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Orchestra etiquette and rules
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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
February 8, 2011 - 4:24 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

After reading various blogs about orchestra etiquette I decided to compile ideas collected from many different professional as well as amateur players. If you come up with suggestions to add or change, please contribute below.

Orchestra Rules

  • Always have a pencil on your stand to write down bowings and instructions.
  • Be kind to your stand partner
.
  • Check with your stand partner that you're both sitting comfortably to see the music.
  • Write any additional bowings/fingerings into the pages immediately and if something is unclear don't be afraid to ask.
  • The person on the inside (left) of the stand usually turns the pages of the music.
  • The person on the outside plays the top part of the divisi parts.  The person on the inside plays the bottom.
  • When there are more than two parts the section leader decides, but usually 1st line – 1st desk, 2nd line – 2nd desk, 3rd line – 3rd desk and so on. If only 3 lines than 4th desk 1st line…….
  • Watch the section leader for bowings, length of notes, style of bowing, entrances, etc.
  • If you have a question, ask the section leader, don't raise your hand to pose questions to the conductor.  If the leader of your section can't answer your question he or she should pose the question.
  • Arrive in plenty of time, at least 15 minutes before rehearsals.
  • Learn your material thoroughly.
  • Be sure you can clearly see the conductor.
  • Count carefully.
  • Listen – not just to your own part but to everything else that is going on around you.
  • Be respectful of other people's space.
  • Don´t talk or whisper if the conductor is talking or rehearsing other sections and you´re not playing.
  • Play with confidence and don't be ashamed of messing up, keep your cool and know what's going on.
  • Observe dynamics, especially extreme soft dynamics such as pp, otherwise you might stick out and destroy the effect for the whole section.
  • It's better to follow your section, even if your leader is wrong, than to strike out on your own if he or she has entered at the wrong spot. Hopefully you have a good leader who isn't wrong very often.
  • No matter how tempted you may be to take your finger and "thump" on an instrument in the percussion section, don't.  In fact, refrain from walking through the percussion set up at all.
  • The concertmaster is considered in charge after the conductor and the section leaders are his/her deputies.
  • Keep your ears and eyes open and your mouth shut.
  • When the oboe plays 440 Hz at the beginning of rehearsal or after break, stop what you are doing and be silent.
  • Tune only when it is your section's turn to tune.
  • When you are done tuning sit quietly until all others are done tuning.
  • Don't practice while others are tuning.
  • Tune quietly and not loudly.
  • Respect others so that everyone can hear their instrument and the tuning note being given.
  • Begin by tuning your A until everyone has done so then proceed to tune the rest of your instrument.
  • Don't practice concertos,  cadenzas,  solos, and caprices loudly before rehearsal so that everyone can hear how great you are. Many will hate you immediately.
  • Look over your part and practice softly instead of showing off or do some quiet warm-ups. Play scales, arpeggios, your part, or whatever you need to play to feel ready.
  • Don't stare at wind players who make mistakes, heads whipping around while they play can be annoying.
  • Don't text or surf your iPhone (or any other electronic mobile device) when the conductor is working with another section.  Instead, pay attention to what s/he is telling the other section.
  • Bring cough drops in case you or someone else has a coughing attack.
  • If you must choose between getting all the notes or getting the beats, choose the beats.
  • If you have to completely fake a section, get the bowings in sync with your section at the very least.
  • It is better to skip a note/ measure than to play a solo during a rest.
  • Know which notes and exposed sections exist for your part and learn them to the best of your ability.
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes or ask questions.
  • Don't be the loudest player in the group unless asked for.
  • Arrogance wins no friends.  A pleasant attitude makes for a player that others want to have around.
  • For outdoors – clip well your pages because if their is a slight breeze they can fall off the stand. Be able to turn them fast and efficiently.
  • Bring sunglasses if ever you do outside summer concerts they could be your savior.

For women

  • Be careful what kind of skirts you choose (if ever it's needed) since one is more comfortable sitting with legs appart to play.
  • Last but not least, smile and have fun 🙂

The following, while it may be good advice, are not my recommendations:

  • Enjoy the jokester of the group, the one making wry observations about everything happening around you and causing everyone to start giggling uncontrollably. There always seems to be one.
  • If you can't play your part learn how to air-bow (i.e., look like you are playing when you're not – when the going is too tough) because one person playing wrong is still heard under 10 playing right.
  • Learn the art of "fakeando" as it's known in my local orchestral community… If you can't play every note, at least play the one note on the start of every beat. Some professional orchestral musicians even fake things from time to time.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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paula
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February 9, 2011 - 12:04 am
Member Since: January 13, 2011
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How about:

Don't look at your watch so that everyone can see. Surprised

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
February 10, 2011 - 9:25 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

That is hilarious but very true. Laugh

I'm glad that you brought that one up cause it reminds me of a story. We had this Tuba player in our orchestra, "Malmö Symfoniorkester" that looked at his watch so often that someone snapped a great shot of him and framed it backstage for us all to enjoy. None of us will ever forget that picture. I'm going to ask some colleagues to take a picture or scan that one in and post it here for you all to see. It's fantastic.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
February 12, 2011 - 9:22 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

Here are a few more that I have found, not my own but I agree. There are always exceptions and professional orchestras as well as amateur ones break these rules consistently.

I will later add all your suggestions to the main list but please feel free to add them here yourselves instead of sending me messages. Thanks Smile

  • Don't scrape your chair across the floor while the orchestra is playing. If possible position your chair correctly before the rehearsal begins.
  • Do not wear perfume, or at least limit the amount. Some people are allergic.
  • Make sure your case is properly stored.
  • Do not handle other people's instruments unless they ask you.
  • Do not tap your foot in time.
  • Play with both your feet on the floor and absolutely not crossed.
  • Make sure that your violin/viola is not directly in the line of sight of your partner. They need to see the notes.
  • Once everyone is seated you may be asked to move to the left or right so that the stands behind you can see the conductor. If you must reposition yourself, check with those musicians.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Oliver
NC
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February 28, 2011 - 2:50 pm
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I knew of a community orchestra where the correct protocol was to eat a banana just before performing and many did.  Certain chemicals were supposed to have a calming effect (?)

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
February 28, 2011 - 11:30 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

Did they need it? Laugh

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
March 4, 2011 - 4:43 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

paula said:

How about:

Don't look at your watch so that everyone can see. Surprised

Here is the picture I spoke about above. Everyone in MSO loves this picture.
He got caught looking at his watch as he often did towards the end of the rehearsals and someone snapped a shot of him Laugh 

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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paula
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March 4, 2011 - 6:48 pm
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Hahahaha - that is too funny!!!! Wink

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Lukasz
Malmö
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September 6, 2011 - 6:13 pm
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- Don't try to talk to someone above the heads of the colleagues. "Mouth-movement" usually cannot be recognized from 20 meters..

- If someone speaks to you above the heads of the colleagues, try to confirm with your head that you understood (even if you didn't), look thankful and go with your sight to the music as soon as possible.

- Do not hold your instrument in completely different position (horizontal or vertical) than your colleagues.

- Always play boring pizzicato sections carefully as long as the most of your group colleagues play it in the same way.

- After longer and louder than usually production of mistakes always take your pencil and mark "something very important which you couldn't know before". Do it very carefully and without eye-contact with too many colleagues.

still improving english –  welcome to correct me (on priv) :P

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artroland
Illinois
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September 6, 2011 - 7:09 pm
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This is obviously not good advice in an orchestra, but some of the most hilarious musical advice I ever heard came from Art Blakey, of the Jazz Messengers. (If you don't know him, look him up).

"... so go on and play, and if you make a mistake, make it loud so you won't make it next time."

I'm sorta ashamed of how many times I've taken his advice over the years. LOL.

One wonders if the damage would have been as severe had the chicken not been tied to the barrel.

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artroland
Illinois
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September 6, 2011 - 7:10 pm
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Those pants are amazing! LOL

 

Fiddlerman said:


Here is the picture I spoke about above. Everyone in MSO loves this picture.
He got caught looking at his watch as he often did towards the end of the rehearsals and someone snapped a shot of him Laugh 

One wonders if the damage would have been as severe had the chicken not been tied to the barrel.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
September 7, 2011 - 5:01 pm
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I never even thought about that. LOL

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Mustang
Minnesnowda
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"Bring cough drops in case you or someone else has a coughing attack."

That is excellent advice! It's hard to play when you have a cough. And if it's hard for us string players to play when we have a cough, imagine what it must be like for trumpet players!

 

"… so go on and play, and if you make a mistake, make it loud so you won't make it next time."

Haha! I try to play very soflty so you can't hear my mistakes. My teacher always tells me, "I'd rather have you play loud so you can hear your mistakes and correct them than not hear them and not correct them! Play loud! I want to hear your mistakes!"

My teacher is funny. xD

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David Burns
Winfield, Missouri
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Barry said:

good advice  coffee

Who is that in your signature pic? I bet it is someone I should know, but I skipped school the day they talked about him!

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David Burns
Winfield, Missouri
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September 11, 2011 - 12:48 am
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I have heard of him. I have seen his sheet music, WOW. Can you play any of his stuff?

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David Burns
Winfield, Missouri
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September 11, 2011 - 7:57 pm
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Barry said:

David Burns said:

Barry said:

good advice  coffee

Who is that in your signature pic? I bet it is someone I should know, but I skipped school the day they talked about him!

Niccolo Paganini, one of the most amazing violinists of all time. You should research him, he was once drug into court and forced to remove his shoes to prove he didnt have hooves. The original "sold his soul for rock n roller" 

 

devil-violin

Hey, here is a Vanessa Mae video of a Paganini Caprice. I can see why they thought he sold his soul!

 

Vanessa Mae

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artroland
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There would be a resurgence in the orchestral classics if they were more than just occasionally presented in that format. Sort of how traditional celtic music lends itself really well to rock formats, like with the Dropkick Murphys doing Scotland the Brave or Apocalyptica doing The Hall of the Mountain King.

One wonders if the damage would have been as severe had the chicken not been tied to the barrel.

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