Monday Mailbag – Duets with Students

When you do an ensemble recital, with duets, how do you work with the students in their individual lessons?  Do they each practice their parts separately, then get together a few times to work together?  Do you play the other duet part with each of them so they know what it sounds like?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

I love doing ensemble playing in my studio, but it is a challenge to incorporate it regularly into lessons! This is how I approach it with each student: Typically my first step is to record one part onto my Clavinova and then play the other part along with it at the student’s lesson so that they can hear what it will sound like all put together. Then, I give them their part, go over it briefly, and they work on it on their own during the week.

When they come to their lesson, yes, I play along with them so that they get used to hearing the parts together. I also help them practice keeping a steady pulse by playing straight through the other part and not stopping or adjusting for their mistakes! Once each student has learned their part well, I often have one of them come to the other’s lesson so that we can rehearse together. Usually they also arrange other times to get together, either at my studio or at one of their homes to practice together. If they are planning to play it for a festival, I also try to make sure they have it ready in time to play it at a group class prior to the festival so that they get a little bit of performance experience with it.

Another thing that I do occasionally is record the duet part and e-mail it to the student as an mp3 so that they can download it and practice playing along with it during their individual practice sessions at home. This is especially helpful for the students who need extra reinforcement with keeping a consistent pulse!

Anyone else have any ideas for working on ensemble/duet repertoire with students?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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