About a month ago, I ran across violinist Nathan Cole’s blog on Facebook, more specifically his post about the “audition challenge”. I immediately thought about adapting it for clarinet! I’ve really needed some practice motivation and this seemed like the answer. I also needed the accountability, so I will be uploading my videos here of each assignment.
It has taken me awhile to get everything organized (see: 8 month old baby + working full time) but I finally have enough of a plan thought out to get started at least! Anyone is more than welcome to do the challenge with me. I won’t be as formal as Mr. Cole, but if you want to upload your videos to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., I’ve come up with a hashtag, #clarinetchallenge2016, so we can all easily see each other’s videos. The number one rule about recording videos is that it must be first take, one take! There are no do overs for auditions, so we might as well practice that here. I’ll be posting weekly assignments, ending with a complete mock audition at the end of about 14 weeks (3 months).
First of all, I need to have a list of excerpts. Conveniently enough, I found out today that the Marine Band in Washington, D.C. is having an audition in November! Perfect. I decided I’m going to use that repertoire for the challenge. Click here to access the repertoire, which is on their website. (I doubt I’ll actually be able to take the audition, though)
Prior to today, I had created my own list of excerpts based on my own insecurities in an actual audition setting. Luckily, there was a lot of overlap, so I just decided to use the actual audition repertoire. If you’re planning on following along and doing the challenge with me, you can use the Marine Band audition list or you’re certainly welcome to create your own excerpt list, especially if you want to gear it towards orchestral auditions (or Eb or Bass auditions). The challenge is not necessarily about the actual excerpts, but more about getting better at the audition preparation process.
Week 1, aka week 14:
This week is going to be all about creating a good fundamentals base and practice routine. This often gets overlooked when we are preparing for an audition or performance! In my experience, it is important to not just dive in to the excerpts blindly without some sort of established routine. So we will not be playing any excerpts from the list this week (or next week, ha!). It may be tempting, but do not skip these first few weeks!
First things first, let’s create a practice book. This can be a binder, a folder, or a tablet, whatever! Anything that keeps all of your excerpts and practice materials in one place. I have a nice little binder/folder thing:
And in it I have all of my practice stuff (including fundamentals) in sheet protectors. I also have an extra page for each excerpt so that I can document my specific practice goals for the next session, which I store behind each excerpt in the sheet protectors. Having the page to write down stuff is essential for me; it keeps me on task and focused! I can never remember things from session to session.
I also have found that keeping a daily journal of what I practiced or accomplished, and some general thoughts and reflections has been helpful. I have an actual Moleskine notebook dedicated to this purpose.
And finally, if you don’t already have a daily fundamentals routine, it’s time to establish one. It can be anything you want, but must include the following: long tones, articulation, and finger technique. I usually start with 10-15 minutes of long tones, followed by some articulation exercises, then I play the Klose scale page at quarter = 60. I end with a more advanced technical or scale exercise that addresses a specific weakness (Baermann, Stievenard, Kroepsch, etc). Right now I’m still working through the Gillet book of advanced clarinet technique. I like the Gillet because it forces me to address a super weakness of mine…focus and reading. But that’s another topic for another day.
The whole thing usually takes me about 30 minutes to get through. It is something that you can do every day, without any many errors, and without fail.
So to recap, here is the assignment for week 1:
- Put together a practice book for the challenge. If you are creating your own list of excerpts, make a hard list so that you can’t change your mind later. Include a notes page for each excerpt! You can use my example if you like, or just a blank sheet of paper works too!
- Establish a general practice journal to document general things about your practice sessions.
- Record a video (one take, first time only – no do overs!) of you playing a daily fundamentals routine.
I’ll try to upload my video here on my blog by next Friday, August 12.
And since I already have a fundamentals routine, I’ll need something to practice! So here is a preview of the assignment for week 13, which I will post by Friday, August 19:
- Record a video of the following:
- Rose 32, slow etude of your choice
- Rose 32, fast etude of your choice
- Klose scale page at quarter = 60 – on A clarinet (oh snap!)
Notice: NO EXCERPTS. Are you uncomfortable yet? Haha.
Good luck! And don’t forget to use the hashtag, #clarinetchallenge2016