How to nail an audition

HOW TO NAIL AN AUDITION

I’m using the term ‘audition’ broadly here: by audition I mean anything from an actual audition for a stage show or orchestra, to trying out for a local band. Either way, at some point you will need to play in front of people and try to convince them you’re right for the part. 

Fortunately there are some clear guidelines I can share to help you on whatever path you are taking. Let’s approach this from two angles; recreational audition and professional audition.

The Recreational Audition.

The recreational audition is something like trying out for a local group or band, or just meeting to jam with someone - the other people are looking for you to impress them with your skills and attitude, and will be judging you on your suitability for their group or purpose. There’s no money involved in the recreational audition. It’s something you do in your spare time, for recreation. It’s fun. 

Give yourself the best possible chance of success, before you even walk into the room.

Preparation.

Musically, you should be preparing for these in the same way as any other audition. You should be sticking to your practice routine, and adding in additional practice to cover what you need to learn for the audition. You want the position; you better be playing at your best. Let’s assume you need to play a song at the audition. By the time the day comes you should know this song so well you could play it with your eyes closed, and you sometimes do.

There should be no question over this. If you can’t play the part correctly, if you haven’t prepared, you shouldn’t be auditioning this time around. Leave no room for doubt over how prepared you are; if there are mistakes at an audition they should be purely coincidental or situational, not resulting from your lack of preparation.

Equipment.

Make sure your equipment is as best it can be. If you are a guitarist; make sure your guitar has been set up, you’ve changed your strings and played them in before the audition. Make sure you’re in tune and your guitar lead works perfectly. Minimise all risk of equipment failure. If you’re a singer; warm up properly, eat and rest well prior to the audition, take honey water or whatever you use to sooth your throat with you. 

Give yourself the best possible chance of success, before you even walk into the room.

Personality.

With recreational auditions, a large part of the reason you will get the gig will because of your personality. Sid Vicious was a terrible bass player, but his personality and style helped make the Sex Pistols hugely popular. You might not be Sid Vicious, but the people you are auditioning for have to like you and/or relate to you, and they have to see you as a good fit for their project. Fortunately your personality is mostly outside of your control; you can put up a front, present what you think people will want to see and hear, but eventually you will be seen as you are naturally.

Which leads us to the most important way to nail a recreational audition: be yourself. Pretending to be something you’re not won’t impress anyone, and never works out in the long-term. Be open, honest and friendly; if you don’t get the part because they didn’t think you fit the group, then it’s probably for the best. Don’t stress.

So let’s just recap. For a recreational audition:

  • You’re musically prepared as you can possibly be.
  • Your instrument/gear is working perfectly, reducing the chance of equipment failure.
  • You show up with a smile and be yourself (unless you don’t smile). 

Good luck! Have fun.  

Now for the serious audition.

The Professional Audition.

The professional audition is for a paid position. This might be in a show or orchestra or working band, it could be as a session musician or a TV appearance. In order to nail this audition you need to act like a professional (more on being a professional in the Musician's Map eBook & Audiobook)

Preparing for the professional audition is much like the recreational audition. Your technical ability and equipment should be at 100%. There’s no room for movement here. Being unprepared at a professional audition will reflect very badly on you and your reputation, as well as wasting the auditioners time. 

Remember, these people are professionals looking for other professionals. You should treat these auditions as what they are: job interviews.  

  • Arrive 15 minutes early. This shows you are punctual and eager.
  • Your appearance and manner should be appropriate to the position. Dress to impress and be happy, personable and enthusiastic. 

Project confidence.

Even if you are nervous (especially if you are nervous), you should try your best to appear confident. The advantage of appearing confident often has the side effect of instilling you with actual confidence.

Don’t worry. 

It’s normal to be nervous, and everyone else is nervous. Take a few deep breaths and remember all the practice you’ve done for this, remember how well you played it yesterday. The worst possible thing that could happen is that you don’t get the part. That’s ok. There will be more. 

The rest of the audition will again come down to your personality, and ultimate suitability for the position. The most important advice I can give is to be the best you that you can be. If you’ve done everything you can, truly presented the best version of yourself that you can offer, and still don’t get the part: it wasn’t meant for you.

For a professional audition;

  • Your technical ability and equipment is at 100%.
  • Treat it like a job interview.
  • Project confidence, even if it’s faked.
  • Don’t worry too much.
  • Be the best you can be.

Finally, for both the recreational and professional music audition, and in every aspect of your musical journey: radiate positivity. Positivity is an infectious mindset everyone can appreciate in every aspect of your life. Approach your auditions and musical interactions with outward positivity and you will always have a positive experience. Even if you don’t get the part for some other reason, your positive attitude will be remembered and will follow you wherever you go.