Pianists aren't generally accustomed to playing in an orchestra. It is a small community in itself, with rules designed to prevent excessive loss of rehearsal time and a strict hierarchy. Here are a few simple tips about how to act when you are called to play with an orchestra, either as a soloist, or as a line musician:
- Not everyone is allowed to speak out with opinions or questions. Generally, only the conductor is at liberty to speak at all times. Not all musicians are allowed to address the conductor in the middle of rehearsal. If you are the soloist, speak directly to the conductor, and avoid disagreements in front of the orchestra. All matters of interpretation should be done in a private rehearsal between conductor and soloist, and if absolutely necessary, in a lowered voice directly to the conductor during a pause in rehearsal. If you are playing as part of the percussion section address your questions to the percussion principal, usually playing timpani--- he is the one that handles the percussionist distribution and charts. If you are set apart from the percussion then you may talk directly to the conductor, but only if strictly necessary. Opinions, and comments should all be done outside of rehearsal time, and not in all cases.
- As a soloist, usually the conductor will come backstage to take you to your seat and usually you will walk in front of him. Make sure to shake the concertmaster's hand before acknowledging applause and sitting down to play. Remember that, in some cases, you are required to play an A for the oboe, so the orchestra can tune. If you are not the soloist you must always stand up whenever the concertmaster stands, and you have to wait to sit down until he does. Sometimes after the piece, if you had an important solo, the conductor will make you a gesture to stand up and take a bow.
- Remember to always tell the orchestra librarian before taking a score with you or if you want to make a copy of the score. Never write with pen directly on the score and usually, the scores stay on the stand after you are done. Make sure you bring a couple of pencils to the rehearsal. Some orchestras will issue the parts directly to the musicians at the beginning of the concert season; take good care of them, they are not your property.
- You must always have your eyes either on the conductor or on your music. Resist looking at the audience, and never turn around to look at someone playing a solo.
- Counting measures is something pianists are not used to. Try and not count out loud, or with an audible beat. Also take time to write some cues into the music in case you lose count. If you have a hard entrance, make sure to have a look at the score, so you have an idea of what you should be listening to.
- Some more obvious things to remember are being on time, not talking during the rehearsal, and practicing your parts. Prepare for the performance as you would prepare any performance of your own.
Most other musicians have been playing in orchestras since they were children and have a somewhat instinctive grasp of what is right and what is wrong in regards to orchestra etiquette. As a pianist, try and follow along as a way of showing respect for your fellow musicians.