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Audition material doesn't just appear on your music stand when you want it - you have to find it. Most players turn immediately to orchestral excerpt books as their primary source. As far as they go, excerpt books do very well. But they often do more harm than good and are woefully inadequate for complete audition preparation. All excerpt books suffer from some or all of these problems: incompleteness, excerpts written in the wrong clef, misprints of notes, dynamics and metronome markings, passages attributed to the wrong player, and lack of reference points (bar numbers or rehearsal letters). While they are important to have (books by Belwin-Mills, Brown, Gade, Hausmann, Menken, Stoneberg, Smith, Van Haney and Yeo are some you should own), DO NOT RELY ON THEM ALONE!

I have recently added a new resource in this web site called The Bass Trombonists Orchestral Handbook. In this section, I have included the printed music to many frequently asked bass trombone excerpts as well as my written annotations - an online excerpt book. Reading this resource will give you an idea of how I approach audition material from both a performance and teaching point of view.

The best answer to the deficiencies of excerpt books is to purchase full orchestral scores. They are expensive, but a little detective work will reveal sources for scores at less than full price (try used bookstores and music libraries that sometimes have sales on "tired," overworn scores). Dover has been publishing inexpensive scores for several years, their bindings are excellent and they are full size. The investment will be well worth it, as scores are indispensable for any understanding of a musical work. Only with a score can you discover the relationship of your part to every other part in the orchestra. With a score, you can copy passages that do not appear in excerpt books.

One reason why excerpt books are so incomplete is because of copyright restrictions. Therefore, scores are your only legal source for many excerpts. Having the score provides you with a wealth of information which is absolutely critical for your preparation. Learn the transpositions and clefs of all instruments. In short, become an explorer - constantly dig and question, figure out why you are playing what you are, and with whom you are playing. A thorough knowledge of a score in conjunction with recordings can give you an understanding of a piece far beyond your years of experience. Be curious!

However, just as in the case of excerpt books, caution must be exercises in purchasing scores. They, too, have mistakes, and in the case of many important composers (Bruckner, Dvorak, Mahler, Schumann, Stravinsky and Verdi, to name a few), there are many editions and versions from which to choose. Kalmus and other "budget" companies usually use early editions of scores as their source because the work is no longer under copyright and it can be reproduced inexpensively. But modern scholarship has often produced newer, more accurate renderings of pieces, and you need to be aware of them and what makes them different. A little thing like a displaced octave or different clef can really throw you if you find out about it for the first time on the audition stage. The more surprises you can eliminate, the more confident you will be.

A third alternative (beyond excerpt books and scores) is to purchase orchestral parts or copy them when permissible. Buying parts can be expensive and even then you are not assured of getting an accurate part, since they include mistakes as well. But the actual part can be a help to you as it cuts out one more surprise when you walk on the audition stage.

When you inquire about an excerpt list from an orchestra that has a trombone vacancy, you will often receive legally reproduced excerpts of parts you can't always find on your own. Collect and save these valuable resources.

Finally, no matter how you choose to collect the music you need, do yourself a favor and buy German, French and Italian dictionaries and gain at least a rudimentary understanding of each language. Don't play a piece unless you know the meaning of every word in your part. In the case of some composers like Berg, Mahler and Strauss, explicit instructions are given to the player in his part or in the score. Find out what it means! Don't guess. "Grosser ton" does not mean "gross tone." An excellent little booklet, "A Brass Player's guide to the German Instructions Contained in the Symphonies of Mahler" published by PP Music (P.O. Box 10550, Portland, ME 04104) is extremely useful.

Most players think that the words "nach und nach starker" in the bass trombone part of Schumann's Rhenish Symphony simply mean "crescendo." But it's not that simple. The words, correctly translated, mean "little by little stronger," and in my book, stronger means a whole lot more than just getting louder (how about intensity and direction of line for starters?). Assume composers knew what they wanted. If you can't read their words, then you can't possibly properly interpret their music.

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