Orchestral Etiquette

Some Do’s and Don’ts

Being a member of Innominato Strings is great fun and very rewarding. Because we are such a large and exuberant group we have all agreed on a few ground rules to make sure it all runs smoothly and happily. Please take a few minutes now to improve your orchestral etiquette by familiarising yourself with these Orchestra Rules.

Preparation & Set Up

Be respectful of the conductor and your fellow musicians.

Try to arrive 10-15 minutes before the scheduled start time. Use this time to:

  • help with the chairs (if you are able)
  • unpack
  • tune your instrument
  • apply rosin to your bow
  • set up your music stand
  • arrange your music and other materials
  • be seated ready to start rehearsals promptly at the scheduled time.
The orchestra is normally set up in a semi-circle facing the conductor who stands in the middle. Cellos and 1st violins are in line and facing each other on the conductor’s right and left respectively. Basses are behind the cellos. Violas are next to the cellos (on the inside), and the 2nd violins are next to the 1st violins (inside).  If you are first to arrive please start arranging chairs for the session.

Position your stand so that you can see both the music and the conductor. You will need to develop the ability to watch the conductor, if only out of the corner of your eye, at the same time you are reading the music.

Have your music bound in a folder and arranged so that pages may be quickly turned without disruption to the group. Avoid having loose pages, however it is a good idea to bring along clothes pegs or similar to keep pages from blowing away. Alternatively some players like to use an iPad

Have a 5B pencil and eraser easily & quickly accessible for marking your music as directed by the conductor.

TURN OFF YOUR MOBILE PHONE or switch to SILENT MODE for the duration of the session.

Keep the rehearsal space free of clutter. Be mindful of other instruments around you – on the floor, on chairs etc. These instruments are fragile and expensive. Ensure your own instrument is safely out of the way during break times, but be aware of where other instruments are and be very careful as you move about.

Orchestra Rehearsal Etiquette

Pay attention to the conductor at all times.

Do not talk, whisper, sing, whistle, play or tune your instrument while the conductor is speaking.

Do not talk, whisper, sing, whistle, play or tune your instrument while other sections are working with the conductor. Follow along silently in your own part.

Do not mark time with your feet, knees, hands or other body parts while playing.

The conductor will give you directions for bowing, dynamics, expression, technical points and other requirements for each piece during rehearsals. Mark all these instructions onto your music clearly in pencil so that they may be understood by others.

It is customary to follow the leadership of the players in the front desk. This means, for example, following their bowing, coming in at the same time they come in and not holding on to notes longer than they do.

Due to time constraints sometimes you’ll often find it necessary to play a section or bar repeatedly and you won’t have time to switch between playing your instrument and marking your music. Don’t worry – it is more important not to disrupt the session by having others wait for you to be ready to play. Catch up with markings during the break, at the end of the session or out of session.

If you get lost and stop playing during a piece, don’t panic. Try to follow what’s going on so that you can re-join when you are sure again. If you are still lost or having difficulties repeatedly, wait for an appropriate opportunity to ask for clarification.

Going Home Time

If you are able to please help to stack the chairs away after the session.

Leave the rehearsal space clean and tidy for the next group.


Practice, practice, practice! It is also a good idea to listen to recordings of the pieces if you can.