Gareth Montanarello

Weekly Practice Log: November 3-9, 2019

New week, new rep. Lots of sight-reading since I am trying to a) decide on recital music, b) improve my sight-reading chops, c) rekindle the same level of excitement and interest that I felt when I switched to bass a few years ago.

The week started off pretty well but by the end my schedule was so packed that I went almost three days without practicing. Sigh. At least I still had rehearsals and lessons on those days so some work still got done.

Last week's log

Sunday: 11/3/2019

Total practice time: 2 hours

1. Scales: C Major, D Major, D minor. 10 minutes

Goals: Play in tune, continuous vibrato

Nothing exciting to report here. Played C as a vibrato warm-up and alternated D Major and minor up and down in slurred sixteenths. Sounded pretty good.

2. Persichetti, Parable. 35 minutes

Goals: learn the next 4 lines, revisit first 4

I am glad to report that my soul-crushing 45 minutes of rhythmic permutations and metronome work paid off and I was able to play the first 4 lines with few mistakes. I will keep revisiting those sections until they become second nature. There is a measure on the fifth line that requires two notes to be played left-hand pizz that kept I tripping over so I need to figure out a way to approach this in the future. The following line was tricky because of the double stops and awkward 16th note shifts, but I think I navigated it well. I'll post some fingerings and exercises for this passage later.

3. Bottesini, the rest of movement 1. 20 minutes

Time to start learning the rest of movement. Read through everything and worked sections with 16 notes or big shifts. I then went back and played it all with a metronome. I expect learning this to be fairly smooth as a good portion of the remainder of this movement is a regurgitation of material from the exposition. Active metronome work and specific technical diagnoses to come later.

4. Excerpts/sight-reading. 35 minutes

New(ish) excerpts on the stand: Strauss: Salome Scene 3, Also Sprach Zarathustra fugue, Mahler 9, Beethoven 5 Scherzo/trio. Light playing, I know. I am tired of just playing all the standard rep so I am trying to incorporate excerpts that engage my other interests while also presenting new musical challenges/solutions that I can apply to the standards.

Salome: Played these excerpts on an opera audition I took 2 years ago. Hesitant to post them online due to possible copyright issues but one excerpt requires lots of carefully planned fingerings and string crossings under huge slurs, the other attention to detail in rendering dynamic/articulation changes. Mostly working on these for the sake of my own enjoyment- I don't have any auditions or anything to prep for at the moment (besides my recital next semester).

Also Sprach Zarathustra: I am fascinated by this fugue. Working on it for two projects, one small and one fairly large. It contains some of the typical Strauss challenges. I used it as a sight-reading exercise today and then I worked on the triplet measures because I am bad at large triplets. I then rubbed my remaining two IQ points together and came up with this exercise to learn them:

Large triplets like this can be broken down into easily-discernible eight-note triplet subdivisions.

Mahler 9, mvt III: Reasons I am working on this: it's Mahler, it's heavy and FF, there are quarter note triplets, it is written in every musician's favorite key signature. I also used this as a sight-reading exercise. Counting it in 2 (it's pretty quick) makes the triplets easier to play. This was a good exercise in reflexes due to the nature of some of the shifts and all the accidentals.

Beethoven 5 Scherzo and Trio: Put these back on the stand simply because they are such ubiquitous, challenging excerpts. I was really proud of the quality of my string crossings for the scherzo given how long it has been I have played it. The work I put in on string crossings with other music definitely paid off. Mm. 20-43 need a little rhythmic tightening up, however. I was also happy with my bow stroke for the trio but I need to make sure I start the 8th notes (mm 137, 157, etc) from the string each time. Quarter notes could have been cleaner but I will hit those next time.


Monday: 11/4/2019

Was off my game all day, not too sure why. Didn't play well in rehearsal and got almost nothing done during my practice session.


Tuesday: 11/5/2019

Stark contrast to yesterday. Played really well in big band and had a great practice session.

1. Persichetti, Parable: 40 minutes

Goals: The next 4 lines, have a concept for the correct rhythms and the sound I want before I play

Annoyingly, there are no measure numbers written in this piece so that makes it harder for me to share which lines I am working on. I have been taking it in 3-4 line chunks, using tempo changes to denote sections. Today I worked on the three-line section beginning the second page where the tempo changes to quarter note = 100. Rhythmically, this section isn't too bad. The challenge lies in the tempo increase of over 30 bpm and the intervallic content that isn't immediately friendly to the bass. Did one-note reductions for the sake of learning rhythms and lots of rhythmless note finding to figure out where my fingers go. Finally put the two together about 25 clicks under tempo. In my next practice session on this piece, I need to start doing active metronome work where it only clicks on certain beats or every other measure, etc. Playing with the metronome on every beat keeps me accountable but it doesn't keep me honest.

2. Schubert, Arpeggione Sonata

Goals: Revisit first page

I have been dying to play this for years. I briefly worked on it in 2015 after I had been playing for a year which wasn't the wisest move at the time but the work I did then set me up for success now. It gave me a framework for how the piece should be played and the progress I have made in the past four years really made itself visible today.

Also, it sounds way better on bass than on cello or arpeggione. #fact

Things I did well:

1. Intonation

2. Rhythmic accuracy

3. Shifts that used to trip me up felt comfortable

Things to work on:

1. Character/dynamics/expression

2. Tenor clef. I used to be great at reading tenor clef when I played cello...

3. Thumb in unusual areas. *cough* measure 45 *cough* I think I will be revisiting some Petracchi to work on this.


Wednesday: 11/6/2019

No practice time but a good lesson. We spent most of it on the Parable and my professor with pleased with the progress I made in such a short time. (Deep practice works!) Got some tips to help make the rhythms stick, the main one being to conduct and sing along so I have an extra reference for when to play.


Thursday: 11/7/2019

19 hour day. Practice time? Not really. Played scales for 20 minutes then went to a rehearsal. I decided on a whim to play the Othello soli in studio to test my ability to recall music and playing techniques that I hadn't worked on in a while. It was largely successful and I also used the time to test out some performance anxiety management strategies I have been working on.


Friday: 11/8/2019

19 hour day take 2. Had a lesson in which we just worked on the Othello excerpt from yesterday. Diagnosed a few minor technical issues, such as the shift from E-G# shift starting the third phrase. Treating the G# as if were in the same position got rid of the slight glissando sound between the two notes.


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