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Winning the Gold: How to Practice Don Juan for Audition Success

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

So you're practicing Don Juan? Let's tackle the giant elephant in the room-the infamous high D in bar 36! Like an athlete running towards the finish line, this is a make it or break it moment right here. As you're playing those triplets you can feel the beads of sweat, the intense moment of focus right before you are about to jump the biggest hurdle. Will you make it and go for the gold? Or will you falter at just the wrong moment and fall on your face? This moment is a real nail biter in any audition, but thankfully we will be going over some of the ways to practice this music for precision and consistency so that you can win the gold every time.


The first exercise we will start with is...open strings! That's right, it doesn't just end with the open strings blog. That pesky right hand coordination will always need a little extra love. Practice this slowly with the metronome, and gradually work the tempo up as you achieve maximum resonance at each tempo.



When this feels easy, try bringing the tempo up



Just like our open strings blog, we are looking for maximum resonance. When we are playing through fast and loud notes, it is easy to fall into the trap of using more bow than we need. If we use too much bow here, the string will not resonate as deeply and we'll have a more shallow sound. See what happens to your sound as you use less bow. Find the point where your bow changes sound very clean but they are also causing the string to vibrate so much that you can see it. These visual vibrations tell you that you are achieving great resonance. Remember, we always want to scoop the sound out of our strings, which involves a pronating motion with the hand. Rather than pushing our bow down to get louder, we are scooping more sound out so that our strings are allowed to resonate fully.


Now let's practice our left hand acrobatics. One of the first things I like to do when I am working on music is to figure out exactly what it is supposed to sound like. The easiest way to do this is to practice slowly with simplified fingerings so that the entire passage is played in first position. This also means we'll be playing high notes an octave lower.




The first measure is mostly the same, but you will stay right in first position instead of shifting up on the last G. Play through this slowly with a G drone and actively listen to the way each note is blending with the drone. This is what we need to replicate when we play it with the performance fingering. When you shift, the note you shift to should sound exactly the same as the note sounded in first position. The last three notes should sound exactly the same as the lower octave version. The D's should be a perfect match with your open D. I'm sure you're getting the picture. When you have played through and actively listened through the simplified fingering, go through the performance fingering a couple of times but then go back to the simple fingering to double check your work. You can even record the simplified fingering and then record the performance fingering to see how close they sound. Recording is always best practice-very revealing, but in the very best way.



Our final practice here is one of my favorites for cleaning up coordination between left and right hands. It is the "cross and shift" practice method. Every time you have a string crossing you stop and say "cross", every time you have a shift you stop and say "shift".





This adds an extra level of deliberation with your practice. The string crossings and the shifts are usually the spots where we need just a little more TLC in our practice, and this addresses them both. The key is to do this with great deliberation. You really have to stop and say the word "cross" before you even move your bow to the next string. You really have to stop and say "shift" before your hand starts moving into the new position. It is so easy for us to go 100% off of muscle memory and let that run the show, but the problem is that when we do that we are not using our brain to think about what is happening and we are not actively listening to what it sounds like. We need to be as aware of what is happening between our notes as what is happening during our notes. When I cross a string, am I catching the new string immediately so that it sounds seamless? Or is it taking a second to catch and am I losing sound? This exercise forces us to stop and evaluate what we need to do to sound the way we want as we are crossing strings and as we are shifting, which is why it is so helpful.



Here is my result of practicing with these exercises. Repeat this process for several days in a row for best results. I hope you found this helpful and have a great practice!


-KS



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