This article is sponsored in part by Robertson & Son’s Violin Shoppresent something that’s nice to listen to, you will dowell in auditions… or at least you will for me. I’m 99%sure that nobody wants to listen to an audition, letalone a bass audition… Try to make it fun.An excellent example of “learning the why” is theValkyrie excerpt from Act 1, Scene 1, rehearsal#16. This excerpt is a love scene that featuresbass and cello soli lines in unison. In this passage,during my audition (both times), I tried to show thecommittee that I understand how to make a smoothand beautiful legato sound, and that I’m capable ofmaking a character or personality out of the detailson the page.but incredibly detailed musically.Also,“If what you offer in an auditionis technical perfection, butnothing else; the moment youmake a mistake is the momentyou offer nothing.”– David Allen Moore.Not stopping there, I found that some of the changesin tonality (upward stepwise motion in the melody)yielded an element of drama in the dialogue.Something simple like adjusting the dynamics basedon the line’s topography usually sores big points in anaudition (for me).Speaking of dialogue, for opera, look at the libretto,translate it, listen to it, have it dictate the way youplay the music! You always follow the voice!So, if the scene is about love, then you need to makethat understood instantly. I think it was a brilliantmove for the MET to ask for this passage as anaudition excerpt because it’s fairly simple technically,Wise words… For the love of all that is holy on earth,play musically!Bring your creativity into focus. This is what willdistinguish you in an audition. Of course everyonehas to play the game of making no mistakes, playingin tune, and having perfect time… If your auditionstrategy is limited to doing that, then you’re reallyjust relying on hope: that none of the people whobring musicality, creativity, or personality to theirpresentation will show up to the audition; or yourhoping that those people will make mistakes.I understand that a lot of people play like this: therisk of making mistakes increases dramatically when
This article is sponsored in part by Robertson & Son’s Violin Shopyou try to do something fancy musically. But,neither of my auditions at the MET was perfect.I’m incapable of playing a perfect audition, butI played convincingly enough, musically, toinspire confidence from the audition committeeregardless of my imperfections. In this light, Isay that preparing an audition is figuring outhow you can make people enjoy listening toyour presentation- you have to stop thosejudges at the audition who are tallying mistakesinstead of listening. Give them something betterto talk about behind that screen!“Gear is everything!”German Bow vs. French Bow:After 14 years, I switched from French bowto German bow. It was after seeing the BerlinPhilharmonic play that I was inspired to learnhow to play the German bow. I wanted toconvert all of the techniques and knowledge tomy French bow playing. So I bought a bow, andstarted playing!Once my German bow chops were as good asmy French, it was so clear to me, and manyothers, that I was much more of a German bowplayer than French. The character of the naturalway that the German bow pulls a sound is somuch more in line with my personality thanthe French bow. Plus, I have the wingspan ofMichael Jordan, so the slightly longer bow reallyhelps my playing.Instrument:I play on an Eduard Withers 4/4 gamba, circa1830, from London. The bass is gigantic, sois its sound, and it’s in the process of beingconverted into a 5-string. It took me a longtime to find this instrument, and even longerfor me to know exactly what I was looking for.My advice to those who are currently shoppingis to first of all be patient: the worst thing youcan do is buy something that you don’t like andthen have to re-sell. Secondly, when trying theinstrument, find out how the instrument soundsnaturally, without you pushing it, and make yourdecision based on this kind of original voicethat the instrument has when you don’t getin the way. To paraphrase: buy based on theinstrument’s voice, not on what you can make itdo. The second you change your setup (this willhappen!), everything you make the instrumentdo changes, but the original voice doesn’t.Rosin choice:What I am currently doing is 99% orchestralplay. Fresh Pop’s is amazing, actually it’s thedream, but as soon as the weather in New YorkCity gets too humid and hot, or too cold anddry, it’s useless. The fall and spring are greatfor it. Whenever I’m not using Pops, I’m usinga combination of Kolstein’s Soft and Nyman’s.The two of them seem to be more reliable yearround. You also have more control adjustingyour rosin content between powdery dryerNyman’s, and the soft and stickier Kolstein’s.This combo is ideal for touring as well.Remain Passionate and Have FunI hope people can remember to bring passionto what we are doing. It’s too often that I hearpeople play completely void of any inspiration. Ithink that I can truthfully claim that I have donea good job of making sure that whatever I playcomes from an inspiration. If I don’t have thatorcan’t find it- I play terribly! I can barely learnthe notes… When I’m feeling uninspired, I listento the Berlin Philharmonic, Edgar Meyer, ChrisThile, Time for 3, Ray Brown, Jaco, etc… I’malways trying to find inspiration to move forward.We all as musicians have a responsibility tomaintain this sort of musical libido, and to makewhat we do inspiring, regardless of what’shappening in our lives, what level we play at, orwhat music we play.