7 Tips For Your Next Music Audition
1) MEMORIZE – There's nothing an MD (musical director) hates more than a musician reading a chart at an audition. It shows that he or she didn't prepare properly, aren’t fully respecting the situation and are simply not prepared/professional. Reading at an audition is an easy way to get crossed off the list, so I always recommend MEMORIZING the material. Note: This isn’t the case in the classical music world, but this post is focused on popular music.
2) LEARN IT LIKE THE ALBUM – It's important to learn the songs that you will be performing exactly like the record. You should get as close to the recorded sounds as possible, practice all the parts (lead and rhythm for your instrument), etc. You have to understand that the artist and/or producer spent countless hours crafting the perfect arrangement and sound selection, so you should respect that. That being said, there are situations when an artist will not play the song like the recorded version and you will have to be ready for that too (look at #3 below), but knowing the original version is always an important first step.
3) CHECK OUT THE LIVE VERSIONS – Once you've learned the album versions of the tunes, it’s time to search for some live performances. YouTube is usually a good place to find this stuff and any audible bootleg will suffice. Make sure to check out the most recent performances you can find so that you’re aware of newest arrangement changes, etc. This can sometimes give you an edge over the other musicians auditioning since the live versions will often be arranged differently and/or in a different key (especially if the album version is at the top of an artist’s range). I’ve been to numerous auditions where the MD did not alert the musicians (who were auditioning) to the changes in the songs because he or she had forgotten how many alterations had been made or they were simply too busy to mention it. Note: I’ve seen quite a few musicians fall on their faces when asked to transpose a song or learn a new arrangement on the spot, so it’s always good to do your research and be prepared. And in the worst case, if the audition consists of the strict album version and you've learned all this extra material, you'll be over-prepared which is never a bad thing.
4) FIT IN – Before you even play a note at an audition, you will be judged on other factors (especially in the pop world). You want to look like you are a perfect fit for the band/artist before you step in that room. I’m not saying that you should wear something that you’re uncomfortable with, but you should certainly try to be a little malleable with your look depending on the situation. Also, your choice of gear is important, not only for its sound but also for its look/vibe. I've known many musicians who have borrowed gear from friends in order to fit in with a group’s image during an audition. After all, If you get the gig and if it’s paying enough, you can always buy that piece of gear afterwards. For example, if you show up to a metal audition with a Gibson L5 hollow-body guitar, a mullet hairstyle, a tuxedo and Italian dress shoes, you probably won’t get the gig no matter how well you play. Actually, I take that back…I’d hire you out of principal, lol.
5) HAVE FUN AND BE YOURSELF – OK, so you’re prepared and you’ve memorized several versions of the tunes. Now it’s time to go out there and kill it! It’s important to show off your personality so that you stand out from the crowd and you definitely want to avoid that "deer in headlights" look. One thing to pay attention to is what the artist or band looked like during the live performances you found on YouTube. So your research will pay off here as well. Essentially, you might want to avoid jumping off the walls for that Sheryl Crow audition and conversely, you might not want to stand too still during that Paramore audition…make sense?
6) GO THE EXTRA MILE – If you want to stand out amongst the room of musicians auditioning, you should do some things that are NOT required of you. So, learn the background vocal parts (if you can sing) and if you hear a mandolin part in the bridge, learn it and bring your mandolin along too. This goes with any alternate instrument you play well. The MD and/or artist may not have even thought about having someone play certain parts from the album until you showed them how cool they can sound in a live setting. Note: there will be times when you will be at an audition and they won’t want to hear anything except your primary instrument, but at least you told them that you can play keyboards, banjo, tambourine, djembe, whatever. It never hurts to have a lot to offer and it makes you harder to replace once you get the gig. Remember, “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.” ― Zig Ziglar
7) MAKE FRIENDS – Regardless of the outcome, you should make friends with the musicians at the audition. You are all in the same boat and these people are your peers. Networking in the music business is all about friends and these relationships will often get you more auditions and opportunities in the future. Plus musicians are awesome and you should want to have as many friends as possible 🙂 So, even if you refuse to read points 1-6 (which I clearly advise against), you better understand #7 or your music career will be short lived.