Playing music isn't only about playing your instrument. It's also about working with other people towards a common goal and that, as you can imagine, also requires some skills. Here are a few dos and don'ts about team playing in a band or an orchestra.
1) Be tolerant. We are all human beings and we all make mistakes at some point. Assuming that everyone is trying their best and genuinely wants to do well, there's no need to get mad if things aren't going as well as you would like. At the end of the day, if you're too good for this band or orchestra, you should have no problem getting a position in a better one...
2) Respect your colleague's opinions even if you disagree. Music isn't an exact science. There will always be more than one way to interpret a piece and it's a matter of taste how we play. We all come from different backgrounds and it's normal to have different opinions at some point. It's important to respect your colleague's opinion even if you disagree with them. I'll never understand why some people get angry when others express an idea that isn't theirs...
It doesn't make any sense.
Just because you have played for longer or come from a country that has a longer tradition in music doesn't mean that you'll be right in everything all the time and just because it's not YOUR idea doesn't mean it's a bad idea! It's not about who's right or who's wrong. It's about how do we come together to achieve a common goal. In an orchestra, the conductor or the person who plays first usually gets the last word. If that person isn't you, don't worry; you'll get your turn!
3)Appreciate your colleagues for their human qualities as much as their musical skills. If I have to sit next to someone for the next 20 years, I'd rather play with an okay player I can get along with than a genius I can't stand. That might sound a bit unprofessional but let me tell you that a freak with an overinflated ego can make your life a living hell if you have to sit next to that person for years! Remember that there is always someone who can play just as good and still be nice to you. Even if someone doesn't meet your standards as a musician, that person still deserve your respect as a human being. If your goal is to enjoy yourself playing, you don't want to be surrounded by jerks! So do appreciate nice guys even if they aren't as good as you.
4) Listen. There is a time for sticking out and a time for blending in. Use your judgement to determine how loud you need to play. If you're not playing first, avoid playing louder than your section leader.
5)Be ready to compromise. In a band or an orchestra, there will always be moments where you won't feel comfortable with your colleague's rhythm or intonation. Be ready to adapt if you need to. Don't stubbornly hold on to your pitch just because the machine says you're right. You're not playing with a tuner, you're playing with humans!
6) Don't be a backseat driver. If you're not playing first, you're not supposed to tell people how to play. There's nothing more annoying then someone who criticize everyone from their second chair! People will learn their part eventually, they don't need you to "help" them. You can always give your opinion when the section debates over something but in general, you need to let the person who plays first do his/her job.
7)Don't bark at people. When you're playing first, you're entitled to lead your section and make comments when necessary. Take this responsibility seriously without taking yourself too seriously! Trust your colleagues to correct their mistakes on their own and if you have something to say, say it nicely without sounding irritated or aggressive. You'll get more respect as a leader this way.
8)Don't give advices unless someone asks you. If you're not a teacher or not clearly and obviously more advanced and experienced than the people you play with, don't start teaching them if they don't ask for advices from you.
It's a patronizing attitude to play the "teacher" in a rehearsal. It's a way to say "I know better than you" and to put yourself "on top" as in fact, you still have a lot to learn yourself. Don't take advantage of people's mistakes or lack of self confidence to start "helping" them. They won't want to play with you and you'll end up out of work sooner than later.
9)Have a WIN-WIN attitude. It's rude to tell someone "you're flat" or "your sharp" That's again like saying "I know better" and it's a WIN-LOSE attitude. Over time it'll turn against you. You should instead tell your colleagues: "can we check that note?" and work on it together even if you're absolutely sure of your pitch. That way, everybody wins and everyone is happy. Over a few years, that will make a huge difference in your section's moral.
10)Don't complain about your part assignment. You will play hundreds if not thousands of concerts in your life and you'll get plenty of opportunities to shine. Play the best you can all the time no matter what part you play and you'll be noticed. Don't worry if you don't get to play first right now. You're time will come. It's normal to be ambitious but there are probably others who have been there longer than you. So be patient and when your turn comes, you'll enjoy it even more!
11) Watch what you're saying. Okay, we all make a few comments about our colleagues sometimes. That's human nature! Just be careful about what you say and to whom. You never know...
12) Don't be a diva! Everyone is important in an orchestra. Not just you! So don't treat the orchestra staff and everyone around you like they're your servants. If you ask for something, remember to say "please" and "thank you" Sounds like a no-brainer but you would be amazed to see how people can forget basic social rules when their egos inflate...
13) Be punctual. It's a drag when people arrive late or at the very last minute all the time. Don't be one of them.
If everyone goes by these rules, music making will be a fun and enjoyable experience for all. Of course, no one is perfect and we all have our moments. That's okay. As long as you generally behave correctly and don't do anything crazy like punching someone or whatever, you will be appreciated for your human qualities as well as your playing. Music is also about friendship and in that sense, respecting your colleagues no matter how good they play does matter.
I am associate principal horn of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the author of the progressive methods. I'm happy to share my experience as a horn player and teacher with you.