- Mar 12, 2019 New video series: What's On My Stand Mar 12, 2019
- Sep 19, 2017 Audition prep guide: 2017-18 ETSBOA All East Flute Junior High music (9-10) Sep 19, 2017
- Sep 19, 2017 Audition prep guide: 2017-18 ETSBOA All East Flute Senior High music (11-12) Sep 19, 2017
- Sep 18, 2017 Audition prep guide: 2017-18 WTSBOA All West Flute Senior High 11-12 Sep 18, 2017
- Sep 14, 2017 Audition prep guide: WTSBOA All-West Tennessee 9-10 flute music Sep 14, 2017
- May 10, 2017 New flute May 10, 2017
- January 2017
- Oct 28, 2016 Why failure is as important as success Oct 28, 2016
- Sep 27, 2016 Announcing a competitive masterclass for high school flutists Sep 27, 2016
- Sep 21, 2016 What is tenure, anyway? Sep 21, 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
The audition excerpts for WTSBOA’s All West honor band are particularly wicked for 11th-12th grades. Let’s begin with the Allegro selection.
This page of music in 3/8 with four flats is a lesson in dynamic contrast, rhythmic integrity, and articulation. Be sure to start with a strong sound at the very start: to change to p in m. 8, you will need to make room for contrast. Note the accents that are in the first line of the piece - the accents are on the quarter notes. It is easy to accidentally accent the eighth notes at the end of each bar; be sure to place the emphasis on the down beats. The Db in m. 13 is commonly mistaken for a D-natural.
As we move into m. 17, it’s important to have a plan for the Bb thumb -- the plan being when exactly to use it. The high Gb will not speak if you have your thumb on the Bb side of the key - so starting after the C in m. 16, be sure to have the thumb on the natural side. You may transition back to the Bb side after the Dbs in m. 18, however, and continue to use that key until the B-natural in m. 24.
The grace notes are quite tricky here; either place them directly on the down beat or very close the down beat. Either way, they must be played quickly in order to not lose time. For the grace notes that are also large leaps, like m. 24 or m. 29, keep a very open throat and give plenty of air support for these leaps to speak cleanly. Additionally, imprecise fingerings will render these leaps non-functional. Be sure to change all the fingers at exactly the same time. This seems obvious, but imprecise fingers lead to a lot of issues here.
Continue to remember every Db dictated by the key signature.
One last note: there is no ritardando marked in this ending. If you feel you absolutely must play one, make it very subtle and in good taste.
Use a metronome to help you get up to speed, but start learning this piece very slowly and have patience. It's thorny.
Please note that there are two wrong notes printed in the WTSBOA-issued parts! Hopefully they will eventually release a corrected part, but in case they do not, please correct these in your music:
Measure 29: the first C should actually be a D. The measure should read G#-A-B-D-F-E.
Measure 32: the first note of the measure should be a C, not a D.
It’s important to note that Bach did not write most of the articulations, slurs, or dynamics that are printed here. Someone else has written these in as a guide for you. Traditionally, the flute player chooses how to articulate the piece and develops his or her own dynamic concept. You should endeavor to follow these printed markings for the audition, but you will see that I break a few of these rules in order to breathe with the phrase.
I suggest that you listen to my video and write down my breathing spots - they are fairly conventional, although by no means are they the absolute rule.
The little squiggle markings over the E in bar 6 and over the D in bar 8 are commonly interpreted as mordents. A mordent is one single trill. I play them as mordents in my video performance.
As far as tempo goes, I like to have a balance between a strict slow tempo and music that breathes and wanders. This is a mature concept that won’t work for every student - first you must be sure that you can play the entire movement in one steady tempo. Then you could work on finding a little bit of freedom, usually around breaths that are at the ends of phrases. A good example of a place where one could take more freedom is at the end of m. 34.
I break a few written slurs in this edition in order to breathe. The first place is in m. 10 before the sixteenths. This is a common place to breathe for phrasing and should not be slurred together. Another place is in m. 15 after the first E - I breathe here because it is unusual for me to be able to make it all the way to after the C. (It’s interesting to note here that WTSBOA has transcribed this measure as a C half note with a quarter rest when in Bach’s hand it’s actually a dotted half note without a rest.) I choose to break the slur over the E in m. 15 because I do not want to break the phrase with a breath in m. 14.
The articulations marked with staccato after m. 21 should simply be articulated - playing extra-short notes in slow movements in Bach’s time period is not stylistic. I would encourage students and teachers to throw out the slurs-into-staccato notes in m. 24 and replace these articulations with all-single tongue, medium length.
Finally, a note about vibrato: it’s conventionally agreed upon that Baroque flute music, particularly Bach, should be performed with either no vibrato or very minimal vibrato. In my video, I have used some, but that was distinctly my own choice. Consider your vibrato while you practice this piece. Be sure that it is not too heavy or wide, or too fast. If you want to use vibrato, make sure it is subtle and does not distract from the musical line.
It is with frustration that I provide a practice guide for this excerpt. This Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s Partita in a minor for solo flute is one of the most important pieces in our literature. While it may just look like simple, straight-forward, pretty music, it takes years of study to play this piece well. I am not convinced that this is a good selection for high school students, but you all may prove me wrong! Consider having a few flute lessons with an experienced teacher on this piece. It will help.