Audition Strategies: Part One

Oftentimes an audition can be a stressful experience. Knowing we will be judged, and the fact that a grade, an honor or a job could be resting on the outcome are big distractions from the joy of music making.  But confidence can do wonders for our audition, and one of the best ways to feel confident is to be prepared.  While there are many things in life that are beyond our control, preparing for and feeling confident during an audition are well within our grasp if we have a plan.  With the school year just beginning and the Colorado All State Band and Jazz Band requirements now available (see previous post), auditions are right around the corner.  Here are a few ideas to help get you started on the road to confidence and success.

If possible, you can begin by just listening to a good recording of the music (some recordings of the Colorado All State music are on the previous post). Internalize the music so you can play it in your head…not only the notes, dynamics and articulation, but also the nuances of phrasing and vibrato.  Be able to distinguish the differences between Hakan Hardenberger’s interpretation and Sergei Nakariakov’s.  Be able to sing along while following the written music. 

Budget your time in order to spend it wisely.  How many days do you have to prepare and how many measures do you have to master?  If you have 56 measures to learn and 90 days before the audition you could easily learn one measure a day and have plenty of time remaining to chain those measures into phrases, to gradually bring the piece up to tempo, to increase your endurance and to perform the music in a variety of acoustical environments.

Use “No Weight Blowing” (described briefly in this earlier post) to work out all of the counting, fingerings and articulation before you even play the music on your horn.  If you’re still hesitating with these basics, the airstream will also hesitate, and that is the beginning of the end as far as control and confidence go.   Remember to get that “Bowling Swing” (your breathing) going and stay relaxed.  

If you encounter a difficult passage, follow the mantra, ”Go slower, and arrive sooner.” Practice the music at the tempo you can play it perfectly, no matter how slow.  Stay in the “Zone” of control…of consistency…of beautiful sound.  Follow the “Ten Bean Rule,” that is, be able to play the hard parts perfectly ten times in a row (OK…I know the picture has 11 beans).  To keep track of your success, each time you play it right, place one bean (or penny, etc.) in the “good pile.”  If you make a mistake, even on your tenth time, you must start all over again.  It may seem impossible to play with that high level of consistency, but if you play it slower the odds increase in your favor dramatically.  You are actually writing new software for your brain, which is a slow tedious process, but which allows the system to run glitch free at speed.  If everything is working, gradually move up the tempo, using a metronome to not only keep the beat steady, but to also monitor your progress and help you remember the best, current practice tempo.  

Playing all the notes correctly does not insure that you are playing the instrument correctly, so try using “Add-Ons” to upgrade your fundamentals.  Also plan, mark and practice your breathing places, so you always have enough air, and so you can take the breath and return to playing in time with the embouchure intact.  Don’t chop off the last note before the breath…instead, its ending should have a nice shape and as much of its written value as possible.  That means your inhale needs to be faster, which means it needs to be more relaxed as well.  Be aware of your posture and how you are breathing. Don’t raise the chest or shoulders during the inhale.

The All State pieces are relatively long, with little or no rest.  If your lips get tired before finishing the selection, stop and rest before continuing.  Fatigue is not only related to conditioning, but also to your fundamentals. Sometimes a review of those fundamentals (like through the use of “Add-Ons“) will rejuvenate things rather quickly, especially if you catch the problem early on.  You want to gradually increase your endurance, adding another measure or so a day.  If you continue to play on a tired embouchure the bad habits begin to emerge and solidify…not a good thing.  You must think like an athlete…push yourself but do not overtrain.  A proper warm up is a necessity every day!  

More ideas will follow in Audition Strategies:  Part Two, but if you have any questions, or ideas of your own please feel free to leave me a comment by clicking below.

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