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Clarinet Lessons: Preparing for Auditions

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Preparing for auditions is very much like
how we're supposed to
prepare all our pieces and
all the things that we talk about
in getting our fundamentals.
There is a way it is
a little bit different.
It's because auditions are an extremely
competitive environment, and
when we are really nervous, then all
the things that we have really needed
to work on, they will come to sort of
haunt you if we haven't prepared properly,
because we have just one shot
to actually show our craft
and to give the judges an opportunity
to hear what we can do.
One of the things that I like to
stress for audition preparation is
the use of the repetitions that I
actually have in how to practice.
And this is extremely important.
When we think of something
like this in the repetitions,
as you would check in
the fundamentals while doing a piece,
let's say the Mendelssohn Scherzo,
for example where we have to get
a tempo that is around 88 for
the dotto quarter to be to 88 or 90 and
we want to have a great deal of
consistency for these kinds of things.
The way of preparing with what
I call the hard core way is
basically the best way that I know to
maintain a great deal of consistency.
And what that means is that, for
example, if we take a piece like that,
where we start at,
that's supposed to be at 80,
and we're supposed to grab it to
a tempo that is extremely slow.
Let's say we start at 40,
which is more than half.
If we're going to go for 88, we have to
try to always to prepare at a tempo that,
when we're playing,
that we can play well every single time.
So that way we can feel confident,
and comfortable, and
then I'd like to repeat it ten times,
consecutively, in a row, exactly right.
So that way,
by the time that we get to our tempo,
we will have done it
several hundred times.
For example,
if we are going 10 times from 40, and
we're going to be moving
with a digital metronome,
every two numbers until we get to 88, well
we will have gone 26 times, I think it is.
24 times, sorry.
So if we're doing it ten times in a row,
perfectly, before moving to the next one,
then that means that we will have
gotten before we get to our tempo.
Once we get to our tempo we will
have done it 240 times perfectly.
Now, I know it sounds insane.
I'm not saying to do it in one day,
of course.
But what you do is that you prepare it,
like let's say that you're going
to do three notches per day.
That means that you're gonna do at
least 30 times perfectly consecutively,
in batches of ten.
So let's say that we are human, and
then we lost concentration, and
we messed up at number seven.
We have to start again,
because if we're cheating,
the only person we're cheating in
the practice room is ourselves.
So that's one of the things that
I will explain with more detail in
the fundamentals of how to practice.
But that is one of the things that is
extremely important for auditions so
that then, by the time that we get to
play, since we will have done it so
many times at home,
then we will feel more confident.
Now you have to remember that
everything tends to go wrong for
the types of auditions.
The reeds might get a little too crazy.
We might go to a place that the altitude
is different or the humidity,
it started raining like crazy, and you
have been preparing in a very dry place or
vice versa, and the instrument can
crack or something could happen,
and all these things,
you have to be counting on them happening.
Okay, so
what you have to do is to try to recreate
some of the craziness that happens
during the times of auditions
meaning you have to try to
recreate your physical feeling.
For example, if you tend to get very cold
when you are nervous then it would be
good to, once in a while, practice in
a very cold room, so that then you can
get used to that feeling, or
be practicing in a very cold room.
Now, that stuff's always a little bit
dangerous because you want to make sure
that you don't crack your instrument,
but you have to try to recreate that.
If the place, it makes you, when you get
nervous you start sweating like crazy,
then sometimes you will have
to practice in a warm room.
With a coat.
Completely sweatpants, jacket,
and a coat and everything,
so then you are sweating like crazy, so
that then, by the time that you get to
an audition, then you have been
practicing in such extremes
that you will feel comfortable
by comparison, okay?
So, in terms of how you
are expected to play,
then you always have to
try to know your audience.
What I mean by that is that if you're
playing for a position that is for
a principal job, you have to remember that
the great majority of the people who have
the biggest influence on your selection
are the other principals in the role
of the section that you're in.
Especially for us,
the principal wind players.
And then some of the people
who might be in the section,
but usually if you're auditioning for
principal clarinet, believe me,
the principal bassoon, principal oboe,
and flute, and the concertmaster, and
the principal horn will have a lot to say,
which means that all the things that
we're working on in the fundamentals
come to be super important,
because what they're trying to help us
is to try to go beyond our instrument.
Meaning they are listening to you as
musicians, not as fellow clarinet players,
which means that we have to be thinking
beyond which fingering we like,
which way does my teacher like,
and which ligature do I like,
because most of the other musicians
can't really tell about that but
they will be able to hear
how in tune do you play?
We have to make sure that the notes that
we forgive ourselves as clarinet players,
like the low Fs that tend to be super
flat and things like that, we have to
really get away from those kinds of
things if we want to be looked at and
considered as full musicians by other
musician that have no understanding or
sympathy for
our instrumental idiosyncrasies.
So, to finish, the most important
thing about preparing for
auditions is try to make sure that when
you are preparing all the notes and
everything, it helps you to get
into a place where you can start,
for getting so much, a little bit more
of just the technical aspects of it,
so that then you can sing, and
you can show your musicianship.
You can understand the way that the music
goes, not just how to play the instrument.
That way you can have a much
broader appeal to people.