Some takeaways from Chicago Symphony audition prep

Chicago Symphony Orchestra bassist Daniel Carson shares takeaways on his preparation for his successful audition for this ensemble.

With Daniel Carson · Chicago, IL

A photo of double bassist Dan Carson of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

We had Dan Carson on Contrabass Conversations recently to talk through his audition journey. There’s so much to learn from Dan’s story, and here are a few key takeaways from this conversation.

General Advice

  • On any given day, the first repetition of a piece was often quite slow, to remind himself of the feeling of control and security
  • It’s important to identify when you do have control, so you know what your standard is.
  • Every repetition builds habits in your brain (i.e. “practice makes permanent”)

“Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong”

Ryan Beach

Dan’s Tempo Ramping System

  • Dan spent about six weeks ramping up the tempos for the excerpts for the Chicago Symphony audition.
  • He started almost all the excerpts at 50% of the goal tempo.
  • He created a tempo spreadsheet, with each excerpt broken down into 5% tempo increments.
  • Each day, he would follow the following template of repetitions: 5x slow, 2x medium, 1x fast. For example, on day one, he would play five repetitions at 50%, two reps at 60%, and one rep at 70%.
  • On day two, he would play five reps at 55%, two reps at 65%, and one rep at 75%; and so on increasing each day over the course of six weeks.
  • This meant that he was playing each excerpt five times with maximum control, two times with medium control, and one time with the least control.
  • The goal was to saturate his practice with secure, controlled playing, while also exposing himself to faster tempos, without undoing the quality work done at the slower tempo.
  • Each day would usually begin 5% faster than the previous day. This increase is almost imperceptible, so he could still maintain the high quality from the previous day, but over the course of six weeks he eventually reached his goal tempo.

Learn more about Dan Carson and his journey in the complete podcast episode.

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