11 Tips for Audition Preparation
By: Brittany Thomas
Understand that the audition is about more than just hitting all the right notes; it’s about the full package. The audition committee will not be looking for potential but rather someone who can play at a high level for many years (in a school audition, the committee IS looking for potential).
- Playing in rhythm: The most important aspect the committee will be looking for is RHYTHM. Subdividing is necessary. Committees can forgive a chipped note if the rhythm is PERFECT. Don’t forget to continue to subdivide during the rest and while breathing. This is especially true during the first round.
- Find the right tempos: This is difficult because tempos vary depending on the conductor. Try to figure out the most standard tempo that is agreed upon with a teacher. The committee will understand that you know what it “should” sound like. I like to go in with three different tempos prepared incase someone on the panel would like you to play something slower or faster. If you have worked on the excerpt slower or faster then you wont be in shock when you are asked to do this.
- Fitting in the orchestra: Make sure your dynamics, style, and tone is appropriate for the piece that you are playing. The overall character should be close if not exact to the standard. Remember you are trying to show that you will fit into an orchestra’s sound. This is especially true if you make it to the final round and have the opportunity to play with the section.
- Intonation: Although you might play in tune in ensemble settings, be aware that in an audition, you will not have a pitch reference. It is natural for the pitch to rise and someone in the committee may be watching a tuner. Listen to recordings of yourself with a tuner and find your tendencies. I find that working with a drone constantly on helps.
- The solo: Don’t get so caught up in the excerpts that you forget to prepare the solo. The solo will be heard before the excerpts so use it to grab their attention.
- Take risks: In the end, go for making music instead of hitting all the notes. Find someway to stand out in a crowd of players playing the same excerpts. They want to hear you take risk to be musical even if it cost you a chipped note.
- Let your imagination soar: Come up with different images that help you make things easier. Include these images into your music. I love to write adjectives all over each excerpt to help me get into character before each excerpt.
- Have a routine: Your goal is to play your best in the audition. This can involve eating regular foods and getting a regular amount of sleep. Try not to do anything out of the ordinary on the audition day. You want your body to feel as though it’s just another day.
- Get started weeks before the audition: I like to start 6-8 weeks before the audition. I start by listening to multiple recordings of the excerpts and finding ones that I like the most. Make sure that you start with slow metronomic work. Don’t try to instantly play the excerpts up to speed. Try to create good habits from the beginning. By week 6-8, I like to run the excerpt list and perform them for other instrumentalists and teachers. Having mock auditions in different rooms is a great way to work on performing well under different conditions.
- Take care of yourself: Over the next few weeks, its good to exercise, get plenty of sleep, avoid caffeine, eat healthy, and drink plenty of WATER to stay hydrated. Don’t try to over do anything. You need to take care of your chops. Make sure to always get in a good warm up and to always warm down.
- The night before isn’t a time to cram: It is a time to relax. Go out and do something fun. Don’t practice more than an hour. You want your chops to be good to go the next day! The day of the audition you should warm up and touch spots, hopefully it will be a long day full or playing in the audition. Relax as much as possible and try to “zone out” while others are playing.
Final thought: Strive to be YOUR best instead of the best. What others think of you and/or your playing is out of your control. Don worry about rankings and strive to do your best every time. Remember to learn something from every experience. You can gain amazing insight even form the worst experiences.