When preparing for an audition, we often forget to practice for the dreaded sight-reading. But how do you practice reading something you’ve never seen before? By playing things that you’ve never seen before. What better way to practice sight-reading than playing duets with a friend!
I wrote these duet parts to go along with the upcoming East Tennessee State Band and Orchestra Association All-East audition etudes to give you something fun to sight-read. They also might give you a new perspective on the etude in terms of harmony, rhythm, and style. And they simply won’t sound good if you aren’t playing your etude in tune, in time, and with accurate rhythm.
Over the years, I’ve helped numerous collegiate and high school trumpet players prepare for auditions of all sorts. Whether it’s a major career audition or the annual audition for your school’s band, here are seven practical suggestions that capture the process from preparation to audition to reflection:
Practice creatively.Use all of your “tools” to practice good rhythm, pitch, sound, articulation, dynamics, phrasing, etc. Clap, sing, buzz, say, and blow the music to hone these things. Slow the tempo down until you can play it perfectly, and practice small sections at a time.
Perform often. Make time in your daily practice to simply perform. Stop trying to fix things and simply focus on making music. Ask your friends, family, band director, dog, and others to listen to you play. Even more important than getting their feedback is the opportunity for you to have an audition experience. (Plus, Mom will always think you sound great!)
Record yourself. Certainly you’ve heard a teacher say, “You can’t be listening to me if you’re talking, too!” The same is true with an instrument. While we’re playing we can’t listen as well as when we only listen. Plus, it gives your chops a needed break to listen back to what you’ve played.
On the day of the audition only think positively. While you’re preparing for the audition in the weeks and days beforehand listen critically to yourself most of the time. Then on the day of the audition vigilantly dismiss the voice inside you that offers doubts and criticisms of your playing. Remind yourself of what you do well.
Don’t try to win the “warm-up competition.” Listen to your warm-up, not the others’. The other guy always sounds great warming up, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how you play in the audition. Don’t play too much before the audition, and focus on preparing yourself to share enjoyable music!
Focus on breath. Breathing fully and comfortably not only keeps us relaxed, but helps the production of sound to work freely. Make sure to add breath marks to your music and practice these ahead of time.
Learn from the experience.Take some time after the audition to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and why. Regardless of the outcome, take something away that you can use to improve your music for the next performance.
Let me know how these help you not only audition well, but more importantly, become a better musician!