The Tao of the Audition: 5 Tips for Getting the Gig

Posted on by Adam Gotch

Rock band performing liveYou made the call, talked to person on the other end, and landed the audition for the open spot as a guitar player in the band. If you’re like most of us, walking into that audition is going to come with a few (maybe more than a few) butterflies of apprehension… and the outcome will be based on a number of factors, only some of which are actually under your direct influence.

That’s okay, because centuries ago, as an extremely wise (and totally killer) guzheng player climbed to the top of a mountain to audition for the Tang Dynasty Allstars, he decided not to sweat the stuff he couldn’t control.

…and he had an instrument with 23 strings and movable bridges to worry about.

Legend says that he got the gig, and later, after he had settled down, he developed the Tao of the Audition to help guide other hopeful players in landing the positions they sought with groups looking for new members. And because he was extremely wise, he decided to keep the Tao of the Audition to a nice, short five rules. History owes this man a great debt.

1. Know the Band.

Our ancient guzheng player didn’t have the internet, but you do. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are your friends. Depending on how long the band has been around and how internet-savvy they are, you may have a little or a lot of information available, but knowing something about them before walking through the door with your guitar in your hand will only help you out.

Try to find out what kind of music they’re playing, where they’re gigging, what other bands they’re gigging with, and who makes up their fanbase. Maybe you’ll know some of those people already and they can put in a good word for you. Maybe you’ll come across some shared interest you have in common with one or more of the band members. Maybe you both “liked” Guacamole.

Or maybe not.

The point is, any knowledge you already have about the band when you walk into your audition will amount to points in your favor.

2. Know the Songs.

Showing up ready to play is going to be key in whether you get a callback or not. Taking the time to learn some material beforehand goes a long way toward demonstrating a good work ethic and that you’re taking the audition seriously.

The direct approach won’t hurt. If you’re auditioning for a cover band, ask them what songs they’d like you to play for your audition. Then learn them. Look up some tablature if you need to, and practice. Then practice a little more.

If you’re auditioning for an original band, ask them if they have recordings they can send you. They probably won’t have sheet music or tablature transcriptions of their songs, so you’ll be stuck with the by-ear approach. If you’re a player that doesn’t pick things up very well by ear, try to get comfortable with the feel, tempos, and arrangements of the songs. At the very least, verify what tuning(s) they’re playing in and make sure you know your way around the fretboard using them.

Two to three songs or so should be enough. Once I got a gig on the spot just because I showed up already knowing a handful of songs the band had written.

3. Know Your Gear.

Your gear is your gear, and while you may (fairly or not) be judged on it to some extent, remember not to sweat the stuff you can’t control. What you can control is the condition and readiness of your equipment.

guitar with supplies

This is really just normal stuff to have with you any time you have to play anywhere.

Get some fresh strings on your guitar. Check your cables. Check the batteries in your pedals. Pack a small bag of just-in-case items like an extra set of strings, extra picks, a couple of batteries, a spare patch cable or two, and any necessary tools you need to change a string (like allen wrenches if your guitar has a locking bridge), in the event that something should go wrong with your stuff during your audition. It’s really awkward to find yourself just standing around with a broken string and no replacement while the band stares at you. Trust me.

4. Know Your Place.

Alright! The GPS on your phone may have led you on a scenic tour of your city’s one-way streets, but you got to the audition on time. You’ve been hanging out with the band, chatting it up with them a bit and getting a feel for each other, but now it’s time to set up your rig and start the musical part of the audition. Now all your preparation can pay off.

Just be your normal, courteous, down-to-Earth self. Set up your rig and playing area wherever they tell you to. Dial in your amp so it can be heard and blends well with the band and other guitarist (if there is one) but isn’t overpowering anybody. You’ll probably be asked to play through the songs you know a couple of times with the band.

Just relax, show them what you’ve got, and don’t worry if you don’t play everything perfectly every time. As long as you don’t get into a Crossroadsstyle showoff duel with anyone or hit on somebody’s girlfriend, you’ll do fine.

5. Know Yourself.

Because a band is like a job and a hobby and a relationship all rolled into one, you’ll be auditioning them as much as they’ll be auditioning you. Playing with a band is awesome, but there’s a ton of trust that goes into it and everybody has got to be comfortable with each other if it’s going to be an enjoyable experience.

No matter how prepared you are and how well you play, it might not feel right. Maybe they don’t like much free-form jamming, maybe they’re too relaxed at practice, or maybe they don’t like guacamole (gasp!).

The point is that you know yourself. You know your style, your taste, and your personality. You know what kinds of environments make you feel comfortable and creative. Feel confident and self-assured in that knowledge, because just as they deserve the right guitar player, you deserve the right fit with the right band.

What are some other tips you might have for someone going to audition for a band?

Written on August 20, 2012, by Adam Gotch

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Comments (3)

  • Adam Gotch 6 years ago

    Man, I’m so glad my parents didn’t make me learn the guzheng.

    • Adam Gotch 6 years ago

      You have no idea how much time I wasted trying to come up with a good zither pun.

  • Adam Gotch 6 years ago

    Good tips Adam. I might add one – Don’t show up with an open 24 oz beer, reeking of weed, unless you’re sure this is the band’s usual operating mode. I can’t tell you how many players over the years I’ve seen show up trashed for an audition. It’s an automatic “not a good fit” response. I have nothing against partying and I’m pro-legalization – just not at work and I take rehearsals and performances seriously. Serious fun but still work.

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