I. Review all the basics of flute playing in general that you’ve (hopefully) already been working on for the past few years, including:A. Tone. Follow your teacher’s advice about tone development! With strong, solid, in control tone, you’ll have the potential to increase your score in the following areas of the Vermont All State adjudicator’s evaluation form: 1. Tone (obviously) 2. Intonation 3. Expression 4. Facility 5. Musicality in Sight Reading Without strong tone, you simply don’t have much chance of full control over these elements – like trying to learn to multiply before you know how to add – it just won’t work. Clearly, you have a lot of points to lose, and potentially many to gain, with strongly developed tone. Hopefully, you have a teacher who is working with you on elements of tone and its many applications. You may find it helpful to check my series on tone by clicking here.
B. Intonation. You may wish to check out the article linked here, by Stephanie Mortimore, on piccolo intonation. Most of the article applies equally well to flutists, and it’s the clearest, most straight forward, and easily readable explanation of intonation I’ve ever read. You may also wish to click here to purchase “The Tuning CD” available either as a CD or as a download (I hope to putting up more blog entries about ways of using the CD, but in the meantime you may wish to check some of Jennifer Cluff’s entries linked here).
C. Posture and Hand Position. Hopefully this is well under way in development. You may not end up successfully making major changes on this end of your playing in two months time. On the other hand, if you’re on the way with the process, keeping aware of it may be a real help in giving you an edge on almost all fronts – from tone, intonation and expression, to facility, to accuracy of notes, speed of scales, and more. For a brief overview of posture and hand position you may wish to check out some of my blog entries on posture and hand position, linked here.
II. You should be into the final stages of polishing your playing in three areas:
A. Your performance piece. The 2011-12 All State selection for flute (was) the first and second movements of Bach’s Sonata in E Flat Major (2012-13 Hindemith Sonata movement 1; 2013-14 Honegger Danse de la Chevre; 2014-15 Mozart Concerto in G movement 1; 2015-16 back to Bach E flat; Click here for Winooski Valley District Festival Audition selections). At this point, you will hopefully have learned the notes and rhythms fully and accurately. If not, it’s time to jump in with both feet and get it down! THIS WEEK!! NOW!! And that means ALL the notes and rhythms – no excuses! This is hopefully time for finishing up the polishing touches so that you can hum it in your sleep, with dynamics and details solidifying. If you haven’t done so yet, purchase a recording (or preferably several different recordings) of the piece, or at the very least, start listening to a REALLY GOOD YouTube video. 2011-12 or 2015-16: For my thoughts on some good recordings of the Bach E Flat, click here. 2014-15: click here for thoughts on and YouTube samples of Mozart Concerto recordings
OR 2014-15 Winooski Valley District auditions: click here for recommended YouTube samples of the Bizet Menuet
B. You should be able to play all major scales up to speed and according to specifications at this point (click here for rhythm and tempo details – for All State: major scales: 16th notes at quarter note = 88, with root being an 8th note; chromatic in slurred triplets also 88). If you don’t have them thoroughly memorized, now’s the time! No excuses. DO IT! If you’ve got them memorized, make yourself some flash cards. Being able to pull them out at random, and having the regular experience of doing so and knowing you’ve aced them every time is really key! If you need help memorizing scales and related key signatures, click here for the first in a series of tutorials, or click here for a game that might be both fun and helpful (on this game, be aware that some computers do not register the flat symbol – so look for a blank space!).
C. Sight Reading. Pull out selections you’ve never played before – maybe from one of your books, maybe from a book your teacher recommends, maybe from browsing online at flutetunes.com or other online site, or SmartMusic if you have it. Then click here for a blog entry on steps to practice in sight reading. Print this list, and apply it to everything you sight read. Take your time in assessing it all, learn these steps and apply them methodically and consistently, so that when you’re faced with something new in front of a judge you know what to do without hesitation or worry.
III. Check this list (above). See where your weaknesses are (we ALL have them – the key to getting better is being willing to look at your weaknesses and DIG IN to them directly!). If you’re behind don’t despair! You can do it – just make sure you start NOW! Also – even if you’re feeling behind right now, any work that you put in, and any feedback you receive from the judges will be a good step in the direction of your next audition. Remember, the whole purpose of this process is to inspire you to be a stronger musician! So, set your feet firmly on the ground, stand tall and confident, and dig in! And then on to the next entry: Seven Weeks ahead