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Auditioning for Musicians

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    Auditions can be a terrifying thing to do. They put you under pressure do your very best because for most auditions, you only have one shot to impress. However, there are many ways to conquer your fears and completely slay your audition. Here are some tips I have picked up over the years on how to prepare everything from your music to your mind. :)

Choosing Music and Scales.
    Pick out music you know you can play. This doesn’t mean you can’t play something challenging, challenging pieces usually impress judges easily, this just means that you probably should stay away from pieces that are harder than anything you’ve ever played before. However, if you have enough time to prepare before your audition, then you could totally go for it. You can also play to the judges a little if you know what they like. For example, if you know the judge/band director likes a certain musician or style you could totally play that.

    Keep in mind what you’re auditioning for. If you’re auditioning for a jazz band, play a jazz/blues song. If you’re auditioning for an orchestra or concert band, play something classical. If you’re auditioning for a marching/pep band play whatever you want. This also isn’t to say that playing a classical piece at a jazz audition won’t work. If you want to play Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4 because you kick ass when you play that song, then go for it! As long as you are confident and you think you can wow the judges with it.

    Choosing scales. Pick out a major scale, a minor scale, a chromatic scale, and a blues scale. Sometimes auditions will say beforehand what type of scales you must have prepared, and sometimes they’ll make you sight read them. However it is ALWAYS a good idea to be prepared for anything. Obviously, if you’re auditioning for an orchestra you might not worry about learning a new blues scale, but blues scales are super cool anyway so you could just do it for fun. For your major scale, go with something that sounds good, even if it’s easy. A lot of the time, judges use major scales to get a grip of your tone and air control. Pick a minor scale that you like, you could also try to pick one with lots of accidentals to impress judges. For chromatic scales, judges like to see your range, both high and low. To practice this, start at your lowest and work gradually to your highest. You might start with the first five notes in the lower range of your scale and keep practicing that until you can put your whole scale together.

Practicing before the audition.
    Use your time wisely. Depending on when your audition is and the level of difficulty on your prepared piece, create a schedule. If your audition is a few months away, for the first couple months you could practice every week and the kick it up a notch as the audition date gets closer. If your audition is in a few weeks, you probably want to get as much practice as you can.

    Consult mentors and teachers. Ask your current band directors or private instructors to help you prepare or to just listen to your piece as a kind of mock audition. Hearing constructive criticism from people with degrees in music is sososo helpful and even though they might have a lot to say, they are the people who know what those judges are looking and listening for.

    PRACTICE SIGHT READING. There’s always those kids that can instantly sight read anything perfectly. Most of us are not those kids. Most of us hate those kids for being so damn talented. A lot of the time in past auditions I wouldn’t practice sight reading at all just because I knew that I sucked at it and thought I couldn’t get any better. However, the truth is that practicing really does help. Of course you never know what chart they might give you to sight read, but chances are that if you’ve been practicing, you’ll recognize some rhythms or phrases. How I like to practice is just by taking The Real Book and flipping to a random page and then just trying to play it. Then I look up the song and see what I need to fix.

    The hardest part of sight reading for most people is rhythms where there is a strange amount of rests in a measure or phrase. Rests can be easily calculated in practice by turning on a metronome and counting out loud or just trying to play the phrase. However, arguably one of the most important things in sight reading is the ability to always be able to find the “1” of a measure. If you can always find that first downbeat in each measure, not only will rhythms be easier, but missing notes and accidentals won’t matter as much.

At the Audition
    Don’t practice too much while waiting. A lot of the time, you’ll be in a practice room with other people while you wait for your audition to start. People (especially high schoolers) will no doubt be practicing everything they’ve prepared and more. Some of them might start improvising or testing their range. Refrain from doing anything that will be detrimental to your audition. For example, try not to blow your chops out. If you’re a brass player and you’re practicing your songs beforehand, skip the high notes or only play them once through and then give your mouth a break.

    Calm down. This time waiting for your audition can be even more nerve wracking than actually doing the audition. The suspense of not knowing makes can make your mind spin into spirals of everything that could go wrong. Just take a deep breath and drink some water. Focus on the task ahead and think about all the practice that you’ve done. Realize how prepared you actually are.

    Be professional and clear. During your audition, it is not a bad idea to make a nice impression of yourself and your personality as well as musical abilities. For example, if they go to shake your hand, introduce yourself with a firm and confident handshake. Be clear when explaining what you are playing, and don’t be surprised if they ask you any questions. If you are sitting, pay attention to your posture. If you play an instrument like the trumpet or trombone, make sure that you have a nice bell angle.

    Be confident while playing. Judges can tell when you’re unsure or second guessing yourself because it shows dramatically in your sound. If you make a mistake, keep going--never apologize for messing up. Don’t be afraid to be loud if that is what the dynamics in the piece and especially don’t be afraid of the dreaded high notes or sixteenth notes that are difficult to count.

Good Luck! :)