Audition prep guide: 2017-18 WTSBOA All West Flute Senior High 11-12

The audition excerpts for WTSBOA’s All West honor band are particularly wicked for 11th-12th grades. Let’s begin with the Allegro selection.

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.

Bach selection

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.

Audition prep guide: WTSBOA All-West Tennessee 9-10 flute music

A warm, rich tone is the key to the opening excerpt in A major. Make sure you articulate exactly as written in the music - do not add extra slurs. The first breath should come after measure 4, between the E half note and the first F# of measure 5. The next breath should be after the fermata. The turn, which is the squiggly symbol above the A in measure 8, is an ornament that should be played this way: A-B-A-G#-A, with a longer emphasis on the first A in the sequence. Be sure to tongue the B after the turn.

In the second short piece, marked quarter note = 112, be sure again to articulate exactly as marked. The mf marking indicates that you can play out. Count the rests in this section carefully, and practice with a metronome.

The third piece, in 6/8 time, shows off the high range. Do not be shy about giving plenty of air support to these upper register notes - if they are supported properly, they will speak with a lot of sound! That is okay as long as you support all the other mid-range pitches in the melody. Follow the dynamics exactly. For measures 36-37, crescendo to a mf or f and then drop down to mp at measure 38. Be careful to not go flat on the last note in measure 42.

The last small piece has some deliberate tricks with the articulation. Be sure to articulate the eighth notes in measure 45 but slur into the one eighth note in measure 47. Check with your metronome to make sure that your eighth notes in measure 50 relate exactly with the sixteenth notes in measures 51-53. Do not rush the eighth notes in m. 50 or you might end up in real trouble with sixteenth notes that are too fast at the end. 

Always keep a beautiful tone throughout the entire page, and endeavor to keep a consistent tempo through each piece.

Good luck! If you have specific questions, don't hesitate to get in touch with me.