Milestones

I have NEVER played better in my life!

How’s that for an opener? I really do though! I’ve been practicing the excerpt from Copéllia by Deslibes — the Masurka. It’s some fancy finger work at a reasonable speed. D major on the Eb tuba too. Yesterday I started playing it without stopping or fumbling. Things like that make me yell “YEAH” in all caps. Sometimes “F*CK YEAH”. It just feels so good reaching milestones like that.

I had another today: on my C, pedal D flat at fortissimo is starting to get some nice brassy edge to it. YEAH!

But I also finally got a start to the Bach solo I need to do on the C. Wowsa! Lots of bars with endless 16th notes. This book (Bach for the Tuba, vol.2) is for the tuba. Should I be able to play this stuff without breathing?!? Apparently, yes. I’m making quick progress, but it sure does feel like a kick in the pants. How perfectly do I need to play all this music?

For a school audition, they want more to get a feel for your technique for placement. For a job, they’re gonna pick the one, single best person. Currently, I think there are some excerpts that could sink me. Some of them though, I’m REALLY good at. I’m also really liking my sound lately. Big and bold! That’s gonna be a factor, for sure.

And then I wonder why my first orchestral audition is Montreal. If not the top, then one of the top three orchestras in Canada. Gotta start somewhere though, right? And being Montreal, it’s totally pushing me to go all the way! I think I’m going to kick some butt in Montreal!

Quantity vs. Quality

With the Montreal audition coming up, I’m practicing like a fiend!  When I’m not practicing, I think that I should be.  I know that there’s a physical limit, but where is it?  One night a few weeks ago, I suddenly stopped practicing because I felt a pinch in my upper lip – I was afraid I had split it and there’d be blood.  I had already practiced for a few hours and I was getting hungry, so it was good timing.

I’m hyper-sensitive these days about practicing.  A page which I follow on Facebook linked to this article about how many hours a day one should practice.  Sometime I do go through many repetitions of a section or lick.  Usually for one of two reasons (though aften both):

  1. I need to commit the fingering sequence to memory
  2. I need to commit the embouchure sequence to memory

I’ll hack at it for a while until it reaches some minor level of stability, then I start to really work:  after nearly each iteration I ask myself how I can improve it?  are there obvious trouble spots?  should I back up a few steps and slow it down?  should I “zoom in” on a particular interval or bar and pay it some special attention?

I’m also trying to rotate my practice rep too.  To start, last month, I had a decent part of the rep at my finger tips, so I started with that.  I recently ordered and received more tuba rep books and replenished my printer ink to print more parts.  I’ve got LOTS to work on now.  So, I’m making a point of hitting the new stuff and only glancing over old stuff just to keep it semi-fresh.  When I’m off work for the next three weeks, I think I may have to create a schedule so that I don’t neglect any parts and be surprised come Aug 5th in Montreal.

This blog post by Andrew Hitz has also been on my mind:  extremes as early as possible each day.  He’s right — give it a week and wow!  Today, I noticed that my pianissimo is getting more “issimo”.  That’s hella quiet.  Not to mention my louds.  The trick is find the centre of each note in order to find that sweet spot where fortissimo really jumps to the next level.

Finally – one last thought:  if you’re not practicing right now for that audition, it’s very likely that someone else is.  That can be a little obsessive.  I’m going to try my best and for me that includes taking three weeks off work to prepare.  I already planned on taking a few weeks off to practice the RVW concerto.  Montreal is a big jump for a tubist in my position – I’m not making a leap from a smaller full-time orchestra.  I don’t have a degree.  I don’t have a regular private teacher.  That’s a lot of negative, eh?  Here’s what I AM:

  • dedicated
  • driven
  • inquisitive
  • disciplined
  • musical
  • smart
  • talented
  • experienced

Hell ya!

First Montreal and Now Regina

Ever since seeing the announcement for the Montreal Symphony, I’ve been on practicing overdrive. I’m up earlier in the mornings to get some tuba time in. Not necessarily every morning but lots of them. I’ve got the rep list for Montreal in a tab on my desktop browser and on my iPhone to check the bars I need to prepare. I’m swapping days between the Eb and the C. There’s A LOT of rep to work on, including a Bach flute solo transcribed for tuba and the slow movement of the Vaughan Williams. And orchestral stuff I’ve never touched before. And some I’ve not heard before. Continue reading