This week in lieu of my regular practicing on Tuesday night, I decided that I would do a video recording to re-evaluate how I was sounding. I always initially feel like its a wasted practice night when I make a recording, until I listen back to the recording I made – it always opens my eyes to something weird that I’m doing, which is worth a thousand hours of practice.
But this time, instead of doing just a regular recording in my practice room, I thought it might be beneficial to do a mock audition in another room of my house that I don’t normally practice in. The purpose of which is to get used to playing in a foreign environment. While my living room isn’t exactly a concert hall, it is different enough to in acoustics and feel to make the playing experience feel somewhat strange.
While I was at work that day, I was thinking about whether or not I should do my complete daily warm up to prepare for my “audition”, and it dawned on me how chaotic my real pre-audition routine actually is (and by chaotic I mean completely nonexistent) – which probably either directly or indirectly affected the actual outcome of how I play at auditions. I knew my daily routine would not work…it takes over an hour to fully go through and I need a tuner, drone, I decided I would take the opportunity to try to establish some kind of audition warm up – something that I know will be a reliable way to warm up my embouchure and fingers, and to choose a reed, all while surrounded by a million honking clarinet players. I think I made a good start – here’s what I came up with:
1. Chromatic scale of full range in whole notes at quarter = 60, no louder than mezzoforte (I don’t want to be one of those honking clarinetists!) – play once through on each instrument called for at the audition.
2. Klose scales at quarter = 60
3. Klose scales at quarter =120
4. Full range chromatic scale with articulated pattern of eighth and two sixteenths, one note per measure at quarter = 120.
5. Play through each excerpt at a greatly reduced tempo – e.g. Mozart expo at quarter = 80.
Of course, I switch off between instruments so that I get warmed up on everything – also switch reeds when necessary until I find the “perfect” reed. I’m going to keep tweaking this routine to see what works best, I might add in another repetition of the Klose at quarter = 80 because my fingers felt a little clumsy going from 60-120. In my normal routine, I do Klose scales in 3rds at 80 in between which bridges the change in tempo a little, but I am trying to keep things as simple as possible. In its entirety, it takes about 20-30 minutes to go through this routine, which is about the minimum amount of time that I will have to warm up. We’ll see if it pays off to have a plan at the audition!
After I listened back to the recording I made on Tuesday night, I found that I was making a lot of little mistakes. Not huge mistakes, just bobbles here and there, even with pieces that I should be able to do in my sleep like the Mozart and Mendelssohn Scherzo. I thought to myself, I really need to practice the auditioning part! I kind of did it before, but I would do a mock audition only once before an audition and call that “practice”. Plus I would do it in the comfort of my own practice room, which kind of defeats the purpose. It would be like if I ran through the Mozart only once a day or two before the audition. Ha!
So it has been decided. I need to practice the audition part of the audition in addition to the execution of playing the excerpts. I am going to do a mock audition 2-3 times per week for the next three weeks (i’ll record only once a week though – I don’t have time to go through all of that audio/video!). But I’m going to set some ground rules to make sure I don’t “cheat”:
1. Change the location of the mock audition so that I don’t get used to the same place. Tuesday was my living room…next time maybe the kitchen? Or the bathroom? Maybe I’ll go to Eastman before school starts back up again next week?
2. Always use the pre-established “audition warm up”.
3. Create a “prelim list” and a “finals list” before each mock. The finals list will probably include all the excerpts minus the Mozart in a random order. Prelim list will always include Mozart and Mendelssohn Scherzo, along with two or three others in random order.
Now I know I can’t recreate exactly what the audition will be like in Washington DC, but I’m going to try to get as close as possible without being completely rediculous (like playing unrelated music or tv while trying to warm up or pretending to walk in to the audition…although now that I think about it, it might be useful to do that!)
I am super committed to this audition – my motivation came when my recruiter told me if I won the audition I would outrank most of the guys who work in my recruiting office right out of boot camp! And plus its a hefty raise…about $600 more a month!
I’ll keep updated on my progress.