The classical guitar tends to be rather a solo instrument with seemingly fewer opportunities for group playing than our orchestral or band-focussed buddies. Well, perhaps, but only to a degree I think (depending on where you live I suppose). Where there are two or more guitarists, or yourself and another musician there lies an opportunity to play together, learn from and experience a new form of playing and of course have fun.
I was reminded this weekend by the first rehearsal of the season for the CGSV Classical Guitar Orchestra that by playing music with others is a wonderful experience. And playing with other musicians, be they at a similar level or a peg or two above or below you in their technical development can really present some excellent developmental opportunities.
Playing with others, be it in a duo, trio, ensemble or orchestra, can deliver a umber of benefits to a guitarist. These include:
- Encouraging you to listen to how others play and exposing you to different sounds and approaches.
- Encouraging you to listen harder to your own sound.
- And in combination of the first two dot points, encouraging you to listen to how your sound blends with others in terms of quality, tone colour, volume and dynamics
- Encouraging you to listen and “feel” the music in synchronisation with others. That pause, that placement, the movement of a line. Of course the conductor helps in this regard, but there are somethings which are definitely “felt” and playing with others helps exercise this.
- Getting you to look up from your score and watch someone else for cues, timing and pulse.
- Picking up a pulse and taking it on (whilst watching the conductor of course) and exercising keeping a steady and even pulse, resisting the urge to push on or pull things back.
- Pushing you a little beyond your comfort zone in playing stuff you wouldn’t otherwise play on your own
- Improving your sight-reading and fretboard geography
- Increasing your musical understanding and appreciation of working with others to achieve a musical outcome.
- And, one of the most important of all, having a lot of fun!!
So, its well worth seeing if there’s an ensemble in your area (just classical guitar or mixed) or playing some duets or trios with another classical guitar (or other instrumentalist) friend. Playing classical guitar is good fun, but it’s even better when shared with others, in my opinion.