7 Steps to Passing the Musical Audition

My last proper audition may’ve been 8 years ago (since then I’ve either led my own bands or been specifically asked to join existing projects), but I can still remember how nervous I was.

A singer/songwriter that I admired was starting a new band; he’d already found 3 other players, and they’d been practicing for a bit and made recordings of 6 tunes. They were looking for a multi-instrumentalist to complete the sound. One night I saw the singer at a bar and said, “Hey, I’d love to try out!”

The next few days leading up to the audition were stressful. The recordings of those 6 tunes each featured 3 guitar parts (an acoustic and 2 electrics), plus one or two keyboard tracks. Seeing that the band was new and uncertain of which parts would work best together in a live 5-piece setting, they didn’t want to be too specific about preparation guidelines. Since I didn’t want to give them any reason to say no after my audition, I decided to learn all 3 guitar parts and all the keyboard parts to all the songs, then practiced switching between all those parts from section to section.

[ois skin=”Email Sign Up Form – DIY Blog”] Then– the audition. I brought 2 guitars, effects pedalboard, guitar amp, keyboard amp, a Fender Rhodes, a keyboard/synth on top of that, and an accordion to really show how eager I was. In hindsight, it either bordered on or went well past the point of absurdity– especially when, mid-song, the keyboard stand buckled beneath the weight of my Rhodes and the keyboard stacked on top. Both came crumbling to the ground with a great clatter and crunch.

I may’ve nervously sweat  through the whole thing, but in the end– I got the gig. If I had to say WHY I got the gig (despite embarrassing equipment failure and butterflies), I’d say it went something like this…

7 Tips to Prepare for Your Next Band Try-Out

1) Networking- I had some awareness of the regional scene, who was starting new projects, what they were looking for, and then sought out an opportunity.

2) Preparation- I learned the songs. I played them over and over again. I did this on multiple instruments. I knew them so well that by the time the audition happened, I was able to sing harmonies too.

3) Flexibility (not necessarily in the yoga sense)- I was fine with, even excited about taking somewhat vague preparation guidelines and turning it into an opportunity to show off my skills. I was also happy to try some on-the-spot soloing, key changes, tempo/groove changes, etc.

4) Awareness of WHO you’re auditioning for- I started off knowing the singer’s previous music. But I also made a point to do some homework, find out who he’d been listening to lately, what he thought the direction of the new band would be, and then made a point to choose my instruments and dial in my tones accordingly.

5) Professionalism- I showed up on time, ready to play, courteous, etc. I also brought a notebook to take notes on anything they wanted to discuss. While music professionalism doesn’t require a suit and tie, it doesn’t hurt to check out the band’s press photos and consider wearing genre-appropriate clothes.

6) Gear selection- I had the right gear for the job (multiple keyboards and guitars to choose from, random extra toys, etc.) and brought enough instruments to rehearsal to be prepared for most anything they could throw my way– including a request for accordion!

7) Eagerness- All of this adds up to one thing: I was eager. I wanted the gig. I did what I had to do to be ready.  The only thing I forgot to bring to the audition was a towel to mop off the cold sweats.

Anyway, all this is not simply to pat myself on the back for my preparedness. I mention it here because I just saw an article by Michael Gallant on the Echoes Blog called “How to Ace the Music Audition- Ten Tips to Make You Shine When It Counts,” and every single one of the points I list above was mentioned in his piece (as well as 3 extra tips).

Click that link to check out Michael’s advice and the advice of Kern Brantley, a bass player who has toured with megastars like Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, and many more, on how to land that spot when you’re auditioning for a band.

What have your experiences been like auditioning for bands? We’d love to hear about your triumphs and horror stories in the comments section below.

Sell music on your website using CD Baby’s Music Store Widget.



Join the Conversation