BPD #102. Exercises for Chamber Ensembles. Assisted by Assisted by Izzy Hance, flute; Katie Garringer, oboe; Melissa Bowles, clarinet; and Brooke Nance, horn.

Welcome to this video on ensemble games. I use the term “ensemble games” to indicate group exercises or studies that improve the timing, intonation, and matching capabilities of members of chamber ensembles. Ensemble games hone skills such as leading and following. The purpose of the games is to develop critical listening and furthermore verbal and non-verbal communication skills. If ensemble games are employed properly they will also help develop group cohesion. Also the games are fun!

So, let’s now take a look as some ensemble games. I thank these students from the MasterWorks Music Festival for demonstrating them for this video.
Many ensembles tune. Tuning can be enhanced further by adding a rhythmic component. Here the exercise is to start and stop on the tuning note. The exercise is to play in tune and exactly together.

Notice that the quartet is split into two groups. One group is playing and the other group, here a single student is listening. The listener provides advice and critiques to her colleagues.

The use of drones can enhance pitch matching. A drone can be played by one of the group members, or you can use a recorded drone such as those available from www.2reed.net.

Notice that the dialogue between the musicians is enhanced by the ensemble games. The musicians understand the task at hand and the dialogue is a means of helping the ensemble play better together.

Tuning within a chord presents different challenges. By varying the instrumentation and voicing of the chords the ensemble can push itself to master new challenges.
The tempo game hones skills of leading and following. The leader communicates different tempos that the rest of the group needs to follow.

The imitation game brings attention to pitch, length, and style matching. The followers need to match as closely as possible the leader. All of this is done with attention to correct timing and pitch.

The imitation game can be made more difficult by allowing for different pitches. Here the game is limited to three notes: Do, Re, Mi  in the major key.
The games can be limited to certain chords, scales, or be unlimited: any pitches.

I want to thank Izzy Hance, Melissa Bowles, Katie Garringer, and Brooke Nance for their assistance with this video.

Further information on other videos and teaching materials may be found on www.2reed.net. God bless you.