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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