The week this post will be live is also the same week I will be performing Frank Martin’s Ballade for my final Masters’ recital. Given the priority of recording – over live rehearsals – I have been able to be much more detail focused on this piece than I could have ever been in ‘normal’ times. This is not an easy piece by an means; if you are not familiar with the work allow me to break down the sections and shed some insight on what I’ve learned over the past few months.


Let’s start with the composer: Frank Martin. He is a Swiss composer who lived from 1890-1974 and he studied piano and composition with J. Lauber. Early on he was influenced by French composers – in the early 20th century, the distinct impressionist style of French music such as by Faure. Around the 1930s he also studied with Arnold Schoenberg; the culminating of these contrasting composing styles finally came together in the late 1930s. Gerhard Braun’s notes in the Universal score put it best, “these compositions blend twelve-tone technique and functional harmony, frequent use of ostinato and pedal point, the incorporation of perfect major and minor triads and exploitation of the melodic and harmonic tensions generated by the leading note and the tonic.”

Frank Martin’s Ballade was originally written for flute and piano when composed in 1939; it was composed to be premiered at the Geneva International Music Competition of that same year. Several years later, in 1941, the Ballade was adapted for flute and orchestra.

Before getting into the piece, and honorable mention is Paula Robison’s Masterclass: Frank Martin Ballade pour flute et piano. This book – as the title would suggest – workshops the Ballade and is a great resource for anyone who either loves to listen to the piece or intends on performing it. I won’t recap much of what she says within my own analysis because I think Robison writes so concisely; however, the use of medieval poetry (speech patterns) is something worth looking into when studying the Ballade.


The first question is: how do we section the Ballade? Generally the tempo markings indicate a change in texture, timbre, or color; the ones that I regard as significant are as follows:

  • Allegro ben moderato (the opening-m.43)
  • Vivace (m. 44-94) / Half = Dotted Half (m. 95-153)
  • Cadenza (m. 154-193)
  • Lento (m. 194-199) / Con moto (m. 200-272)
  • Presto (m. 273-282) / Molto vivace (m. 283-323)
  • Meno mosso / Presto (m. 324-358)

What interesting is that when broken up into 6 sections of similar lengths the form resembles in a warped mirror.

Like an: A B C-C B’ A’

The material from the Allegro ben moderato returns at the very end in the Meno mosso – slightly distorted; the material in the Molto Vivace comes BEFORE the Meno mosso with a varied version of the original Vivace motives. The Cadenza and the Lento / Con moto sections act as the mirror or the axis for the larger A and B themes to reflect.

A: Allegro ben moderato (m. 1-43)

The work opens with the conversational eighth note motive. There is no real tonal center – a la Schoenberg – however, this is NOT a tone row either… so what is it? There are three 2 bar sets within the opening: (1) G A Bb F#; (2) F# E# G# A (3) B# B A# Gx. The only discernible pattern is that each time there is a move upward by a half step such as from G to G# to Gx.

The cyclic eighth notes are broken by a register change – which is another trademark of the piece. And you will notice that following that break that the beaming changes from 6 to two groups of 3. Where Martin is setting up the 2 v 3 (and 3 v 2) between the flute and piano early on. In measure 11, there is a ‘new’ beginning on new pitches, however, this does not proceed the same way we heard it the first time because another set of two groups of 3 interrupt the motive and propel the flute line into a syncopated, extreme interval idea.

One more time we get a ‘new’ beginning, this time a half step higher than the last (m. 11) and now the roles are reverse where the flute is playing the 2 while the piano has 3.

We get more intervals mixed in with short 2 bar snippets of the transposed opening motive before our first set of sixteenth notes ascends to the climax of the opening which falls down with syncopations into the Piu Tranquillo. The piano is back to playing 2s (more of a 6/8) while the flute is playing in 3/4 on a single note that is syncopated, maintaining that conversational element from the very opening of the section.

B: Vivace / Half = Dotted Half (m. 44-153)

This next section is interesting, mostly because of the Half = Dotted Half section which is simultaneously stable and unstable. At first glance it may seem odd to roll that section into B however it juxtaposes the section to create this contrast to the high energy; the calmness/song-like line of the Half = Dotted Half is like a delayed echo to the abundance of material the Vivace throws at us. This echo is reinforced too, by m. 147-148, which is a transposed version of the Vivace‘s m. 62-63.

Both the tempo and rhythm contrast the opening A section. The tempo increase is initiated by the piano and then the flute spring boards with new (small unit) rhythms. Compared to the A section which heavily used eighth notes, the B section as sixteenths and an abundance of triplet figures.

The Half = Dotted Half section may seem calm (notated ‘dolce cantabile’) compared to the first half of the B section; however the 2 over 3 (flute in 2/4 and piano in 3/4) is just a small sample of Martin playing with polyrhythms.

And the B section ends with a return to the primary material – the eighths [rest] sixteenth figure – that leaps to the high E6.

Cadenza (m. 154-193)

The cadenza restates the resonant E octave leap that ended the B section. A similar style reminiscent of the A section is recycled in the initial ‘moderato’ – this time playing with the interval of a half step reinforced as a sort of palindrome (reinforcing the mirror analogy).

This introduction intensifies and then suddenly steps back at the second ‘moderato’ with a contrasting piano dynamic a tritone lower than the opening E6. This new section is a sort of ‘haze’ or smoke and mirrors – at least in a tonal sense – as Martin reinforces the pedal Ab as well as (one half step down) G while altering the subsequent pitches. The pitches held on fermatas may indicate some type of stabilizing the tonal center, however, it is an illusion – as Martin does not feature one area for too long. One of these illusions is the recurring A – C – F:

As you can see from the score, this instances are fleeting.

C: Lento / Con moto (m. 194-272)

If you thought Martin may finally resolve to F… you’d be close, he choses to start the Lento on F#… but then of course if you refer to the piano score he writes a G# (a M2) to shatter any tonal security.

This is all new material both the Lento and Con moto contrast everything from the A and B sections by providing a moment of stasis in the music; and this works – or at least is able to hold interest – because of the diverse array of pitches he is using in the flute and piano lines. And corresponding, once the tonal center is more stable, Martin returns (briefly) to the A material where he expands the eighth note patterns in several ways (1) articulation patterns (2) intervals and (3) rests/syncopations.

This section ends with lively triplets (used in a different way than they have been in the B section) as they are constant, in a chromatic pattern rolling upwards to a high C7 on the downbeat of the Presto.

B’: Presto / Molto Vivace (m. 273-323)

The piano responds to the high energy, before scaling back and bringing us around to the reflection of the mirror B’ or the Molto vivace.

The first difference is the flute entrance in m. 287-290 on the tied notes and with the graces. Then, Martin alters the articulation pattern for the triplets and abridges the pattern so that the climax arrives at the peak of the energy of the triplet section.

And this climax is amazingly simple – just B Bb and A – in different rhythms.

A’: Meno mosso / Presto (m. 324-358)

Finally, the B Bb A resolves to a G# continuing the downward half step trajectory; and after a brief sequence, the introductory theme comes back in a new ‘key’ with the transformative elements from the C section of articulation and intervals. In the ‘animando’ Martin blends the triplets from the B section into the texture continuing to play with intervals. Again, we see the tritone – Ab to D this time.


What do you think of the Ballade? My recital will have a live premiere on Sunday April 18th at 5PM – feel free to stop in to hear the Ballade which is on the first half of the program!

For information on the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and the general overview of the entire flute sonata (Op. 94) you should check out my analysis of the first movement before reading through the analysis of this movement. Understanding the background – including the conditions – Prokofiev was writing under will help inform the analysis of this movement:

IV. Allegro con brio (♩=112)

This is the final movement of the sonata, and comparatively has much more diverse and virtuosic material. The general form is a rondo (which can be more specifically narrowed down to Sonata Rondo form) which I’ll break down more in depth later. The main characteristic of a rondo is the repetition and recycling of the ‘A’ material. Generally speaking, a rondo in its most simple layout can be reduced to ABACA. The development of the ‘A’ section is up to the composer and in this case Prokofiev demands more virtuosity from the performer with each recap of the ‘A’ section.

Let’s compare what sonata rondo form looks like (generally) as well as how Prokofiev adapts this form in the fourth movement:

The top is the model for sonata rondo form; and the bottom is how Prokofiev adapts it – purple = key, dark grey = section, green – cadence, light grey – connection to sonata form

The key difference between these two models if Prokofiev’s repetition of the A and B before the C section is stated. However, remember that in Sonata form the Exposition can be repeated; sometimes you may see this when the length of the exposition is shorter than the combined development and recapitulation. I regard Prokofiev’s decision to include the A’ and B’ sections before the ‘development’ or C was used to this effect especially considering the slowness/major character shift that makes the C section feel much longer than the lively allegro ‘A’ section we hear interspersed throughout the fourth movement.

To make sense of what we are seeing in the diagrams let’s break down what defines each section – in particular look at the model for Prokofiev’s adaptation in dark grey we see one of the links to sonata form is the use of sections with the A and B parts: primary (1) theme, transitional theme, secondary (2) theme, and closing theme.


‘Exposition’ – A: primary and transitional themes

The first theme spans m. 1-16 and is in DM (both the first movement and fourth movement are centered around the same tonic, D). It is characterized by a pickup of four 32nd notes that has an upbeat, lively rhythm such as the arpeggiated 16th note triplets – as well as the other 16th triplet figures – eighths and embellishments (such as the one 16th two 32nds and the dotted eighth sixteenth).

While the opening is in DM, 6 measures in the theme is transposed down a whole step into C – however, Prokofiev quickly takes a detour in m. 8 (the 3rd bar of the transposition) which takes us to this G#-G-G# 16th triplet figure. He does so route us back to D Major; in m. 9 we are still in C, but by oscillating between G-G# he is able to fill in the Major 2nd (a whole step) back to D as he finally does in m. 12 on beat 3. He gives as an exact copy of the opening theme to springboard us into the transitional theme.

The transitional theme spans m. 17-29, still in DM and ends with a HC – AM (V). This theme presents a new rhythm with the driving 16th notes especially in the ta di-mi rhythm on a low D4 which appears first in m. 17 and then again in m. 21.

We also see a return of the 16th triplets.

And we see ambiguity to the tonal center. In m. 25 Prokofiev begins his DbM arpeggios on sixteenth notes, by m. 27 we have some dm arpeggios, and then a sequence of descending Major and minor 3rds which end with the half cadence on A.


‘Exposition’ – B: secondary and closing themes

The secondary theme spans m. 35-39 and is in AM (with some tonicizing of the new dominant E). This theme is completely new material the syncopated rhythm (SLS) with large intervals and arpeggiated grace notes.

The closing theme is a bit of a misnomer since similar to the primary theme it does a recap that is reminiscent of ternary form. This theme spans m. 40-53 and starts in f#m (the relative minor to A) and ends in AM. There are steady eighth notes with four 16th notes that pickup into the next phrase group.

We can establish the f# more solidly when we consult the piano score:


Repetition of the Exposition – A’ and B’

Prokofiev made the choice to extend the ‘exposition’ of this sonata rondo form with truncated versions of the primary theme, transitional theme, and secondary/closing theme.

What is absent from A’? The D Major 16th triplet arpeggio in m. 60 into 61 is in a bar of 2/4 (NOT 4/4) and does not take us into C as the opening did. We are taken directly to the transitional material sans the grace not flourishing, this version goes straight into the 16th triplets, DbM arpeggios, and descending 3rds.

And what about B’? There is just one subtle difference in the flute material which is the final sixteenth of m. 71 being changed to a G-natural (originally a G3) as the flute transitions down to F rather than up to A.

The transition into the development is set up by the piano’s eighths that establish the new key – originally the piano is giving us downbeat Fs in the left hand before leaning into the instability with first inversions (A-C-F) with A being the lowest note in both hands.


‘Development’ – C

The material being ‘developed’ is very clearly the material from the B theme – characterized by the steady eighths and the group of 4 pickups – Prokofiev uses various techniques to make the theme more robust/complex such as varying rhythms, new tonal areas, and adding piano interjections.

There can be many arguments made for what Prokofiev is tonicizing/modulating in this development however there are pillars that I think are solid (and would generally be recognized) these are as follows:

  • F – m. 87
  • Ab – m.107
  • F# – m. 116

In the diagram at the top of the post, I gave some further tonal areas that I believe Prokofiev plays around with:

  • F – m. 72-86
  • (C) as the dominant of F there are short motives interspersed throughout the C section
    • m. 87-89
  • g which is the dominant of c, with a lowered 3rd… however this could be argued to be an extension of the C/dominant
    • m. 90-91
  • A – a whole step up from g, as well as, the 3rd of F
    • m. 92-94 – plus the pedal C is used to modulate into other tonal areas with that common note
  • (C) again m. 95-97
  • And a combo of both C and G (the dominant and secondary dominant)
    • m. 104-106
  • Ab – m. 107-110
  • Db – the predominant which is leading us up to when Prokofiev changes the key to reflect D (however he is using it in it’s parallel minor b)
    • m. 111-112
  • F# (mostly likely being used a dominant within bm to end in a HC before the recapitulation)
    • From key change to bm, F# is already being established as the dominant m. 113-121

‘Recapitulation’ – A” B” A”’

When A” is restated there is a demand for more virtuosity – the sections of the primary theme are transposed up an octave. Likewise parts of the transitional theme are transposed down an octave. Rather than ending solidly there is a slow quarter note ascension to the secondary theme in the tonic (D Major). A” spans m. 120-143.

As per sonata form, the recapitulation is solidly in the tonic/home key (both A and B sections, whereas in the exposition the B section is a new tonal area). That being said, B” presents the secondary/closing theme in D major – transposed up a m6. Prokofiev also switches up the order that he presents this material: rather than starting with the syncopations and grace note arpeggios, he starts with the steady eighths and pickup four 16ths and THEN goes to the syncopation and arpeggiated graces in DM. B” spans m. 145-160.

The final statement of A”’ begins in m. 161; has a fake out opening that like A” is partially transposed up the octave before repeating and moving into completely new material that is mainly flashy flourishes to demonstarte ultimate virtuosity.


What do you think of this final movement? And what do you think of the Sonata as a whole? Let me know in the comments!

In this post we’ll be looking at exercises that can be used for the individual flute student – particularly useful during remote/hybrid instruction. The levels of student have been split into 3 sub sections; since this is directed towards students enrolled in traditional band programs there is a standard of Western musical literacy that is expected:

  • Beginning: Minimal musical literacy and/or minimal or developing flute sound production and technique.
  • Intermediate: Basic musical literacy (limited range, clefs, note names, etc) and/or developing flute tone, musicianship, and technique.
  • Advanced: Established musical literacy (full range, all basic music reading, articulations, dynamics, etc.) and/or developing flute tone, vibrato, musicianship, technique, etc.

These are just generalized levels – not necessary for students in a specific grade level; supplementing materials for material to be more age appropriate such as having a beginning high school student may be necessary…


Beginning

  • Drone – Matching just ONE pitch. Whether that be a B (Bb) A or G.

There are apps (ie. Tonal energy), physical drone/tuners (ie. KORG), or downloads that keep it interesting.. that students can use to match pitch.

Provide directed questions to optimize student achievement: Is that note higher or lower than the drone? [Reset] Play your note in 3 different spots in your room/house, which would sounded the best?

  • Listening/Rhythm – Depending on the level of musical literacy of the student there may be more set up on your end for them to be successful.

Either create or find rhythm cells [isolated patterns] for whichever level the student is at; one example is this Talking Rhythm: Counting 101. If the student is developing musical literacy you could provide them with a sample of the rhythm to read alongside the recording.

If the student is young or struggling to grasp certain patterns; varying instruction such as providing words for rhythms/telling stories with a set of familiar rhythms; or making a game out of rhythm call and response could successful.

  • Air/Breathing – Air direction is just as important as breathing well, especially for beginners.

A very “Suzuki Flute” concept is spitting rice this is invaluable because it achieves many skills: routine, tongue position, air direction, and air volume/force. Likewise it requires less explaining and more letting the student figure out how to do, definitely worth looking into for long term success.

A simple game you could have beginning flute student’s do is have them figure out “how old they are in flute years”. This can be done on the head joint or on any one pitch; basically, the student will time (either count or have someone count for them) how long they can hold a pitch and see if they can match/exceed their current age.


Intermediate

  • Drone – Depending on the student you could have them match anywhere from a Perfect 5th or a full octave (you could also break this up into several weeks on the first tetrachord and second tetrachord).

You can use the same directed questions from the Beginner drone warmup. You could also ask which notes against the drone sounded better/worse; if any of the intervals reminded them of songs they know. Try to engage them in active listening, extending to connecting music they know to the music they play.

  • Listening – Building student’s ear training you can provide them short excerpts (2-4 measures) to learn by ear.

There are books (ie. Funky Flute series) that include CDs that has a limited range that would be suitable for chunking, combined with range and simple rhythms for beginning-intermediate students. [Optionally, you could record a short excerpt on a keyboard for all instrument groups to work on by ear].

  • Rhythm/Musical Literacy – Both without and with the flute – it’s important for the students to be able to reproduce the rhythms/read away from the instrument so they can have an easier time transferring knowledge that is most likely very foreign to them.

Building upon common rhythm patterns; adding in rests would be the next step. Again recording rhythm cells/using words to represent rhythms/movements to go along with rhythms students can engage with music in a multiple ways.

  • Air/Breathing – Reviewing and maintaining solid breathing is the foundation to air support and developing a good tone.

You can continue to build on the beginning flute warmups such as the “How Old Are You In Flute Years?”. While also encouraging a more refined, focused tone. Listening should be incorporated in tone production – by presenting the students with a clear model to emulate they are less likely to get that airy/wide sound.

For fast passages – or passages that require a lot of articulation – your first spot to check may be the fingers. HOWEVER having the students turn their head joint upside down (still in playing position) so that the student’s air gets caught in the lip plate and creates a snake/hissing sound; when students are having issues with their air they can actually HEAR the difference between achieving or not achieving the hissing sound.


Advanced

  • Drone – Expanding the intermediate warmup, you can have the students practice scales or pieces with a drone of the tonic.

The important thing is active engagement/listening. Having the students close their eyes – taking away one of their senses to focus on listening – can be useful early on as a way to get student feedback. The students can play a scale against the drone and have them only move to the next note after getting the one before it in tune with the drone.

Advanced students can also work on vibrato width against a drone. John Wion‘s website is fantastic because it has examples of famous flute player’s vibrato in notable works at tempo as well as slowed down.

  • Listening – Some advanced students will continue to struggle with ear training so keeping them on the chunked excerpts from intermediate warmups is not doing a disservice to them.

However, for students with a more keen ear you can provide extensions for them with either longer excerpts – even better if it’s a piece they have interest in learning on their own. You can have them compile a list of performers/recordings to reference and work on learning the piece by ear.

  • Rhythm/Musical Literacy – Again, it is still important to build this skill with and without the flute.

More advanced students can develop their literacy in music theory. Reviewing the Circle of Fifths and looking at chords and their functions.

The rhythm cells can still be useful for advanced students for reviewing learned rhythms as well as learning more complex ones as well as polyrhythms.

  • Air/Breathing – Reviewing and maintaining solid breathing is the foundation to air support and developing a good tone.

You can continue that fast and/or articulated passage practice strategy with the flipped head joint.

Also, at this point the students will be developing their independence in self assessment/student direction so standard flute tone exercises such as the famous Marcel Moyse long tone exercise from De La Sonorite can be used routinely.


What type of warmups have you been utilizing with your flute students? Do you use any of these? Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!

This semester my university’s flute choir is splitting into separate quartets: one of which is the Quartet for Diverse Flutes. Which, as the name suggests, calls for alto (flute III) and bass flute (flute IV) in addition to the C flute.

On tricky/deceiving thing about this score is that flute IV is actually the 3rd staff and flute III is the 4th staff. Throughout the piece this is something to be conscious of especially because the alto flute (flute III) is the only transposing flute. Whereas bass flute the pitch drops an octave, but remains the same letter – alto flute sounds a Perfect 4th lower than written. Therefore, the initial G4 sounds as a D4.

One last thing: because of the strange times of remote learning, our quartet is working asynchronously which can be tricky with the fermatas – to work around this (to have a steady opening) I’ve notated some modifications our group has been given by our coach to better suit the remote classroom. The initial 4/4 becomes a 6/4 and stays through the 1st measure of 5/4; finally, on the second stave the 2/4 is prolonged to a 3/4.


Composer and Piece Background

Peter Bacchus (1985-2016) was an American flutist and composer born in New Jersey. His journey on flute started with inspiration from listening to Herbie Mann, a jazz flutist, play in a live concert. He worked in New York – studying and earning his BFA from SUNY Purchase and Masters from City University of New York. The Barcelona Metropolitan did an interview with him in 2009 that goes more in-depth on his life as a composer and his development.

Quartet for Diverse Flutes was composed in 1990 and is divided into 3 movements (1. Andante molto rubato con espressione, 2. Allegro Molto, and 3. Cadenza). I couldn’t find a list of composed works or much in general about Peter Bacchus while he was alive – most of the search results yielded in memoriam and tributes to his work.


1. Andate molto rubato con espressione

One of the most helping and responsible parts of participating in chamber music is being aware of the other parts. What role does your line play? Who are you playing with/Are you playing alone? Are there sections that dove-tail/connect parts?

Especially in this opening (very slow and tolling) it is paramount to be aware of who enters when. First, the alto flute has a measure alone on a low D4 (written G4). Then, flute II comes in to start the next measure – it is important that flute II takes the low D set by the alto flute (slightly louder since the dynamic is set mp), but intonation is foremost. The bass flute follows with an A4 – tuning this Perfect 5th so that it doesn’t not tend too low (towards a tritone) or high is very important especially because this is the first note that is not a D. Finally, flute I enters on beat 3 an octave above flute II on D5 (again, listening down to flute II is very important). And so the process continues – flute I starts to take the leading role in the opening section and flute II, III, and IV are varied in their entrances so being aware of who enters on which beat (and on what pitch) can help alleviate any potential ensemble issues.

In this movement, there are many parts where the flutes are in their own mini choirs. In the example above, flute I and II are their own choir and flute IV and III are a separate choir.

In m. 35-38 flute I and II are in rhythmic unison. They start of a Perfect 5th apart, and then split in m. 36 to contrasting movement (ascending and descending) 4ths that shift to 5th halfway through m. 37 (returning to 4ths in m. 38).

In m. 34-36 flute IV and III are setting up that contrasting movement that the flute I and II are about to do. Flute IV and III are playing contrasting 5ths (rather than 4ths) that always end by a 1/2 step movement (still in contrasting direction). In m. 37-38, the flutes expand the contrasting 5ths excerpt by making a shift to 4ths (when flute I and II change to 5ths).

Both choirs end with the contrasting 4ths in m. 38.

Here is another example to reinforce the separation of the choir into smaller choirs (still flute I and II; and flute IV and III).


What’s your favorite flute quartet? Have you played this quartet before? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

My first collegiate ensemble was in no conceivable way the best showing of my talents…

That summer I had been studying with an alumni of the flute studio I was joining. Unbeknownst to the both of us, the audition requirements had changed since her time out of school (which had only been 3 years at that time)…

The audition list for the semester called for Beethoven Leonore No. 3 overture, Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis, Brahms Symphony 4, Bizet Carmen Entr’acte, and the exposition to the Mozart Concerto in G.

The audition packet just included the PDFs of the excerpts, and no clear directions… at the time I decided to give the list directly to my teacher and work through it with her. During her time at the school, students could choose which excerpts to prepare – specific ones were not required (can you guess where things went horribly wrong?). I prepared Beethoven, Brahms, Bizet and Mozart.

When the day of the audition came, to my shock and dismay, I learned that the process had changed and that I was expected to play Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis…. which I did… poorly. And don’t even get me started on the sight-reading (I’ve repressed the memory). Here’s what I’ve learned since that scarring day…


I am going to separate this article into two sections: one for incoming college students and one for seasoned veterans looking to just do better in auditions. After looking at both demographics, I’ll give some suggestions for sending out virtual recordings since covid-19 has already began to change how auditions are being held. Let’s get started with the incoming students:

Tips for Incoming Students

  1. COMMUNICATE with the faculty and current students.
    • Ask for clarification – unsure about articulation? Markings? Tempos?
    • Learn more about auditions – how does the scoring work? Is there sight reading? How many rounds are there? Is there separate Fall and Spring semester auditions?
    • Nail down exactly what you need to prepare – and DOUBLE CHECK.
  2. Find recordings – be selective!
    • Just because it’s available on YouTube doesn’t automatically make it good or bad. Be an active listener and compare recordings. If you are completely unsure, you can always ask someone which one they prefer and use that as a starting point!
  3. Be aware of the audition day protocol.
    • Is it a blind audition? Should you dress up?
    • Who will be on the panel? (Area teachers? Ensemble directors? Mixed?)
    • Should the excerpts be memorized? Will there be sight reading?
    • Sign up for time slots? How early should you be prepared to go in?
  4. 2020 Video Auditions???
    • Determine if there will be a moderator and how the panel will be judging.
    • Dress up.
    • Don’t leave recording the audition to the last minute – you may not get a good take that reflects for playing.
    • Don’t worry about getting all excerpts in one take.
    • Be honest with yourself and listen back – if the judges can hit replay so can you.
  5. Record yourself.
    • Listen multiple times each for different qualities (rhythm, intonation, expression).
    • Be active, and write down or mark any mistakes.
    • Positive mindset, you can start to spiral if you get to critical – there are ways to correct yourself that aren’t negative. For example, instead of staying DON’T RUSH, you can say maintain a steady pulse or slow down. Both these alternatives are giving purposeful action and directing you to change.
  6. At the end of the day… a bad audition does not reflect your playing. Have a plan for the day following your audition. Treat yourself for all the work you put into preparing!

Tips for Returning Students

  1. DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. The more you progress in your program you may start to shift towards a more comfortable bubble where auditions feel less stressful – that’s great – but that doesn’t mean that you will achieve your personal best if you skimp on preparing in advance.
    • As soon as the list is out, the LEAST you can do is compile a list of recordings to start sifting through. Listen to them and begin to separate quality recordings to study and listen to more intensely.
  2. Record yourself! The first day you get the audition list, record the excerpts (it will be nice when the audition is close to see how much progress you’ve really made).
    • And keep recording yourself throughout the preparation process. You don’t need to record every practice session, but you will benefit greatly by listening to yourself and breaking down the same criteria as the judges.
  3. Know what to listen for… Rhythm is FIRST. Intonation and tone is second. And musicality/expression is last.
  4. Find scores whether you buy them or find them on IMSLP or elsewhere.
    • woodwindexcerpts.com was a LIFE-SAVER during my undergraduate ensemble auditions!
    • Knowing the context of what your role is and what the rest of the ensemble is doing is ESSENTIAL to properly preparing.
  5. Practice slowly – you don’t need to have the goal tempo down a week after the audition repertoire is posted. Moderate-tempo, clean technique is better than fast, muddy technique.
    • Take half the tempo on the first read and see how comfortable it feels. Gradually bump it up until you reach a tempo range that it becomes challenging. Don’t be a champion, stay objective to see the best results!
  6. Have a consistent warm up and mental preparation for the audition day. You want to be focused and centered so that you can project that energy in the audition room.
    • There’s no ‘right’ warm up or preparation, figure out what will make you feel the most confident. And don’t forget to treat yourself after the audition.
  7. Prepare for sight reading… you don’t have to jump in blindly.
    • Know what the judges are looking for, most often, they are listening for: rhythm, pitch/tone, intonation, style/articulation, and musicality/dynamics/phrasing.
    • Practice sight reading – use other instrument’s (ie violin or oboe) repertoire and focus on the elements they judges will be listening for.
      • Rhythm: If they notes happen at the wrong time, they pitches have no chance at being correct. Get comfortable with as many rhythm variations as possible.
        • Once surefire way to do this is by practicing “rhythm-cells” which is just taking a single rhythm and repeating it over an over until you are comfortable.
        • Also, practice different meters – practice in duple, triplet, quadruple! Practice simple and compound meters! Even practice odd meters!!
      • Pitch/tone: Practice. Your. Scales. (and arpeggios and 7th chords) You won’t know what key or pattern the sight reading will be in, but if you are proficient in all your scales then you will be able to put more energy into rhythm, dynamics, etc rather than working about getting all the right fingers down in a key signature that has 5 flats.
      • Intonation: Know your tendencies. This should be an ongoing process, be aware what pitches tend sharp or flat and figure out how you should be adjusting (the answer is not always to pull out the head joint).

Tips for Recording

If you were a music student during the beginning of the pandemic, you may have already began to troubleshoot issues that arose last Spring. Issues like peaking audio, recording equipment, placement, framing, etc.

If you have a virtual audition coming up, FIRST figure out what type of audition you will be taking. Will it be asynchronous or will you actually be in a video conference? If it is asynchronous will the audition be blind (aka will there be a moderator to keep the auditions anonymous) or will the panel be watching the videos?

  1. Take a lesson with your primary teacher. And/or do a mock audition with your peers. This is a MUST, first it will provide you with an objective perspective – both with your actual playing as well as how well your playing translates through technology.
  2. Figure out if there are any technology issues in the case of blind auditions mainly audio issues. If your current equipment isn’t cutting it… your laptop or phone is just not getting good results. RESEARCH affordable and quality options. (As of writing this, the Zoom or Snowball microphones are the most accessible – the Zoom one can be plugged into a phone and the Snowball connects to a laptop with a USB).
  3. Experiment, how does moving the camera/microphone effect the sound quality? Move around the room and figure out where you get the best results.
  4. If the audition is going to be a conference or the panel will see you – practice getting comfortable in the space you will be recording/streaming.
    • Make sure the part of you the camera can see if presentable – dress to impress!
    • And make sure you feel free and just as capable in your playing as if you were on stage or in an actual audition room.
  5. If the audition is going to be asynchronous…
    • Figure out if the audition needs to be entirely one take or if you can do individual takes for each excerpt.
    • Communicate with a faculty member or moderator how the recording should be formatted…
      • Should it be in a specific order? Can you send multiple clips or one long clip? When and where should be clip be submitted?
    • If you need to make a long clip (compiling all the excerpts into one video) look into free, accessible movie editing software. For iOS devices, iMovie on either a phone/tablet/laptop can take less than 5 minutes to just put individual excerpts together and save to your camera roll.

What are you best audition preparation tips? Do you have any audition horror stories that you learned from? Feel free to share your thoughts below!