Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Ensemble Playing Tip by Bill Hughes

Whether you’re a member of a local youth orchestra or a grade 7 band member, these tips are important points for anyone involved in an ensemble.
1. Watch the conductor.
Whether they mention or not, most conductors love a performer who watches regularly and takes cues from their direction. When your director stands at the front of the band obviously ready to say something or begin a piece, stop talking and make eye contact with him or her. Memorize your first note so that you can breath and play with the first beat. Try to be able to look up at the conductor at least every few bars, and if possible, at the start of each bar. Look ahead in your music, and when you notice that you have an entrance, look to your conductor to see if he or she has any cues and respond to them. As well, if your conductor offers you any specific suggestions, try to follow them as best you can. Be aware of fermatas and time changes. If you show your conductor respect in these ways, in time he or she will value you as one of their best ensemble players.
2. Be ready to start on time.
Speaking of respect for your conductor, being ready with your instrument and music out is another great way of showing your dedication to ensemble. Though it may seem less important to someone in a junior high band, if you’ve chosen to be in a musical ensemble, make the most out of your time and the conductor’s by starting on time. There are few things that annoy a conductor more than an ensemble player, particularly a section lead, who comes to the band late or not at all. If you’re out having a coffee when you should be playing a solo, chances are you won’t have a solo for long.
Decide where your priorities lie; if you don’t want the benefit of ensemble experience, then consider leave the ensemble. If you want to stay and enjoy band, then rethink how disrupting your ensemble really benefits anyone, including yourself. If you just don’t enjoy the band or its conductor, leave it and try to find an ensemble with which you can arrive enthusiastic to each rehearsal.
3. Know your music.
Yeah, yeah, we all remember grade 7, when your practice time was like a half an hour a week for some of you, if any time at all. Well, beyond grade 7 (hey if you’re in grade 7 and want to be better than the other gr. 7s, follow this tip!) you need to actually look at your music between band nights. Along with your regular warm-up and private study, you should incorporate regular time to review your ensemble pieces and smooth out any complicated rhythms or tough technical passages. The last thing you want is to be singled out in band to play a particular passage and demonstrate to everyone that you do not practice.