage to blow it and not prepare, I think I’d try to avoid ‘fessing up! 🙂