Becoming an Orchestral Musician
A Guide for Aspiring Professionals
with a preface by Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies
Becoming an Orchestral Musician
was published as a paperback original in November 2004
248 pages 216 x 138 mm 17 black & white illustrations and 11 music examples
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: 'Richard Davis's pioneering book is to be welcomed by orchestral players, prospective orchestral musicians, conductors, composers, senior management...and by anybody interested in the internal workings of a symphony orchestra...[it] fills a gap in the literature with a lightness of touch and humour...yet with a seriousness that is both profound and exactly to the point.'
Recent comments from readers and reviewers
John Clare in Daily Telegraph: recommended, in 'Any Questions?'
Classical Music: '...[his] practical guide invites systematic reading from cover to cover...Experienced players will nod in agreement with something on every page...newcomers will be profoundly grateful for page after page of advice just not obtainable from normal conservatoire training...the many tips on relationships with colleagues often overlooked by full-time performers...Beautifully laid out on good-quality opaque paper...Davis's book is an unbeatable-value master-class.'
Classic FM, The Magazine (four stars): '...[his] invaluable... book. It certainly fills a gap in the market: no one previously has thought to spell out what it takes to become (and survive) as an orchestral musician. Davis, principal flute of the BBC Philharmonic and a senior lecturer at the Royal Northern College of Music, is better qualified than most to tackle the subject. He has a pragmatic, detached view of the business...This should be required reading for all music students.'
Maggie Cotton, percussionist with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for forty years: 'Richard Davis's most excellent book...a gem of unvarnished, thoughtful advice...it should be required that every music teacher in the land should have a copy, digest it thoroughly and pass on the messages to their young...[it] is worth its weight in gold.'
Glasgow Herald: '...it will undoubtedly prove helpful to anyone considering a career in music...for any concert goer who has ever wondered how the orchestra onstage functions...it also offers an illuminating glimpse into [its] workings and dynamics...'
Pan: 'Almost everything you've always wanted to know, but didn't dare ask, is tackled: counting, nerves, trials, politeness, high finance, Pythagorean tuning...it's all in there...I must express nothing but admiration for the genial style and content of [his] book.'
Jennifer Cluff, principal flute of Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra, in reply to a college first-year student's question on her website, 'What is the best advice for becoming a professional soloist or symphonic flautist...[and] on the process of auditioning/joining a symphony and/or becoming a professional soloist?' she wrote: 'See Becoming an Orchestral Musician...this is a phenomenal book! Read it cover to cover!!...[it]is the best book ever written on the subject... and I have read hundreds. I loved it and read it cover to cover in one day.'
Reviewer (Chris Downing) on Amazon.co.uk (five stars), from UK: 'I love these books that relate careers as they really are rather than how a journalist or a professional writer sees them from the outside. This book covers all aspects of being a working musician and can be related to any instruments easily...reading this book will help you avoid the pitfalls, enjoy the successes and understand what you'll need to be doing every day to earn a crust.'
Rachel Brown, distinguished flautist, lecturer and author, London: 'Just finished reading your wonderful book. It only arrived two days ago. I've read it from cover to cover as I couldn't put it down. It's so eloquent and so readable. Time after time I heard a voice in my head saying "Yes! Exactly!" Now I'm completely behind with the work I should have been doing but I feel like working...I'm sure the book will be an inspiration to so many.'
Reviewer on Amazon.co.uk (five stars), from Moscow: '[It] transported me from the audience, my normal vantage point, to behind the scenes of an orchestra -- the agony of auditions, how to cope with nerves, ensemble v solo playing, the mechanics of an orchestra. Listening will never be the same again. Watching a conductor will never be the same. I read this book from cover to cover in one day, never losing interest -- and I'm not a musician! Strongly recommended for any serious music fan, and an absolute must for any music student (and his or her parents)...it's required reading for any serious fan of orchestral music. A great mix of quotes, anecdotes, hard information, all of it useful, all of it well organized and well written, a real pleasure.'
Winds: '...it will have balanced suggestions for any query you might have about the music business...[it] should be in every school library and on the bookshelf of every music teacher and professional player.'
All Flutes Plus bookshop: 'Congratulations on an excellent book. We are certainly very pleased to recommend it as a "must have" to all aspiring young professional musicians and their parents. A much needed publication, I'm sure it will be deservedly successful.'
Elizabeth Hicks-Kimmey from U.S.A, email to the author: 'I want to congratulate you on your wonderful book...I so wish [it] had been around when I was a student...I have had the privilege of performing in professional orchestras over the last 25 years...Thank you for offering up your honest experiences as an orchestral musician. I hope this book is being offered at every music school in the U.S.'
Becoming an Orchestral Musician takes you on a journey into the musical profession. It is the first comprehensive guide for professional musicians on how to succeed in joining an orchestra or ensemble, and how to survive as an orchestral musician.
<> Such crucial topics as how to obtain the right tuition, music college versus university, auditioning, nerves, the secrets of ensemble playing and intonation, conductors, the mechanics of the orchestra, performing philosophies and strategies for survival are covered in separate sections. The matter of how to explore and adapt one's musical psyche, the pitfalls of a career in music and the highs and lows of performing are also discussed. The history, mythology and science of music-making and numerous anecdotes provide a vivid background.
<> It is essential reading for all orchestral musicians, including players of every instrument, whether at college or university or during their career, whether full-time or part-time, and whether professional or amateur, and also for the parents of budding instrumentalists. There are probably more orchestras and ensembles in the length and the breadth of Britain today than ever before.
<> With the renewed recognition in schools of the importance of music, the competition among younger musicians has become intense. Schools and colleges need to be well informed about career guidance for their students. Richard Davis's book will give the answers to many of the questions those students will be asking.
<> It has been warmly welcomed by his colleagues in the BBC Philharmonic, and by other musicians, too. Twenty of them have been interviewed by him specially for it on their experiences and on advice they would like to give to younger musicians on many different themes. They include principals and rank and file players, soloists, academics, music critics, fixers, chamber musicians and people involved in management.
Richard Davis is principal flute of the BBC Philharmonic, and also Senior Lecturer and an orchestral coach in the Royal Northern College of Music. He was the youngest section principal ever to be appointed. He has played in virtually all the major orchestras in Britain in his time, and he is active as a conductor, too. A number of composers have written flute works specially for him, including Peter Maxwell Davies with his Temenos with Mermaids and Angels. After twenty years' playing as principal, he has decided that he would like to pass on his knowledge and experience of the profession to a new generation of performers, together with many secrets he has learnt in his career in performing.
Preface by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
1 Introduction to The Orchestral Profession
What Are The Chances of Success?
2 The Formative Years
Persistence, Music Competitions, Is Your Teacher Right for You? Quality of Instrument, How Dear Can They Be? Stolen Instruments, Wrong Notes, Learn The Score, Goals, Play Music With and For People, Music School, You Are Not Doing Enough Practice! Warming Up, Injuries, Music College...,... Or University? Are You Sure You Want to Do This? The Right Personality, After College
3 Performing Philosophies
A Musical Vision, The Je Ne Sais Quoi, The Journey, Singers in The Coffee Queue, Learn to Conduct, The Composer's Condensed Universe, Style, The Bar, CD Culture, How Many Takes Does It Take? Study or Mimic, Soul Music
When Should You Start Applying? Students, CV Versus Resume, The Audition Loophole - Back Door, The Audition, The Panel, How Long Will I Be in There? What Are We Looking For in an Audition? Orchestral Excerpts, What Do You Do With The Bars' Rest? Sight-reading, The Truth About Sight-reading in The Profession, Audition Nerves, The Warm-up Room, Rumours, Auditions for Extra Work, Subsidiary Instruments, Pre-audition, Post-audition, Rejection Letter, At What Point Should I Quit?
All Orchestras Are Different, Know Your Role, Accompanying, Blending, Vibrato, Note-endings, Articulation, Rhythm, Rubato, Dynamics, Ppp-fff, Back-desk Soloists, Finally
Why Do You Get Nervous? Practice, Nerve Targets, Split It Up, Visualization, Don't Worry..., The Public, The Performing Circle, Red-light Nerves, Re-takes, Nerves, The 'virus', Diet, Drugs, Alcohol, Lucky Charms, Controlling Your Nerves Before The Performance, Controlling Your Nerves During The Performance, Still Nervous? Should You Give Up? Towel in The Bidet
Look Out, The Domino Factor, Counting Strategies, What Do You Do? Sounds Wrong? Sounds Right? Not Sure? Asking for Help, Still Lost, Emergency Mode, Count Upwards, Complex Music Shouldn't Mean Complicated Counting, You Are Not Alone, Lost Souls
The Player's Wish, A Clear Up-beat, Do You Know Exactly When You Are About to Play? Upsetting The Apple Cart, What Difference Do Conductors Make? Bad Conductors, Why We Need Them, Where Did They Come From? Conductors' Traits, How to Cook a Conductor, The Baton Makes No Sound, There Are Wonderful Conductors, Too, When to Play, a Possible Answer
Science Lesson, Hearing, Natural Harmonics, Harmonic Mixtures, Maths Lesson, Singing Lesson, Making Cents, History Lesson, Pythagorean Tuning, Meantone Tuning, Well-tempered Tuning, Equal Temperament Tuning, Orchestral Temperament, Warning! Practical Experiment, Wolves and Ghosts, Second Maths Lesson, The Oboe's A, Tuning Up Orchestras, Which is Best, Sharp or Flat? Tuning Tips, Still Out of Tune? How Much Work?
10 The Mechanics of The Orchestra
Behind The Scenes, How Much Does an Orchestra Cost to Run? Do Any Orchestras Make a Profit? The Duty Sheet, We Don't Work Very Hard! Maintenance, 'cello Strings, Oboe Reeds, Bumping, Breathing and Bowing, Transposing Instruments, How to Transpose, The Clarinet Problem, The Union, Rotation in The Ranks, Working Your Way Up The Ranks, What Are We Worth?
11 Surviving in The Orchestral Profession
Being Booked, The Fixer, A Fixer's Top Tips, The Route to Work, All Those Notes to Learn, Networking and Common Mistakes, Keeping in Shape, Waiting in The Green Room, Tours, Holidays, Survival Tips
12 Alternative Careers
Chamber Music, Strike Up The Band, Original Instruments, Management or Administration, Music Critic