Are you looking for ensembles for your summer group lessons or piano camps? eNovativePiano can provide duets, multi-piano, and accompanying ensembles at a variety of levels.
Ensembles are fun for students and can help solidify important skills they are already learning in their lessons. In addition, ensembles encourage cooperative social interaction and help hone sophisticated musicianship skills. Since our piano students may not be participating in band, orchestra, or choir, it is especially important that we provide these opportunities.
Benefits of Ensemble Playing
Fosters a Heightened Awareness of Pulse and Meter
Students must know where they are and where they are going. If something goes wrong, they will need to quickly assess and recover. The ability to keep going is critical to the success of the ensemble.
Fosters Concentration and Focus
Sometimes students get distracted by the sound of the other parts. It takes concentration and practice to focus on your part when others are playing.
Fosters Good Reading
In ensemble playing, students curb the tendency to stop and fix errors when playing. They learn to read ahead and as they learn to read more than one part at a time, they will gradually develop linear and vertical reading skills.
Fosters Musical Flexibility
The participants in an ensemble must listen to each other and respond to what they hear. Since it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen in group performances, students must remain alert and make split-second decisions. This takes practice and experience.
Fosters Team Building and Cooperation
Good ensemble players understand that they are a part of a bigger unit. Ensembles are motivating and build team spirit through a common sense of purpose. Ensemble members must commit to problem-solving, communication, and mutual respect.
Reminds Us of the Joy of Music Making
We spend so much lesson time on skill-building – reading, technique, theory, etc. – that we may forget that music is a form of communication and self-expression. Ensembles serve as a reminder of the joy of communal music-making.
Ensembles from eNovativePiano
If you are an eNovativePiano user, you have probably noticed the 30+ duet, multi-piano, and accompanying ensembles in the curriculum at various levels. Like repertoire, ensembles are graded (beginning, elementary, intermediate, advanced) but can actually include multiple levels in the same piece. This makes them especially suited to mixed-level groups. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Toy Soldiers (Pre-Staff Notation)
Even beginners can participate in ensembles. Toy Soldiers, played on the black keys, requires knowledge of quarter, half, and whole notes and rests. It uses only strong fingers and the student must play forte and piano dynamics. Toy Soldiers can be played by 2 to 4 students at one or at multiple keyboards.
2. Magnolia Drift (Elementary)
Magnolia Drift is an example of a multi-piano ensemble where one part (piano) is more advanced than the upper three parts. The upper three parts each play a single line in a five-finger position whereas the two-handed piano part explores harmonic intervals. While only using basic rhythms, notice the detailed dynamics that are indicated. Although an elementary level piece, it cultivates careful listening and responding to the group sound. Magnolia Drift can be played by 4 players at 3 or 4 keyboards.
3. Blues Quartet 1 (Late Elementary)
Blues Quartet 1 is a multi-piano ensemble built on the 12-bar blues structure. This ensemble requires comfort with syncopated rhythms (piano and bass parts) and with the 3-2 clave rhythm (drum set). Typical of a jazz ensemble, the first chorus plays the ‘head’. In the 2nd chorus, however, the ‘vibes’ player improvises over the 12-bar blues progression (0:30 in the video). The performers must carefully layer the dynamics. In spite of these challenges, the only part that moves out of position is the bass, which plays only triads of the 12-bar blues progression.
4. The Stars and Stripes Forever (Intermediate)
It wouldn’t be summer without Fourth of July celebrations and The Stars and Stripes Forever. This familiar tune makes it fun and motivating. This multi-piano ensemble can be played by 3-6 players. Students should be comfortable playing in Eb and Ab major as well as with chromaticism, march time, a wide range of articulations, layered dynamics, and thoughtful use of accents.
5. Los Machetes (Intermediate)
Los Machetes is a traditional folk dance from the Jalisco region of Mexico. This Mariachi style multi-piano arrangement can be played by 3-6 players. This spirited ensemble requires agility and accurate articulations.
6. Jasmine Flower (Advanced)
Jasmine Flower for two pianos is set on the popular Chinese folk song Mo Li Hua. The melody of Mo Li Hua is based on the pentatonic scale and recalls the poignant lyricism of the erhu. Jasmine Flower features colorful harmonies and explores the range of the entire piano. The two pianists take turns presenting this tuneful melody while creating a balance between melody and accompaniment. The individual part requires an octave span, mobility, and dexterity to manage the variety of chord inversions and delicate fillegrees.
eNovativePiano provides ensembles appropriate for students at different learning levels. If you are not already an eNovativePiano subscriber, you can subscribe here. Or you can request a free trial as an instructor.