How To Survive an Audition

acoustic guitar blackThe audition…. the very word itself seems to shake up some spot in our gut where nervousness and fear live…

As a working professional musician, dealing with auditions and knowing how to maximize your chances of landing that next gig is a way of life. Regardless if this means a local cover band that has a busy local schedule, or a world tour with Paul McCartney, it matters not- basically the game is played the same way.

Once you build a network of contacts and fellow musicians that can pull you up the ladder, you will find yourself having to audition less and less. It really is “who you know.”

I’d like to share with you a true experience to illustrate how a major audition can throw a few curveballs at you. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)


I was in the middle of a recording session last year when I got a call from a fellow musician/friend that I hadn’t heard from in a while, a fairly well known keyboardist who has some world class gigs under his belt. (for the purpose of this article, we’ll call him “Jeff”)

Jeff asked me if I would be interested in working with “Mr. X”- a well-known singer. (a real rock and roll legend) I asked about the situation and found out that I also knew the drummer quite well (another very well respected musician) so I figured that I could possibly have a slight edge over any other candidates. The schedule was light and paid well; my favorite kind of touring gig.

A few days later I got a call from the management asking if I would be able to fly to NYC to audition. I asked a few questions about scheduling, where the tour would start/end, and also found out that there would be about 7 other guys trying out. I figured I’d go for it.

Another week or so went by and nothing. No word on song choices, location etc…the audition was just a few days away. Finally I got a song list and started to work on the material. Not hard, (all classic rock and roll songs) but really heavy in the feel department. This gig would be all about the vibe and ability to lock in with a great rhythm section. I learned the material, playing it over and over. After a couple of days I was ready.


The night before I flew to NYC and checked into the hotel. The next morning I woke up and went over the stuff one last time. My audition time was set for 1:30, so I called and made sure that everything was set.

I found the studio and went for a cup of coffee nearby with a friend to wait it out. I went over to the studio at 1:25 and was told that they were late- “can you come back in an hour?” and with no choice I said, “OK” and headed back for another cup of coffee.

One hour later I was told that they were even further behind, things had taken longer than they had expected. By the time I went on (3 hours late), my whole head -space was different, but I met “Mr. X” and we started to play. It went well. I felt confident and knew that I was nailing the stuff. The other guys all smiled over at me and I knew that this was a good sign. The manager also told me that he thought it was great and he would be in touch for sure.

Three weeks went by and nothing. Not a word.

I knew that I had nailed it and that it was out of my hands at this point, so I honestly just chalked it up to experience. At least I had some expenses to write off on my taxes.

Not long after I was talking with a friend about the situation. He too had gotten a call but had passed on trying out. He told me that something better would come along anyway. Although I honestly wasn’t too concerned with it, he did make me feel better about not hearing anything. The next part proves what a crazy business this is.

Barely one hour after the conversation with my friend, I got a call from another management company asking if I would be into doing some work with a singer named “Miss XX”. Her regular guitarist had recommended me.

It was a completely different style of music and seemed like a fun challenge, plus it was touring Europe and going to some places that I had not been, great music, more freedom with soloing and improvisation, and the pay was about the same as with “Mr. X”. The schedule was also perfect, I just needed to move a few things around, find a sub here and there.

The best part? No audition.


The next day, just when I thought that things couldn’t have worked out better, I get a call from “Mr. X’s” management. “You’re the guy- sorry it took so long. Are you available from…?” I told them that it was too late and I had already been booked for the next few months. I knew that things had a way of working themselves out.

I tell this story to illustrate a few points and tips about auditions. There are some things you can do, and some things over which you have little control, just make sure that you play to the best of your ability, then things have a way of taking care of themselves .

Good luck!

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