Comments on leading and following, playing in tune and together, and rehearsing. Terry B. Ewell and Quintigre (Towson University’s faculty quintet). Bassoon Digital Professor # 81.

<music: Nielsen Quintet, first movement>

Hello, I am Terry Ewell. Welcome to this first video in this series of videos on performing chamber music in a wind quintet.

A wind quintet is sometimes called a woodwind quintet, although generally I prefer the term wind quintet because the French horn or the horn is really a brass instrument.

In this video we will be talking about four different aspects of playing chamber music and these [topics] are related to all the instruments in the quintet and not just the bassoon.

We will be a discussing how to lead and how to follow. We will be looking at starting and ending together, intonation, and rehearsing. So let's get started here.

Now in order for a group of five musicians (or more or less) to work together, there has to be in agreement on who will be leading the group; who will be starting a certain passage.

Group leadership will often rotate among group members depending upon the music and the demands of the music.

For instance, take this passage from the sixth variation of the Nielsen Quintet. In this case the flutist is leader. You will notice that our flute player, the way in which she leads the musicians, gives a breath and a motion so that we start together. So take a look at that.

<music: Nielsen, Variation 6>

You can see that for the group she didn't have to count off "1,2,3" or like that. Instead, the way in which she gestured gave us the tempo and gave us the opportunity to play together.

So after much rehearsing together, and much of our experience as professionals, we were able place the notes together, how to put it
together, so we started that particular variation simultaneously. Let's look at that again and look closely at the gestures she gives that make this successful.

<music: Nielsen, Variation 6>

Now, depending on the instrument you play, you will need to gesture in different ways. The bassoon, because I have it anchored with a neck strap or body harness and seat strap, I am not able to raise up and down the instrument. So unlike the flute where she can raise up or down the instrument, I way I would gesture is by rotating in this way and breathing.

<note> Giving a motion like that.

<note> Depending on your instrument whether it is a clarinet, or oboe, or horn you will have to gesture in a way that is comfortable, where you can keep your embouchure fixed to your instrument and yet still give that breath and gesture that will make it successful.

Now in this other variation the clarinetist is the leader and this is a Variation Five. In this case I as the bassoonist am watching him for his gestures to start a movement and then again I am following because he is the one setting the tempo. Have a listen to this.


Now one of the other aspects of leading is internalizing, hearing in your mind, what the tempo will be prior to actually starting.

Let me give an example of that. In the opening of the Nielsen the tempo is given by the bassoon. So I'm the leader of this section the other people will have to follow when they enter little later. One way I found very effective for setting tempo is thinking of fastest notes and the set the tempo from these notes. For instance, let's look at the passage. In measure three I have 16th notes. So if I can imagine in my mind, hear those 16th votes, and set the tempo with the 16th notes , then I will be effective at starting the 8th notes or slower notes in the opening. So I'm thinking first of <music> Thinking of those 16th notes there...da.da.da.da.... and that gives me the tempo.

<music> That gives me the tempo for the opening. This then is a successful way in which I've had and many others have had for setting tempo.

<music: Opening to the Nielsen Quintet>

Another important aspect of playing chamber music is playing in tune. Let me give you some ideas on playing in tune. Obviously you listen very critically to yourself, to others, and to seek to match pitch. That is very good. Sometimes it is very helpful to have referential pitch, and by that I mean a drone or a sounding pitch that you can then match.

You can find on some links for droning pitches that you can use. But the other thing is that you can also have someone in your group to be the drone.

For instance, have someone in your group play a sounding pitch and hold it out. For instance, a "C" and the rest of you come in with other members of the C chord.

The first is playing the drone and the others come in "di off di off di off." So you are practicing your articulation together as well as your pitch together. You can practice this in different octaves. Work on the blend. Listen to how the chords sound. You may--from your music--pick certain chords that are difficult. Just practice those together. All of that would be helpful for your chamber music.

Let me conclude with comments about effective rehearsing.

The quality of your performances as a group is going to depend on your ability to work together in your rehearsals.

The more effective you at rehearsing, conversing with a one another, listening to one another, the better your performances will be. Let me give your some insights into that. If you playing a duet, this is with two of people, it's easier to come to consensus than it is with three people. I find by adding a person, exponentially the difficulty of coming to agreement as a group, the group dynamics become far more complex.

So just keep that in mind. When you have five people, that's a good size group, You have five different personalities and opinions.

I encourage you, when you express your opinions to others do so in a way that is not threatening.

For instance, let's say we have a [musical] dialog, and I wasn't together with the clarinet and we didn't see "eye to eye," we didn't play together. So instead of me saying, "I think you are wrong in this place."

I would instead say: "I wasn't with you in that place." "Could we do that again together?" For instance, if we weren't together in pitch and I was so out of tune or someone was out of tune; I would way "I didn't quite match your pitch in that place. Could we try that again?" "Could we try to match the pitch better?"

Be supportive as a colleague and be appreciative. Be sure that complement others. That goes a long way! When somebody does something well, then be sure to express your opinion and tell them how well did. Who knows? They might tell you how well you did as well. And you will find playing chamber music that much more an enjoyable experience. God bless you.