Helping your students with small ensembles
For the last few weeks, my students have been working in small chamber groups (duets, trios, quartets, etc.). We finished our large group performance assessment in mid-February and started this solo & ensemble unit afterwards. I’ve let students form their own groups and select their own pieces. For me, it’s more about the process than the finished product. I have a cart with a variety of duet, trio, and quartet books that they can access. My older students use IMSLP and find music there.
I think chamber music is very important and the investment of class time is totally worth it because it allows students to grow as independent musicians and understand the important responsibility of playing their own part. The “Chamber Music Days” in class can be a little chaotic, but students do get quite a bit of work done and I’m able to walk around the classroom to assist.
Some of my younger students do not have the confidence or rhythm skills to play a part independently and so I can offer them help by creating a reference recording of their piece.
Using GarageBand and a USB microphone, I record and play in each track along with a metronome click. You could also use another audio recorder/editor like Audacity and provide the metronome click with a real metronome. Next, I upload the exported file to a cloud based service like Dropbox or OneDrive and share the link with them.
For those students with iPhones (many of mine), I use the built in AirDrop feature so the recording goes directly into their phone’s iTunes library. When exporting for iPhone, use the AAC setting.
You can also record your orchestra music (or difficult portions) this way too. My students have found it very helpful!