Lessons from Orchestra

I’ve learned a few things from being in my church’s orchestra and from listening to a few other orchestras. I love how some of the things I’ve learned can be metaphors for life. Not all of these are metaphors, but they can still be useful to know.

The music is written by someone.

The music doesn’t sound like anything until it is played off the page.

Know your music. If you don’t play your part or you don’t play it correctly, the whole musical piece doesn’t sound as good. Pay attention to all the dynamics, too.

The composer has a reason for your part to be there, even if all you do is play a trill, a run, or a single note.

Watch the conductor. He sets the pace, and he tells you how to play. If you don’t follow him, you aren’t playing your part in or at the right time.

Be sure to have a strong bass.

Mess with the orchestra, and you get the horns.

Sometimes you need to think outside the brass.

Sometimes the conductor follows the pianist and the pianist is actually conducting. But don’t tell anyone.

If you sit in front of the trombones, be sure you are far enough away.

If you sit in front of any part of the brass section, consider earplugs at least for loud songs.

The percussionist/drummer usually has a special friendship with the bass guitar player.

Trumpet players are usually arrogant.

When you have a keyboard to fill in the sound, it “covers a multitude of sins.” But when it comes to replacing other instruments, the actual instrument always sounds better than its keyboard counterpart.

The bassoon is a fantastic instrument. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s stupid.

The flute is one of the prettiest sounding instruments, and don’t let that one trumpet player tell you otherwise.

When you mess up and it actually sounds good, you won’t be able to do it again on purpose. You may never be able to do it again at all.

You’ll probably never play exactly the same way twice, but that’s what makes music interesting and gives it depth. Or you just make really bad mistakes. It’s a fifty-fifty shot.

Practice makes permanent. If you keep practicing a mistake, you will have to unlearn it to learn the right way to play it.

Silence is just as much a part of the music as the sound. It gives you a moment to reflect and to take a breath.


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