Whether you’re interested in a high-profile artist gig or a casual tribute band, the audition process can be intimidating. During my time in Nashville, I’ve seen the audition format range from video submissions to solo performances (usually to tracks without a band) to one-on-ones with the artist to open-to-the-public cattle calls. With every audition, preparation is paramount. Once you are presented with the three or four audition songs, you should master these five essentials.
ABSORB SIGNATURE PARTS
It is of the upmost importance to recreate the signature licks of a song. Be ready to transpose them on the spot if the artist wants to do the song in a different key. Learn the other key parts—second guitar lines, keyboard riffs, etc.—to show the artist you’ve done some deep research and practice.
Getting the right sound is as important as playing the correct parts. If there’s a quarter-note delay on the intro lick, or a wah on the solo, emulating the appropriate tones will reinforce your value as a sideman. “Come prepared with your rig dialed in,” says Dan Weller, who successfully auditioned for Florida Georgia Line. “If there is a big gap between the sound of the act’s records and their live-performance tones, ask if there is a preference.”
Take the necessary precautions to ensure your gear is working properly. If a backline is to be provided (to keep auditions moving along) ask what you’ll be using so that you’re completely familiar with the guitars, amps, and any other gear.
Sadly, a lot of musicians blow this one. Weller stresses, “Respond to emails, texts, and phone calls before the end of the day. Arrive early to auditions, and plan to stay late if the artist has questions or wants to get to know you.”
Listen to the act’s studio and live recordings to better understand the musical presentation, and watch performances on YouTube to study how the band looks on stage, as well as to gauge the energy and attitude of their shows. Even if you don’t get the gig—after all, many things besides musicianship can determine a “good fit” for an artist’s band—putting your best foot forward may impress the artist enough to refer you to other opportunities in the future.