Practice Tips!

December 29, 2017, 9:04 PM · Hi!
I was wondering if you guys had any practice tips to get pieces to that final level of perfection! I have been working on my audition pieces for about 6 months now and I am wondering how to practice each piece... it feels as if I have plateaued but I know I can get them near to perfection and it seems like I am just not getting anywhere. It's quite discouraging actually.
Any specific practicing tips for Sibelius/Bach Chaconne/Mozart 5? I am struggling on how to manage my practice time on each piece.
All tips are greatly appreciated since I am doing live auditions next month!

Replies (9)

December 29, 2017, 9:59 PM · What specifically are you struggling with? Could you ask your teacher?
December 29, 2017, 11:15 PM · Is your issue consistency -- i.e., you make little slips, maybe concentration lapses or the like, on bits that don't seem all that hard? Or is your issue that you haven't technically mastered some bits and they are more often wrong than not?
December 30, 2017, 12:08 AM · I can share with you, how we prepare our kids for dance competitions. After they know well all the composition, and in general master the techniques, we film them and sit with them and discuss what can be improved and how. We list all the comments, and then work on one by one. To do so, we work out on the item from the list, then take the problem place with 8bars from each side, then take 16 bars from each side, then 32 bars from each side etc. Then we repeat the whole piece from the start to the next item from the improvement list etc. For 1,5 h of dance class, about 4-5 items can be solved. Sometimes, we rank the list first: we put major issues first in the list. But it has negative effect of wrong practice smaller issues, which then more difficult to solve.
Edited: December 30, 2017, 8:26 AM · Without hearing and seeing specifics, I will, nevertheless, offer one item I found especially helpful. Once you've mastered the pieces and, let us hope, performed them in public prior to the audition, then put them away for an interval to let them ripen. After the interval, take them out again and review them.

Auditions were actually one of my strong areas -- among those events in life that made me rise to the occasion. Still, I found it best to select material I had already mastered and successfully performed some time earlier. From what you wrote, it sounds like you are pacing yourself well -- though I can't be sure. I've often come across posts from players who sounded as if they were cramming for an audition. That's definitely one of those traps to avoid. Not suggesting that this is what you're doing -- far from it; but just mentioning it here, while it's on my mind, might help steer someone else away from this pitfall.

Edited: December 30, 2017, 11:42 AM · You can’t improve unless you know what needs improvement. It could be intonation, phrasing, tempo, string crossings, bow distribution etc. I think you reach a point where you do not hear yourself and keep repeating the same thing in the same ways. Perhaps you need to record yourself, listen to your performance, note down for each sections what isn’t right, figure out what correct should sound like, and go back and rework each section focusing on correcting the things that need correction. This is easier said than done though, you may need the help of your teacher or another experienced player to point out what needs improving and what it should sound like. You can compare your performance to a professional recording of the same and work what you hear is working in the pro recording that isn’t in your own. Once you have a clear picture of the desired end result, it should be much easier to focus your practice. Don’t waste practice time playing the good parts. If your technique is limiting you, step back and work on études and exercises to develop the technique that is the limiting factor.
(that said, 30 days is a short time to fix technical shortcomings if you selected a repertoire that isn’t yet within your reach)..
December 30, 2017, 11:27 AM · If it's an audition for an orchestra, I can say from experience that they're looking a lot for how impressive you look. Last year a person who moved their body around a lot but wasn't actually good got pretty high in 1st violin for an orchestra I was participating in. Try recording yourself, turning off the volume, and ask yourself "do you look like you know what you're doing?". Also, experiment with different vibrato frequencies at different parts, especially for pieces like the Chaconne that are almost all vibrato, and the opening of the Sibelius.

Good luck on your audition!

Edited: December 30, 2017, 12:05 PM · Andrew wrote: “If it's an audition for an orchestra, I can say from experience that they're looking a lot for how impressive you look.”. I believe some orchestra do blind auditions for that very reason. Perhaps worthy of a thread of its own. One can’t fail to notice that the physical characteristics of string players in many professional orchestras aren’t representative of that of the general population.
December 30, 2017, 12:11 PM · Thank you all so much!
Edited: December 30, 2017, 12:43 PM · It is inevitable that you will get stale and run out of ways to practice as you approach an audition, especially if you have been working on the literature for an extended amount of time.

Here are a few specific things for Sibelius.

1. From the beginning to 1, play all separate bows. This will solidify rhythm.(In an audition the adjudicators will expect to hest precise rhythms.) Practice using reversed bowings This will solidify your interpretation. Check that you are vibrating on every single note and the vibrato is connecting between notes. Check every expressive shift to make sure that you are vibrating on the note before the shift, during the shift, and the target note.

2. from 1-the bottom of the page. Go through and only play the shifts
to make sure each one is accurate. Play each arpeggio and make sure that the bow distribution is such that you accent the first note, drop down in dynamic, then gradually speed up the bow and move as close to the bridge as possible. Practice each arpeggio (playing slowly) playing the first 5 notes ahead, then 3 back. This will give you 2 groups of 4 notes. For example 3 lines from the bottom of the page play e#F#A#B/C#BA#F# then continue starting on the F# using the same pattern. Make sure you are keeping all 3 fingers down all the time when you play the diminished double stops where it says a piacere.

3. If the passage with 16th notes starting at the end of the first page is out of tune, the chances are high that you are not keeping your 1st finger down all the time. That's all for now. I have to go to the grocery store.

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