Auditions are a part of life for musicians. They’re required for earning spots in music schools, festivals, orchestras, and even ensembles. And although auditions differ in format and performance technique requirements, they all have one thing in common: You are there to make the best impression you can in a very small amount of time. And while this can be easy for some people, for most projecting the confidence and capabilities you need to display is challenging.
You want to have a memorable audition, but obviously it should be memorable because of its excellence not because of embarrassment. No one wants to be remembered because they had a problem with their instrument, played terribly, or had a personal break-down. So, how do seasoned musicians approach an audition? They know that the key to making a great impression is thorough preparation. These tips can help you overcome the most difficult parts of an audition so that you can “Wow!” the panel.
If you feel confident, that impression will be conveyed during your audition. Nervous tension has the power to derail any musician, so you need to develop methods that reduce the stress related to auditions. Tips include:
- Don’t be afraid of the panel of judges. They’re not there to poke fun at you or act like Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares, these people want to see you do well. Keep that in mind.
- Develop some stress reduction strategies. Breathing techniques and visualization can have a profound impact on decreasing the negative influence of anxiety. Another way to help prepare is to practice with an accelerated heartbeat. Since you’re going to have your pulse racing anyway, if you learn how to play the pieces under that condition, you’ll be used to it. Try running or jogging in place for ten minutes and then practice.
- Clear your mind and block out everything else before you play. For example, if you arrive at the audition early, find another room or earplugs so that you won’t have to hear everyone else audition before you.
- Even if you’ll be performing behind a screen, wear black slacks, comfortable (yet stylish) shoes, and a white shirt that won’t interfere with your performance technique. In other words, don’t wear an outfit that you’ve never played in before just because it looks good, and practice in the clothes you plan to wear beforehand so that you won’t experience any major issues on the day of the audition.
- Bring an extra set of strings, a tuner, and other minor repair materials. Having those items on hand and not needing them is so much better than needing them but not having them. Knowing that you can solve any minor complications can help boost your confidence.
- Know the music. This really goes without saying, but if scales are part of the audition, don’t neglect them when you practice, especially when moving down pitch. Panels look for absolute evenness when shifting, smooth bow changes, and clear intonation, so make sure that you’ve mastered your scales. And remember, speed is not always what the audition is about. Practice scales slowly so that you can play them flawlessly.
- Get plenty of rest the night before the audition. This is another no-brainer. You need to be fully rested and in top playing condition to make a great impression.
- Make sure to fulfill each aspect of the audition process. For example, play what is asked, not what you think the panel might like to hear. Also, if there’s an application process, follow it to the letter. If they ask for an audio, don’t send a video, etc.
During an audition, the judges really want to glimpse your performance ability as it relates to the character of the piece, so don’t get hung up on little issues. These tips will ensure that your technique is top notch:
- Rhythm is vital. Musicians must play in perfect rhythm with a steady tempo, except during measures where the tempo expressly changes. Plus, speeding up the performance can lead to playing errors. Keep it steady. If the tempo is not expressly stated, slower is better.
- Pay attention to the dynamics of the piece you’re given to play. Being able to convey the character of the music is more important than a few missed notes.
- During the sight-reading part, do follow the assigned tempo. Again, a few missed notes will not be as big a deal as a terribly slow performance. Pay close attention to the time signature and practice some cut time pieces at home so that you’ll be familiar with the speed.
Performing an audition that’s remembered for its skill and confidence just requires a little preparation. If you train yourself to display the character of the pieces, you’ll be able to make a great impression.