7 Steps to Passing the Musical Audition

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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.

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  • Martin Moore

    I hate auditions.

    Not doing them, but HOLDING them. The last band I was in several years ago auditioned rhythm guitar players and lead singers (it was a bonus if they could do both). Here's the one thing that I learned: Anyone who's worth his (or her) salt as a great lead singer or guitar player ALREADY has a gig if you live in a small town. In larger cities, this may not be the case; however, if you live in small-town America, anyone that's halfway decent at his/her instrument already has a gig…if not a couple of gigs.

    We had people driving an hour to audition, and none of them were a good fit (and I wasn't terribly impressed with the "talent" that was displayed. Also, one singer went as far as turning down a glass of ice water that my wife had fixed him. "Room temperature only" were the only words he muttered as he handed her the glass back. No, he didn't get the gig). It was the beginning of the end of our group.

    I really like to audition, but I haven't auditioned for anything in a couple of years.

  • In a way it's not different from what classical musicians and singers have to do – be ready with a bunch pieces that show you in your best light at a moments notice whether someone hires you or not. Even if you didn't get the spot, you would still have made an impression and perhaps made some friends. You never know when you might be needed and even if you don't get it, you learns something by preparing anyway. Good luck everyone!

  • That's hilarious, actually. Singers can be really neurotic, no? I am one and I hate myself when I fall into the singer stuff. I've had issues with singers showing up late, not being prepared, not practicing on their own, and complaining about how I was asking them to sing stuff when I asked them to adjust for the microphone. Such divas.

  • Rick G

    I’m a singer who worth his salt and I find that to be counter intuitive about “They have a gig already.” Not to be mean but that’s a fantasy. As in ‘I’m only as good as the paycheck line.”

    I’ve got to be honest. The very most successful rock groups are guys that want to create amazing albums, work together, do ground breaking rock music.

    I do find the guy at the bottoms comments are sadly how many musicians whom sorry got lazy became. When I first started doing rock in the 1970’s and 1980’s when I was a boy and teenager, rock was exciting.

    But cities today have too many musicians who are amatuers whom don’t try. Then don’t call back. They don’t audition.

    Why? They don’t have any skills. Beware of the guy who says “I’ve got the goods” He is pulling your chain. And is strining you along to hate speak a pro.

    You may have written hit songs, but when these get done with their lazy, passive, boring, untalented stunts your creative mojo will die.

    I am afraid that I’m right. The internet is a creativity killer. You meet your best musicians in highschool when your a kid, by word of mouth. Don’t even think that the employees at Music and Arts and Guitar Center are nice guys. Wrong. They don’t even speak English.

    I’m not kidding you. The word suck is not just for straws.

    They mess up auditions. Do your self a favor. Don’t even think that your going to get legit studio musicians. Its the same guys lying about stuff and b.s.ing your.

    There are like 3 talented people in every major city. It sad when your one of them.