Auditions can be some of the most important, pressurized, and nerve-wracking experiences in the career of a professional musician. On the one hand they can be nervy, stressful, and anxiety inducing, but on the other hand they can be fulfilling, rewarding, and ultimately something you need to do to “get the gig” and therefore progress to the next stage in your musical development.
Here are some top tips on how to ensure you always present the best version of yourself and hopefully, have a solid audition with a successful outcome.
1 – Preparation
“As a private voice teacher, I always tell my students that at most, they’ll see me once a week. So for the other six days, they have to be their own coach,” said Camille van Niekerk in a blog post. Niekerk is a singer and voice teacher, as well as an instructor for 30DaySinger.com.
Niekerk explains that it may be beneficial to you if you warm-up with a voice lesson, and that some people would like to “practice on [their] own but would like some advice” from an instructor. Preparing doesn’t have to be a solo experience, make sure to ask for advice because what we sound like in our heads may be a little different from what others hear when we sing.
It’s also very common in auditions for changes to happen ‘on the fly’. Whether these changes are actually necessary, or just a test of your skill is irrelevant; you have to adapt.
There’s a great interview with Ringo Starr of The Beatles from Moderndrummer.com and how he was brought on to record the drum tracks for “Love Me Do” because George Martin, the band’s producer, didn’t like the way the then-Beatles drummer Pete Best played on the number. But Martin also did not like how Ringo played, so they brought in a session drummer to record the single. Ringo was handed a tambourine for that recording, and was eventually asked to play drums on the album version of the song. Ringo later said all he did was copy the way the session drummer played on the dingle.
The point stands that altering arrangements on the spot is something that keeps cropping up at auditions and even recordings. Be ready to change up your style.
2 – Equipment Preparation
It’s essential that everything works as it should. Auditions are often tight for time, rushed, and more importantly the band in question gets their first and only impression of you as a potential collaborator.
Test everything a couple of days before, leaving yourself enough time to repair or replace anything that isn’t right. Then test again the night before the audition or the morning of the audition to make sure that when you get in that room and set up you know you can rely on your equipment as much as you can rely on your preparation of the material.
I’ve definitely been to shows where the guitar player has broken strings on stage and had to go through the entire song, or even set with a missing string. There have also been times where effects pedals can die on you or cabling is bad and then that can result in a muted instrument. That’s embarrassing.
3 – Research
Be sure you understand the situation you’re entering into. This band or artist for whom you are auditioning: Do you know their name? Their members’ names? Their manager or record label’s name? How many albums have they released? What are their most popular songs?
Mike Olekshy, an instructor at Guitartricks.com once had to record a medley of 25 riffs from The Rolling Stones’ music. He told Guitartricks that he “printed out the list of songs” and putting the flow together was challenging. Olekshy stated that he’s a “huge Stones fan” but it still ended up taking 10 takes before the medley ended up sounding good, and that’s with additional work put in during the recording.
Whatever the musical situation, whether you’re joining an originals band or wedding band, whether your roll is session musician, songwriter, whatever it may be, a hugely important factor that all auditioning bands, artists, musical directors, etc., are looking for is a musician who is as committed and dedicated to this band and their material as its founders of managers.
So showing understanding and knowledge of the band’s past present and future is a surefire way to impress them and stand out from the pack of other auditions.
4– Mental Preparation
While a bit of pressure can be useful to ensure you take things seriously and prepare thoroughly, too much pressure is never a good thing. You don’t want your performance to be filled with nervousness. It’s important to prepare yourself mentally.
“When you’re nervous and the confidence isn’t there, it’s a horrible feeling and you just have to power through,” Anders Mouridsen said while speaking to Guitartricks.com. Mouridsen is a guitarist who has worked with Taylor Swift and P!nk, and was most recently on tour with Grammy-nominated country singer Cam.
So it’s really important to remind yourself of certain things to counteract the situation’s inherent pressure. This still comes down to preparation, because the best way to reassure yourself for the audition is to be able to say to yourself: I have prepared the material, I have prepared and checked my equipment, I have researched this band or artist, I am prepared!
Resilience is really important. Knock-backs and rejections are a normal part of auditioning. Take what you can learn from it, resolve to improve those areas (without self-criticism and judgement) and then move on. We’ve all been there. It’s those who bounce off it and treat it as the learning curve it is who come back stronger. You’ll get the next one!