Gareth Montanarello

Weekly Practice Log: Sept. 23-27, 2019

(Posthumously published)


I got a good session in today. I spent about three hours working on some interesting repertoire and I am really happy with the progress I made. No real revelations but good progress nonetheless.

Music worked on:

1. Scales-

In an effort to make sure my ears aren't accustomed solely to "conventional" tonalities, I've been expanding my scale practice to include more than just the usual major and minor scales. Modes and their chromatically-altered versions are all fair game as I force my ears to break out of the usual scale structures. Today I played Bb Major, D minor, and D Lydian Dominant so I got a good workout. For extra fun(?), sing a note ahead of the one you are playing to really internalize the sound of those more obscure scales.

2. Aaron Jay Kernis- Whisper, Echo, A Cry

This piece is on the program for the next concert at school. When I got the part over the weekend I was worried that learning it would be slow going, but 30 minutes with a metronome proved otherwise. There are bunch of tricky rhythms that are easily felt if you apply some basic subdivisions and mentally "re-notate" the part. There is also a highly-chromatic 12/8 passage that covers the entire range of the range of the bass from open E to high F two octaves plus a ninth higher. Most of this section is negotiable on the lower portion of the neck but frequent shifts are required to comfortably grab all the correct notes. Healthy use of thumb, pivots, and harmonics made this section a lot more accessible.

3. John Adams- Excerpt from Scheherazade.2

I decided to work on this one because it's not standard rep and it has lots of pianissimo string crossings which are something I frequently struggle with. I spent some time writing in fingerings to take some of the guesswork out of the more acrobatic passages and give myself more of an opportunity to focus on good bow control. I also took out the notes and worked the rhythms and string crossing on open strings. Very helpful.

4. Richard Strauss- Excerpts from Salome, Act IV

I played two excerpts from this opera at an audition two years ago. Typical Strauss part-writing with liberal use of chromatics, awkward shifts, huge string crossings, and very detailed articulation markings. I didn't "practice" these that much today- I just read them down and fixed some bowing/fingering discrepancies. More on these later.

5. Giovanni Bottesini- Concerto #2

I'll be giving my senior recital at the end of the year and this is one the pieces I will be playing. Standard rep, perhaps a little cliche, but still a great piece of music with lots of technical and musical challenges. Today was my first legitimate day of working on it so I wrote in a bunch of bowings and sorted out fingerings for some tricky passages. Not much else to say right now but I am excited to see where this goes.


Lousy practice day. I was short on time so I just read down big band charts and did some metronome work on them. I also ran the Scheherazade and made a list of stuff to work on for next session. Here's to tomorrow...


Got nothing done today beyond learning six measures in one the Kernis pieces. It's a section of disivi sixteenth note scales. The part says quarter note = 138 but none of the recordings go that fast and we certainly didn't go that fast in orchestra. Too bad I realized that after learning it at the marked tempo.


Another day of little practice time but the hour and a half I got in resulted in a few small revelations:

1. Scheherazade.2- This entire excerpt is pianissimo. I realized I should treat this dynamic marking as less of an indicator of explicit volume, but as more of an indicator of musical character. I gave myself the liberty to play a little louder and it improved the note-to-note clarity and the quality of my string crossings. I think I was so caught up in playing as pianissimo as I could that it obscured my ability to create a good sound and obey Adams' "strings should sound as one seamless web" marking on the excerpt. Though I am a little louder than what I might usually want to call a pianissimo, I think I am still within the appropriate dynamic levels and the character of this ultra-quiet excerpt of music. We'll find out next week.

2. Bottesini- Some of my bowings, most of which I wrote in over the summer, made phrasing lopsided and clumsy. I fixed these and tried to add more symmetry where it felt appropriate and split some slurs to give a bit more forward momentum to the music. A little rethinking of fingerings was required for this, too.


Concert weekend starts today... practice time was mostly dress rehearsals.


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