You can read a few additional excerpts about The Touring Musician's Handbook here.
Depending on how you look at it, an audition can be really fun or so stressful that it makes you want to loose your lunch. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to do the latter, so here are a number of things to help you through the process.
1) Know The Material
You can be a great player with chops that came from Mount Olympus, but the only thing that the artist or MD cares about is if you can play the artist’s material well show after show. If you go into an audition thinking that you’re going to wing it, you’re wasting everyones time, in which case you should be prepared for a very short audition.
First off, I want the person auditioning to play the music exactly like the record. I don’t want to hear them improvise, and I don’t want to hear their take on it. I want to hear them play it exactly with the right feel, just like they were playing Mozart or Beethoven. I want them to respect the music regardless of if it’s Pink’s music, or Cher’s or Janet Jackson’s, I want them to play it exactly as you hear it on the record. Then if I ask them to change it, they’re changing it from a place where I know that they know what it is so they can take their own spin on it after the fact.
Go-to guys like guitarist Peter Thorn (Melissa Etheridge, Chris Cornell, Jewel, Don Henley) will learn as much of the artist’s catalog possible before the audition, going as far as to dial in the tone of the parts as well. It’s a lot of work, but if you’re up against another guy that did that and you didn’t, who do you think will get the gig?
The other thing is that you have to be not only better than everyone else, but you have to be different. It’s basically a sales pitch. In five or ten minutes, you have to prove to them that if they hire you, they’ll get more for their money than hiring anybody else.
2) Don’t Be Late
This will just about eliminate you right from the start. Being late indicates that you have a reliability problem, which is the last thing anyone wants on the road. There are a lot of great players out there, and most of them are punctual and reliable. Who do you think they’re going to pick?
3) How You Look Counts
Not only does clothing and grooming make a good first impression, but it’s important to see how you visually fit on stage with the rest of the band. It’s possible to fit the bill perfectly as a player but still not get the gig because of the way you look.
As an example, an accomplished touring player that I know recently got a gig with a major artist that lasted one day. He went back to the hotel and received a call saying, “We’re good. Don’t come back to rehearsal tomorrow.” They just didn’t like the way he looked against the other players in the band.
You might get rejected because you have a shaved head and so does the artist or another player player in the band and they don’t want two people on stage with that look. Or you might have blond hair and so does the artist. Or you have facial hair and no one else in the band does. Nothing personal, sometimes you just don’t fit in.
I always felt that if someone is auditioning players that he’s not already aware of, it’s a clue that he’s looking for something else besides the way you play or the gear that you have. It’s a good tip that they may be looking more at how you look or at your age. I’ve seen that a lot.
4) Your On-stage Demeanor Also Counts
If possible, get a DVD or watch a video of the artist and her band playing live and take notice of the on-stage demeanor of the players. A lot of people get gigs because their physicality is right, which means how they look when they’re playing the music. Maybe the artist wants energy on stage and really likes it when a player is so into it that he’s moving all around. On the other hand, some artists just want you to stand there and play, leaving any showmanship up to them. You’ve got to know your place, so you have to tailor your demeanor to the artist.
5) Bring The Right Gear
You’ve got to tailor the gear to the gig. If you were auditioning for the job as the Strat player for Lynrd Skynrd, it wouldn’t be a great idea to bring a Les Paul or what some perceive as a metal guitar like a Jackson. If you were auditioning for the touring band of 50 Cent, you wouldn’t bring a drum kit with the snare tuned up high for reggae or ska. Can the artist or MD imagine how you’d play with the right gear? Sure they can. But once again, if everything were equal between two players, the one who will get the gig is the one that has the right sound at the audition. That way, no guessing, imagining or wondering come into play. Remember, what the artist wants most is security and one less thing to worry about. Whoever can provide that gets the gig.
6) Be Nice To Everyone
It’s important that you’re nice to everyone, including the crew, while you’re at the audition. If these people are going to spend months on a bus with you, they’d prefer that you didn’t have an attitude of superiority and were very easy to get along with. Remember, if it’s a toss-up between you and someone else, the one who will get the gig will be the one that everyone believes they can live with.
You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.
Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.
Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.