Tag Archives: YouTube

Not in the YouTube Symphony

Oh well…

I’m not a “winner” of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.   Wifey keeps on telling me to get over it.

But I’ve watched my video a few more times, and those of the “winners”.   And I’ve come to the conclusion – I’m just a boring player to watch.

And I need to change this.

I’m sure there are a multitude of opinions, but music is primarily a form of communication – a performing art.   Playing the notes, articulation, phrasing..  that’s all one side of the coin.  But on the other side, is the visual aspect.

On an audio CD, you don’t get this – and so I know I’ve been sometimes surprised to go and watch an artist in person and be disappointed.  Or sometimes the reverse – sometimes seeing the performance, the emotion and movement in an artist, leaves such an impression that just listening to their audio recording afterwards is quite a different experience.

I think I need to work on the visual, performing aspect of my playing.   So it “looks” like I’m playing what I’m feeling.  For an audience member, this will then reinforce their aural sense with the visual sense – therefore heightening their overall musical experience.  Surely?

Any thoughts?

I’m a finalist of the YouTube Symphony! Vote for me!

I can’t believe it!

After receiving the email about being a potential finalist, and some musings that it doesn’t necessarily mean that I could be an actual finalist, I got the email from YouTube saying that I really am a finalist in the YouTube Symphony 2011 competition!


What does this mean?   It means I’ve progressed to the voting round.  It seems they’ve whittled down the field to 80.  If they are choosing 8 desks of 1st and 2nd violins, that’s 32 to get through.   Although the fine print says that the number of votes doesn’t totally govern who gets through, it sure would be nice to get at least a few votes!!

So, if you have a spare minute, just log onto the YouTube Symphony website (http://www.youtube.com/symphony), click on Vote then Orchestral Auditions, click on the Violin section (bottom left next to the conductor) and then scroll to find my video (Jason Chong), click on it then click Vote!

What do you get?   I can’t offer you much unfortunately, but maybe a shout out on my blog!

Potential finalist of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra!

For the last few days, I’ve been checking my iPhone constantly for new messages from YouTube.  Yep, it was the time range when entrants to the YTSO 2011 competition would find out if they got chosen to progress to the next round.

So I was extremely excited when my iPhone pinged me on Saturday morning with an email from YouTube.

I have been chosen as a potential finalist or potential alternate! 

I can’t believe it!!   Wifey thinks I’m mad, that I’m suffering some mid life crisis.  Must be like how I’m the oldest (nearly twice the age) of entrants in the Fremantle Eisteddfod.  I wonder if I’m the oldest entrant in YTSO 2011?   Surely not at 35!

For me, I’m secretly glad that being a non-professional musician means I don’t have a “reputation” that I need to uphold and prevent me from doing random things like this 🙂

But I’ve been playing back my recording for the last week and am actually embarrassed that my intonation is a little shaky, especially in the Mozart – the first piece in my video!   Luckily, intonation is not the only criteria used for judging and I hope musicality and interpretation are just important.

Anyways, I think I now have to wait until around the 10th December when official public voting starts, and then see what happens.   If I do get through, then it’s a week over in Sydney to hang out with other musos from around the world, and hopefully some top notch professional musos too!

*Fingers crossed*

The story behind my YouTube Symphony audition

I haven’t been giving my blog much love lately.    Real life has just gotten in the way with trips to Sydney and Singapore and an orchestral gig.  Blog posts to come up soon!

One thing I have squeezed in is to continue working on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO) violin audition.  Unfortunately with travelling around and having 2 kids to worry about too, I didn’t have much time to learn or record my audition 😦  I had to fit in some of recordings just before I sent the kids to school on two mornings in the past week!  Yep, you’ll see Miss 9 run out of her bedroom to get breakfast!

The audition seems a bit fairer this time around.   You now need to prepare 5 pieces and it’s a more typical Symphony Orchestra audition choice – a solo Bach, a Mozart concerto and a range of orchestra excerpts.

Here’s what I chose!

Bach Partita in D – Allemande

I’ve played this before.  Actually, I think most violinists would have played this – it’s something you “have” to learn when you learn to play the violin.   For me, it was good to go back and polish this up again.

My interpretation has definitely changed since when I played it back in my teens.  Back then, I loved the heavy, grand versions of the Bach.  I used to use Itzhak Perlman’s BBC video as my yardstick.  But my current mood is for a more delicate, minimalist approach and bringing out all the intricacies of the various voices all intertwined.  I would have loved to have recorded this with absolutely no vibrato, but the style of your playing depends on the acoustics and my lounge room doesn’t have much reverb, so I had to use a little vibrato.

Bach is actually hard to play well.   Bach was a genius in trying to use a single instrument to play multiple voices.  Here there’s no double stops, yet there’s usually two voices throughout.  It’s also hard because there’s a lot of semiquavers, but you don’t want it to sound like a study.  There has to be some movement and phrasing, yet trying to keep time.   I hope I did it justice!

Mozart Violin Concerto in A – 1st Movement

I had trouble deciding between the two Mozart concertos.  I actually hadn’t learnt either of these concertos.  I’ve only learnt and played the 3rd concerto many years ago.   But I know wifey has been bugging me to learn one of these instead of the “great” violin concertos that I’ve been messing around with lately.

I chose the A major, mainly because I saw Renaud Capucon conduct a masterclass on this recently and was totally mesmerised by his playing of the introduction – read more here.

Mozart is deceptive.  People think these concertos are “easy”.  Easy – maybe easy to learn the notes, but to play it expressively like an operatic dialogue – no.   I remember the comments in a couple of my AMEB exams in my teens were all about trying to make my playing more operatic.  No, not like an aria!  But like multiple people having a conversation, and having some meaning or direction to the conversation.  After all, music is communication right?

So fast forward to today, I think I have a better understanding of what the music is trying to achieve, but whether I brought this out in my playing is a different matter altogether!   I know my intonation is not bang in the center here – and that’s really because of lack of consistent practice.

Strauss Don Juan excerpt

Argh!!  This is a hardy – from a technical point of view.   Fast runs and arpeggios.  But also so passionate!

The first thing I did was to listen to a recording of it.  There’s so many other parts in the orchestra during this passage, that it’s hard to play alone.   But at least I got a grasp of the tempo and what the music was trying to achieve.

I find it hard to play passages like this solo too because when you’re playing in a section of 5-8 desks of violins, and the whole symphonic orchestra around you, you get this feeling that is hard to replicate alone.   Also, you can probably get away with a few inaccuracies since the section swallows you up whole!

The trouble with this excerpt is that the difficult passages just keep on coming!  Especially when you think you’re out of danger near the end, but then all those quiet triplet passages hit you.  Aargh!

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 excerpt

I’ve played a few Beethoven Symphonies, but interestingly not the No. 9 yet!   I wasn’t familiar with this passage, so I had to find a recording and listen to this part to get the context.

I found this another hard thing to play solo.   With a whole section, you can change your playing to match the others around you, and to produce the common blanket of sound as one.  But individually, if I played like that, it would probably sound very plain indeed.   Also, in a concert hall with more reverb, one can get away with playing less but still sounding more.

So I decided to make my own tone nice here in my dead-ish lounge room by use of vibrato..  maybe too excessive?

Mendelssohn Symphony excerpt

Final excerpt!   This would be great to play in an orchestra!   The challenge here is the triplets – trying to keep them going without any other orchestral part to bounce off or to keep in sync with!

Here’s the final product!   I hope I at least get to the 2nd round this time.






YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011


Youtube has announced the second YouTube Symphony Orchestra project.

I tried and failed miserably in the 2009 attempt.  Actually, it’s a bit of a coincidence because I was just watching my old video again a few days ago.  Hmm…  my Paganini was played most boringly…  I think I got all caught up with the technical aspect of it 😦

This time around, it’s unfortunately not at Carnegie Hall, but the Sydney Opera House.  Not so exotic for me being an Australian, but the experience should still be amazing.

Sneak peek here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LA2kcgOvwlA

and more info here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/symphony

YouTube Symphony Orchestra

Well, it’s nearly time for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra concert! 

I’ve noticed a bit of news coverage over the last day or two about it in Australia.   Like this one on the Sydney Morning Hearld website – http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/web/video-in-symphony/2009/04/14/1239474911896.html.

I did have to re-upload my final Tan Dun video a month or two ago to be potentially used in the video mashup.  I hope my video makes the cut!   That will mean that the video of myself playing the Tan Dun symphony may appear for a split second at Carnegie Hall! 

But.. oh.. I wish I had maybe chosen a different audition piece, like the Brahms Symphony.   It might have increased my chances of getting through (looking at the proportion of finalists who played that as their audition piece).    My lesson learnt – don’t choose the audition piece until you’ve heard and had a play through each one!   Oh well, maybe there’ll be a next time…

YouTube Symphony Winners announced

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!

More info here:  http://www.youtube.com/symphony

No news is probably bad news

Well, it looks like I probably didn’t get into the next round of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra auditions. 

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.

YouTube Symphony Orchestra Audition Prep – Day 16


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:

Day 0Day 3Day 8Day 12Day 15