Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thoughtful Tuesday: Benefit from Ensemble Playing

Why is ensemble playing important?

While writing this, I am listening to Circulo Trio rehearsing for their performance last Saturday at Steinway Gallery in Chicago. Even though they are not brass related ensemble, the elements of ensemble playing are still the same. They are interacting, exchanging idea, and having fun together. They are bonded through music making.

I would like to offer some of my thought and from other sources that I could find too.
It is worth mentioning that by ensemble I will be discussing about a smaller ensemble without conductor (or you could call it Chamber Music).

It is fun to be working with few more fellow musicians or friends after all self-practice. Playing with other people also helps developing other skills that self-practice can't such as
  • Develop your musicianship such as listening, rhythmic skill as a group
  • Learn your role - to be a good leader, a good support, and to be a good partner. 
  • Learn to collaborate and sustain group's relationship. - Being in a Chamber group is like being in a family. Discussion/Opinion/Argument or however you call it during rehearsals and works need to be respected, and should be left once it is done. Once it is being taken personally, it deems to be doomed. 
  • The most important of all is to communicate. Those could include listening, looking, body language or any mean that would group message deliver to audience. Basically, communication at any level.
These are things that I think why being in a small ensemble is important.

Here are some interesting articles about this topic.
Please share your thought on this topic!


  1. I do believe that ensemble playing is a crucial experience to have. There are some skills and techniques as you wrote that one cannot learn and improve alone. Even today, in the brass trio I am a part of, I am still learning and becoming more comfortable with either being a leader, but having an equally weighted voice within our ensemble. A prime example of this necessity is the NY philharmonic. They were searching for a new 2nd trumpeter a few years ago. I was told by Robert Sullivan (Northwestern University trumpet professor) that he was part of the committee listening to auditions. 150+ audition, but nobody made the cut in the end due to everyone playing as if they were soloists rather than blending, adapting, and listening to the others around them.

    1. Thanks for sharing! It is difficult to find the right balance for this. I think it really comes from different exposures to different kind of settings.

      It would be interesting if you could interview Prof. Sullivan about his experience listening to those auditions!