onstage

Though playing an instrument alone can be both rewarding and enjoyable, don’t overlook the benefits of playing music with others. There are many reasons people choose to remain musical “hermits”, one of the most common being, “I’m not good enough to play with other people.” This is rarely true. Even if you’ve only been playing violin for a short time, you can (and should) play with other people. Here are some guidelines that will help you choose the right setting at the right time.

Laying Roots to Playing Music with Others (Year 1)

It’s a good idea to stick to learning the fundamentals and technique of your instrument during your first year or so of playing. Playing music with others can be frustrating at this stage, since you’ll be concentrating so much on the mechanics of playing. If you can find someone at your level to play with, though–even if it’s just scales played slowly–you will benefit from the experience.

Finding a Small Group (Years 1-3)

During this time, it’s a good idea to try to find one local player at the same level as you. Duets are a great learning experience and can be fun and rewarding. If you don’t know any other players, try calling local teachers to ask if they have students who would be interested in playing duets.

Considering a String Quartet (Years 4-7)

You can certainly play duets at every skill level, but it’s also a good idea to branch out and find more people to play your instrument with as your skills improve. Small chamber music groups like string quartets are wonderful to participate in, as are community orchestras. Don’t limit yourself to playing music only with other string players—lots of great music has been written for ensembles that include one string instrument plus piano, winds, brass and more.

Joining a Professional Orchestra (Years 8+)

You are now probably ready to audition for a professional orchestra. Enjoy the heights of greatness you’ve achieved, but don’t stop playing in small groups.

Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. Everyone progresses at a different rate, so be sure to do what’s right for you.

Benefits of Playing Music in Groups

Playing music with other people will greatly improve your overall musicianship as well as your proficiency on your instrument. It’s also just plain fun! The sound of multiple instruments playing together is lush and full, and you get the pleasure of knowing you are a part of something bigger. The joy of creating beautiful music with other people can’t be matched.

 

You will find that playing with others forces you to pay close attention to your rhythm and intonation. When you play alone, you don’t have to be as precise. But add just one other person into the equation, and suddenly correct rhythm and intonation are vital if you want to avoid a train wreck.

 

Playing with other people can be motivating and inspire you to practice consistently. Having a community of other musicians is helpful for discovering performance opportunities, meeting new people and getting encouragement. Who knows–your ensemble may even make a little money performing.

 

Everything you learn when playing music with others will benefit your solo playing. Ensemble playing helps you learn to listen and adapt, and creates well-rounded musicians. Isolated players often don’t progress as fast or become as versatile.

 

We encourage you to start today: ask a fellow musician if they’d like to play some duets, start a string quartet or join an orchestra. Don’t worry that you’re not good enough, just jump in and start playing. You have nothing to lose but the discouragement of musical isolation.

 


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  1. Sophia Chan
    Sophia Chan says:

    I’ve played a duet and been in orchestra but this is my first time playing in a quintet. I’m really excited but at the same time I can’t help but feel myself questioning “what if I drag everyone down?” or “what if I’m not good enough”.

  2. zurieee21
    zurieee21 says:

    Ah, man, my teacher is going to love this post. This is a PERFECT reason as to why he’s making our class do an ensemble for contest in the groups he put us in. Now I see why as well.

  3. BettyG
    BettyG says:

    I use to play in a small group I got stage fright more often than not . Thou I did enjoy playing with them I was the weakest player . I played the recorder flute I miss that group

  4. jodi
    jodi says:

    very interesting! i love playing with others! i play with 2 chamber groups a week and for these past few months i have played with a university orchestra. fun stuff! i think i have gotten better as a player because of it too. -lots of experience!

  5. Brad Stevens
    Brad Stevens says:

    I haven’t played with a group since my first couple of years of playing, but it was a good way to stretch me and move me forward faster. I’ve finally got a few friends with whom to play ensembles again, and this inspires me to push the rest to get us started.

  6. viola09161947
    viola09161947 says:

    Playing with others was always a favorite with me. I especially liked to play chamber music, which to me was more fun than playing in symphonic ensembles.

  7. dolphinOG
    dolphinOG says:

    I love to play both, orchestra or chamber music. I would give an advise though to all of you who would like to join any of this two. Always aim for better, for rising your standards. Any experience is welcome, but from my own experience, always try to find a group where the players are at least at the level you are playing, or better, otherwise is pretty much a waste of time.

  8. Esther_Meza
    Esther_Meza says:

    When I first started playing it was difficult to keep up with the others in the band. I should have played duets with another violinist like it suggested to help us both excel. I am currently playing with a small ensemble and it has been a successful experience. I hope to one day be in a professional orchestra and master the violin.

  9. Karem
    Karem says:

    I’ve been playing violin for years now, nearly eleven. I used to be in a little quartet at my old school. It was definitely better than playing alone. But now I moved and I live in Florida where band seems to be more popular.

  10. Emi Smith
    Emi Smith says:

    I think playing in a small group is essential to building not only technical skill, but can also assist with learning new techniques, and teamwork. Being in a small ensemble group was extremely helpful in my growth as a musician. Being able to play off of each other’s strengths, and help strengthens weaknesses is a blessing.

  11. brooksley
    brooksley says:

    I play in a Community Orchestra. Would like to play in quartet, but it’s hard to find people in the small town I live in. Have to travel 90 miles one way to play in a Community Orchestra! I like the challenge playing with less people. Have to get timing right:)

  12. Nicholas Guess
    Nicholas Guess says:

    I love playing with others! It’s so fun to play with people who have the same passion as you. I played in a youth symphony for 3 years and am now playing with my college orchestra and a quartet. 🙂

  13. Christyn Edwards
    Christyn Edwards says:

    I played in a quartet after I had been playing violin for about 3 years. It was one of the hardest things to get used to and comfortable with but we got the hang of it eventually!

  14. Lydia Tran
    Lydia Tran says:

    Definitely agree with orcanemiss!! That downbeat is important! (: I love playing in my high school orchestra, but I much rather play with my friends in our own little quartet because it’s a lot easier to really listen to one another and improve both individually and as a whole~

  15. Chris Guleff
    Chris Guleff says:

    Playing chamber music was for me more fun than playing in the orchestra. I’ll admit, though, that I never entered music contests as a soloist — made me feel too self-conscious, although I really played violin and viola well. In one case I organized a string quartet separately from the one organized by the school for the music contest. While in college I also organized a small ethnic folk dance group for which I played the violin as lead. We actually played a number of engagements for money. Our specialty was Balkan, Greek & Israeli dance music.

  16. Will
    Will says:

    Our Christmas recital was the first time that nearly all the students had ever played with each other… and that with no previous rehearsal… nearly a disaster, but we made it through. Playing with others will keep you more mindful of rhythm, timing and the up bow and down bow marks… All together now!

  17. Nellethiel
    Nellethiel says:

    Sadly I’ve been a lone musician mostly. I’ve played in a few orchestras in the past but for some reason don’t get a lot of joy out of it and get terrible stage fright. It’s hard to not imagine the other musicians judging my playing. Still wandering where people get the confidence to perform and not care what people think lol

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