Judge's Corner

by Will Adams
Guitarists often ask me, “What gets a player out of the semi’s and into the final round?” For me there are four main factors:
  • The clarity of the inner voice. Most players, especially at the competition level, have pretty good control of the outer voices. But as the level of repertoire increases, composers generally add density to a composition by adding inner voices. This is where the players who are going on to the final round separate themselves from the pack. Their inner voices will be clean and thought out.
  • Tempo. I can’t count the number of players I’ve adjudicated that went 10% too fast in the semis. 10%. That’s not very much, but it’s enough to cause buzzes, misses, and muddy delivery. Condition control at near a tempo so you have options.

  • Situational awareness. Semi’s may be held in a concert hall or they may be held in a dead classroom, or somewhere between. Take a second to orient yourself to your current environment. As you check your tuning listen to the sound of the room. If you’re in a big, echo-y hall, you can play a little slower. In a dead classroom, you might want to play a little faster. Just remember Tempo.

  • Tuning. You wouldn’t think something like that would be an issue these days, but it is. Make sure you’re tuned to concert pitch. There’s been a spate of tuning to lower pitches in order to gain a technical advantage via lowered string tension. Don’t fall for that. A lot of judges have really good pitch and they’ll catch you. Also learn to make minor tuning adjustments on the fly during your practice. Always have a pedal tone bailout ready in case you need to tune without breaking tempo. Simple tuning issues have gotten otherwise good players cut at the semi level so learn to handle them seamlessly.

  Have a great semester. Make some gains and prep yourself for those spring and summer competitions. I’ll be there and I’ll be listening.

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