Something I noticed after playing in various orchestras: When a wind player in an orchestra finishes a tricky part or a solo well, the surrounding wind players honor this with a silent applause even during playing. But I never experienced that in the string section. They are even surprised about that. Why? Because they never have something similar (at least I never experienced that)?
It's even the same with knowing each other: While the people in the separate string sections (first violin, second violin and so on) know mostly only the people in their own register, the wind players know each other even if they are playing in different sections (brass, wood, etc.). Why is there such a mentality difference?

  • Probably a variation from country to country, but I've always called these "sections" , not "registers." In music, I've seen "register" used to refer to different frequency ranges of an instrument, e.g. the low range of the clarinet is called the "chalumeau." – Carl Witthoft Nov 30 '14 at 13:42
  • The reason for calling them "register" and not "section" is afaik that english is not my native language... – arc_lupus Nov 30 '14 at 13:49

Numbers? Most wind instrument players have to play solo parts, or in soloist settings. Most string instrument players don't. String instrument blocks are hierarchical, with those who are assigned solo parts also being in a better paid position and in the front row. So applause from people in the lower paid ranks would not be visible to the front row players, and the front row players are more or less in direct competition on exactly the same set of instruments (namely just a single instrument). The good woodwind soloists tend to have a whole bunch of instruments partly complementing the instrument sets of their colleagues.

  • the answer: "Most wind instrument players have to play solo parts, or in soloist settings. Most string instrument players don't." – wazz Mar 29 '15 at 11:50

Interesting only because I've never seen this during a performance - neither as a orchestra member or an audience member.
If it's common in your locale, it may simply be that the winds are pretty much soloists all the time, while the string sections operate as large groups; further, while the, say, oboists may have 30 measures' rest during which they can high-five the piccolo and bassoon, the moment a violin solo ends, the violin section has to buckle down and play.

  • First I thought that that is only common in my locale, but I experienced that now in several orchestras both in germany and in norway, so there should be more than only a local common. And yes, the "applause", mostly by the other players in the section happens in a rest after the tricky part. – arc_lupus Nov 30 '14 at 13:52
  • it's very uncool to applaud each other in concert so it's not done, except for very subtle acknowledgement from colleagues. (you might notice this if you're a musician, but probably won't if you're not.) rehearsals are different. – wazz Mar 29 '15 at 11:54

One way of acknowledging a collegue is a very subtle shuffle of the foot. It's not THAT common. Amateur and student orchestras love mimicing what they see as "professional" conduct, and often over-do it!

It's rarely seen in the string section. Maybe because they're all so busy constantly playing. Maybe because they lack the camaraderie of the "blowers" - they're all after the next man's job. (That wasn't altogether a jest.)

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