Following the cues from a leader
When you play in an orchestra, a conductor gives you a cue. When you are playing a 2nd violin part in a quartet, the 1st violinist might cue the rest of the quartet. You can either
- 1. simply come in following the leader's cue, or
- 2. breathe with the leader's cue, then start playing.
Let's take a look at which is a better way to go, and why it is.
The importance of breathing in sync with a leader
Ultimately, music is about feeling. It's not about counting right or playing correct notes. Music is about feeling something inside of you and sharing it with your fellow musicians and audience, or yourself if you are playing for yourself. This is one of the greatest things about music.
When you are playing in a group, however, you have to feel the same way as others in the group are feeling. When you are in an ensemble such as a quartet or an orchestra, you are in a team. When you are in a team, you can't just do whatever you want if the team were to be successful.
This is why someone leads a group in an ensemble, and that helps unify musical ideas for the whole group. Therefore, it is important for everyone in an ensemble to understand how the leader is feeling the music.
While leaders can communicate with musicians verbally, one of the ways to feel what the leader is feeling is to breathe with the leader when he/she gives a cue. Cues serve purposes more than keeping everyone together in tempo and rhythm. They shape a general musical atmosphere as well. It is important for the players in a group to be able to feel the atmosphere from the cues.
By breathing with the leaders' cues, not only you are playing together with the leader in tempo, but also you are more likely to be in sync with the leader musically. And because of this, when you breathe with the leader, it is easier to play together, and your musical ideas are more likely to be unified with the rest of the group.
Breathing with the leader
Leaders try to convey the music they feel through their cues. Cues are often given by breathing in conjunction with a body movement which was triggerd by the breathing. You can tell a lot from watching how leaders breathe and give a cue, but try to feel what they are feeling by breathing the same way as they do. If a leader gives a big cue, breathe big. If a conductor gives a small and quick cue, breathe small and quick with the conductor. You will feel all kinds of different musical ideas by breathing with the leaders.
Next time when you are playing in an ensemble, try breathing with the leader. It will make a world of difference in the way you feel the music in the group. You will be more in sync with the leader and the group, and you will feel like you are making music together with the rest of the ensemble more than before!