Every great movie has its main characters and also has a supporting cast that helps the stars shine. Just like in the movies, the supporting cast of 2nd and 3rd players in music helps the 1st players shine.
I have had the privilege of making a career playing 2nd trumpet in Boston Brass and enjoy every moment. As a section player, our main job is to add musical strength to an inner line while supporting and enhancing the interpretation of the 1st player.
Sense of Ensemble
Know your role as a section player at all times and have a strong sense of ensemble. To bring your ensemble playing to the next level, be aware of your function throughout the entire piece of music. Are you the melody, counter melody, harmony, or rhythmic groove?
Playing inner parts can bring additional challenges including the need to be proficient in high and low registers. Make sure you are comfortable in all registers of your instrument.
With, not Against
Playing with confidence is also another important characteristic to section playing; however, never ever try to lead the section from an inner part. You want to make sure that you’re playing with the lead player, not competing, and that you are able to hear and adjust quickly and efficiently.
Blend with and enhance the 1st players’ sound. Working with a tuner is a great way to build your ears and be ready to make small adjustments if needed.
Part of the Whole
You should never feel that your part isn’t important and become bored. Understand and embrace the fact that you are an important and necessary part of the whole. Strive to appreciate the 1st players’ interpretations and try to clone them exactly. Everyone in a section is equally important for the end result, which is making great music together.