In early February 2011 many music teachers will descend into San Antonio,TX for the TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) Conference. Also, in addition to the enormous teacher’s conference it is a very big time in the life of the talented high school students who have auditioned all across the state for the All-State Orchestra, Band, and Choir.
Here I’d like to begin a short mini-series on the required Doublebass Etude Repertoire:
J. Hrabe: 86 Etudes for the String Bass, Book 1 (Simandl), Carl Fischer.
Tempo: Quarter note = 90-94
m. 46 – next-to-last note should be D-natural
m. 47 – next-to-last note should be F-natural
Storch-Hrabe: 57 Studies, Vol. II, International Music Co.
Tempo: Andante – quarter note = 72-76; Maestoso – quarter note = 84-88
To begin this series, I’d like to focus on the essentials of both etudes and the basic skills on how to take an audition. The first etude by Hrabe #24 in C major is very scale-based and straightforward rhythmically. Technically, this is going to be the easiest of the two etudes. My goal during a practice session would actually be to focus on the bow arm and less on the left-hand. This etude obviously needs to be played very clean and if you watch the bow distribution on half-notes, quarters, and eighths, you will eventually find the best sound if you proportionally use your bow. Additionally, I would practice any passages with tricky shifting (perhaps measures 44-45) first with attention to the left-hand then slowly with the bow so that the shifting does not slow down what you are trying to accomplish with the bow.
The second etude which is by both Storch & Hrabe #1 (from volume 2 of 57 Etudes), is probably going to be the harder of the two… so make sure you devote your practice time accordingly. This etude, in two sections (Andante & Maestoso) can be mastered with a few important things in mind. First, the opening section needs to be more melodic, so use a liberal amount of bow when possible (key word: possible). Even while shifting, all slurred groups of notes need to sound connected. Make sure not to accentuate notes that aren’t accented, or play notes without the staccato dot too short. Intonation is going to be more difficult because of the more frequent use of chromaticism (ie. the accidentals in this piece). The Maestoso can feel a bit quick, but don’t let the given tempo get you down. The solution is to practice with a metronome at a tempo that you can play everything perfectly, then gradually increasing the tempo.
Lastly, here are several thoughts on playing an audition. First, you will be nervous, so don’t spend any time dwelling on what the outcome will be or how others view your audition. Try to dwell on making a personal best with your performance and visualize yourself playing well and walking out of the audition happy with how you did. Spend plenty of time physically practicing, but spend other moments just mentally practicing and memorizing your music. You can do this in the shower, on the bus, between classes, etc. Make sure you are well rested and ready to go at the time of the audition. The last thing you want to happen is over-sleep and be rushed on the day you have to play. Finally, feel confident in the work you have done and the time you have spent. Everything should be “in place” at the of the audition and you have practiced so much that this is just one more time you have to play (the final time!).