Musical Etiquette

Some of us play professionally with others in a band. But most of us only have an opportunity to play along with our friends occasionally … perhaps at a jam session, at the nursing home, or on a friend’s front porch. Whatever the scenario, it is important to follow proper musical etiquette in order to enjoy a satisfying experience with other musicians and your audience.

Musical etiquette is the practice of following the unwritten ground rules that help musicians get along and work effectively together. Many of these should be already known because they are just plain common courtesy, but others are learned through experience by playing along with other musicians. Here are just a few of these unwritten rules.

  • Avoid distractions to other players. Internalize the beat rather than tapping your foot audibly, to minimize distractions to others. Tapping the big toe silently inside your shoe, or even nodding your head in sync with the rhythm, helps keep the beat and won’t throw other players off.

  • Play at the same pace as the others. Rushing ahead or dragging behind can disrupt the performance. If you can’t keep up and you normally play the melody line, switch over to playing just the chord on the first beat of every measure.

  • Come prepared. In other words, practice at home and learn the tunes you expect to be played at an event. Ask someone for a tentative playlist if you don’t know what tunes that group enjoys playing.

  • Arrive early. Unpack your dulcimer right away and check your instrument’s tuning before you start visiting with others who have arrived. You don’t want to hold up folks while you tune at the last minute.

  • Work as a team. Unless invited or given the lead, don’t take off with an improvised solo. Play well with others.

    If in doubt, observe the actions of others in your group and follow their example. Practicing musical etiquette increases the musical effectiveness of a group, creates a team atmosphere, and a provides more satisfying musical experience for all involved.



There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!