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Ideas for college auditions (jazz programs)

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by Aaron Saunders, Aug 11, 2005.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I might be a bit late on this as I've got a lot of work to do...I know I can get into Humber now based on my electric playing alone, but this year I'm applying to Humber College (Mike Downes is the head of the bass program,) University of Toronto (Dave Young,) York University (Artie Roth,) and McGill University (not sure) and I want to be able to spend as much time on my audition pieces as I can. From what I've heard from my teacher and the experiences of others, the acceptance standards of McGill and UoT are notoriously high -- especially UoT, as it's a MUCH smaller program. Plus, Humber's the only program as far as I know that gives a hoot about BG.

    What I've got in mind at the moment is to do Pat Metheny - Bright Size Life, playing the head, then support while the guitar solos, then my own solo, and bickety-bam, we're done. I've considered doing a more traditional jazz piece, but I think this would impress because the head would be played entirely in thumb position, across all four strings, and because I'm sure the audition panel hears quite enough amateur bebop. This is very much not set in stone, just an idea that I've been doing some preliminary work on (the intro sounds GREAT in thumb position, by the by.) Any and all suggestions are welcome here.

    I'll need to request/look for specific audition information for the other schools, but I know Humber also requires a classical piece. I'll discuss this with my teacher and consult the archives here, as I've seen (plenty of) discussion on the Orchestral Auditions forum.

    IIRC, you're allowed to have accompaniment as you need it, only you have to provide everything for those people except drums. Out of my circle of musician friends, I have the following musicians who play their arses off (and are looking at similar schools anyway:)
    Alto/tenor player

    Clearly you can't take a fully-blown quintet into an audition, but if you guys have any suggestions, I'm all up for it. I'm not too experienced with duo playing (or recordings!) so I'm going to order one of the Jim Hall/Ron Carter albums ASAP. I've only ever seen one other duo perform -- Kevin Dean and Jeff Johnston, the trumpet and piano teachers respectively from McGill (wow. Great musicians, really nice cats too.)
  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Is this how they do it now? You prepare a tune with a prearranged group of musicians?

    I'm just curious.. in my day, you showed up with the bass, sight-read some big band charts, and blew through some changes, maybe did some soloing, and then got placed in the appropriate ensemble. I think the idea was to see how good you were at thinking on your feet, and playing in a real world situation.

    EDIT...Sorry, I misunderstood, this is your entrance exam, not the audition for the various bands. Can't help you there...it's all a blur in my memory banks... ;)

    PS..."bickety-bam", is that the same as "kaloo-kalay"?
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    There's still sight-reading, playing changes, and soloing, etc., but there's a prepared song part in addition to that. A friend of mine got into Humber last year playing "Ain't Got Nothing But The Blues" on DB with a friend of ours singing, for instance.

    PS: Bickety-bam is an exclamation of joy after completeing something. Kaloo-kalay is more of something you'd say if really good happens to you.
  4. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    prepare a bop tune ie: a charlie parker head , and a "legit" tune , maybe something from the bach cello suite
    pay attention to dynamics

    how well you do with these and your sightreading ability will determine which ensemble you get into if any
  5. dfp

    dfp Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2004
    they're teachers, they get paid to hear amateur bebop. i think you'll make a stronger impression if you choose a unique straight-ahead type of jazz tune with nice changes and a nice melody which would lay well in the middle (not Thumb Position) of the bass. something that shows your fluid ability to be in low, intermediate, then higher postions would be more fun to listen to than a semi-modal melodic thing camped out in thumb position. that said, I love Bright Size Life... :smug:
  6. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    Mike Downes is certainly no slouch
  7. Jeff Moote

    Jeff Moote Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2001
    Beamsville, ON, Canada
    Hello. I'm posting not to help you out, because frankly I really don't know if I can.

    I do want to know, however which school(s) you actually want to go to the most of those? You have your own goals, but I don't know if I'd be looking a whole lot further than Humber, at least around Ontario/central Canada. My teacher is a Humber grad, as was the director of a jazz band I played in for a couple years. IMO, jazz/music programs don't get much better than what you get there.

    I know you have reasons to consider the others, and certainly you should apply to many anyway just to see how you do. I just wanted to throw my opinion out there regarding music schools in this area.

    If it adds perspective, I go to Waterloo studying engineering. I seriously considered going to school for music instead. Go figure; they're not exactly similar fields of study. I chose engineering because I enjoy it and there is much career stability. I do however, have plans to study music after I finish my degree, because it is something I think would fufill my own wishes, and Humber's program is up there among my ideas of where to go. Certainly my top choice in the country.

    So there... a long winded post, and nothing but an opinion! Good luck ;) :D
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Shoot. I had a huge reply typed out just now and my FireFox went bonkers.

    Okay...I did some more pecking, and it looks like the prepared pieces required are as follows:
    Humber and McGill: 1 jazz and 1 classical
    UoT: 30 minutes of music (no outside soloists, accompaniment allowed)
    York: 2 contrasting pieces

    I remembered reading about someone doing an arco version of 'Round Midnight, which sounds VERY exciting. Can anyone tell me who did this?

    So, I'm thinking:
    Bright Size Life
    Dave's suggestion (any partiuclar tunes?)
    'Round Midnight
    1st part of the first Bach Cello Suite

    That way I can do, say, Dave's suggestion and 'Round Midnight for York, Bright Size Life and the 1st Bach Cello Suite for Humber, all of 'em for UoT, and Dave's suggestion and the first Bach Cello Suite for McGill.
  9. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Monty: To be honest, I'm not sure which is my first choice at the moment. I keep coming back to Humber as it's been reccomended so highly to me on so many occasions, but I don't really know enough about the programs at UoT or York to make a concrete decision. Definitely one of the schools in Toronto, though. I'm going to call a teacher of mine tomorrow and see he'll hook me up with the York teacher's number (Artie plays bass on a couple of my teachers' releases and for his big band) so I can get some more info.
  10. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    Paul Reid , the best teacher ive ever had , was the dept. head at humber when i went there , he's the head at Uof T
  11. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    your upright skills will be favored
  12. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Jeez...I just gave another listen to the first Bach Cello Suite. I'll be honest fellas, I won't be able to pull that off on upright unless I practice strictly classical for a while. BG is an entirely different story -- it's just the kind of thing I'd dig playing on my fretless, but I won't be able to do this on DB.
  13. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Kaloo-kalay! I think I've made my decision!

    Okay, so I'm thinking...

    Guitar/bass duo (guitar friend is auditioning to the same schools as myself):

    RC tune (either Salt Peanuts or Anthropology)
    Ballad (My One and Only Love)
    Finally, for my blues, I want to see if I can (by then) pull off "Eighty-One" without a drummer. It will, of course, be ridiculously difficult given my current stage in development, but I'm very curious to see if we can do it. If not, something like Mr. PC or a random JC blues.

    These are all my McGill audition pieces.
    For University of Toronto (they want 2 contrasting pieces,) it'll be My One and Only Love and Eighty-One, and I'm taking the optional classical one (not sure yet.)
    York will be My One and Only Love and Salt Peanuts, and I'm taking the optional 3rd tune if you play a 2nd instrument and putting guitar to either a bossa tune or something else.
    Humber will be Salt Peanuts and My One and Only Love as well.
  14. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON
    Aaron, its a lllloooooonnnnngggg time since I went to Slumber Cottage, as we affectionately referred to it. I understand the program and facilities have come along was since the late 80's. Sounds to me like you are going to be well prepared. Far better than I was for my audition. Unless the over all quality of applicants has changed I would say there were very few in my first year who could do what you are planning. Good luck.
  15. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    ALAS! I found out the McGill auditions are FAR more detailed and restricted than they were since the graduates I've spoken to auditioned.

    Apparently, you send in a tape 2 pieces (picked from short lists provided by the school on the website) and a transcription. At the audition itself, it's 3 prepared pieces (blues, ballad, standard,) a classical study/etude, the transcription, and specific things required for your instrument -- in my case, the ability to improvise basslines in the jazz idiom (which they should see in the 3 prepared pieces, but c'est la vie) all in addition to the ear test and sight reading, etc.

    Basically, my choices are:

    1. Blues: Billie's Bounce; Au Privave; Straight No Chaser; Tenor Madness; Sonny Moon for Two; Blues Walk.
    2. Ballads: Body and Soul; What's New; 'Round Midnight; I Can't Get Started.
    3. Jazz Standards: Blue Bossa; Solar; All the Things You Are; So What; Green Dolphin Street; Stella by Starlight; Four; Night and Day.

    I think I'm going to do Straight No Chaser for my blues, So What for my standard, and maybe 'Round Midnight for my ballad. In all the many ballads I'm familiar with and the MANY that I play regularly (see: "Too many ballads!") 'Round Midnight is the only one I've ever listened to in any detail! And only three choices? Bizarre, but c'est la vie. Not so sure on "So What," but I figure it's a pretty standard bar against which bassists are measured...any advice, kind gents of TB? Stella might be a little easier (walking modal is still pretty difficult to me,) and I have many recorded versions of OGDS.

    Good news -- the sax player from my quintet and a guitar player friend of mine are both auditioning to McGill as well. I talked to the guitar player about setting up a weekly audition prep thing with him and the sax player, and he's in, so I'm gonna call/talk to the sax player tomorrow night (McGill and two other Quebec schools are visiting the guitarist's high school tomorrow night.)
    Also, as I'm *very* new to transcription -- embarassingly so, actually -- I'm going to talk to a couple of the teachers at my school tomorrow about getting a head start on that. I'm not SURE what solo I'd like to pick out...definitely some easy stuff first, but I'd be thrilled to eventually pick off the Ray Brown solo from OP Trio's "Night Train (AKA Happy Go Local)" or something similar.
  16. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York

    As someone who recently did all this wonderful stuff, here's my 2 cents:

    For your blues, pick something a little more difficult than "Straight No Chaser," like "Billie's Bounce." If you play that head at a medium up tempo in tune and swinging, it'll say a lot about your playing, more so than "Straight" will.

    "Round Midnight" is a good choice because it has some difficult changes to navigate, and the whole Eb minor business... just make sure you shed it hard.

    For a standard, I wouldn't suggest "So What" (is that even considered a standard?), because of the whole modal thing - it's very difficult to pull off. You'd be better with something like "Stella" or "All the Things," especially if you can play the melody in thumb position. This will show your versatility.

    All of the programs I auditioned for were strictly jazz, so there was no classical requirement, so I couldn't help you there.

    Also make sure they don't require a specific type of ensemble, like a piano trio. And some colleges also have rules about format, like they'll want two choruses of walking, one soloing, etc., so double check all that stuff too.

    AND, you should be practising sight reading every day for at least 20 minutes. You don't want to go in and play a great audition and then suck it up when you have to sight read... ;)

    Anyway, hope this helps.

  17. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Thanks, Pete...Billie's Bounce has cooler changes anyway.

    Sure thing on 'Round Midnight...I've been doing a lot of weird-key practice lately and the school big band has been doing a lot of Ab and Db tunes lately.

    I'm not worried about the classical part, it's just a study/etude out of Simandl...I've gotta get my own German bow though, I'm really finding myself to dislike French (played German up until I got my own bow a couple months ago.)

    I'll do a little asking about for the specifics of format, etc. Also, I do practice reading usually every day, both treble and bass...and on very, very rare occasions, alto.
  18. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    Alright, man. Well, good luck everywhere you apply. I'm sure you'll do great.

  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Yer just making this crap up, right?
  20. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    It's lingo! Come on Ed, I thought you were hip.

    EDIT: I started work on 'Round Midnight tonight. I am curious, though...there's a high G in the head that, were I to play the head in TP, that at the moment (and probably for some time to come) I cannot hit that G in tune, in time, in context of the song, etc. I have three options as I see it:
    1. Shed it relentlessly until I can hit that G. Not only will this allow me to play a wicked song in TP, but it will also give me experience playing in messy keys up high, AND it will open up TP for me that much farther.
    2. Play it lower, where I am now and use the assumed many hours of shedding for my transcription and the other tunes.
    3. Transpose it.

    #1 seems like the most musically worthwhile, #2 seems like the most pratical considering time restrictions (I audition in 4.5 months and still have to worry about school and a job in addition to playing with a quintet and two extra curricular school-related bands) and #3 seems like sacrilege.

    As far as the transcription goes, I'm thinking either the Ray Brown solo from Night Train (OP Trio, Night Train, 1961) or the Sonny's solo from St. Thomas before Max's drum solo (Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus, 1956.) There's some parts in the Sonny solo that make spin quiver a bit in terror at the thought of transcribing it, as there is a bit of the standard tenor thing where he covers a large range of notes in a rather short amount of time, though.