Do you have a practice book?
I’ve had one for a while and I’ve just gotten back into using it. I found that right before auditions it is most useful. Because this one particular annual audition is always at a time when I’m insanely busy (midterms, ahem), I don’t have much time to practice. I’m usually one to play my pieces over a lot at performance tempo, convincing myself that I’m “getting the feel of it” and I’ll practice the technical aspects later. Alas, sometimes this doesn’t happen.
With the practice journal, I write down very specific things that I want to get right, like a particular line in the piece. Then, I’ll write down how I’ll do it (this usually involves metronome torture, sigh). I also put on a timer, set to 10 minutes, so that I can check in and make sure I’m not just playing automatically.
If I practice this way, while actually thinking about the music, I find that I’m so much more satisfied with the results, and that they carry over almost the next day. I’ve been trying forever to find a new method to make the pieces “stick”—I can play them almost perfectly one day, and then the next it seems I’ve never worked on it. I think that this “intelligent practice” really does help, and cuts down on the time I have to spend.
Scales aren’t fun. I’ll be the first to admit that.
If you’ve ever played the Chaminade Concertino, you’ll understand the importance of practicing and perfecting the chromatic scale. Scales are required for some auditions, like the All-State audition (at least in Massachusetts), and really help you when you’re just playing things in general.
For me at least, learning the third octave of the C#, D, Eb, and E major scales was a challenge. I looked online for scales that go up to the third octave, but I couldn’t find any…so I made some myself. Seeing the notes there on the page was a huge help, as I could mark the problem notes with accents and practice it more effectively.
If you’ve ever wanted some beautiful, free, printable scale sheets, here you go; enjoy!