Stopping/Restarting Play during String Quartet Rehearsals: An Ethnographic Approach to Performance Analysis

Hiroko Nishida, Daisuke Yokomori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The field of musicology has long focused on the history of music and music structures; however, research that focus on music as an activity—"musicking" (Small, 1998), including and not limited to performance analyses (Cook, 2007) and performers' interpretations of the piece (Cook, 2013)—have gained more attention in recent years. In addition, scholars of performance studies have focused on the ethnographic approach to music rehearsals. As a case study of the ethnographic approach in performance studies, this paper investigates the players' stop/restart management in a string quartet rehearsal. During rehearsals, players occasionally need to stop playing and deal with problems they have detected and after doing that, they also need to restart playing, either to check how they sound during the section in question or to move on to the next section of the piece. Studies have explored how participants stop/restart musical activities such as an orchestra rehearsal or a vocal master class. However, little is known about how players deal with contingencies concerning stopping/ restarting play when it comes to cases where there is no participant playing the role of a conductor or instructor. The purpose of the present study is to explore how players manage the issue of start/ stop in a rehearsal with neither a conductor nor an instructor. An 8.5-hour video recording of 3 rehearsals of a professional string quartet in Japan is analyzed. Looking at verbal and non-verbal details of players' behaviors, we have examined instances of the Stop–Restart sequence: how players share the problem with other members and what happens before they restart. As a result of our analysis, compared to Stop–Restart sequences in other musical activities with a conductor or instructor, those in a string quartet rehearsal are revealed to be more contingent on players' subtle behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-84
Number of pages16
Issue number40
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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