Benifits of group playing:

Question: Why would you want to play in a group?

Answer: Well, learning to play an instrument is fine – but why would you just want to play it on your own? That’s a bit like learning a language but never actually using it to talk to or write to anyone.

OK, some instruments can be satisfying played on their own. (We call it playing “Solo”.) The Piano and Organ have plenty of good solo music written for them and, to a limited extent, the same could be said of the Harp or the Classical Guitar – but all the other instruments need to be played, almost all the time, along with other players. It’s only when you begin to play with others that you really begin to make music! That’s when the fun really starts!

Even more important – lots of people keep banging on about the “educational value” of musical activities. It’s true! Musical activities have immense educational value and help to develop a host of skills and ways of thinking that benefit people of all ages. However, those benefits don’t come from just learning to play, they come from what you learn when you start to make music with other people – and the higher the standard of your music making and the higher the quality of the music you are playing, the more meaningful and enjoyable the experiences will be and the greater the educational benefits will be.

What sorts of groups could you join?

There are countless different types of group or ensemble, playing a vast range of different types and genres of music. These are just the main ones

Click here to find orchestras, choirs and other groups in the area.

  • Orchestras: An “orchestra” can be any group of a dozen or more players but we tend to use the term to mean a group of players of the “orchestral” instruments on our lists. There are various types of orchestra but the three most common ones are:-
    1. String Orchestra – these usually consist of at least 3 First Violins, 3 Second Violins, 2 Violas, 2 Cellos and 1 Double Bass – but there can be up to 4 or 5 times as many players on each instrument. There is a fabulous amount of superb music written for String Orchestra.
    2. Chamber Orchestra – a small to medium sized orchestra of 20 to 45 players, with strings but also including some wind or brass (Flutes, Oboes, Clarinets, Bassoons, Horns, maybe Trumpets and Timpani – but rarely more than 2 of any of these).
    3. Full Orchestra or Symphony Orchestra – 50 or more string players, along with all the above instruments plus Trombones, Tuba, Percussion, often 1 or 2 Harps and various other instruments. Sometimes over 100 players.

    Orchestras play a fantastic range of music, written by most of the greatest composers, from about 1600 to the present day. However, they don’t just play and give concerts on their own; orchestras are also used in Operas, Musicals, Oratorios and much Choral music, Ballets and for most good TV and movie soundtracks. All the great blockbuster films use a full symphony orchestra. (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Titanic etc.) There is a shortage of good string players, oboes, bassoons, horns and harps – which is why these instruments are a great choice.

  • Chamber groups: From 2 to about 10 players, where each player has a separate part to play. The most common are String Quartets (2 Violins, Viola & Cello) and Wind Quintets (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn & Bassoon) but it can be any combination of instruments. For many musicians, chamber music is the ultimate form of music making. Why? Because so many great composers wrote so much of this wonderful music not for an audience to hear but for the players (often themselves) to enjoy playing. It’s rather like having a really good, musical conversation with friends!

  • Bands: This word can be used widely for any group 4 or more players. However, unlike orchestras, bands don’t usually include string players and they often exist for a particular purpose or to play some specific type of music, often outdoors. The main types of bands are:
    1. Brass Bands – consist of Cornets of various sizes, Flugel Horns, Tenor Horns, Trombones, Baritones, Euphoniums, Tubas and Percussion. Popular in this part of the world, especially for outdoor events.
    2. Wind Bands – include all the usual wind instruments (plus Saxophones) and the usual orchestral brass (plus euphoniums) and Percussion. Again, the main reason for their existence is to play outdoors but they often give concerts indoors too. Most of the music they play is re-arranged from orchestral music.
    3. Marching Bands – self-explanatory. These can be either brass bands, or wind bands, or a mixture.
    4. Folk Bands – consisting of about 4 or more players, often including a violin, flute, maybe an accordion or a guitar, often a double bass and various other folk instruments.
    5. Jazz Bands – any group of 3 or more players playing jazz – but they can be quite large. The bigger ones use Trumpets, Saxophones, Trombones, Percussion, probably a Guitar or two, Double Bass or Bass Guitar and almost always a Piano or electric Keyboard.
    6. Dance Bands – can be quite small but the larger ones use a line-up similar to jazz bands – sometimes with strings as well. Look at the Band on “Strictly Come Dancing” – they are brilliant!
    7. Rock/Pop Bands etc. – usually 4 or 5 players, including 2 or 3 guitars, drums, maybe a keyboard and often a singer.

  • Choirs: There are countless types of choir, depending on the type of music they want to sing, ranging from all types of church music, to Barbershop and Rock Choirs. They can be any size from about 8 singers to 180! If you do join a choir, please learn to read music. Many singers don’t, they just learn the music by ear – but that means they learn new music very slowly and, if they ever join a new choir where the singers can read music, they will be left miles behind!

  • Operas and Musicals: Of course, if you like singing, you might like acting and dancing too and want to take part in musicals or operas. This can be great fun. Many amateur societies have youth sections and many schools put on productions of musicals. Again, if you can read music, you will find you can learn your parts so much more easily and quickly.