First Position Strings

Ensemble-playing Workshops for adult beginners

…for adult players of violin, viola, cello and double bass, approximately Grade 1 - 4 standard...

We had our first workshop on Sunday 30th June 2019 which was a great success and attracted a large group of players. There was a good balance of violinists and cellists, although there were no viola players!

If you are interested in joining the First Position Strings ensemble and would like to hear about any future workshops, please join the First Position Strings Mailing List.

Have you started to learn to play an instrument recently, or are you a returning, rather rusty, player? Perhaps your aim is to join an orchestra? 

Compared to playing on your own, or with a teacher, ensemble-playing can seem overwhelming and bewildering: there is likely to be a lot more noise going on around you than you are used to,  and hearing multiple different parts being played simultaneously can be confusing. It can be hard to keep up and very easy to get lost! But playing in an ensemble such as a string quartet, string orchestra or full symphony orchestra can be very rewarding and there is a huge amount of fantastic repertoire to play, so it is well worth it! This workshop will give you the opportunity to experience what playing in an ensemble is like without the pressure of committing to anything long-term, and the emphasis will be firmly on enjoying learning how to play together rather than working on the technical aspects of playing your instrument. You will be guided carefully to ensure you participate fully to get the maximum amount of pleasure in playing, and to give you the confidence to do more ensemble playing in future. A lot of this is simply learnt by doing it, so take the plunge!

The workshop is aimed at players who have never played in an ensemble before, or have had very little experience.  

Playing in an ensemble demands certain skills: being able to keep the beat and knowing where you are on the page is as important - more! - than being able to play the part, note-perfect, on your own at home. In this situation, wrong notes at the right time (or right notes at the wrong time) are better than no notes at all (although we will try to play the right notes at the right time, of course!). There will be a number of different parts to choose from, of varying levels of difficulty, and we will play music in first position only. The aim is to manage playing together, not to tackle difficult or very challenging music, although I hope the pieces will be enjoyable to play. 

We will tackle a number of short ensemble pieces, in a variety of styles. 

The workshop will introduce you to the basics of ensemble playing, including learning how to follow a conductor and to develop the ability to listen to others whilst managing to play a different part. There will be a number of short exercises to practice certain aspects of part-playing before attempting to perform short ensemble pieces. We will work to make the music sound as good as possible, observing the dynamics and articulation, as well as experimenting with different bowings and string techniques such as pizzicato, tremolando and col legno battuto. These timbral effects sound great played by groups of players and can create some amazing musical effects and characterful textures! You don't always get the chance to try these in solo pieces.

As well as learning and developing your ensemble-playing skills, it should be an enjoyable afternoon and a chance to get to know other adult players in the city (you may even decide to form a quartet with people you meet!). We will have a break mid-afternoon for everyone to get to know each other and to grab a cuppa if you fancy one!

You will need to bring a music stand, and please have a pencil with you to mark your part if necessary. 

***Please note that I cannot accept absolute beginners***