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Filtering by Tag: student issues

Texas ATSSB Trombone Etudes: Gatti

[soundcloud url="" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /] So, in this second post, we're gonna tackle this little vigoroso treat that Mr. Gatti has in store for us.

First of all, let's discuss the proverbial elephant in the room... What the heck do I do about breathing in this piece???!!!  Well, I hate to tell you, but this is one of those pieces where you're "damned if you do, damned if you don't!"  What I mean is, you have to get your priorities straight. Ask yourself what is most important, playing every single note super fast or playing as clean and musically as you can, while picking and choosing smart places to breathe?

Now, I'm not here to say one way is right.  However, I do think there is a best solution.  In any audition, I prefer to hear someone come in and play a musically sound performance, while showing off their technical ability and skills without sacrificing their musical goals.  I think you can make this piece sound plenty vigorous while playing at the low end of the tempo scale, single tonguing, and breathing in strategically placed spots while leaving notes out to do so.

"WHAAAATTTT???? Did you just say to LEAVE NOTES OUT???!!!" Yep, I sure did. It is done all the time in ensemble/section settings in the interest of keeping the time consistent above all else and in facilitating staggered breathing within a trombone section. "But this is a solo piece!", you say. Yes it is. I think it is more important that you make this "strategic breathing" thing a part of your tool bag now, and this is a great place to learn it.

It IS possible to triple tongue this whole etude.  In my opinion, the time it would take me to be able to do that would be much better spent developing a faster, clearer single tongue, practicing long tones, cleaning my slide, and doing lots of other things in my life!  In my professional experience, with the exception of some Pryor solos, or playing cornet solos, there is much more use for fast single tonguing and even double tonguing before spending so much time developing this kind of triple tonguing.  I'm not saying it's not needed, but not before the other articulation skills are mastered.

My plan when I recorded this was to play all the phrases on one breath until I got to the passage beginning in measure 22.  I marked my music to breathe first in m. 26, on the last 16th of beat 1.  You can hear in the recording where I took my breaths.  I did my best to try to make my breaths short and quick, and get right back in on the next beat.  By breathing mid-phrase, I'm better able to play the dynamics printed which give this somewhat repetitive etude much more musical contrast. I tried playing faster and softer, but I could not make the phrase in the last four lines no matter what I tried!  And that was playing faster and very soft without really doing any of the printed dynamics.  Circular breathing is possible, but again, I just don't feel it adds much to the musical goal of the piece.  Finally, anticipate the fact that most mortal humans will be nervous in an audition, and planning for phrases that stretch your air capacity to the max in a comfortable practice session are probably not a good idea in an audition setting.

So, how to practice?  SLOW.  Slow it down.  Take one phrase (or measure, or beat) at a time.  Strive to make all the 16ths equal, unless they are marked with an accent.  Record yourself and listen for equal sound and even time.

Speaking of time, I'm thinking 8th note subdivisions, except for the measures where we have accents/hemiola, such as measure four. Keep the eighth note pulse rolling in your head constantly, and combine that with metronome practice at all speeds. You will have to live with the practice of the time concept for some time to really ingrain it! Don't give up! Keep at it and if things start to fall apart, revert to a slower speed. Practice SLOW FIRST! Have I been clear enough ?! :)

Good luck. Get to work, and keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming series on How to Prepare For and Take An Audition.

Failure and Integrity

Recently, I was discussing some college beginning-of-semester auditions with a university professor.... Apparently some students found out what the sight reading on their placement audition was beforehand, and they had a chance to prepare the music before their turn to play came... I have to say I had mixed feelings about this.  Part of me feels like, in an audition, I'm going to do anything I can to get an advantage, especially if a great job or career enhancing position are at stake... However, in a school setting, where we are there to learn, I was somewhat appalled at this type of behavior...and, these students passed up one of the greatest gifts of making music in an educational setting - permission to FAIL!

Failure is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves in our musical lives.  I don't mean not showing up for work and getting fired from your job... I mean taking a chance, giving your best effort, and falling short.  And then, LEARNING SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.

I feel that most people have forgotten what a great tool failure can be.  As John Kitzman once said to me in a lesson, "If you sound good, you're just entertaining yourself!"  That statement couldn't be more true!  What John was getting at on many levels was that we all tend to do those things that are safe.  We play the solo we sound good on, we practice the things we already can play well, we take the piece to our lesson that we play well so as not to endure the embarrassment of not sounding our best in front of our teacher... In short, we shy away from failure.

Look, no one likes to fail.  I mean, if someone tells you they enjoy failure and having their weaknesses exposed for all to see, they're crazy.  BUT... and it's a big one... I will say that none of us learn anything without failure.

There is a big qualifier to that statement.  Failure in itself doesn't do anything for us.  Only failure where we STUDY WHY WE FAILED has any value.

Say I take an audition and don't advance past the prelims... What did I learn?  Did I take my recorder in to the audition and record my performance?  Was my time poor?  Did I achieve the musical goal I had for each excerpt?  What happened?  Did I just spend $1000 in travel expenses to take an audition from which I literally learned nothing?!

Take a lesson from our military.  In the military, most units have what they call a post operation analysis or debrief.  Every aspect of the operation is reviewed and all mistakes are called out and discussed.  No one gets the feel good treatment and a pat on the back if their part of the mission wasn't performed well.  People's lives are at stake!  Do you do any post analysis of your own performances?  What went wrong?  What should you have done differently? Do you have a recording to review?  How could you have prepared more thoroughly?

Back to the students who cheated on their sight reading... What is the real issue here?  Well, the biggest thing is integrity.  I don't want to hire someone who has a problem with being honest or with fulfilling their commitments with a clear conscience.  Second, these players missed a golden opportunity to see where they really stand with their sight reading ability.  You can train sight reading!  (Future blog post...)  Finally, those young players have planted the seed of doubt in the minds of people who matter in their educational and musical careers.  And as we all know, first impressions are hard to overcome!

In summary, prepare to succeed but don't pass up the chance to learn something about yourself when you fail.  Lead your life with integrity, work hard towards your goals, and when you fall short, use that experience to make yourself better.  Keep moving forward!


Chris Clark

The Virtual Trombonist

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