It is our desire for every potential member to perform a strong audition that demonstrates his or her musical and technical range. The excerpts, scales, exercises, etc. that are used in the KSUMGF audition reflect the musical and technical level that is expected of band members for them to be successful. While these materials are not the most difficult exercises to perform, they are also difficult enough that for most students, a minimum of 30 hours of effective practice is needed to prepare the materials at the highest level. All research overwhelmingly suggests that successful auditions are based on Planning the Work and Working the Plan over an extended period of time as opposed to trying to cram preparation in at the last minute. To help you prepare the best audition possible, please consider the following tips:
Many musicians make the mistake of spending too much practice time either 1) playing selections that they can already play well and not enough on those they can’t; 2) practicing a selection without a specific goal or strategy to improve; 3) practicing technical passages too fast rather than starting at a manageable tempo and working towards the target tempo; 4) practicing only to get correct notes and rhythms and not practicing dynamics, tempo, style, etc.; and/or 5) practicing the same mistakes over and over in the belief that repetition will fix them as opposed to isolating and slowing down the problem area. To be an effective practitioner, consider using the following effective practice techniques:
SHORT PRACTICE SESSIONS VS “CRAMMING” – It has been proven that human beings process information and develop physical skills by participating in shorter practice sessions with well-defined goals over a longer period of time than they do by practicing the same amount of time but for longer periods over a shorter time span. In other words, you will be more productive practicing 45 minutes a day for 4 weeks with a solidly planned, goal-oriented practice session utilizing effective practice techniques than you ever will practicing 3 hours a day for 1 week. Not only will your embouchure be too tired to be any good, but there’s no way to maintain a strong level of mental and emotional focus on your practice for more than 45 minutes or so at a time.
- PLAN – Before you ever practice, have a set of goals that you hope to accomplish for that day (see the “5 LEVELS OF EFFECTIVE PREPARATION” information below), well-thought-out strategies to reach those goals, and keep track of your progress. An effective tool you can use to help you practice smarter is the KSUMGF Practice Checklist, which can be found on the Members Onlywebpage. You may also use Music Journal Pro, a practice journaling App that allows you to keep track and set goals for your individual practice. Make sure you set S.M.A.R.T. GOALS for maximum growth.
- TUNER & METRONOME – ALWAYS practice with a metronome so that you are practicing steady tempo. Likewise, ALWAYS practice with a tuner so that you can constantly monitor pitch tendencies and problems as you play. Keep track of consistent “problem” notes.
- UTILIZE EFFECTIVE PRACTICE TECHNIQUE – Many young musicians make the mistake of thinking that just playing something over and over all the way through will magically make them play something better when in fact, all that does is cause you to keep practicing the same mistakes over and over. Similarly, too much practice time is wasted working on music that you already know as opposed to targeting the sections that are the most problematic. The best way to practice is to isolate and focus on the areas that need the most work using effective technique to improve those areas. Here are some examples of some of the most effective techniques to use to get the most out of your practice:
- CHUNKING - Isolate the specific area of challenge. Sometimes it’s a small technical passage or even just one note. Don’t waste time working on stuff that you can already play
- SLOW PRACTICE - Target the problem area and slow things down to a manageable tempo. DO NOT speed up until you can play it correctly. If you continue to force a tempo that is too fast, you will reinforce mistakes and create a mental block that will incorrectly convince you that you are unable to execute the passage or movement.
- ADD-ONS - Isolate a small section then add new parts until the whole is played.
- THREE-TIMES RULE - Do not move on to a new exercise, section, or tempo until you are able to perform the chunk of music three times in a row with no mistakes
- CONTEXT - Always put the isolated chunk back into context with the rest of the music before you move on.
Many musicians focus only on notes and rhythms when they practice and prepare parts while the most successful musicians are able to master all five of the following Levels of Part Preparation:
- All notes and rhythms are played correctly at the right tempo
- All notes are played using good intonation and with characteristic tone quality
- All dynamics, articulations, and releases are played correctly
- All phrases are played with correct shape, tension & release, style, breathing pattern
- All transitions are played confidently and correctly
Here are some specific questions you should ask yourself as you set goals and monitor your musical growth during your practice session:
INTONATION & TONE QUALITY
Are you playing on the best equipment?
Are you playing every note in tune using a tuner AND your ears?
Are you focusing on the quality of the inhale?
Are you starting, sustaining, AND ending every note with proper and consistent air?
Are you playing every note with characteristic tone quality for your instrument AND the musical selection?
NOTES & RHYTHMS
Are you playing all pitches accurately?
Are you playing all notes at full and/or correct value for the style?
Are you able to play at correct tempo with and without a metronome?
Are you playing every single marked tempo?
DYNAMICS, ARTICULATIONS, RELEASES
Are you playing every single marked dynamic?
Are you playing all with dynamic contrast that is more than just two levels (louder and softer)?
Are you maintaining good tone and intonation at extreme dynamics?
Are you playing every single marked articulation with proper air, syllable, and length?
Are you holding long notes for full value and putting appropriate space for short notes?
Are your articulations and releases together?
PHRASING & STYLE
Have you identified the peak, valley, and shape of each phrase?
Have you familiarized yourself with the stylistic tendencies of the piece? (historical period, composer, & genre)
Are you playing all the stylistic varieties in this piece consistently correct?
Are you breathing in the right place?
Are you breathing with your section?
Are you playing with the correct amount of weight on each note or phrase?
Are you playing beginnings AND endings as musically as the middle?
Are you playing all sudden and gradual dynamic changes consistently?
Are you playing all sudden and gradual tempo changes consistently?
Are you playing all sudden and gradual articulation changes consistently?
Are you playing all sudden and gradual stylistic changes consistently?
Are you playing all sudden and gradual phrase changes consistently?
- Present a professional image (you get only one chance to make a first impression)
- Take control of the situation (plan what you are going to play and do)
- Dress for the occasion
- Be on time and warmed up
- Make sure your instrument and reeds are working properly
- Leave your case outside the room
- Have your instrument out and ready
- Introduce yourself and your repertoire
- Get the committee’s attention
- Speak clearly
- Look people in the eye
- Know correct pronunciations of composers and compositions
- Demonstrate your ability, facility, and sensitivity
- Communicate if you have a legitimate problem (long before the audition)
- Do not wear shorts, jeans, hats, etc.
- Do not make excuses or apologies (for anything)
- Do not draw attention to problems (the committee may not notice)
- I haven’t warmed up.
- I haven’t had a chance to practice.
- I didn’t know . . .
- I just got this horn.
- What should I play?
- What would you like to hear?
- I didn’t have my instrument/sticks/etc...
- I didn’t bring any music.
- Nobody told me...
- Give yourself plenty of time to do everything (i.e. get up early, have a leisurely meal, arrive early to the audition)
- Avoid over-practicing, which may cause nerve problems and fatigue
- Warm up well and practice audition material under tempo
- At the site, warm up alone and don’t listen to other players
- Play to your own standards; don’t try to guess how the committee would like something performed
- Take some risks; communicate the music’s message
- Maintain a positive appearance even if you do not think you played well
- Evaluate the audition experience