Illegible parts

Every musician has her pet peeves. Most of mine are related to travelling on planes with a cello, but there are a few others, such as cramped rehearsal venues, chairs that are too low, and so on. And then…hard-to-read scores. I’d always felt ashamed of getting so irritated with these, as it seemed like a bit of a first world problem. (After all, there are musicians in developing countries who are desperate for the things we take for granted, such as access to decent strings and rosin.)

So it was with some surprise that I read in Dianna T. Kenny’s The Psychology of Performance Anxiety (Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 51) that 65% of orchestral musicians named illegible music as one of the biggest stressors in their professional lives in a survey by the Fédération internationale des musiciens.

65%. I felt like less of a whiner after that.

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The intonation addict

Many years ago, when I was at university, I remember being jealous of another student in my class who played flawlessly in tune. She never seemed to put a foot (or finger) wrong. I asked her how she did it, and she shrugged and said “I just got really addicted to playing in tune.”

I was a bit peeved at this response. I thought she might be superciliously implying that the rest of us were addicted to playing out of tune. I scowled and went back to my practice room.

Much later, it occurred to me that perhaps a lot of people are addicted to being out of tune, in the sense that they let poor intonation go unchecked in the practice room, glossing over it with big slides and vibrato, without really figuring out what good intonation is. 

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