So YouTube has now announced the winners of the YouTube Symphony orchestra competition.
Unfortunatley I didn’t get through to the finals, but it was a good experience for me – and made me practice the violin, which I haven’t really picked up since. I haven’t had a chance to look at all the winning performers yet but I’m sure they’ll all have a great time in New York!
Let’s hope that Google and YouTube fund more of these in the future!
The offical “rules” say that potential finalists and potential alternates will be notified by or around the 5th February. With eagerness, I’ve been checking my YouTube account and email accounts multiple times daily, but there’s been nothing… It’s 4 days later now, and pretty close to the date where legal documents have to be submitted, so it’s a “no” for me.
It’s disappointing putting in that effort, and perhaps mistakenly and obviously with bias, thinking that I could get to the next stage. But in reality, I’ve had a look at my video a few times since the submission, and cringe at some of my intonation and wish that I’d played it with even more vitality. Maybe I should’ve chosen a more flashy piece instead of a technical one.
Also, who was I kidding – I don’t really play the violin much at that standard anymore, haven’t had regular lessons for over 12 years, am not a professional violinist and had to learn the Paganini in only 2 weeks!
But then again, in the back of my head I’m doing sums – I’m not sure how many entries there are (there don’t seem to be too many), but if they choose 200 potential finalists and 100 potential alternates, that’s 300 for an orchestra of 80. If there are 5 desks of first violins = 10 first violin positions, that means that relatively, there should be about 37 first violins chosen for the potential finalists and potential alternate positions which seems like a reasonable percentage.
My wifey says I should just let it go and move on – that I should be happy to have had a goal to learn new pieces and play the violin again. I suppose so… and so I worked a bit on the Sibelius violin concerto, and to inspire myself again, went out and bought the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto sheet music from Zenith’s.
My YouTube audition videos are finally online! Although, when I checked this morning, they weren’t listed on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra audition videos, but I’m hoping that this is due to some delay in approval, etc.
Here’s video 1 of the Tan Dun Internet Symphony No. 1.
And here’s video 2 of the Paganini Caprice No. 20.
I had some dramas trying to upload these though.
First I tried uploading them from home. But my internet connection is a little bit flaky – I have problems uploading photos to Facebook and Flickr, so the probability of uploading a ~150MB video to YouTube was pretty slim.
I then tried from my wife’s parent’s house. But their computer didn’t recognise my Western Digital USB2 drive. Aargghhh!!!
And so, we stopped by my parent’s house last night and kicked it off. And it seemed to have worked and turned up on YouTube this morning! Yay!
I submitted them to the YouTube Symphony Orchestra page, got a confirmation email that I verified, and now, I just wait.
So where to now for my violin playing?
This experience has been a good intensive violin workout for me. It’s good to have a deadline, but I’ve realised that fitting in practice everyday is unrealistic for me. Also, my lack of consistent and long term practice is visible in the videos – I won’t hide this fact – my intonation is obviously not perfect.
I looked at the Paganini book and I did some sums in my head – 24 caprices, 26 fortnights in a year, spent ~2 weeks to learn Caprice No. 20. I could set a target of learning all caprices by the end of the year, but after listening to some of the other caprices, I think 2 weeks per Caprice is a very tough target. I think I’ll start by learning Paganini Caprice No. 24, and then finishing off Bach’s G minor violin sonata. All good!
By the way, to read previous posts on preparation, see:
These last few days have been busy preparing for our 7yo’s two birthday parties – one for her school friends, and another for family and family friends. And so, I really only had parts of Saturday and Sunday to video the Tan Dun Internet Symphony violin part for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
I set up the music, set up the video camera, and then realised… I need to play with the video or backing track. But how?
I had a quick look online and various people have approached this in different ways. What I ended up doing was this:
Download the YouTube video
Instead of watching and replaying it online each take, I downloaded it courtesy of KissYouTube. Now I had the video as a file, I could play it as many times as I liked without stuttering or being online. Also, instead of the silent track, I chose the practice track with the music too, so I could hear the orchestra play with me.
Put the YouTube video on the iPhone
I was quite comfortable with standing to play, but I couldn’t raise the laptop that high, and it was too low on the coffee table. I guess I could’ve sat down. But in the end, I put the video onto the iPhone, and put the iPhone on the music stand so Tan Dun was right there for me 🙂
Extend the headphone cable
In order for the sound from the YouTube video to not be recorded, I had to use headphones. But the standard (and crummy sounding) white iPhone ones have a really short cord! I had forgotten to bring my headphone extension cable home from work, so I had to improvise and used my guitar’s DI box along with a long 1/4 inch lead. This meant I could move and walk around without pulling the iPhone off the stand 🙂 I did try to sync my iPhone up to a bluetooth headset, and play the sound through the headset, but that didn’t seem to work. I couldn’t even get the iPhone to “see” the bluetooth headset 😦 😦
There is one “long” tacet near the beginning of the piece for the violins. Looking at other videos online, people have approached this in various ways – just standing there for the rests, jumping past it to the next part, etc. I decided that I didn’t want people to watch me stand still for the rests 🙂 so I jumped forward to the fast section. I hope that when the YouTube people mash up the final video, they will be able to align the different parts with no problems!
My video camera records in a M2TS format, which is Sony’s high definition AVHCD format. It’s pretty simple to convert this to MPEG-2 using their supplied software. To speed up the process, I used Normal Quality instead of High Quality, but I think I’ve paid the price for this as the final videos look a bit “soft”.
Now to upload!
For reference, here are my other posts on my preparation so far!
I haven’t had much practice lately, but the other day, my wifey took some time out to give me some feedback. I hadn’t realised yet, but I haven’t really played the Paganini for anyone else properly yet! I figured there was not enough time to get a violin lesson in.
In any case, it’s great to have a third party look at the score and listen to your playing. If you’re a music student with concert practice or having regular lessons, this is obviously no problem. But for people who do music as a hobby by themselves, it’s extremely fruitful. Of course, as an artist that has worked hard at it, you may be defensive at first, but that’s counter-productive. A musical performer is a communicator – communicating the composer’s written intentions, along with your own interpretation, to the listener.
So, we looked at the Paganini score, and adjusted some of my tempo interpretations and phrasing. I did a few more videos and looking back at the early ones, I now wonder what planet I was on!
A few more days to go. With Australia Day being a write off, and needing probably 1 day to process the videos and upload them, I think I’ll need to finalise the videos this weekend!
And I haven’t even recorded the Tan Dun piece yet!
Two evenings of having friends over meant I could only play through the Caprice instead of doing a good practice session. I designated Saturday as a day of “rest” (and cleaning the pool), leaving Sunday as the first day in four days with a serious practice session. And even after 3 days of hardly any practice, I could already feel my fingers were not as agile or accurate as my practices on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. Amazing. Plus, Guitar Hero World Tour is definitely not helping!
So on Sunday, I got out of bed, cleaned up, and subjected the house to the high screeching sounds of Paganini’s Caprice No. 20. After I was warmed up and ready, I decided that it’s now time to start videoing myself playing, just to see what it looks like and to pratice doing full play throughs.
And it’s so hard! I’ve really only practiced it in parts so far, and can usually get a run or tricky passage after a few goes. But to get a good video means nailing every tricky passage in one shot! Aaargghhhh!!! After about 7-8 takes, I found that I kept on stuffing up 1 or 2 parts, and not necessarily the same parts. Jumping up to the A-F# double stop near the beginning, the arpeggios up the E string, clear articulation and intonation for the arpeggiated chords across the G and E strings, jumping up to the fingered A and then G# octaves…
I could feel myself getting more anxious about getting a good take and tensing up which didn’t help. But I found doing more takes and forcing myself to play a little slower helped me relax.
The other thing I noticed was that even though I thought I was doing dynamics and providing tone colours in my playing, when watching the video playback, it seemed pretty monotonous. I need to exaggerate my playing more.
I’ve decided to give up on my idea of learning Paganini Caprice No. 24 just in case I can get that up to a good standard and just focus on getting a good take. With hosting two dinner parties, my daughter’s Birthday party, dinner at a friend’s house, an Australia Day BBQ and my daughter’s actual Birthday in the next 7 days, I’m hoping I can nail it soon!
I knew I had set a challenging target to get an audition entry in for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Two weeks to get the audition piece and a solo piece up to a standard I’d be proud to put on the internet for everyone to see.
Well, it was Day 3 yesterday. The Tan Dun piece has been practised a few times, but I put all of my efforts into the solo piece. I’m regretting not learning the Presto from Bach’s G Minor last year. I had a look at it again on Monday and there were just too many notes. 4 pages of semiquavers to be played at speed! If it was slower, then maybe OK – but with the Presto, it has to be fast and the notes just keep coming. My heart sank – what’s left? The orchestra excerpts that I wasn’t too interested in, which leaves the Paganini Caprice No. 20 or 24!!
Aarghhh!! I haven’t really learnt a Paganini Caprice from start to end. I did look at No. 16 a long time ago, and toyed with the E flat one and No. 5. I remember when I took some casual lessons again a few years ago, it was recommended that I start learning them. But I always saw them as an insurmountable challenge.
Well, it’s here. I looked up No. 20 and No. 24 on YouTube, on my sheetmusic, listened to my recording of Perlman playing them and decided to concentrate first on No. 20. It doesn’t seem that long, and I thought I’d rather have tricky fingerings, double/triple stops, octaves, blind shifts into no man’s land and intonation cruelty rather than a million notes an hour 🙂
The good news is that it seems to be going OK so far. I’ve learnt the notes, now it’s time to fine tune it, nail the tricky passages EVERY time, concentrate on the interpretation side of things, up the tempo of the fast part even more but still keep the clarity of the notes and be able to play it from start to end without stopping or stuffing up badly! Luckily with a video audition, I can take as many takes as I want until I get it right, unlike a live audition. It seems like an advantage, but everyone has this advantage anyway, so it’s a level playing field.
If I can play like Erin Keefe below, I’d be very happy.
I still have to play through the Tan Dun piece with the video/backing. Still time left!