I was recently asked by one of my local students to help guide a guitar group. The group meets monthly for a social gathering of acoustic guitar players as well as for the opportunity to play and learn together. My student’s admission to a lack of experience of how best to develop a more cohesive group for playing together was his initial inspiration to bring me in for some suggestions.
What is amusing to me is that I have never played in a band. Never. However, I have been in many situations during my career that have required me to be a part of a group of players for an entertainment event. I have run into this scenario in theatre settings, during televised interviews, at conferences, at trade shows, and when I have invited a special guest or two to join me. Learning to share the stage with other players is a unique experience for the soloist. And it’s a lot of fun.
When I met with the group, I first determined the strengths and weaknesses of each player. I then selected simple requirements in order to turn off any real or imaginary pressures that the players might be feeling in their heads and hands. Finally, each player had a specific assignment ranging from clapping their hands, tapping on the guitar, fingerpicking a pattern, or strumming some simple rhythms. As different players were directed to come in and out with their part during the performance of a few selected tunes, cohesiveness among the group began to emerge after a period of complete chaos. It was amazing to witness the ebb and flow of the music and the newly acquired coordination of the players as they all tried to correct their timing, jumping off then jumping back in again. Most importantly, they all discovered the fun of playing in an ensemble.
Originally posted 2011-03-21 23:27:32.