Mixed ensemble with guitar?

Christina said: Sep 2, 2018
Suzuki Association Member
2 posts

Does anyone currently have students participating in mixed instrument ensembles that include guitars? If so, how successful have the results been, and how do you find repertoire?

Christina said: Sep 3, 2018
Suzuki Association Member
2 posts

One problem we are having is that guitars are so quiet compared to other instruments, particularly piano. I’m of the mind that it’s not a good idea to have both piano and guitar in the same group. I’ve never even heard of putting those two instruments together at this level, but our local program is wanting to have an ensemble with piano, flute and guitar. We tried it last year, and I just don’t think it worked well.

Melanie Drake said: Sep 3, 2018
Melanie Drake36 posts

I just want to add that the Greater Pittsburgh Suzuki Institute offered guitar and flute ensembles a few years ago. I’m not a musician myself, but as an audience member, I felt that the combination was striking. I’m sorry that I don’t recall the pieces.

Jennifer Visick said: Jan 26, 2019
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

If the pianist is VERY sensitive…

and maybe if the guitars are miked, or if the pianist is actually a keyboardist where the keyboard has a volume control…

In our groups we sometimes have guitars and violins together; we also have to teach our violinists to be sensitive to the naturally quieter guitars.

We arrange our own melodies,—or use Suzuki repertoire and teach transposing as needed…

Kelly Williamson said: Jan 27, 2019
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
318 posts

Yes! Flute and guitar is a very striking combination and there is quite a lot of available repertoire. I did a presentation many years ago with David Madsen at the SAA conference. We had an adaptation of Pachelbel Canon which I had used, and some Suzuki pieces… I don’t remember all of it and I think the handouts are on an old hard drive. (I’m currently traveling. :( Will check when I get home and have a moment.)

You might check with David and see if he has some materials on hand to share. It can definitely be done! I agree that it might be a challenge to include guitar and piano (one of each), but since they often occupy the same role, you might try having the guitarist take the harmony support on the first repeat, and then the piano join in the second time. So even if the piano covers the guitar on the repetition, we’ve heard the guitar well the first time! This kind of thing is often done with the Bach suite for flute and orchestra, where the violins mostly double the solo flute part.

If the guitarist(s) are playing a melody line, then you might arrange the music so that any other melody instruments (like flute) also interchange with the other melody instruments so each gets a moment to be featured.

There’s a collection that I’ve used often for student chamber groups. It’s meant for two flutes and piano, but you can do things for fl/violin and piano or 2 fl/cello or fl/vn/cello with a little tweaking. The book is called Forty Short Duets for Beginner Flutists for Two Flutes and Piano, edited by Louis Moyse. There are compositions of his own in the book as well, which I haven’t used as much as the classical ones. I’m willing to bet that at least some of the piano parts might be able to be adapted for, or to include, guitar.

Best of luck!


Grace Wong said: Jan 27, 2019
Grace Wong
Suzuki Association Member
Rochester, NY
2 posts

Our Suzuki school put guitars together with harps as an ensemble.  I was skeptical at first, but it has actually worked pretty well.  Granted, I do have to arrange parts for the harpists, as the ensemble has been playing guitar ensemble pieces.

Good luck and have fun!

Grace Wong

Laura said: Feb 1, 2019
Laura Balaban1 posts

My Suzuki Honors Ensemble (4 violins, 2 violas, 1 cello and 1 bass) combined with the Bradley University Guitar Ensemble (6 guitars) did a joint concert last spring. Half of the concert was with both groups combined. We played a variety of pieces from Renaissance Suite to Amadeus to Santana in Concert. The guitars played off of the Violin 1, 2 and 3 parts. The audience loved it and both ensembles had a great time.

Penny Phillips said: Feb 14, 2019
 Guitar, Recorder, Suzuki in the Schools
Canton, CT
1 posts

Simple two- and three-part recorder music works well for guitar and other melody instruments.

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