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Finding Other Musicians To Play With - Does Anyone Else Find It Diffic


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#1 Aeolienne

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 22:49

When people ask me if I'm musical, and I tell them I play the recorder, that invariably prompts two questions: "Which one do you play?" and "Do you play in a group?". The answer to the first is: descant, treble, tenor and sopranino. The second is less easy to answer, as it all depends on what you mean by a group.

I belong to the Devon Society of Recorder Players. What that means in practice is that I go along to their monthly meetings when I'm free and sightread one part of a piece of music. Three years ago Devon SRP set up a separate "Exeter Recorder Orchestra". It is supposed to be distinct from the main SRP in that its stated aim is to practise (not just sightread) a selection of pieces with a view to performing them. But in the event we have given only three concerts during all this time, pretty poorly attended at that. And we only meet once a month, so on the face of it it doesn't seem that different from Devon SRP. Most of the other members of Devon SRP and/or ERO play in smaller groups, some with other instrumentalists. At the very least this means meeting up in other people's houses, but some of these smaller groups have also given performances. I once spoke to someone who'd played in a group in mediaeval costume who provided background music at Buckland Abbey (a National Trust property on the other side of Dartmoor). Unfortunately groups such as this don't have auditions as such. It's more about playing with friends, or friends of friends. Indeed this person's advice to me was to make myself known, invite people back to my flat to play ensembles and maybe this just might lead to greater things. I objected, saying that my flat was far too small and untidy, and besides I only have a very limited collection of consort music. Another issue is that I hardly know the names of anyone in the SRP and/or recorder orchestra; I've probably been told any number of names but it's dificult to retain the information if I don't see the other person for another month at least. And this is after four years in Exeter. Having Asperger's syndrome (which I do) probably doesn't help either.

There's a lady at the Quaker meeting I attend who's had recorder lessons. When I once suggested that we should play together some time (emphasis on play, not perform) she was totally against the idea, saying that "You're far too good for me - you play in a group?" Eh?! This despite the fact she has never heard me play a note. There are people like that lady among my office colleagues, people who've never bothered to attend my once-in-a-blue-moon concerts and yet who still think I'm really good. Maybe I should take it as a compliment and leave it at that, but I am a tad tempted to grab them by the shoulders and say "If you think I'm so marvellous why have you never come to hear me play?"

Not all my colleagues are like that. My closest colleagues (as in my team mates, not close in any social or emotional sense) know nothing about my life as an amateur musician. Well I can only suppose they know nothing. In all the time I've worked with them (nearly 3 years) I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they've asked me how my weekend was.
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#2 Guest: petrat_*

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 22:57

clap.gif Great! Another recorder player! Welcome to the forums. There are quite a few more recorder blowers here.
I always say that I play recorders when asked. It can be difficult to find others to play with but keep trying and something will turn up. Why not ask the early music group if you can go along to a practice sometime? They might welcome an extra player.
Look in th the woodwind forum too. That is where some more of the recorder players hang out.
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#3 jo.clarinet

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 05:34

Finding fellow consort players is largely a matter of networking, making yourself and your availability known to other recorder players and gradually working your way into a group. SRP really is a good way of doing this - but you have to be aware that people tend to come to the meetings from all over the place (especially to those branches which aren't in London/The Home Counties), so the eventual logistics of travelling to people's houses might be unworkable.

It has to be said that most consorts who take their music seriously and are playing to a good standard are very careful about who else they invite to play. What normally happens in the consorts in which I'm involved is that someone might occasionally say they'd like to ask someone, and ask the rest of us if that is OK - they will either have played trio-sonatas or something with that person before, or else have got to know them at SRP and realised from sitting next to them that their sight-reading skills and general playing are good. There's nothing worse when going for an afternoon's consort playing than to find that someone just can't manage one-to-a-part - it ruins things for everyone and is extremely embarrassing for all concerned! This is why groups tend to be self-selected, with just the occasional new person filtering in. smile.gif

I hope you find some people to play with - perhaps you could try to network more during the SRP tea-breaks?
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#4 andante_in_c

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 05:58

I have found exactly the same thing as you, Aeolienne. Playing in large groups is fine: look for consort playing and the situation is entirely different. This makes it very tricky when attending courses, as most of the other players play regularly in one-to-a-part groups and know the repertoire. I have lost count of the number of times I have had puzzled looks thrown at me when I've asked really basic questions about early music repertoire, so usually I keep quiet and learn fast, which is a strategy I tend to employ about anything.

I've had the opposite problem as well: being considered 'too good' for more humble groups. It does seem to be the usual catch-22 situation: groups won't take someone on without experience of one-to-a-part playing, but it is almost impossible to get that experience.

The big tragedy is that promising players are put off from taking recorder playing further because of the exclusivity of existing groups. I hope that the situation changes before long for you. smile.gif


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#5 katyjay

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 07:06

I sympathise entirely with your difficulty, Aeolienne. It is a very frustrating state of affairs.

Jo's post illustrates the situation exceedingly well - the established people already have their cosy and exclusive cliques, and if you're not part of that closed shop....well, you won't get to play in those groups....so you won't get the opportunity to learn the repertoire and improve your one-to-a-part playing....so you won't be able to get into those groups.

I do hope you find people to help you break that cycle. If the distances hadn't been so great, I would have been more than happy to play with you. And if you find yourself able to come to any of the Forums events, then I'm sure we can meet up and have a tootle.
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#6 Maizie

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 07:46

If you're an SRP member - do you have the membership list? In the membership list, some members are marked with a <C> which indicates that they are interested in consort playing. Maybe there are some in your area? Maybe you can get yourself marked as a <C> for the next edition - who know what it might start?
Depending on where you are in Devon (I know it's a big place), there's also Recorders At Plymouth (who used to be an SRP branch but now aren't).
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#7 anacrusis

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 16:32

I found it very difficult too, probably made more difficult by the repertoire I most enjoy and can play best; I'd make a rotten consort player because I can't count the obscure rhythms and trip over every hemiola going, and after a while I also find the music itself rather depressing blush.gif . I'd be best placed doing trio sonatas and baroque chamber music - and again, such groups are hard to come by, and even harder to get into. As an adult learner, I've had times when I've been unsure about my level of playing too - at first I knew I'd not be good enough, later I've found people unwilling to consider asking me along because they think I'd be bored. It takes a fair amount of courage to contact strangers on the off chance they might be interested in playing - I found a duetting partner through one of the lecturers at the university here, but felt very shy about approaching her to play (and was relieved that she seemed to be as shy as I felt!).
What kept me going was having a husband who can do me some keyboard accompaniments, and a long-distance correspondence with a friend who is more adventurous than I feel able to be - she has involved me in a couple of her concerts, to my great delight and pleasure.
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#8 sarah-flute

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 16:18

QUOTE(andante_in_c @ Oct 2 2007, 06:58 AM) View Post
I have lost count of the number of times I have had puzzled looks thrown at me when I've asked really basic questions about early music repertoire, so usually I keep quiet and learn fast, which is a strategy I tend to employ about anything.

What a shame! It seems a bit short sighted to assume that people will know their stuff, and thus to potentially put off someone who's talented.

Sounds like the consort world is rather clique-y. Surely everyone was once a beginner at it somewhere. A great shame if that is forgotten.
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#9 CJB

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 16:31

At times I think the recorder world can be a bit odd and cliquey. I think part of it is from the old 'its the instrument all the kids play' issue. I know when in the past I've approached others to play I've been wary about the do they play the instrument or assume that because they played it at school they are a recorder player. Don't get me wrong this has nothing to do with standard, but everything to do with attitude.

Over the time I've worked in my current job I've found a number of fellow recorder players - each time a new person contacts us saying 'I play the recorder' we have a moment of hesitation about inviting another into the group. We only play 1 per part music but having more people means that quartets/quintets happens more often than duets/trios. Having said that, all of the people who have come in have been great and have fitted in socially with us as well as musically.

I do share the irritation with unsupportive colleagues. We had an event here recently where we did a bit of recorder playing.......none of my group came to listen to even a minute of what we were doing.
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#10 jacobvaneyck

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 16:53

QUOTE(anacrusis @ Oct 2 2007, 05:32 PM) View Post

I found a duetting partner through one of the lecturers at the university here, but felt very shy about approaching her to play (and was relieved that she seemed to be as shy as I felt!).


And I still remember when I joined you two a couple of times when I was over there. Was good fun. smile.gif Don't really know any serious recorder players around here apart from the university Baroque ensemble. Havn't tried the SRP.

I'm not sure you can be excluded just for being 'too good'. Surely if you are keen enough you will play whatever is put in front of you, and move up when you have enough playing experience. Would be like advertising a job saying you must not have a degree but have not more than a few Standard Grades. At least it doesn't seem as age restricted as most things where the lower groups are generally only for school kids.
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#11 sarah-flute

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 17:03

It is quite possible to end up not being considered for a job because one is "too qualified" - it is often assumed that someone who is "too qualified" will only be wanting the job on a temporary basis, and therefore it's not worth the time and effort to train them up.

Someone may be keen enough to play whatever is put in front of them, but it doesn't mean that others realise that, sadly.
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#12 anacrusis

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 17:31

That is exactly what I meant. Asking others always seems to involve a bit of scouting around to find out if everybody would be as comfortable as everyone else with what is being played - and adult learners in particular often find it difficult to have an objective idea of their playing level, unless they've been doing exams. I know a bunch of students does sometimes get together for some baroque music here, but they don't ask me along; from other discussions with them I think they assume I'm more advanced than I am, again because I'm so much older - and I feel embarrassed to put myself forward because I don't want to cramp their style..because I'm so much older! rolleyes.gif

Neil - yes, the trios were fun, weren't they? Particularly swapping round parts until we'd all three of us played each one - and surprising how difficult it was to play the second line....I'm hoping to get that Scarlatti out again soon when I visit my friend down south - not only can she drum up another recorder player, but she even has a tame gamba player for some extra oomph in the bass biggrin.gif .
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#13 andante_in_c

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 17:54

I'm not sure that having passed certain grades at certain levels helps any - word of mouth and snap decisions based on one or two hearings seem to be much more important. ohmy.gif

I'm a fairly crummy bass player, and would love to play in a group at a reasonably modest level, just so I can get some practice in on the bass without feeling I'm letting everyone else down. As i said to one of the tutors on the Early Music course, 'I can count in 4/2, or I can play bass, but not both at the same time'. wink.gif Not being able to tell the difference quickly enough between semibreve and minim rests doesn't help!

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#14 jacobvaneyck

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 18:09

You are either experienced enough for an advanced group or you are not, and should be given something simpler. And just being a good soloist does not mean you automatically fit in with an advanced group, hence they would look for experience of playing in a lower level setting. I know this from experience. The symphony orchestra is a good example. However good I was as a solo clarinettist at the time, fitting in is always another game entirely, and not as easy as it sounds. That makes it very short sighted to say anyone is 'too good' because they are a good soloist, or will find a group 'too easy' when not used to the situation.

Maybe the best way forward is to find people in a similar position to you. Clearly anacrusis wasn't bothered I had never done one to a part before meeting up, because we were all in a similar position of needing some experience, already at a fair solo level. I joined the Baroque ensemble at my old uni on bassoon, but took my recorder along and jumped in once or twice. That's just an example.

CJB, oh those old attitudes are a pain in the proverbial, aren't they?
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#15 jo.clarinet

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 20:01

Really, for those wanting more experience in consort playing, going on courses is by far the best bet in the first instance. On a week's one-to-a-part course, you get an awful of practice - both in playing, and in dealing and coping with situations where people might be a lot better/worse than you.

Since I teach recorders for a living, my working days are made up - to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the pupil - of putting other people's needs before mine, being patient and nursing along those who need it. So in my limited leisure time I do prefer to play with those whom I know to be reliable and competent players. smile.gif

On courses, in the 'non-permanent' groups, I am happy to play with whoever I am put with, even if I don't get much out of it musically, but I wouldn't want to do that all the time. I have known people, quite good players, be reduced to tears, having had their week/weekend's musical holiday totally ruined by being in a permanent group with someone who continually stops the group when THEY go wrong, can't keep time, doesn't try to tune etc..... dry.gif
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