The Benefits of Playing In Ensemble for Classical Guitarists

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.

CGSV GO

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.

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6 thoughts on “The Benefits of Playing In Ensemble for Classical Guitarists

  1. I’ve found this to be my own experience as well. Playing in a guitar ensemble can be very rewarding in many ways and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Chicago Community Classical Guitar Ensemble here in the US.

  2. You’ve really hit the nail on the head with this. This has been my experience as well playing with guitar ensembles and other musicians. I am currently playing with the Chicago Community Classical Guitar Ensemble here in the US and have enjoyed it immensely. The skill levels in the group vary quite a bit, but we are all joined together by a love for the instrument and the music itself.

  3. I heard the reasoning behind the CG absence from orchestras was projection. They can’t compete with violins and cellos. I think anything over a duo/trio CG repertoire and the instrument is over powered

    1. That’s one of the many reasons, yes. There are a few others, historical and cultural. But, yes, the symphonic orchestra in full flight is no match for the classical guitar really! Hah! One only has to witness a poorly mic-ed Aranjuez to understand that! But that’s only one option as it were for playing with others. The options abound for playing together as classical guitarists and with other chamber sized groupings.

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