Studying "Après un rêve"

Posted: 11/16/2013 5:26:56 PM

From: Italy

Joined: 9/12/2013

So... How to begin?

This moment of my life is a little bit hectic... But I managed to make a present to myself and participate to Lydia Kavina workshop in Sardinia last October.

With no exaggeration, it has been one of the most exciting and wonderful experience I've ever made. Studying with a great musician for an entire week is a real honor. And Renata and Piero, the workshop hosts, did a great work in making our stay unforgettable (also good food and wine!).

Coming to theremin playing, well, now some techniques are more clear to me... but for the repertoire is a nightmare! I like the classical one, so I followed Lydia suggestion to study Apres un reve by Faure... I'm not satisfied on how I'm performing it at all!!!

Is there a section on the forum where I can post a link on soundclud to have some opinion?

Thanks to everybody and have a nice evening!

Posted: 11/16/2013 6:14:05 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Hi Italian thereminist,


The REPERTOIRE forum is the right place to discuss your concerns about performing APRES UN REVE. Why don't you post something to SoundCloud and then put the URL here so you can get some opinions on the elements of your performance that you are not happy with?


Ideally, if you want to discuss technique, an unlisted YouTube video would be much more helpful than an audio-only recording. It is so important with the theremin to see exactly HOW you are playing rather than simply hearing WHAT you are playing. 


It would also be possible to SHOW you - by replying with an unlisted video - other ways of approaching the composition that you might find more satisfying.


I have played the piece myself and from the technical point of view it is only moderately difficult, but from the MUSICAL point of view it is difficilissimo! 


Peter Pringle chi sei?..... Giulia, sei tu?


Posted: 11/16/2013 6:27:44 PM

From: Italy

Joined: 9/12/2013

Dear Peter,


thank you you for your quick reply! Unfortunately I do a very "public" work in an administration so I prefer not to have videos on YouTube for the moment... However I'm happy to post a link to soundcloud:

I find very difficult the fraseggio, making a good legato and to limit my vibrato, not to speak about the pitch that is somehow oscillating...hehehe.

I will study it more in the next days...

Thank you again!


p.s: I'm not Giulia! I'm Paolo, pleased to meet you!





Posted: 11/17/2013 12:18:23 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Hi Thereminista Italiano,


Before offering any of my own thoughts on your performance, I would like to know how YOU feel about it. What is it you LIKE and what is it you DON'T LIKE?


What do you think are the problem areas? 

Posted: 11/17/2013 4:03:00 AM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

You can also list your videos on Vimeo, it is a bit more "private" than Youtube.

Secondly, I would like to point out that you should play your theremin along a backing instrumental of the song, because at the moment, you play it A Cappella and your pitch is pretty much all over the place. It is hard for me (cause I have only been playing for 2 1/2 years and I am still new at it), to really judge anything else ~ being on pitch when you play the theremin is probably the very most important aspect of theremin performance (and I mean for this kind of repertoire). You can have all of the beautiful phrasing and emotion present; but if the pitch is poor, the other things will not really matter.

Take this with a grain of salt... This advice is coming from a noobie!



Posted: 11/17/2013 9:34:43 AM

From: A Coruña, Spain

Joined: 9/26/2010

I'm a professor, so I'm also a bit ashamed that my students could stumble upon videos of me playing the theremin (especially as I'm far from a good player). But note that you can send the link to an unlisted video by private message to the people whom you really want to see it. Or you can do as I do, and just point the camera to your hands, not to your face (in my case, this actually is partly because the room is very small and it's difficult to find a camera angle that will show both, but partly due to the above reason as well).

Posted: 11/17/2013 9:53:23 AM

From: Italy

Joined: 9/12/2013



how I feel about it? That's a good question! Given the fact that I've not been studying theremin for so long and I'm a beginner, I can accept he result. But, having a good musical background as a classical piano player, I can easily spot many problems.

First of all pitch: I tend to study at first without accompaniment just to be sure about intervals. I study first without vibrato then slowly add it. In this recording I tend to be somewhat oscillating... some notes are good but some are really not good!!!

Then my other problem is fraseggio: I would like to make longer phrases and to add more expression.


what I like: I somewhat like the sound  that I obtain from the theremin.


@amethyste: thank you for your advice. This morning I started practicing with a playback, but for the moment I'm not satisfied with the playback itself (too fast and poor in expression). You're completely right for the pitch! A bad pitch ruin all the performance!!!


@alkhwarizmi for what concern videos, I'll think about it.


luckily today it's sunday so I can play theremin a little bit more!


thanks everybody for you replies And have a nice day!

Posted: 11/17/2013 12:12:55 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Caro thereminista Italiano,


First of all, we shall take a moment to reflect on the fact that the theremin is the most difficult instrument ever invented. If I may quote the late Clara Rockmore, "It is much more difficult than the violin, which I played for years".


Let us begin with your first note.


You are playing this piece in the key of C minor, which means that your first note is a G. Unfortunately, your first note was not a G, it was closer to a G#. This threw you off, so your second note, C, was flat. Playing the theremin is a bit like a race. If you stumble at the starting line, there is a good chance you will never recover and it will screw up your entire performance. 


You have made your task more difficult by playing "a cappella". Amethyste is right, if you use some kind of accompaniment, your timing and pitch will be much better because you will have a constant reference to keep you on track. DON'T PLAY ALONG WITH A FINISHED PERFORMANCE. Use a recording specifically made for accompaniment. Since you are a trained classical pianist, I presume you are in a position to provide your own.


I strongly recommend that you start using an audio pitch preview. This way, you always know that your starting note is correct. The advantages of a pitch preview for a serious, precision thereminist cannot be overestimated.


I have heard some of the practice tapes that pianist Nadia Reisenberg made for her sister Clara Rockmore, and in many of them, waaaaay in the background, you can hear Clara singing along "sotto voce" with the piano. She did this so that the phrasing would be exactly right. 


It is essential to know the correct notes and exact values of those notes if you want to play a piece like APRES UN REVE at the professional level. Are you able to hear this song correctly from beginning to end in your musical imagination? You only played fourteen bars of it (which you then partially repeated an octave higher) but some of the notes were wrong so I was unsure whether you knew what the right ones were.


You mentioned that one of your concerns is phrasing (fraseggio). In a work like this, phrasing is EVERYTHING. I think the problem here is that your playing is not sufficiently advanced to allow you to think about phrasing because you are so concentrated on the basics of simply getting the notes right. Phrasing comes when technique is no longer an obstacle.


Later on this morning I will make a quickie recording "a cappella" of the section of the Fauré that you posted to Sound Cloud so you can hear how I think it should be played. Perhaps it will be a help. If not, beam it into oblivion!


As I said at the start of this thread, it is very difficult to make any constructive suggestions about someone's theremin technique when you can't see what the person is doing. If you could post an unlisted video to YouTube that shows only your hands, and using an alias, no one would have to know that your real name is Silvio Berlusconi.


Posted: 11/17/2013 5:00:34 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

I just did the following "a cappella" mp3 of the first 14 bars of APRES UN REVE, starting on 'C' (key of F minor). I played it on an RCA because that is what was plugged in to my recorder. I should have waited for it to heat up for a while because it "burped" a couple of times and shifted timbre. LOL


Because the theremin can play in any key, I wonder how many people give any thought to what key sounds best for a particular piece they want to play on their instrument.

Posted: 11/17/2013 9:59:17 PM

From: Italy

Joined: 9/12/2013

Dear Peter,

thank you for your help!

I will listen to your advices and thank you for the "a Cappella" performance, it will be useful during the study for the next weeks.

I tend not to play with a finished performance as a playback, so, when I'll have some spare time I will record my own version of the playback (it will take time because I will travel a lot for work in the next weeks).

So thank you again for everything!

Paolo (not Silvio at all :) )

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