G#, how I love thee

The Pictures concert is in 2 days. I got a lesson with Sal Fratia earlier this week and he was so encouraging. We worked on general sections of the tuba part. Touching on volume, articulation, sustain and breathing. The Catacombae movement was discussed too. With such sustained and loud chords, I needed to figure out how to last and not have to break the slur lines. One little trick is to start the note at ‘ff’ but back off a little then crescendo towards the end before doing the real decrescendo into the next bar.

We also discussed using a larger mouthpiece for the movements other than Bydlo. I forgot to bring it (PT-72) on this trip to Toronto. So I’ll practice this weekend with it and bring it to the sound check and make a decision then.

Finally: the Bydlo. I played it for Sal with just about no warm up in the upper end and it sounded really good. I didn’t get all the G#’s but it was still very fine. I got a great piece of advice regarding the C# to G# slur. I was putting in a little blip between the two to fake slur a little and to hope the upper note would be clean. And so Sal said: don’t jump up to the G#, reach for it from the C#. His example was: if you want to get a book on the top shelf of a bookcase, you don’t jump for it, you just reach for it. Fill the space between the two notes. He got me to buzz the two notes on the mouthpiece and do a slight gliss between the two. Not a jazz gliss like a trombone, but just filling in the space between the two notes so I’m not jumping between them. Putting the tuba back on and I could hear the difference: smooth and more accurate. The same when slurring down. The analogy for that was great: if you drop your watch, you don’t fall to the floor to pick it up. You reach down for it.

We also worked on the final perched G#. Just go for it. Keep the air moving. It’ll be there. It was sounding good in isolation and with the preceding high E in context, it’ll be even easier.

He also cleared up why this part is just as “easy”on a C tuba: if your chops have it, it wont matter which instrument you use (F, Eb, C, Bb). I was thinking that F tuba players would gave a whole tone advantage over me on Eb. Obviously, each tuba has it ‘money’ register. The Eb shines from Eb in the middle of the staff to the octave above. It takes so little volume to cut through the orchestra in that register. Consider too that the final movement of Pictures is in Eb. Hello!!

All in all, the lesson was such a positive experience. And the rehearsal on Thursday was also very good. I got some compliments on my playing, which just feels so good. I couldn’t help smiling ear to ear on the drive home. I can’t wait until Sunday.


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