Staying in time, all the time

If there's no drummer, bass player or conductor, how do members of string ensembles play in time with each other?

At a recent community music event, I was interested to notice that even with a bass player and even amongst the most experienced ukers, if a group was spread across the stage, keeping time with each other could be very difficult. It was perhaps compounded by participants having to read their songsheets and not always being able to look up at the conductor, although that's what happens in most orchestras - players read music and still keep in time via glances at the conductor...not to mention their years of experience and countless hours of practice!

However, there's a bit more to it than that. Many bands have a drummer or other percussion which can unite the tempo, but a study has been done that looked at two internationally recognised string quartets, and how they keep in time without a conductor or percussion. Each quartet does it their own way - one is democratic and the other is autocratic - but the result is the same, everyone's playing in time by adjusting on the run. Read how they do it!