Welcome to AVIDduo's blog! For today's post, I wrote down all the things from my own chamber experiences that have helped me become a better musician. Most of these qualities apply not just to chamber music, but also ensemble music and solo repertoire.
I hope you enjoy and, as always, feel free to leave feedback!
10 Qualities of a Successful Chamber Musician
1. Flexibility. In regards to availability for scheduling of rehearsals, it is imperative to be as accommodating as possible with dates and times. It is also important to be flexible in trying new things musically, including dynamics, shaping the phrase, where to breathe, and giving and taking time throughout certain passages. Be adaptable and willing to rehearse or perform with a short or long warm up. Practice all times of day. You never know if your next gig will be early morning or late at night.
2. Preparation. Organize your music before rehearsal. Knowing the music includes being comfortable with all notes, rhythms, dynamics, phrasing, where to carry the theme, any secondary themes, etc. Setting up for rehearsal includes having your instrument in good working condition, having your materials including a playable reed, and being warmed up.
3. Resourcefulness. Use all of your resources as a musician, whether they are intellectual or tangible. It is a valuable skill to be able to change something immediately in the music and keep the consistency of the change. It is also essential with a group working with little rehearsal time to make the best of each session. Another skill set in practical musicians is the ability to make connections within the music and also, in regards to professional ensembles, connections through networking to find opportunities for the group in performance and community outreach.
4. Consistency. Strive for consistency within the music. Once an issue is resolved within the music, make it fixed every time, so that the group can move on. This saves rehearsal time and causes the group to move forward and achieve goals. In addition to being dependable with the quality of performance, be constant with the attitude brought to rehearsal.
5. Self Improving. Have a thirst for self improvement in all areas of life- music, physical fitness, and health are just a few. Contribute new ideas to the group concerning repertoire, performance opportunities, and musical suggestions.
6. Motivation. Be ready and excited to work and put into rehearsal the preparation achieved in practice. Do not rely on outside sources for motivation, be self-sufficient.
7. Positivity. Bring a positive attitude to rehearsal. Do not create self doubt, compare yourself to others, or give negative talk aloud or in the privacy of your own thoughts. The importance of a promising outlook on the music and the accepting of constructive criticism compiled with a thirst for knowledge and self improvement is unstoppable.
8. Strong sense of tonality. Know the structure of music. Remember back to your theory classes about how the seventh scale degree usually pulls to the first (ti-do) or the fourth scale degree falls to the third (fa-mi). Add a few simple folk tunes to your warm ups. Use piano accompaniment, when possible, and commit them to memory to enforce what you hear.
9. Knowledge of the instrument. Know the “quick fixes” for small problems like leaky pads and loose springs, but also learn how your instrument works! It is difficult to learn the craft of instrument repair because not many universities offer classes in repair and those that do mostly offer basics. To really delve into repair, it is necessary to find a teacher and take on an apprentice like relationship. If you have not done it, I recommend picking up a version of your instrument from a pawn shop and taking it apart/putting it back together again. This offers insight into how the mechanism of your own instrument works and will help you conquer the quick fixes. As a chamber player, you’ll be a valuable asset when someone has a leaky pad or spring out of place.
10. Listen. Become a fanatic music listener. Listen during rehearsals to fit your part into the piece, but also listen to everything you can find relevant to what you are preparing. Preparing Mozart? Listen to baroque recordings and note the typical style, phrases, and harmonic structure. Recordings are wonderful resources, but also find live performances and attend as many as possible. Support your local chamber groups by attending their shows. Do not be afraid to bring a pencil and paper and take notes as to what you are hearing and how you can incorporate what you hear into your own practice or rehearsal time. Listening is the most important element to creating a successful player.