I’ve got to start this blog off by saying that I haven’t done many auditions, but of the few I’ve done, I’ve had the opportunity to experience auditions from different points of view. The drummer who has already got the gig (and the rest of the band is auditioning), the drummer auditioning for the gig and lastly, as the Musical Director auditioning musicians.
In every audition, I’ve watched what happens, how they happen, why they happen and the key things that make an audition successful and have applied that information when I audition for a gig or when I’m auditioning musicians for a gig.
This is just my way of helping those who are less experienced in auditioning stand a better chance of succeeding. There are many reasons why you won’t get the gig, but hopefully after reading this blog, it won’t be because of any of my tips.
Learn The Song(s)
This may seem like the most obvious piece of advice, but I’m always surprised how little preparation some musicians do for an audition. Learn the nuances of the song(s) where rhythms change in different sections, chord voicing changes, when to play and also when not to play. Play the song like the record and if it lends itself to a sprinkle of embellishment then do it tastefully and in a way that doesn’t take away from the song. Remember, an audition isn’t a showcase, so don’t get carried away with trying to showcase that you’re the best musician they’ll hear that day. Focus on playing the songs the best they’ll hear that day… If you are going to try and showcase your ability; make sure you showcase your ability to serve the song!
Learn The Sounds
I’ll never forget one audition I was in where the keyboardist was proudly playing the wrong patch for the song. The keyboardist sounded like he had learned the song (to a degree) but didn’t pay any attention to the sound of the part he was playing… Long story short, the Musical Director had to find the right patch on the keyboard and that keyboard player didn’t get the gig. Could he play? Yes! His failure to pick up on the details played a big part in him not getting the gig. Is it a Country/Folk song played with mallets? Then why use drumsticks? Is the bassist using a plectrum on the record to get that poke/definition found on Rock songs? Then why play without one? Is it acoustic guitar on the record? There’s no need to do your best Steve Vai impression… I’m sure you get the idea.
Study The Artist
Before every audition I study the artist and create an informed picture in my mind of who they are and what appeals to them. I will listen any other music/live performances I can find; research what genres/artists they are influenced by and even briefly look into things like their interests and even fashion sense. All of this allows you to create picture of what kind of person they are and can help to inform how you should dress, speak and most importantly how you should play their music, and if you need to embellish how to do that in a way that isn’t self serving but in a way that makes the artist/Musical Director pay attention.
The last thing you want is to turn up to an audition for someone who is an animal rights activist and vegan wearing a shirt that says “I feel like chicken tonight!” with a big picture of a roast chicken on it haha. Study The Artist!
Taking the previous tips into consideration will help you to be confident. Play the songs with understanding of the parts, with the right sounds and (without being too familiar) make a bit of conversation and allow your personality to shine through. Make a lasting impression that leaves the artist/Musical Director/Manager with nothing but positive things to say, even if you don’t end up getting the gig.
Doing your homework and really learning the song will help you go into the room and deliver confidently. Don’t just rely on your natural ability, study to show yourself approved.
Take It In Your Stride
Rejection isn’t always a bad thing. As much as you’ve prepared and put the time in to work hard on doing a great audition, you may still not get the gig. Why? Someone could have approached it better, there may be a particular look that they’re going for (yeah, sometimes that’s more important than you’d think), or there may already have been someone lined up for the gig, making the audition a formality.
Make sure you can leave the audition knowing that you did the best you could’ve done. If there is a Musical Director/Management involved; you may not have been right for that particular gig but you may be perfect for another artist/band or project that is coming up. Don’t take rejection personally (although it’s hard not to) and make sure that the friendly, cool person that showed up when a gig was on the table is the same friendly, cool person that leaves whether you got the gig or not… Your next gig could depend on it! More importantly though, it shows your strength of character.