Suggestions for Gaining Chamber Music Experience

Recently I answered an email from a beginning or intermediate player who wanted to know how to gain enough chamber music experience to attend a CMNC workshop. This is an expansion of that answer.

1. CMNC recommends attending the Adult Chamber Music Class at the Crowden Center for Music in the Community (Berkeley) for people who want more instruction and experience before, or in addition to, attending a CMNC workshop.
    Phyllis Kamrin - Program Director
    "Prospective participants should contact Crowden to schedule a placement interview at least one month before the start of each session."
    Tel. 510-559-2941 for further information.

2. Send a message to CMNClist including details about what instrument you play, your experience, your location and how far you are willing to travel, and what kind of group you’d like to assemble (piano trio, string quartet, another violinist for duets, etc.). Use the above link for information on subscribing and posting (or find the link on the CMNC home page).

3. If you don’t have music, look at local libraries, or print some parts and scores from IMSLP. Look at CMNC’s Links page for local and online sources of sheet music.

4. Read CMNClist messages. Organizations and individuals post messages about opportunities for players of all ranges of experience.

5. You may be able to find a chamber music ensemble class at your local adult school, community college, or university. For those over 60, California offers reduced fees at some institutions, with some restrictions.

6. Consider contacting or joining an orchestra centered around musicians like yourself. Many local orchestras are listed on CMNC’s Local Links page. When inquiring about an orchestra or at a rehearsal, ask if there are others in the group who would like to play chamber music.

7. You might try Meetup or a similar resource to find likeminded players. It may be helpful if you can indicate several pieces you are interested in playing.

8. After becoming part of a group, work on some music. Sight-read some, work in depth on some. Agree on a piece you've worked on in depth and sign up for a CMNC workshop as a preformed group, trio or larger.
Beginning chamber musicians can increase their chances of being accepted to a workshop if they come as a preformed group.

9. Consult the score for the piece you’re working on. This will often clear up confusion about what the other instruments are doing and deepen your understanding of the piece.

10. Number the measures in your part and in the score. Measure numbers help your group to find a starting point in rehearsal. All members of your group must agree on measure number conventions, especially when a movement begins with a partial measure or there are second endings. See How to number measures for details. For many pieces in the standard repertoire, the total number of measures for each movement can be found at List of total number of measures in each movement. It may help to consult with your colleagues while you are numbering measures, so that you can easily spot mistakes if your numbers don’t agree at rehearsal letters, fermatas, or double bars.

11. Listen to recordings of the pieces you are working on. Youtube is a great resource to find recorded performances
(use a search engine for youtube [composer] [piece]).

12. Often recorded performance tempi are faster than your group would need to play to produce a musically satisfying result, so enjoy exploring the slower side of possible tempi (see #18). Discuss the tempo at which your group is going to play the piece, so that everyone agrees on the same metronome markings to aim for in your practice. It can be frustrating when one group member expects to play at one tempo but others have only practiced at a slower tempo.

13. offers several downloadable articles about ways for beginning and intermediate groups to work on chamber music (many of these are valuable for more experienced players as well). Look at their Online Resources tab. Some of these articles are only available to members, so this is one of many good reasons to become a member of ACMP in addition to CMNC. You can also use their directory to find compatible players almost anywhere in the world.


14. Take private lessons. A good teacher can enhance your musical experience in countless ways. Tell your teacher you'd like to work on chamber music. Perhaps your teacher will play duets with you -- an educational treat. Perhaps your teacher will organize some students into an ensemble for recital, coaching, or playing together on your own. Your teacher might suggest appropriate chamber music repertoire.

15. ACMP "Home Coaching program encourages musicians who meet regularly as a group to engage a professional coach in order to gain musical insight, develop efficient rehearsal skills and exchange musical ideas. ACMP provides up to 50% of the coach's fee. Participants must be ACMP members." See ACMP Grant Programs on their website.

16. Marin Community Music School - Chamber Music Coachings    In San Anselmo.
"...we are keen on serving a broader and more diverse community of string and wind players and pianists, including beginners, teens, and performers."
    David A. Lusterman, Director

17. Left Coast Ensemble Intersection Workshop, coaching in homes, workshop weekend in Berkeley

18. Recently heard recording: beautiful Haydn quartet op 20 #2 by the Kodaly Quartet - performed at a musical and comparatively slow tempo. The concept seemed to be attractive sound instead of mad dash. For IMSLP members, IMSLP now offers streaming of all of the Naxos recordings, including the Kodaly Quartet playing Haydn.