Friday, January 21, 2011

How do You Turn Pages?

I've been accompanying choirs since my middle school days, but this past Wednesday night at choir I found myself all of a sudden struggling with the basic concept of coordinating page turns while accompanying the choir. I don't know if I was just extra tired this week (I was- and still am- battling a cold) or whether my brain just wasn't fully engaged, but for whatever reason I started having major problems executing smooth page turns. I'd turn too early and lose my place, I'd turn too late and leave a few beats of awkward silence or hold a chord from the previous was awful! And once it started my heightened awareness of the problem only made matters worse. As I'd near the end of a page my mind would start racing and I'd think "ok, I have to get this page turn right" and I'd agonize over it so much that I'd mess up anyway. UGH!

I don't know why, but as a music professional it seems that just when I feel I've earned my title I find myself plagued by amateurish problems of this nature. I guess it's good to review the basics every now and again. ;) Every day since then when I've practiced I've really focused on how I'm prepping for my page turns. And I've realized that I really don't operate under any kind of standard formulae for page turning. It happens when it happens. Some places I have to turn early, others I turn late.

Do any other musicians have a formula or rule you use for page turning? I'd like to be able to have a bit more of a set formula to take into my future years of accompanying!


  1. One thing I do (and I realize this doesn't work when sight-reading) is to memorize the first note or chord at the beginning of the page-turn (the one you're turning to, if that makes sense). Because I usually use my L.H to turn the page, it's usually a chord or other type of accompaniment. Does this make sense? I don't know, I think page-turning is a skill in and of itself, I had never thought about it that way until my husband who can play at the early-intermediate level told me he can't believe how I turn the pages and am able to keep going and not lose my place or mess up.
    I'm trying to think of other tips of things I do subconciously that might help, I'll come back and post if I can think of any. :)

  2. I wanted to add that the most difficult thing I encountered when accompanying a choir for the first time was finding the notes by note-name (For instance, the conductor would tell me to play the D at measure 5, I had to really look for it to find that D) I believe this is because I have played by interval for so long and never really think about note names.
    It was also hard at first to separate bass from tenor and soprano and alto. When sight-reading, I could actually play all the parts together better than I could play each individual part, isn't that strange? I'm still not sure why that is. Curious if anyone else has had this issue.

  3. Thanks so much for your thoughts Rachel! I think you're right- page turning IS a skill that good accompanists have to learn, and it's something that good accompanists should always be conscious of just like always reading ahead in the music. When a page turn is coming up, we should be thinking about when the best time is to turn instead of just trying to flip quickly without thinking about when the best time would be.

    So I guess it's more a fact of being engaged in the music and analyzing what's happening and how to make the turn as smoothly as possible.

    Memorizing is also an excellent strategy, but unfortunately with the volume of music I don't always have time to learn each piece well enough to be able to anticipate like that. In my own personal practice, that's always my goal.

    I really appreciate all your thoughts! This morning's performance went just fine- I honestly think it was a combination of me not feeling well on Wednesday and also becoming too conscious about the issue and trying to overcompensate at the rehearsal! :)