From the December 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY PAULINE FRANCE
Auditioning for a band is like interviewing for a job, except that the nature of the interview is generally not corporate and is hopefully a lot more fun. But this does not mean you don’t have to come prepared to crush it.
To help you do just that, I’ve gathered some tips to empower you during your next audition. This good advice comes from seasoned musicians who’ve been on both sides of the table—searching for gigs and auditioning wishful guitarists for their bands.
1. Be Relentless in Your Quest
The audition process begins way before you walk onstage to perform. You have to be persistent in your search for opportunities, and if you don’t find ones that ignite your passion with reckless abandon, create them. That’s what San Diego–based guitarist and singer-songwriter Noel Ortega did when he moved from Puerto Rico to California.
“Finding gigs was very difficult for me at first because I was new to the area,” says Ortega. “I didn’t speak English fluently and I didn’t know anybody, so I would go to bars and restaurants where there was live music, and I’d introduce myself to the performers and ask if I could jam with them. I’ve landed many gigs following this approach because I made a lot of good connections throughout the years.”
Social media platforms—websites like craigslist.com or bandmix.com and apps like BandFriend—can also be handy in seeking opportunities. But don’t forget that in-person networking often reigns supreme in making a favorable impression, so attend all the shows and open mics possible to get your name out there.
2. Work on Self-Confidence
There’s a reason pep talk sounds a lot like prep talk—because you’ll need it to prepare for situations like an audition. Unlike corporate job interviews, auditions can bring an extra layer of anxiety. Before walking onstage to wow band members with your chops, you might be spending an indefinite amount of time with dozens or even hundreds of people competing for the same position you are.
This potentially debilitating experience can set you up for failure if you allow insecurities to surface. So if they kick in, take three deep breaths, remind yourself how valuable of an asset you are, and remember you’re auditioning the band as much as they’re auditioning you.
3. Check Your Ego at the Door
It’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of an audition, like memorizing songs and making sure you brought all your gear, which can make you forget about critical aspects like attitude, flexibility, and relaxation.
“Landing an audition takes more than just skill,” says Josh Montgomery, guitarist for pop-rock band the Summer Set. “It takes a whole lot of spirit. There are people who are extremely good musicians but don’t get anywhere because they’re so focused on their instrumental skills.”
Ortega adds that if you ooze arrogance, you lose—even if you’re a virtuoso.
“Having a good command of your instrument is definitely important,” he says. “But in my opinion, personality is just as important as having good chops. I would much rather share the stage with a humble person than with someone who can fly up and down the neck in less than three nanoseconds and be a complete jerk about it.”
Another thing Ortega suggests to keep in mind is to remain flexible, since band members at an audition are likely to throw curveballs by changing keys and tempos. Don’t show resistance and then show them what you’ve got.
4. Check Your Vibes
Before venturing out to your auditions, remind yourself that you’re going to be playing music and not embarking on a dreadful task. This will have a meaningful impact on your demeanor and performance.
“Many people overlook having fun,” says Ortega. “They get so worked up about the audition that they forget the very reason why they got into music in the first place. If you’re not having fun, you’re not going to be your best and you could potentially end up sabotaging your own performance.”
Yohai Portal, a Los Angeles–based guitarist and songwriter, says the vibe you emit can make all the difference. “There’s a fair chance you’ll go into an audition for an act that has played for several years, maybe ten,” he says. “You have to make the band feel like you’ve been playing with them for at least ten years so they won’t feel a change or anything that might draw them out of their comfort zone.”
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Or as the late Maya Angelou put it, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.