Thursday, September 28, 2017

First Impressions:

Audition Tips

by Kevin Price
(Head of Brass and Percussion,
Royal Welsh College of Music Drama)

Travel Well

Avoid travelling on the day of the audition. A night in cheap hotel or B&B is a good investment and easily outweighs the embarrassment and cost of a missed audition due to transport problems. Be careful to pack copies of your music to give to the panel and to read all audition requirements with great care, packing a copy for last-minute reference during your journey. Aim to arrive at least one hour before your allocated time in order to acclimatise and feel relaxed. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar in the days leading up to the audition and take plenty of long walks or light exercise before the big day.

Dress well

Make sure that you dress in a way which reflects your professionalism and dedication. Wear smart clothes that you have worn before (new clothes or shoes can often feel uncomfortable and make you a little uncertain). Suits and ties for men always look good and long smart casual for ladies works well too. Low or medium heels are also recommended, as it is common to see high heels undermine efficient posture and breathing strategies on the day of a performance or audition.

Perform well

Remember that the panel wants to discover what you know, rather than what you don’t know. They will ask you questions which are always intended to relax you and to discover what you are like as a person and as a musician. Try to be open, to smile and to take time to answer questions thoughtfully. Prepare your own questions too, as the panel want to see your enthusiasm and to gain an understanding of your aims and long-term goals.

Audition requirements vary greatly between colleges, with some asking for “set works” and others offering a “free choice” of repertoire. Choose from the “set works”, selecting pieces that you are comfortable with. It is important to offer two pieces which contrast in style and that are of at least Grade 8 standard. You do not necessarily need to choose pieces which are technically demanding. It is best to select repertoire which you can play comfortably and which shows off your musicality.

Remember that the 10-15 minutes of your audition potentially represents the first stage of your College course, therefore the panel generally views the audition as part of the “learning process” and as an opportunity to provide you with constructive feedback and advice. We are looking for “learning people” who respond to advice and constructive criticism, as opposed to a “perfect” performance on the day.

The 'S' words

Scales are the “alphabet” of music. They build brain patterns and physical reflexes that enable us to respond instinctively to the written suggestions of composers. Not all colleges ask for scales in auditions, but a working knowledge of the Grade 8 scale requirements will do you no harm. The confidence that scale preparation gives you will also help to develop a better ability to deal with the other “S” word: sight-reading. When looking at sight-reading, take your time and pay attention to details of tempo (candidates usually play too fast when under pressure) and musical moods. Details of articulation and note-lengths are commonly overlooked, along with dynamics. Try not to focus solely upon “the notes”, but always aim to convey the emotion and moods of the music. My peripatetic teacher at school always said “You are allowed to make mistakes, but you are not allowed to be boring!”

(Grant Jameson, winner of the BBC Young Brass Award 2015)

Although brief, I sincerely hope that this advice will help you to feel more relaxed 
on the big day. Remember - we want you to do well and we are here to help,
rather than to judge you.

If you are organised and work hard, you can achieve anything.
Good luck!


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Which Horn?

Bob Ashworth - Principal Horn Opera North
The perennial question – which horn should I be playing on? – and its follow up questions - will it make things easier and/or make things sound better. OK, I reckon I make a reasonable sound on whichever instrument I play on but it’s nice to ring the changes sometimes and think outside the box.
I come around to these questions time and time again even though I’ve been known as a ‘diehard’ Alexander 103 player since college days. However this perception is not entirely true as I’ve spent long periods of time on Yamaha horns (models 665G and 667), Conn (nickel silver 8D), a goldbrass  Alexander 403S and dabbled from time to time with my Paxman (old-style goldbrass model 40L – bought from Mike Purton many moons ago) usually when there’s something high like Handel’s ‘Julius Caesar’.

More recently I bought a Holton 181 (goldbrass standard double) in an attempt to have a fuller, richer sound. This went very well for Ein Heldenleben and Janacek’s opera ‘Jenufa’. But, for the Ring operas of recent years I played the Alex 403S. 
Still the quandary remains. Having done a reasonably decent job of Britten’s ‘Billy Budd’ at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival (on the Paxman) I’m now favouring it for general use – for various reasons - full sound, ease, useful alternative fingerings. Looking back now I wish I’d done the ‘Siegfried’ Horn Call on this instrument for more security and ease (but not necessarily for the F alto side!).

The quandary continues as a mouthpiece also needs to be matched to whichever horn one chooses and I have found that this may change over time depending on one’s physical/mental state and the desired horn sound for certain repertoire. For instance I’ll probably go back to the Holton 181 for the imminent performances of Janacek’s ‘Osud’ which has great horn parts. It needs a generous sound (perhaps of a Viennese nature) and I’ll be using a Klier S3 mouthpiece which suits this horn and repertoire very well. On the Paxman 40 I’m currently on a PHC H23A.
All of this may well be a bit ‘over the top’ as many players stick with one horn and one mouthpiece (or one mouthpiece for whichever horn they play)  for years for ‘comfort’ and ‘security’ (i.e. familiarity) – which, of course, are ‘must have’ facets to successful horn playing. However, if you keep an open mind and put in the right preparation it is certainly possible to play different horns and mouthpieces and make your horn playing even more interesting and please note I haven’t even mentioned the natural horn and Vienna horn options……😉 Of course the added bonus of playing all one’s horns regularly (if you’re lucky to have more than one) is that it avoids the problem of the valves seizing up out of neglect!

Wishing all horn playing readers fun and stress-free horn playing!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Samek Music News

by Victoria Soames Samek
(Acclaimed clarinettist and publisher)

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Clarinet & Saxophone Classics, I am excited to announce that the company has expanded. To reflect this expansion we have rebranded the company.

Samek Music is now the home for Clarinet & Saxophone Classics CDs downloads and our publications to which all printed sheet music is now available through our new collaboration with June Emerson Wind Music.

In addition the company is now offering educational and musical opportunities. I will be offering lessons and mentoring, lectures and group coaching, written and spoken educational blogs, master-classes and performances.

 Samek Music is now the ultimate resource for clarinet &  saxophone players and all music enthusiasts.