Chamber Music

Why Chamber Music?

I believe chamber music is an outstanding mode by which to support a teenager’s maturation into a responsible adult through a nurturing and challenging music experience.  While studying chamber music, students learn and enhance their musical skills including intonation, bow control, tone quality, complex rhythmic structures, music theory, critical listening and voicing.  Chamber music is a unique experience that provides a social context that a private lesson does not, and a personal accountability and sense of individuality that an orchestral setting does not.  As a result, the social lessons learned via chamber music playing are sometimes more valuable to teenagers than either private lessons or orchestral experiences.  Individually and socially, chamber music pushes participants to become more accountable for their verbal and non-verbal interactions, responsibility to fellow team mates, independent decision making in regards to musical interpretation, effective communication skills and team work towards a common goal. While all musical experiences enhance a student’s growth, I believe that chamber music is a perfect way to introduce life skills garnered from studying chamber music.  


I.         Preparation

a.   Number your measures

b.   Score Study ***SEE BELOW***

c.   Listening to recordings

d.   Practicing your own part

II.        Rehearsal Etiquette

a.   Show up on time

b.   Bring proper materials to rehearsal (metronome, tuner – something that will provide an audible drone, pencil, stand)

c.   Come mentally prepared to rehearse – leave emotional ‘baggage’ at the door

d.   No phones – ever – whatsoever – seriously…not even on vibrate.

III.      Rehearsal Strategies

a.   Division of rehearsal time

b.   Try every idea until it sounds good – THEN vote as a group

c.   Live Breath and Die

d.   Ta and conduct

e.   Singing or counting aloud and as a group to clarify phrasing ideas

f.   Exaggerated animation of voicing (ie. stand up when you have the melody/motiv/play forte/etc.)

g.   Scales while matching strokes

h.   Scales for group blend/sound

i.    Intonation – practicing scales in chords

IV.       Communicating Effectively and Respectfully with Colleagues

a.   Treat others as you would like to be treated

b.   Constructive criticism

                               i.   How to deliver criticism

                              ii.   How much is too much?

                             iii.   The fine-line between sugar-coating, being sensitive, being direct and being destructive

                             iv.   Speak about the music, not about the people

c.   People play their best when they feel their best

                               i.   Creating a safe place to rehearse, talk about and try out ideas


Imagine, showing up for your first rehearsal and after you tune up, sit down, settle in, everyone lifts their bows to the strings ready to play…..and then nothing happens.  Who starts the piece?  What does it sound like?  AVOID THIS CATASTRPHOY!   Show up having done your score study!  Here’s how:


1.     Get a copy of your part AND the score of your pieces (the score has all 4 parts aligned), get a pencil, and at least one recording; these days with, YouTube,, and iTunes, you should have no problem!


2.     Listen to the recording watching just your personal part.  Then listen to the recording again, following along your part in the score.  Then listen to the recording following each of the other parts (a total of at least 5 listenings).  Bonus if you listen to a different recording each time!


3.     Set up your part and the score side by side, number all the measures if they’re not already printed in your part.


4.     In your personal part, circle all the places where there is a “grand pause”, where all four instruments have a rest at the same time, i.e. SILENCE


5.     In your personal part, mark in where you have a “rhythmical buddy”, people who have the same rhythm as you for at least 3 beats.  You can do this by writing a small V1 (violin 1), V2 (violin 2), A (viola), or C (cello) above where you start having a passage together. Sometimes you may have multiple musical buddies, mark in everyone you have the same rhythm with!


6.     In your personal part, write in “rhythmical cues”, before each of your entrances.  Over your rests, write in the rhythm of the melody line for at least 1 bar of rest.  If you have fewer rests than 1 bar, then write in all of the melody line’s rhythmic cues.  If you have trouble figuring out who has the melody, check out that trusty ol’ recording, or take the score to your lesson and ask your teacher.


Score study is a unique and VERY IMPORTANT step in preparing for any first chamber music rehearsal.  Getting all this nitty-gritty work out of the way before you meet up with your new ‘band’ allows for the real music making to take place, starting day 1!!!


Happy score study, happy practicing, and we’ll see you soon!