I wrote a little bit about this before, but after these past auditions I have more faith in this way of thinking, and it helps my overall preparation. The process of getting anything ready for a performance is very simple: Get music, listen to music, engineer music, make music, hear music, play music. Hopefully the edition is accurate and you can actually make out the notes (cough cough Exotic Birds), but that's easy right? More than likely, we know someone who has some piece that we need and the collection of all of those someones will give us every piece we need, not to mention internet. Passed that, library is still a thing, thank goodness, and I have had to go to a library to find music occasionally. Ok, so we got the music.
This is the one that really changed my life, listen to the music.... How is that life changing? Well, before auditions, I would just learn music and figure out how they worked on paper and it got me through half of my musical career. I'd go in basically blind and as soon as we began playing I'd be on edge because I had no idea what was going on around me. Fast forward to college, as soon as I started listening to things before I had to play them, I felt a lot more comfort and confidence in what I was doing. "That goes there after this happens," or "I'm with the flutes for these bars." So finding a recording is key and hopefully it's a good on, but even if it's not, we should be able to get the gist of what is going on.
Engineer music, my favorite part. So we learn the notes, but that's not all we have to do. We have to figure out what kind of note that each note is. In most cases that type of information will be written in the piece with articulations and the like, but what it doesn't say is our method of producing that note. Maybe the first note is a medium loud, carrot accented A flat above middle C and you play it with a down bow from the frog. The next note is loud, regular accented B natural above middle C, and it's slurred along with the A flat. Well, can't go back to the frog if you start down bow, so the next option is to start up bow to get to the frog and then play the B down bow (ok hopefully I didn't completely get that wrong, but you get the idea). So, not only do we figure out the notes themselves, we have to build the process and choreography of how we get to, and create each note. Our bowings, stickings, fingerings, breaths, string crossings, tunings, etc. This is geared to creating comfort in performing the piece, because you've figured out how it works and how you will perform it, at least technically, and even more important, the better the preparation, the more flexible you should be when actually playing it.
Make music. Make music. Make music. Make music. Make music. Once we have the technical aspect down to the point where we don't have to think about it, we should think about how we want this to sound. Are we going to exactly emulate the recording we like? Maybe? That can work, up to a point. What if you don't like how the person played this one measure? What do you want it to sound like? What is the current trend? Is that trend acceptable? These are the questions I ask myself constantly. Maybe the trend at your school is that people cut out a note to make a run easier, and they do it because you can't really hear the difference at the end. Ok, that may be true, but is it acceptable? Some trends are cool, like certain stickings that work, or certain musical ideas that have become traditional, but others we do have to take with a grain of salt.
It all comes down to these three: Traditions, Trends, You. We have to know how the piece is traditionally done, because that will inform our accurate portrayal, and trends may give us a good way of making things work or sound good/accurate (making a certain diminuendo because it emulates the piece). But even with those two, it really doesn't matter unless you make a personal choice. You can do both, but it has to be your choice, what you want to hear, how you want it to sound. You have to make the music, not just conform to the status quo. There's a couple things that I do with pieces that no one I've met does, and that makes my interpretation unique, because I literally don't know anyone who does these things. It also makes it a little risky, because more than likely people will not have heard them done this way and could either like it or hate it. Luckily it hasn't been the latter, but that risk is from my personal decision of how I want the piece to sound.
So, after we've done all of that, we should be able to hear music. My instructor at DePaul would encourage me to audiate whatever I was playing in my mind. How do we do that? Imagination. That thing we used to use when we were kids. Yeah, we need that, hear? Ever just had a song come to mind and you can almost audibly hear it sound for sound, and word for word? Developing that as a skill for the music we play is extremely helpful. I can't stress enough how much this helped me in the long run. I could put myself in the mentality of how the piece feels in an actual performance, and then I could practice based on that emotion that I either felt or wanted to portray. Our practice then should have the end goal of not only figuring out how we technically perform the music, and how we want it to go, but we should be able to hear ourselves make that music, even before we pick up the instrument. It only makes it easier to play.
So play. Let it rip. If all the work has been done to the best of your ability and knowledge at that time, there's nothing left to do but that. That's the end goal anyway. Yes, we might want a perfect performance (impossible, but who knows, maybe one day?), yes, we might want a high rating on a contest, and yes, we might want to win a competition, but that can't be the end goal. Our job is to do the work so that we can play music. There's really no way to ensure that we get anything we strive for results wise, but more than likely, if you do all the work, make sure things are in place, and just play how you practiced and performed, things will work out eventually. So let's just keep making music to the best of our ability, and increasing our ability to make even more music. That's what people really want to hear.
About these Posts
Just some thoughts about how We, ourselves, are our best source of information and how we can become more aware of our thoughts.