Duets are one of the best ways to develop young musicians. (And can be so much fun)
My Experience (as a youngster)
In my early lessons as a developing trombonist, one of the mainstays was a duet a week. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but it was having a HUGE impact on my playing. In my earliest lessons, I became a great sight-reader because I was always woefully underprepared. As I got older and actually realized the importance of practicing, I developed sight-reading skills AND musicianship. Those weekly duets had a tremendous impact on my playing and have had a huge impact on my ability to create music at a high level today. (i.e. reading and processing music scores and such)
As I’ve watched and coached many a young “lessons teacher” over the years, I’ve found that this is one item that is often overlooked. So I think we should change that!
The Passing of Knowledge
One of the reasons duets are so beneficial is because it’s basically the apprentice mentality. The older, more mature musician is passing on the knowledge to the student. The student has to “play up” to the professional. I don’t think the benefit of this musical pairing can be overstated.
**Note: I do think it’s also quite beneficial for two young musicians to practice duets together. This puts all the control (notes, rhythms, timing, tempo, musicality) solely in their hands. If they’ve been trained well, they’ll make music (and enjoy making it!). And hopefully develop a life-long love for making music. **
If you teach lessons (or have lessons teachers), make sure to play duets!
One - Find a great book(s) that progresses gradually and jump in at a developmentally appropriate level. I like the Advanced Method and Selected Duets Voxman / Rubank and the compatible chamber series (and progressive duets) put out by Carl Fisher. I also really like the Festival Ensembles that goes along with Standard of Excellence.. not duets, but still a great intro to chamber music.
Two - Work at two different levels.
Three - Set up a duets program within a band/music program. Either match abilities or possibly have older students paired with younger students. Coach the older students on how to help the younger players.
Four - Play a recital! Chamber music is so awesome and can give more performance opportunities, even just playing for peers.
I find myself increasingly on a mission to infuse music into everything.. especially live musicians who can perform out in the community. Duets can help young players to really develop a love for making music. To me, that’s what it’s all about. Getting musicians connected to the music and to MAKING music.
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The musings of a composer that also band directs!! ... or maybe it's the other way around..