In my experience as an instrumental music teacher, I found that having students play in small chamber music groups was a very beneficial exercise to improve the student’s overall musicianship. The simplest form of chamber music is the duet. It is an opportunity for the student to play with a teacher or to play with another student of similar abilities. Aspects of playing such as tone quality, intonation, technique and ensemble skills can be developed during the process of studying duets.
I have found that weaker players learn a lot from playing a duet with a stronger player. I also like to say, “One player gives a lesson while one player receives a lesson.” It works in reverse too. Often times even the weaker player has something to offer the stronger player. The weaker player may actually have an aspect of their playing that they do better than the weaker player. It might be something as simple as playing at a consistent tempo. This will help the stronger player in this respect and is but one example of the multitude of benefits of using duets as part of your program.
There are becoming more options out there for students to play together in duet. I created a series recently called “Compatible Duets” that came about through my discussions with band directors all over the country that desired for their students to play duets, but the students always wanted to play with their friends and often their friend played a different instrument than them. So, I wrote these duets that can be played by any combination of two wind instruments.
A lot of students are apprehensive about playing a solo. Duets can be a start point towards overcoming this fear. It requires the same part independence as a solo, but helps the student feel more secure while playing with one of their friends. I guarantee that your band program with reap great reward and growth from the addition of a chamber music component. It is my opinion that every student in band should have this opportunity. It will make your concert band better and ultimately improve the overall musicianship of your students.