I'm memorizing the Haydn Trumpet Concerto for a performance in June. I'm rehearsing with the orchestral backing on an MP3 player, actually performing with a pianist on the day. Once I actually start playing I'm OK - but I'm still not 100% certain where every entry comes in. What's the best way to come in at the right moment? Memorize the number of bars rest to count between entries? Memorize the accompaniment? Or some other technique?


I both memorize the accompaniment and know my "cues" and count. Ideally one would have the whole piece in one's head and just know/feel when to come in, but with the typical amount of rehearsal time available, it's often wise to count to be certain.

You can also use a hybrid system. If you know a cue (an easy to recognize moment played by someone else) and exactly where it is in the timing, then you can count from the cue to make sure you come in at the exact right time without having to count out 45 measures or whatever.

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    I would also add that listening to the piece and knowing the piece by ear aids greatly. Then, you will not only know how to come in by count, but also by feeling. – Jamerack May 16 '16 at 21:06
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    A frequent problem (for beginners in ensemble play at least) is, that even despite they count exactly, they start too late. It is important to have breathed before and fingers ready, so the tone builds up in the right moment and not only the process to produce it starts. – guidot May 17 '16 at 15:11
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    @guidot Good point, and an excellent reason to mark up one's score appropriately. E.g., "BREATHE!!" written in about a quarter note (crotchet) or eighth note (quaver) before the actual entry. – Todd Wilcox May 17 '16 at 15:28

The pianist will have the score with both parts showing. He/she will be able to nod you in. It won't look bad, as it'll be rather like 'I've done my part, now I'm handing back to you'. You could actually reciprocate, making it look like proper teamwork. Other than that, the existing answers seem to cover most other options.

  • I like this suggestion very much, but I'd feel a bit cheeky expecting the pianist to hand over - he's probably got enough on his plate already playing an orchestral reduction with loads of semiquaver runs... – Brian THOMAS May 22 '16 at 22:18
  • @BrianTHOMAS - maybe, but when the soloist comes back in, the accompanist often has a little less to do, and all it takes is a nod or an eyebrow raise. – Tim May 23 '16 at 5:53

You just have to "know" the piece. All of it! If there's any doubt, use the music. Plenty of soloists do.

  • I'm not so sure it is OK for the soloist to have the music in front of them. Soloist usually need to play from memory. – Neil Meyer May 17 '16 at 7:35
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    While my gut feeling agrees with you, telling someone to know all of the piece and to use the music is not helpful without context. What does he need to know? What details are important? To what extent does he need to know everything? – Lee White May 17 '16 at 8:00
  • To the fullest extent. There's no cop-out "easy" answer here. Both soloist and accompanist need to know what's happening, both in their part and in the other's. Knowing where to come in is the least of it! – Laurence Payne May 17 '16 at 22:31

What I have found works is to do Harmonic Analysis of the score that you want to memorise. There is great parallels as to how actors learn long plays.

When actors for example want to memorise a Shakespeare play they visualise each scene in their minds eye. The mind has great potential for memory when the visual approach is used.

You can learn to visualise score in the same way actors learn to visualise plays. I remember seeing a famous pianist talking about how she was taught from a young age to visualise scores and this was a great help in learning long pieces quickly.

It got so good for her that she could remember the exact font the letters were written in and all the little imperfections of the paper the music was printed on. You truly can have an Eidetic musical memory

So to bring it back to music. You have to go further than seeing the scores just as a collection of notes. You have to see the devices that the composers use to communicate the feelings and the message of the music.

So for this to happen I would start by figuring the score or in other words working out the chords. You may have to look at the complete score, not just your part. Also take note of the inversions

See how the melody works. Look at what voices takes the melody and which provide the harmony.Take note of all the melodic devices that are used to make the melodies interesting.

Analyses the score.

When you do this you stop having to force the memory of these notes that you only somewhat comprehend but rather learn true insight into the music.

Insight is what it all comes down to.

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    Could be, as a trumpet player, the OP is not too aware of harmonic progressions and chords. Not a lot of call for chord playing on a trumpet... – Tim May 17 '16 at 13:14
  • The Haydn concerto is full of chords! Presented as arpeggios rather than blocks though. – Laurence Payne May 18 '16 at 9:07

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