The Vorspeil from Die Meistersinger– This is of course the most asked-for excerpt in the audition repertoire. I worked on it with Arnold Jacobs quite a bit, and am happy to have to opportunity to share what we worked on with all of you.
The most important thing to work on is perfect rhythm. Practice with a metronome! In context of the actual overture, this is a very rhythmic, march-like piece. The committee knows this and will hear it in that context when you play. Make sure that the rhythm that you play is the result of the release of your tongue, not just the moment that you place your tongue. Record yourself! Some of the recording apps available on iPhones work very well, as do dedicated digital recorders. Practice playing it along with a good recording, then record yourself playing along. You may be surprised to hear that you are playing on the back side of the beat. Make sure that you play truly marcato. That does not mean to play the notes short- play them full legnth. The beginnings of the notes should have a nice “bounce” to them, followed by sustain. Practice playing it all slurred to help with the concept of line (lightly tongue the repeated notes in this exercise). Playing on an airstream is very important!
When you get to the section starting with the F octaves, change the color. This will keep such a long excerpt from getting monotonous. Remember that the audition committee may be hearing 99 other excellent tuba players and you’ve got to make yourself stand out.
Don’t go crazy with the trill. Establish the A and then slowly add the B and speed it up- but not too much. There should only be two notes! Stop the trill right on the 4th beat, with an 8th note A and 16th notes G and A before the downbeat G.
For the legato next section, practice all slurred before adding the articulation. The tongued notes should be tongued but not separated. Play them full value. Learn to take full, relaxed breaths quickly.
Also important in this excerpt (and all excerpts) is accurate pitch. Work with a tuner (like the Peterson strobe app), then play it through with the type of tuner that can play a drone. Since the pitch center changes, you can start with a drone C and then change to an F, then back to C. This is an important way to play within the correct temperament, and is slightly different from the equal temperament that a strobe (or needle) tuner will show, although a strobe will still be close.
Go for a rich, “noble” sound for this excerpt, and play with plenty of character. Little is more boring than a performance that is “perfect” and yet has no character. Play beautiful phrases, even in the marcato section. When you think you can play it as well as possible, play it for your friends and colleagues. It doesn’t matter much what they tell you (which will probably be high praise…) but it is really important to play by yourself for others as much as possible. This helps get you used to the audition environment and could help you stay calm when you do the real thing. Remember, an audition is an excerpt recital. And you don’t want to give the committee any reason to reject you. Since Meistersinger is often at or near the beginning of an audition, do a great job with it and the committee will be on your side.