Preparing For an Audition... and "That Guy"!!!

One unavoidable experience in the life of a musician is the dreaded audition.  Auditions can be nerve-wracking for novice and professional musician alike.  What can do you do reduce your stress levels before and during the audition?  First… discover why auditions are so nerve-wracking.   “That Guy” is why! 

You know: the decision maker… the picker!!! 

“That Guy” who will say “Yes, you’re in.” or “Nope: Not this year.” 


“That Guy” is in the room for one purpose.  To evaluate YOU: how well you present yourself and the assigned music, and your command and mastery of your chosen instrument.  The following video is a short story about the worst of the “That Guy”s --- Frank Zappa!  Steve Vai (one amazing guitar player) shares his story of being in the room with “That Guy”…. 

Candidly… Frank Zappa was a very unique specimen: very demanding, both in the music and beyond the music.  Most auditions will be fairly tame in comparison to Steve’s story.   


So what can you do to survive and thrive while “That Guy” is evaluating you?    


1) Exceed the Expectations 

To exceed the expectations, you first must know them.  Ask questions and get those answers so you know what is expected of you and what to expect during the audition.  Plan audition day out and follow the plan to guarantee you exceed those expectations... 

Date, time (always arrive at least 15 minutes early), and location of the audition?  How will you feel when you’re standing outside a locked door with others who did not plan their day out well enough? 
Music used for the audition? 
Is Sight Reading a part of the audition? 

Are there other non-music expectation to exceed?     This may sound a little ridiculous BUT……….. bring a NO. 2 pencil when the instructions tell you to bring a No. 2 pencil.  Why?  You’re equally being evaluated on your ability to follow simple instructions (like arrive on time), and that pen, marker, or Crayon could be the one reason you hear, “Nope. Not this year.” 

Word to the Wise: no two auditions and evaluators are the same.  Never assume certain things can be ignored.  You most likely will not know what is most valuable to “That Guy.” 


2) Know the Material 

Know and play every dynamic marking, every tempo change, every time and key signature change: everything on that sheet of music.  Know it and play it with confidence; own it.  You have 1 chance to convince “That Guy” that you know the material inside and out, forwards and backwards.   

Hoping “That Guy” doesn’t ask you to play measures 23  - 26 is a painfully obvious sign that you do not know the material as well as you know you should!   


3) Be Over Qualified 

Now that you know the music and own it, find different ways to play the music: change the tempo, play it all staccato, play it at different dynamic levels, etc.  A student brought a double beat exercise to the woodshed last week.  The exercise is the basis for his audition for his school’s snare line, and has 12 measures of 8th notes and 16th notes and a time signature.  That is all the information the sheet music offers.  We added different dynamic variations to the music: play through at PP, MF, and FF (various stick heights); FF > PP, PP < FF > PP, etc.  Why?   

Because “That Guy” could easily ask him or you to play it through at PP or FF,  or perhaps a crescendo from PP to FF over the 12 measures.  These are not unreasonable requests; and definitely more reasonable than Frank Zappa’s requests of little Stevie Vai (Did you watch the video yet?  Watch it now 

Being overqualified also means doing your time with the fundamentals on the nome in the Wood Shed.  Remember, “That Guy” is evaluate your musicianship, technique, and expressiveness along with your ability to play the selected piece of music.  In one sense, you can say that every day of growth in the Wood Shed is preparing you for an audition that isn’t on your calendar… yet!!!  Do not wait for the audition announcement to start preparing.   


Today, while it is called “Today”, prepare yourself for tomorrow’s opportunity cuz nobody knows on which tomorrow the opportunity will present itself! 


Exceeding the expectations, knowing the material, and becoming overqualified are three things you should be doing if you want to survive and thrive when “That Guy” is evaluating you.   These are not the only three things to consider.   

What else do you think is important when preparing for auditions? 

Send them back to the drummer when you can.  He’d love to hear your thoughts.  Such ideas could be the basis for more stuff about surviving the audition process. 

Launch this out to musicians, friends and family who enjoy music and want to learn a little more each week.  As always, check to see what the drummer is up to and to join his email list. 

“That’s my rumor, and I’m sticking to it!”

Leave a comment

    Add comment