Preparing an Etude

In a young musician’s career preparing an etude is very important for an audition.  To fully prepare the etude, most people don’t know how. In this document, I think these six steps can help anyone truly prepare an etude of any kind.

 

Six Steps to an Amazing Etude:

 

*Please use a metronome for everything. Do not begin learning the etude at full tempo. For the first three steps, start at half tempo.

EX: Full tempo: 120 Start at: 60

If it’s a slower etude, you don’t need to start at half tempo, but don’t start right at full tempo either. Somewhere in between is best.

EX: Full tempo: 72 Start at: 55.

PLAY DYNAMICS, SLURS, ETC. CORRECTLY FROM THE FIRST TO THE LAST STEP; DON’T LEARN THE ETUDES INCORRECTLY.

 

1: Count the etude out loud.

Count the etude from beginning to end, or in sections. Don’t move on until you’ve mastered the rhythm, meaning you can go through and count the etude at least three times perfectly.

 

2: Say note names while fingering.

Say the note names along with the correct rhythm. Also while doing this make sure you’re fingering along. Just like counting, make sure you’ve mastered this step before moving on to the next step, meaning you can go through the etude fingering and saying note names at least three times perfectly.

*Saying note names in time can be fairly difficult, so go as slow as you need to. If the rhythm is too difficult, you can say them without being in rhythm or time.

 

3: Play it.

Try playing the etude in sections (4-8 measures) or one measure at a time. Perfect each section before moving on. Keep in mind that you are perfecting this section at half tempo. (Don’t ever start at full tempo or else you won’t perfect the etude like you want to.) Don’t be afraid to cut down the tempo, and don’t move on until you can play that section perfectly at least three times.

 

4: Get it up to full tempo.

Truly preparing the etude is a tedious and frustrating process. This is one of the longest steps. For each section you’ll break it down even more (1-2 measures).

EX: 1-2 measures. If you can play those couple of measures perfectly, speed it up 5-10 beats on the metronome. If you can play that perfectly speed it up again. Do that process until reaching full tempo. When the speed becomes difficult to keep up with, follow what I like to call the CABP method.

C – Count it.

Follow same steps as counting the rhythm, but only count it once.

A – Air and finger.

Blow air through the horn while fingering. You can do say note names if you are having a difficult time with the fingerings.

B – Buzz and/or sing it.

Practice hitting the the right pitches by buzzing on your mouthpiece. If you are not a brass player sing that section on “Dah”. If you know how to, sing it in solfège. ( Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do)

P – Play that section.

You can switch between breaking down the rhythms, slurring it all ;I suggest doing that all before playing it regularly.

*Keep in mind that you only do each letter of the CABP once. If you mess up one part of the method go on to the next letter and do it again. Keep doing that until you can play everything perfectly at least three times in a row. Once you can do that speed it up to full tempo.

 

5: Musicality.

Just getting the notes and rhythms correct is good, but it will never make your etude great. Come up with a story for your etude. As you play the etude picture that story play in your mind. It’ll make your etude more attractive.

EX: As you’re playing ascending sixteenth notes, you could picture a dancer running before taking a leap.

By having a story behind it, your etude will have to ability to express more emotion and depth. Telling a story with your eyes is another way to add depth. If someone looked into your eyes and you showed emotion, that emotion can spread to them. It could make them be more interested in what you’re playing.

EX: If you truly show sadness in your eyes, the audience could tear up or get goose bumps.

*Please note that this step is hard to accomplish. Don’t stress out. Sometimes you can’t truly connect a story or an emotion with your etude and that’s okay.

 

6: Mastery.

This is by far the hardest step to complete. It’s is almost impossible! Mastery is when you know 100%, without a doubt, you can play your etude perfectly with no mistakes – not one blip. It means you can play it musically and in tune. During this phase I recommend you have two practice sessions:

1 – Performing your etude all the through without stopping.

2 – Practice the mistakes you had during your first practice session.

You never really know for sure when you have it mastered. Things that can help you know that you have your etude up to mastery is when you can:

  • play it by memory with no mistakes
  • when you can wake up at 2:00 in the morning, get out of bed, grab your horn and play it perfectly by memory
  • when you know you can be called on at any point, in any situation and play it.

 

Basically those three things are saying you can play it by memory whenever.

 

*When you can do all of this without a doubt, you know you’ve reached mastery. Remember this is the HARDEST step and almost is never completed. If you complete this you have perfected your etude to the highest level possible.

 

To conclude, please remember these things:

  • Use a metronome until you have perfected your etude or are about to perform it. You need to make sure you can play it without a metronome and stay in time.
  • Steps 5 and 6 are not always completed, but your etude will not only be great, but amazing if you complete them.
  • Step 4 is the longest and probably the most important step.
  • If any of these steps stress you out and make you feel like you want to rip up your etude, stop and come back to it later.

 

GOOD LUCK ON PREPARING YOUR ETUDE!

 

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