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A Satellite of the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association



  • You’re playing as a team so commitment to practice and performance is essential
  • You  have individual responsibilities but also share the experience of making music with the other players
  • Understand the work it takes to even get to “play-out” performance point. There is commitment to personal practice as well as group practice
  • Learn what a good or bad performance feels like, and learn from it
  • Ensemble is a shared musical experience — a community
  • It doesn’t matter where you come from, how long you’ve been playing, or whether you have the best instrument—you are all there to join together to pull off something that requires a common effort
  • It doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be at the exact same level emotionally, intellectually, and technically, but rather that everyone does need to feel some level of responsibility for themselves and for one another, and be ENGAGED.
  • Be aware of what’s going on around you – and BLEND
  • Group consensus rules.  Be flexible…arrangements evolve
  • Dedicate to practice at home in addition to group practice

Know your venue, audience, and sound system needs beforehand

  •  Interactive
  • Background music
  • Stage presentation
  • On or off microphone
  • Indoors or outdoors

ON SET…..  

  • Work from a pre-established list of tunes (set list).  Or, if group plays frequently, it may be familiar with tunes and arrangements and can call them “on the fly”
  • Work without tab and music stands when possible
  • Engage with listening audience through eye contact and smiles; acknowledge their presence
  • Answer questions / offer information about the music, the instruments and the music at appropriate intervals
  • Take tune requests or offer alternatives when appropriate




The Golden Rules for Ensemble Playing
(Many people taking credit for this piece – multiple sites on web)

(Beginners, please check with your playing group to determine which of the
following rules is humorous,  and which will cause arrest by the dulcimer police )

Rule Number One: Everyone should play the same piece.

Rule Number Two: Stop at every repeat sign, and discuss in detail whether to take the repeat.

Rule Number Three: If you play a wrong note, give a nasty look to one of your partners.

Rule Number Four: Keep your fingering chart handy. You can always catch up with the others.

Rule Number Five: Carefully tune your instrument before playing. That way, you can play out of tune all night with a clear conscience.

Rule Number Six: Take your time turning pages.

Rule Number Seven: The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note.

Rule Number Eight: If everyone gets lost except you, follow those who get lost.

Rule Number Nine: Strive to get the maximum NPS (notes per second). This way you gain the admiration of the incompetent.

Rule Number Ten: Markings for slurs, dynamics, and ornaments are only there to embellish the score. Ignore them.

Rule Number Eleven: If a passage is difficult, slow down. If it is easy, speed it up. Everything will work itself out in the end.

Rule Number Twelve: If you are completely lost, stop everyone and say, “I think we should tune.”

Rule Number Thirteen: Happy are those who have not perfect pitch, for the kingdom of music is theirs.

Rule Number Fourteen: If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you got lost. Everyone will be very interested.

Rule Number Fifteen: A true interpretation is realized when there remains not one note of the original.

Rule Number Sixteen: When everyone else has finished playing, you should not play any notes you have left over. Please play those on the way home.

Rule Number Seventeen: A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note. A wrong note played with authority is an interpretation.