Ensemble Traditions

Ensemble Traditions

As the popularity and size of string sections developed, traditional plans of procedure and player etiquette have become “rules of the profession.”

Ensemble settings present the necessity to have a plan as to how to handle the expected tasks that result from rehearsal and performance. There are also rules to follow about how to interact in group settings and string player etiquette.

Task Assignment

Page Turns When sharing a music stand, the person closest to the audience continues playing, while the other person turns the page.  Most often, Violin players seated to the left turn the page and Viola, Cello and Bass players seated to the right turn the page.

Rapid Page Turns — Always try to prepare well ahead of time when responsible for turning pages. It is standard for the inner divisi player to stop playing a few beats, or even measures when reaching the end of a page. Preparing the lower corner of the page by folding a slight dog-eared tab is standard.

The over-sized letters, V.S., are written in order to alert you about a fast page turn. In Italian, V.S. is an abbreviation for volti subito, which means to turn quickly/immediately.

Pencil Markings — Always notate bowings and fingering neatly and in pencil. The tradition is for ‘inside players’ to write below the staff and “outside players” to write above the staff.

Chain of Command

Viewing an orchestra as a team where all players have determined roles to perform, helps bring order to rehearsals and produces successful collective cooperation.

Conductors instruct all players in the orchestra, but most often they communicate directly with each instrument’s section leader. When there is a bowing adjustment or other specific instruction, the section leader places the details in their music. It is then the responsibility of each other player in the section to notate these adjustments into their music. Questions are to be addressed to the section leader.

Every maestro has their own particular style and rehearsal methods. However, viewing the conductor as having the final say on musical decisions is the standard.

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