Summer Wrap Up

So Summer’s all done now. As you can see, I took a little break from blogging – it was busy summer: great weather; good swimming; hanging out with friends; and taking care of guests at our B&B. So I needed to take a little time away from my tubas.  I’m a tad disappointed that I didn’t get more done, but I tried to make the best of it.

In the first half of the summer, I practiced a lot of Eb tuba. I revisited the RVW concerto. Wow! The first movement is much easier the second time around. After all that work on Bydlo, my upper range is noticeably easier to get to – and the fingerings for come of the tricky passages in the concerto come easier too. I worked some more on the second movement too. I’m getting further and further with it – I can’t wait until I can read the whole way through it with some satisfaction.

During the second half of the summer, I spent more time on my C tuba.  Lots of slur and harmonic series warmups; upper and lower range work; and tinkering with Bydlo on the C.  Gawd!  It’s surprisingly easy.  But I was really concentrating on the big low part of the Ride of the Valkyries.  The section that is F#-G#-E-G#-B.  I’m embarrassed to say for a while, I didn’t know there was a low E in that passage. I couldn’t tell the note for all the sharps and ledger lines and just started playing F# instead and it became a habit. Oy!

So I’m practicing those 5 notes over and over.  Slow.  Articulated.  Slurred.  Tenuto.  Staccato.  I’m pulling all my tricks out of my sleeve.  Did I write about this before?  A number of teachers I’ve gotten lessons from say that to play a staccato section well, I should practice it legato.  And to play a legato section well, I should practice it staccato.  As odd as that sounds, it’s great advice.

One thing that made me feel good is Sal Fratia telling me that he works on that Ride section a lot too.  I get this notion in my head that the pros have just “got it” and they just keep in shape by every day playing.  But it takes work for them to keep these extreme repertoire bits fresh and sounding good.  I played most of the final movement of Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique a few years ago with Orchestra Toronto.  I worked my embouchure off to get the first tuba part.  I thought to myself “ok, good, you’ve got that under your belt – next!” But I returned to it in the early part of summer and I fell all over it.  Practice, practice practice!  That’s what it comes down to.

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