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 Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Morrigan 
Date:   2019-11-15 13:02

Can we just talk about absolutely accuracy when doing orchestral auditions?

At the moment I’m preparing to do a recorded audition (because it’s on the other side of the world). So I’ve been recording myself a lot and listening back, as well as sharing these recordings with friends for feedback.

Now, let’s take Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from Midsummer Night’s Dream which I’m sure we all know and hate. The notes aren’t a problem, and the tonguing isn’t a problem. What’s happening is the rests are sometimes a tad longer, a tad shorter, and on some takes, downright incorrect. It’s happens in some other excerpts as well, when counting rests.

One friend made a good point. Even when “the best of them” do an audition, just HOW ACCURATE are they with this particular issue? And surely if these rests aren’t 100% accurate (but pretty close), isn’t this what the trial period is for, to make sure you can play accurately in context?

I had an interesting audition a few years ago where my teacher at the time was on the panel. Another member asked me to play an excerpt about 4 times, because I wasn’t counting the tests accurately. My teacher later told me that by his ears I played the excerpt accurately 4 times in a row.
In another example, I was waiting to go in for an audition and I could hear the person before me. His Scherzo has exactly what I describe above: not entirely accurate rests (not terrible by any means) but you’d have trouble tapping along to it. This person went on to get a trial with this orchestra.

So I guess my question is... Just HOW accurate do I need to be, and how does one go about improving the parts where they’re NOT playing?

_______________________________________________
Principal Clarinet, Central Band of the Royal Air Force, London
Masters Student, Royal College of Music, London
https://soundcloud.com/tieraci

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: donald 
Date:   2019-11-15 15:09

The orchestral members listening will be imagining the music that happens in those rests, and if they can imagine that music and your music fits in with their imagining, then you are in the ball park.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: donald 
Date:   2019-11-15 15:09

Tasmania? Looks like a great gig, good luck!

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-11-15 16:18

For me, the accuracy of a rhythmic riff is paramount. That said, I hasten to point out that we don't just stop and admire the musicality of a diesel engine..........normally:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1ThSi1wbqU



Great musical rhythm is merely maintaining the proper proportionality of one note to the other; be it a quarter note to the next quarter note, or quarter note to the next two eighths. You mention COUNTING. To me that is not rhythm. The obsession of whether you are on "the downbeat of beat three" of the measure or "the and of two" should be (in my opinion) THROWN OUT THE WINDOW. Again, it is a matter of proportion......that anyone can hear.



Finally, I am sure you DON'T really mean we all hate the Scherzo to Mendelssohn's Midsummer's Night Dream. If you actually were to hate the Scherzo to Mendelssohn's Midsummer's Night Dream, I'd say you may need to look for another profession.





...................Paul Aviles



Post Edited (2019-11-15 18:36)

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2019-11-15 18:07

When I taught at Peabody my first class lecture each year on what's important I'd start off by saying rhythm is either correct or it's wrong, bottom line. You can't play in ensemble with others if it's not perfect. A missed note only effects that one note, being early or late effects the entire passage. With that said, you're making a recording, there's no excuse not to make it perfect, it isn't a live audition. Use a metronome light, no click of course and get it perfect. I've been on audition committees, I would count carefully because I didn't want somone in my wind section not to have perfect rhythm. BSO member for 50 years.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2019-11-15 18:43

A trick to play rests accurately would be to record a metronome and listen with a headset while recording. Or even practicing more with the metronome. Playing even slightly out of rhythm on a good ensemble will get you thrown out very quickly. Listen to the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra - precision rhythm without a conductor. No slouches there.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: clarinetist04 
Date:   2019-11-15 20:25

Ed is right on the money. Obviously! You should be able to hear the rests (perhaps imagining the orchestra playing around you) in the context of the piece in your head while you're playing the excerpt. It's worth knowing the pieces that well if you don't already. As a clarinetist, you'll be playing these standard excerpts over and over and over again whether auditioning or performing.

Good luck with your recording!

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-11-15 22:02

Stuff has to be as accurate as you can possibly make it, but really, auditions are competitive and you usually don't know who will show up or submit a recording. If there's somebody else who sounds as good as you and is a little more rigorous with the rhythms, note lengths, and so on, then they get the gig.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: donald 
Date:   2019-11-16 05:53

At auditions they have so many good applicants they are looking for an easy way to exclude you. They also want to know that they can RELY on your skills in rehearsal and performance, they don't want to spend one minute of rehearsal time accommodating YOUR shortcoming, as brutal as that sounds.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Tom Piercy 
Date:   2019-11-16 09:16

One thing that might help is for you to change your concept of what "playing" is.

You wrote, "...how does one go about improving the parts where they’re NOT playing?"

You said you you are having problems with the rests in an excerpt. You have a rest or rests — that doesn't mean you are not playing. Once you start the except, you are playing until you finish playing the last note of the except.

Perhaps your rests are not accurate because you "think" you are not playing. Perhaps your brain is turning off during the rest and that causes you to be a bit late.

Tom Piercy

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2019-11-16 19:16

The rests are only rests for you and others not playing in those moments. Meanwhile, the music goes on, the count never stops, and you have to consider just how your little thread fits into the music fabric. Study the score and listen to, sing, and count each other audible part. Note what is being played when you begin your rest and what is being played when you re-enter. Rather like watching for the ball after the pitcher or batter has thrown or hit it. Your attempted "catch" will come up empty-handed if you don't have your eye on the ball. By analogy, your entrances will be wrong if you don't have your ear on the music other instrumental groups are continuing. Your "rest" is not a rest at all; it is not mere empty space; it is a change of texture in the musical fabric with your little thread out of view for a short while. Mentally play the other instruments' parts and ADD your part. Then your part should coordinate correctly and sound right. You are a thin line in a complex array of lines on the score.



Post Edited (2019-11-16 20:00)

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2019-11-16 19:54

Some good advice here.

However, keep in mind that some sometimes needs to play excerpts in an audition differently than one would in an actual performance.

I have found, for example, that committees tend to like a slower tempo in the Mendelssohn than what is normally expected. Perhaps if you slightly slowed it down (say, measure = 80 bpm rather than the usual 84-92) the rests would fall into place better.

Also keep in mind that while in performance you have to compensate for the distance between you and the strings (meaning you have to stay a bit ahead of the beat) this may not be the case in an audition situation.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: m1964 
Date:   2019-11-16 20:05

rmk54 wrote:
> ...
> Also keep in mind that while in performance you have to
> compensate for the distance between you and the strings
> (meaning you have to stay a bit ahead of the beat) this may not
> be the case in an audition situation.

YES!
But 1st he has to get the position.😊



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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2019-11-16 20:39

But 1st he has to get the position.

-----------------------------------------

My point was that in order to get the position he may need to play the excerpt differently in the audition than he would once he gets the job.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-11-16 23:24

Spend time learning the whole piece and what the other instruments are doing when you aren't playing. So if you get lost and don't count the longer rests correctly you can "Hear," the parts of other instruments in your head and enter the note after the rest on beat. A good example are the Beethoven symphonies. Often short 6 note or so passages, short mini solos are thrown around with the woodwinds, so if you know the piece really well counting the rests and hearing the other instruments surely makes this easier. But the best thing to do is count.

Yes rhythm must be dead on as others have said. You can have the best sound in the world, but you won't win the auditions. It's that simple.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-11-17 00:22

rmk54 wrote:

> Also keep in mind that while in performance you have to
> compensate for the distance between you and the strings
> (meaning you have to stay a bit ahead of the beat) this may not
> be the case in an audition situation.

The speed of sound at room temperature is about 1130 feet per second. If the strings are sitting 15 feet from you, the delay will be about .013 seconds. Do we really compensate for that? Maybe overthinking a little.

Karl

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2019-11-17 01:04

Do we really compensate for that? Maybe overthinking a little.

-------------------------------------
Absolutely, although it may vary according to the acoustics of the hall/stage.

The hall where I performed for 30 years absolutely necessitated this adjustment.

When I first got the job I was surprised that people around me seemed to be playing so far ahead of the strings. After listening to the broadcasts I understood why.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2019-11-17 02:58

Morrigan- can you tell us exactly in which bars the rests are not accurate? And are the rests too long or too short?

By far the most common criticism of that I've heard of this excerpt is "unstable pulse", which usually is referring the the 16ths not being played in exactly the same tempo as the 8ths.

One of the best remedies I've come across for developing a steadier pulse, is to practice with the metronome playing not on the first beat of the bar, but on the 2nd or 3rd. When the metronome is on the first beat, it's like you give over the responsibility to the metronome. When it's on the 2nd or 3rd bears, the responsibility becomes yours, but you still have to be perfectly in time, otherwise the metronome won't fall exactly on beat 2 or 3. I hope that makes sense?

If it's a recorded audition, can't you just keep recording it until the rests are correct? Or do you have to do a "live recording"?

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: donald 
Date:   2019-11-17 04:22

Or play it with 1 beat every 2nd bar- my students would usually have to practise this either counting or just playing one note a few times... then play it with
ONE 2 3 1 2 3 ONE 2 3 1 2 3 (the metronome silent on the 23 etc)
THAT'S really hard, but it trains you to subdivide accurately!

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: donald 
Date:   2019-11-17 09:53

btw one of the advantages with the Dr Beat is that you can get it to beat the different subdivisions- so for instance with a solo like the Andante from Brahms 3rd Symphony you can practise with it beating the crotchets/quarter notes. THEN switch so it is just beating the first beat of every bar- to be able to stay so that you are still arriving on beat one with the metronome (without it beating the subdivisions) is a good test of your ability to hold a tempo.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2019-11-17 19:43

Accuracy is of ultimate importance! Counting must be machine like in precision.

http://www.MyTempoMusic.com

http://www.skypeclarinetlessons.com/about.html


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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Juanzen 
Date:   2019-11-18 05:24

honestly, it is not good for you to think in terms of acceptable or how much is enough, you should prepare for the audition to be as precise as you humanly can make and as musical as you can make it. You have to aim for the very best performance you can give, so if you hear your own recording and see holes in it. Time to go back and improve on it.

Your goal is to give your very best performance, I doubt there will come a time where you can say "this cannot be improved on".

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Agomongo 
Date:   2019-11-19 03:34

So sad how rhythmical perfection is cared more about than musicality. Being early and late shouldn't ruin a performance, but unfortunately we've taught a generation to think that way.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: clarinetwife 
Date:   2019-11-19 04:22

"Machine like in precision" Focusing on this too much can result in a group where several players or sections think they are right but none of them are right because they are not feeling the passage together. "agomongo" has a point, but I would hope that at this level of ensemble they can find people who can be that precise AND play together and musically.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-11-19 06:22

For me the precision is in approaching the length of each SOUND in an organic manner. I started by just playing a few slow quarter notes in a row. Then after taking a break come back to play the sounds I made at the same length as before.


It also makes accelerando and ritardando much more fluid and natural to think this way because the length of each successive note in a ritard fits more naturally into the whole.


I don't mind too much exactly how a rhythmic figure is interpreted as long as the entire ensemble (trio or 120 piece orchestra) plays the figure the same way. THAT is precision.




............Paul Aviles



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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-11-19 21:33

Why do we have to separate the feel and count the rhythm? Shouldn't they both work together? I think when auditions are held rhythm is what gets you to the finals or even win the auditions. A decent conductor will let players be more expressive if needed. If you can't count you don't deserve to be in a high end group, but there are places for everyone to play, such as local bands and orchestras. If you are a decent player there is a place for you.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: clarinetwife 
Date:   2019-11-19 22:03

"feel" versus "count". How does keeping the beat relate to feeling rhythm? That's an interesting question. Beatkeeping is certainly necessary, this is why we have metronomes, but is it a concept that is more external than feeling rhythm is? Hmm, perhaps "external" is not the word I am looking for. We have a piece in our wind ensemble where the snare drum and the trombones are not feeling the rhythm together even though they are both keeping the beat. It is a challenge coming up with a description on what is happening.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-11-19 23:19

The question is not "feel" vs. "counting," but rather what is actually more important. As "clarinetwife" points out, there are many examples of musicians not allowing their ears to mesh rhythmic material together because (I would assert) there are too many intellectualized roadblocks being put in the way.


Let me address counting first. We count for two reasons. The count is firstly the roadmap we read as we play allowing us to move along together as prescribed by the composer. The other reason we count would be to determine rhythmic relationship amongst the note lengths before us. I would assert further that this is where we get the idea for the primacy of subdivision in rhythmic accuracy. Smaller units should be harder to make irregular and therefore it should be more accurate to cut the rhythm into smaller and smaller pieces to achieve more accuracy.


Here is where I diverge from the majority. From my perspective, if you can play quarter notes (for example) at incorrectly irregular lengths, then it is also possible to make your sixteenth notes irregular in length as well. In other words, making smaller pieces doesn't ensure that those smaller pieces are more accurate.


What I prefer is to reduce this issue to its most primordial element. We are talking about the audible length of a note in time (for example, a quarter note equaling 1.00 seconds). So to my mind it makes more sense to relate the length we HEAR of one quarter note to the length of the next quarter note.


Now taking this idea past the basic pulse of the music (usually a quarter note...for example, or a full measure as in the Scherzo to Mendelssohn's Midsummer's Night Dream) can be an interesting exercise, or even fun thing to test yourself with, but I only refer to the basic pulse of the music and its subdivisions.


The beauty of LISTENING to the length of YOUR note length is that it also involves LISTENING to the note lengths of others. And this is what ensemble playing is all about.




Now let me throw out an extreme example. I was with a student orchestra that was otherwise a crack ensemble. In the middle of a big instrumental solo, the soloist dropped about six measures (UH OH!!!). We all heard it, we all knew where the soloist now took us and the whole ensemble just played from that corresponding measure (disaster averted). But that was made possible by everyone LISTENING.........and not just.........counting.



A gross example I know.






...................Paul Aviles



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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: clarinetwife 
Date:   2019-11-19 23:28

Yes, I think the word Intellectualized speaks to the issue. In a pit orchestra or playing a concerto an ensemble has to be able to do what Paul A describes.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Agomongo 
Date:   2019-11-20 21:39

@Paul

I am glad to see someone else agrees in my sentiment. There is a great recording with Louis Diemer playing the Chopin Nocturne. He changes the rhythm A LOT, but always gets back to beat one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbPALIytVqg.

Another example where a slight change of rhythm and not being exactly together can work and can be more beautiful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClfzPUX30Kw

Note: I am referring to the singer. While the accom. is consistent and together it was performance practice of the time dictates that they play it like that, because it's like a funeral march, however if someone wanted to diverge from that I would be okay with that too. Though at the same time if we put a metronome on clicking away with 8th notes it would not line up exactly, because playing exactly with a clicking metronome destroys phrasing and doesn't allow the notes to breath.

Or when Martin Frost players the Brahms clarinet quintet when he enters for the first time it's not exactly on the downbeat.

It's funny when we read treatises of the time it seems to me that they were more free with the rhythm and treated notation as a relative science not an EXACT science. To say that Beethoven wrote a quarter note with in mind that EXACT length is ridiculous. Notation before Stravinsky was a blueprint it was not an exact mathematical science.

@clarinetwife

The metronome was invented to check one's tempo. Not to be one's time keeper.



Post Edited (2019-11-20 21:42)

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-11-20 22:11

Yes! Precisely!


It is this way we can now understand rhythm as something interpretive. For example one way to emphasize a note in a phrase is to "dwell on it" a bit longer. This of course far more familiar to soloistic pianists.


But I do try to make the point that even dogmatic adherence to a pedantic beat is EASIER if you MATCH the length of sounds.......rather than count.



If you think about it, counting (as a function of maintaining rhythm) is just as artificial a construct as tapping one's foot (just watch ensembles where this is a "thing" to observe the comical movements of the participant's feet......... which have nothing to do with what we are hearing, thank goodness).




....................Paul Aviles



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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Agomongo 
Date:   2019-11-20 23:50

Paul Aviles wrote:

> Yes! Precisely!
>
>
> It is this way we can now understand rhythm as something
> interpretive. For example one way to emphasize a note in a
> phrase is to "dwell on it" a bit longer. This of course far
> more familiar to soloistic pianists.
>
>
> But I do try to make the point that even dogmatic adherence to
> a pedantic beat is EASIER if you MATCH the length of
> sounds.......rather than count.
>
>
>
> If you think about it, counting (as a function of maintaining
> rhythm) is just as artificial a construct as tapping one's foot
> (just watch ensembles where this is a "thing" to observe the
> comical movements of the participant's feet......... which have
> nothing to do with what we are hearing, thank goodness).
>
>
>
>
> ....................Paul Aviles
>

Exactly. It really drives home the idea of organic ideas and listening!

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-11-21 00:48

It seems as though this has diverged into at least two separate topics. The OP originally asked about the degree of accuracy needed for an audition (in his case a recorded audition). That's not really the same as asking whether good musicians ever play out of rhythm.

Clearly, musicians - especially solo performers but ensemble players, too, with the agreement of the other players or the conductor - at times expand on the rhythmic notation as it relates to the underlying meter, hopefully not from inability to play more strictly. From the early responses to the question about auditions, it seems important to be as accurate as the player's ability allows.

An important difference between performing and auditioning, of course, is that in a typical audition (expect for finals that take place with the ensemble) there are no other musicians to listen or react to. There is no context to justify any liberties and also no cover for inaccuracies.

Karl

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-11-21 01:33

Well...........no, actually it is MOST pertinent to the accurate performance of auditions. If you are just "counting rests," there is no context for what you are playing. I'm pretty sure as I fire this response off that someone mentioned having the accompaniment in mind while you count rests. That is really much more to the point I make. If you at very least keep the length of each pulse in mind as you count (rather than internally hear the full accompaniment) you are in a much better place.


GBK posted a query about a barrel. In it he referenced a video of the Hart School of Music clarinet instructor playing the first movement of the Mozart concerto acapella. You bet he's using his internal memory of what is going on in those rests to play the way he plays!





...............Paul Aviles



P.S. Here it is:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRdCScXkt38



Post Edited (2019-11-21 01:34)

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-11-21 01:44

Paul Aviles wrote:

> Well...........no, actually it is MOST pertinent to the
> accurate performance of auditions. If you are just "counting
> rests," there is no context for what you are playing.

Yes. I wasn't reacting to your post.

> GBK posted a query about a barrel. In it he referenced a
> video of the Hart School of Music clarinet instructor playing
> the first movement of the Mozart concerto acapella. You bet
> he's using his internal memory of what is going on in those
> rests to play the way he plays!
>

I haven't listened to it yet - maybe I'll have some time later tonight. I'm not sure why anyone would do that. But I'll bet if I listen really carefully, not everything in the recording will turn out to be exactly metric, exactly what is printed. He doesn't really wait through all the ritornelli when the orchestra plays without the soloist for measures on end, does he? I'm sure you're right about what's going on in his mind during shorter rests within the solo sections. :-)

Karl
Karl

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2019-11-21 04:24

I'm sure you're right about what's going on in his mind during shorter rests within the solo sections. :-)

-----------------------------------------------
I sat next to Mr. Blood for more than 30 years and I can tell you from first hand experience he has an unparalleled sense of rhythm.

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 Re: Accuracy in orchestral auditions
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2019-11-22 02:53

Donald wrote:

>> At auditions they have so many good applicants they are looking for an easy way to exclude you. >>

In my experience this isn't the case. Auditions are a blunt instrument, and panels know this.

Rather, they're looking for evidence that you might be what they want.

Juanzen wrote, rightly:

>> honestly, it is not good for you to think in terms of acceptable or how much is enough, you should prepare for the audition to be as precise as you humanly can make and as musical as you can make it. You have to aim for the very best performance you can give, so if you hear your own recording and see holes in it. Time to go back and improve on it.

Your goal is to give your very best performance, I doubt there will come a time where you can say "this cannot be improved on".>>

The rests of one and two bars duration are best 'played' accurately. I don't think the accuracy of the rests of 9, 10, 18, 21etc bars matter – indeed, a listening panel subjected to such silences may well be irritated.

Tony

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