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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yes, I did read the other thread about it and I thought it was a great idea so I'm trying it myself. I need advice on the three etudes for texas all-state and I was wondering if the men of Sax on the Web Forum could help me. I have them down pretty well but any other advice and practice methods could really help me out.

Etude 1:
Etude 2:
Etude 3:

I decided to record these in the order of #3, #1 and #2 after practicing for an hour so you can probably notice my mouth getting tired.

Anyway, I have some other questions. On the third etude, :37 - :41 I tend to squeek inconsistently. Is it my mouth that is doing it or is it not me pushing my fingers down at the same time?

Also, my private lesson teacher told me I need to focus my air more, especially when playing loud. It makes the music sound more frantic and I want it more under control sounding even though my fingers are under control. Could anyone explain to me what this means and how I could practice to fix this problem?

Thanks!
 

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Sounds great. I just listened to # 2. I noticed that many of the notes at the end of a phrases sound like they are ending abruptly. I think it helps to think of those notes as having rounded ends like you are fading them out. You do this great on the last note of the piece but you should think that way for the endings of phrases also. This makes it sound more musical to me.
 

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Personally, I think you have it well under control. I didn't even notice the squeaks you referenced. Your tone sounds fine too.

Rather than focus on the minute technical details you have mentioned, I think you would be better served trying to find and expose what little "musical line" is in these etudes (I am mainly speaking of the fast ones.)

I'm not at all saying it was unmusical. I'm saying more opportunities exist to make it even more so -and since the fast etudes are pretty much just mechanical exercises, what might get you extra points compared to the next contestant who also has it under control is how much music they manage to squeeze out of it.

Find/hear the sequences and cadences, and make sure we hear them too.
 

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It sounds like you've put some work into these, but there are definitely some things that stand out as needing some attention.

First of all, I'm not sure that now is a good time for you to worry about the concept of focusing your air. If I'm not mistaken, this audition is coming up really soon...like in the next week or two...right? If you don't understand what focusing your air means...and if your teacher didn't bother explaining it to you better, or teach you how to do it...then you're probably better off focusing your attention on things that you do have a chance of improving between now and audition day. My next comment will explain why I say that...

Your pianissimo playing needs far more work than your forte playing. Your sound is okay when you're playing the louder passages...but it's very weak on the softer passages. It sounds like you're consistently right on the edge of having the tone drop out completely. You definitely need to be supporting your pianissimo more...even if it means playing a little louder than you really want to. I'm not sure if it was just a bad night for you, or if you do have generally weak support when you're playing at very low volumes. Whatever the reason...it's one of the major things that stands out. When I mentioned playing a little louder than you might want to...it's because in my opinion, you'll lose more points for having such a weak sound than you will for playing pianissimos louder than a pianissimo should be. This weak support at low volumes is another one of those things that I'm not convinced you can really change significantly between now and audition day if the audition is as soon as I think it is. So basically to repeat...on audition day...if it's a choice between playing pianissimo with a weak, unsupported sound...or playing a little louder to ensure a better, more supported sound...go for the little bit louder.

Next...the very last note of a phrase is every bit as important as the first. You have a serious problem of letting notes just fizzle out at the end of phrases. Pay very careful attention to the note values...especially the last note of a phrase. Make sure you hold that last note for the full duration of the note...and keep it supported to the very end. Don't let them fizzle out or drop away entirely before they're supposed to. It's clear from listening...that by the time you reach the end of a phrase...your brain has already jumped to the beginning of the next phrase and you're more concerned about what's coming up than you are about what you're still playing. Big point deductions there.
By the way...I also noticed a related problem with your vibrato in places. Your vibrato is generally very nice. The problem I noticed occurs at the very end of some of the longer held notes. It sounds very nice...until right before the end of the note...when both the vibrato and the support dies prematurely. The note just fizzles out with very little character. If you could maintain the vibrato, the fizzle wouldn't be as noticeable...but when you lose both the support and the vibrato at the same time...what was a beautifully played note up until that point just collapses. Again...I think it may be a problem of your brain jumping forward when it really should be more focused on the unfinished phrase.

The last thing I'll suggest for now is related to dynamics. You do seem to follow dynamic markings fairly well...at least as far as I can tell without seeing the markings for myself. What I'm going to suggest is a type of dynamics that are rarely written, but almost always called for and expected. What I'm talking about is the natural crescendo on ascending lines and decrescendo on descending lines. Unless the dynamic markings specify the opposite...you can usually assume that a line of ascending notes will be played with a slight crescendo...and a line of descending notes will be played with a slight decrescendo. Don't overdo it. Just a very subtle rise and fall is all it takes to add life to what would otherwise be a very flat, dry phrase. This concept can be applied even when the dynamic markings call for an extended passage of either piano or forte volume. It's all relative to the specified marking...but the natural ebb and flow within that marking can and should still be there...unless specified otherwise.

I don't mean for any of this to sound overly critical. You asked for advice, and I know the audition date is closing in on you. I was just cutting to the chase. I think you have a chance. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I would just let everyone know I appreciate the comments and fast responses. After practicing today, I realized the phrasing issues and the lack of support of my notes on the second etude. Could anyone give me an example of this specifically in the other etudes because I'm having trouble fixing them.

Also, CoolJazz, thanks for the great advice. :D I don't quite understand what you mean about the "fizzle" noise so I was wondering if you could explain to me what that meant and how a note SHOULD sound like.

Finally, I realized I have been having trouble getting the low notes out when their are large intervals. Could anyone suggest a practice method in fixing this? My focus right now is tone and musicality and evenness in technic.

My audition starting today is in thirty days if that helps anybody.

Thank you so much, I'll try to keep you posted!
 

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My quick 2 cents...

Etude #1:
Work for a consistent articualtion. Consider syllable choice and use the same throughout the exercise. Think more about the musical line and give the phrases direction. IMO, you can be a little less concerned about keeping such a consistent tempo and shape the phrases better to help with you breathing. I think this will also prevent notes from being clipped short when you grab a breath.

Etude #2
Tone needs to sing more, even at a soft dynamic. Project the line and support every note. I hear some vibrato and think it can be more consistent. Don't let the higher notes "pop out" so aggressively. Have them fit within the line better. You might want to check some of these longer pitches with a tuner. I don't have the cut here in front of me, but practice this one with a straight tone in front of a tuner. I think you'll find some inaccuracies at times.

Etude #3
This is a fun etude! I'd like to hear a more playful line. Think muscially how this one melody is "sequenced" and what you can do dynamically to enhance that aspect. The accents might be a bit strong...think about a slight lengthening of each of those notes as opposed to such an intense accent.

Hope this helps. Feel free to PM me if you have specific questions.

What part of Texas? Have you heard the recordings of these etudes?
 

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Also, CoolJazz, thanks for the great advice. :D I don't quite understand what you mean about the "fizzle" noise so I was wondering if you could explain to me what that meant and how a note SHOULD sound like.
When I said "fizzle", I wasn't talking about a particular "noise". What I meant was that the notes seem to die prematurely and weakly. The closest comparison I can give you to the definition of "fizzle" would be to watch an old fashioned 4th-of-July sparkler as it reaches the end of its burn. When you first light it...it burns at a fairly even rate...until it gets down to the last half-inch or so. Then for the last couple of seconds, you never really know what to expect. Sometimes it just burns out before you expect it to. Sometimes it sputters for second...then comes back to life for another short second...then dies again completely.

The notes on the ends of your phrases are a little like that. They burn out before they're supposed to. Sometimes they're cut short abruptly...and sometimes they sputter to a weak death...sounding a little like you ran out of breath just a moment too soon. I don't really think it's a matter of running out of breath though. I think it's a matter of just not giving the last note of a phrase the full attention that it deserves for the full duration of the note value. It's like tossing the old sparkler on the ground before it's completely burned out in order to light the next sparkler.

What I'm talking about is the "release" part of "attack and release". You have the attack part down pretty well. You just need to be a little more mindful that how you release a note is just as important as how you attack it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ah alright, thanks for clearing that up CoolJazz, I'll try to work on that and update the videos with my progress.

G-Dawg, I think these etudes are for the whole state but I'm not quite sure. Thanks for the advice though, I did have the recordings so I thought the first etude was supposed to be in tempo. Is it ok to alter the tempo without catching back up with the things such as making accents have a longer note value (not by much of course, just for emphasis) as opposed to just having an accent?

Thanks again for all the help
 
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