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Auditioning Members Tips/Advice

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Piggy8692, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. Piggy8692


    Oct 2, 2010
    Northern Utah
    Hey guys.

    I'll be trying out some musicians here in a little bit for my prog/metal/whatever band. I have tried out people before in other bands, and have tried out for a handful myself. But I have never had TB to bounce ideas off of. :D

    To start, I've been working with a guitarist for a few months. We've come up with some original material and will probably be auditioning a drummer first, then guitarist then singer. Preferrably in that order.

    What kind of 'exercises' would you guys suggest throwing at these guys? Apart from just saying "Well, here's what we have. What would you do with it??" Or just jamming around to see what they would come up with on the spot.

    What do you guys do that seems to work? Obviously none if this really can tell flakes from non-flakes, or other personality flaws. I'll have to do that the fun way!

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Raymeous


    Jul 2, 2010
    San Diego
    Treat this like it what it is: a job interview. Be professional about it. Get YOUR *poop* together BEFORE the day of the audition. Just remember that TIME is the number one commodity here. Make good use of it and don’t waste any. Set up a schedule to help keep things moving. There's five more guys waiting outside for this first guy to leave! Let's go! Let's go!

    Supply the applicants a list of songs to learn, and whatever charts you can offer, along with enough time to actually absorb this stuff. Don’t just say "Learn these 40 songs by tomorrow". Be reasonable about it. I’d say pick three tracks that represent what you’re striving for. If you have made some demo tracks of your origianls then these should be included. Pick songs that are not only in the style you want, but also songs that address things like dynamics, tempo changes, odd time signatures, and vocal harmonies if that’s important to you. Three songs are enough to give them an idea of who you are, test out their skills, and it also gives them a chance to shine on another track if there is a part in the first song that they just can’t seem to get for whatever reason.

    In addition to the song list, give them very specific dates and times and if YOU"RE the ones running late... shame on you.

    Don't forget to let them know how much of their gear to they need to bring. If you have a drum set but just need a player, then set it up and they won’t have to lug theirs around, plus it cuts down on set up time (more on this later). The thing is that they will be more comfortable on their gear, just like you would be on your own bass. If they do bring their own gear, which is the most likely thing to happen, it gives you the chance to see if their rig is falling apart. It’s the same idea for guitarists. As far as gear goes, I’m usually not that judgmental. Gear is expensive and I do understand being broke. It is far easier to fix a bad drum set than a bad drummer. Crap gear does possibly indicate their employment status and/or how they treat their gear, but Eric Clapton is still Eric Clapton whether he's play his signature Strat or an off the shelf Squier Affinity. Don't be too hasty in dismissing a potentially awesome band member simply because they can't afford a $10,000 custom shop instrument.

    When they show up, do the meet and greet bit, hand out the drinks (did he really just grab a beer at 8am?), and then tell them “Go ahead and take a few to set up and then we’ll get started”. Try to minimize the random conversations here. This is a subtle test of just how long it takes them to set up their gear. Keep in mind that this is not necessarily an acurate way of doing things as people do tend to take time a little more seriously at a gig, but it is still important. It is an audition after all so even though we can be joking around it's still business.

    Go through the audition on a time table and try to stick to it. You can still be friendly while staying on track and getting down to business. If you find yourself engaged in a conversation about how hot actress so-n-so is, stop and move back to the job at hand.

    “Okay, here’s how we’re going to be doing this: We’ll jam for 10 minutes just to get warmed up and see if we click at all. Should be fun! Next we’ll spend another 15 minutes to go through the songs back to back, just like a gig. With the remaining time we can go through something again if we need to. After that we’ll have a quick chat for another 10 minutes or so. Sound good? Okay let’s go” If you feel the need to stress time you can always say "Tommy has to leave 3 to pick up his mom from the airport" or something like that.

    THE JAM:
    I like these. It’s great for a warm up and it helps everyone relax a bit before the real testing. Hopefully this will help you connect with them via “man that one section where you played that riff was awesome”. Just look at you making friends already. This is a great opportunity to see if they CAN jam and adlib stuff. Was the playing too repetitive? Does drummer boy only know one fill or was he playing too many? How well were you listening to each other? How about dynamics? Were they (YOU) able to adjust for changing volume levels or (good) tempo shifts?

    Ok here’s where the rubber meets the road. Go through the songs, and just keep playing through them like a real gig. Play though all of the songs before going back to another one.

    This is the chance to discuss how things went. Not totally indepth but just take 5 to sit down without a guitar in hand. It's distracting and you do need to focus a bit here to their responses. This is where you can do the "20 questions" portion, but mostly this is where you can talk to the guy for the semi-random stuff as well as to "lay down the law". This is when you talk about what you expect in terms of time commitments, how finances will work, lost or damage equipment, who's responsible for the PA (*cough* singers *cough*), transportation questions (Will your 87 piece drum kit fit in that Fiat?), "Do you have a job?", family/marital status and commitments, etc. There is a lot you can cover here, but there are also some things that can wait until after you have narrowed down your selections to the final few. In short the more specific you are the harder it is for people, including yourself, from weaseling out of the arrangement. The first audition is usually a bit early to be breaking out contract paperwork, but you should bring it to their attention that that will be part of the arrangement in officially joining the band if that is how you plan to run things.

    Here's a great example of what I'm talking about DREAM THEATER DRUMMER AUDITIONS, Part 1:

    I hope this helps you out in some way. =)
  3. Piggy8692


    Oct 2, 2010
    Northern Utah
    Thanks for that response. You definitely gave me a few good ideas that I'm looking forward put into place.

    I was almost thinking that no one had auditioned anybody before... Thanks again.
  4. Raymeous


    Jul 2, 2010
    San Diego

    Auditions are one of the first introductions to the 'business' portion of the music business. It's kinda tough, somewhat nerve wracking, but also rewarding at times. Good luck and I hope you guys find what you're looking for.

  5. That should be stickied, Raymeous.

    Very thorough, and right on.

    Follow that model and your auditions should be relatively successful.
  6. +1+1
    Very true. This has to be seen as an interview more than a simple audition. One of the best bands I had the pleasure to play with had an "audition" for me.

    The first part of my audition was held in a Waffle House (pancake house, Ihop--same thing). The lead singer, guitarist, drummer and I drank coffee and talked for about an hour before going to the rehersal spot. After a warm up, the songs they emailed me were gone through once or twice and then I was in.
    I asked about the waffle house thing later and was told be the lead guitarist that "job interviews are never been held on the factory floor". It was important for the band to know if I clicked with them personally before my technical ability was brought into the forum.

    This senitment echoed back to my military career in that; I will always choose attitude over aptitude. If someone has a great attitude, I can teach/train them to do anything. Not to mention, a person with a great attitude is always great to jam and gig with (even when things don't go well with the gig...or with the band). If they're the world's most intelligent jerk...they simply won't last long regardless of their talent level.
    Just my $.02.
  7. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Cali Intergalactic Mind Space - always on the edge
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
  8. Phantasm

    Phantasm I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.

    Sep 16, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    You'll know after 3 songs generally if they have it in them musically. Some people you know in the first 15 seconds.

    Next evaluate if the tone/gear is suitable for the parameters of your project.

    And spend the most time listening to them talk. Read this page and the associated disorders, learn to recognize them. It will save you a lot of pain:


    Give me a guy who can play the songs solid and is a great, charismatic guy anyday over a genius who's amazing but is a headcase.
  9. Raymeous


    Jul 2, 2010
    San Diego
    Hey there!

    The first meeting:
    The waffle house/coffee shop audition portion is a great thing to do. First off, if the guy that shows up comes across as a full on addict do you really want him to know where you hide your gear? I don't think so. Audition over before the jamming even starts. Plus in any band situation there is a certain amount of "hang factor" to deal with. Is this person's personality going to jive well with yours?

    Anywy... When I was writing up the initial post, I came up with a few questions or other related band type topics, for the Q&A section of the audition. Most of this you already know, and should not be taken as condisending. I am merely trying to be thorough. Some of these questions I already alluded to in "THE CHAT" section of the first post, but I couldn't stop coming up with more stuff. Funny how the brain works at times.

    2nd audition? Maybe:
    Do not be afraid of scheduling a second audition once you’ve narrowed your options down to two guys. Just don’t expect them to be available because if they are auditioning for your band, they are probably auditioning for other bands and may have landed that gig in the meantime. “Hello. We have narrowed down our selection to you and one other guy and were wondering if you would be available for a second audition. “ Show them that you respect their time.

    Asking questions and Band Rules:
    You need to be VERY precise with these questions so that there is less of a chance for misunderstanding. Being very specific in your questions also reduces the wiggle room. Do not tell them that not showing up for practice is not going to fly. Tell them instead that if they “do not show up to a SCHEDULED practice without contacting the other band members the by no later than the DAY BEFORE rehearsal more than twice, you are out of a job with this band.” Incidentally this would also go for YOU as well. So make sure to live up to that yourself. Okay obviously if something happens the day of the rehearsal or gig, and mom ends up in the hospital or something, that is a far bigger deal than any band practice or gig. If their goldfish dies every week then it’s time to dump him/her.

    Sample questions and topics you need to consider in no particular order:

    1) NO SLEEPING WITH OTHER BAND MEMBERS HONEY’S. EVER! It usually leads to disaster if not hospitalization. A hug and a peck on the cheek is one thing, but anything more than that is not a good idea. If you remember nothing else from my posts remember this one.

    2) Single or involved? Family trumps bands. Bands come and go, and in some cases so do families, but just be respectful of people’s lives outside of the band.

    3) Are you employed? i.e. “Am I going to have to buy your drum sticks every week?” BTW inter-band loans are dangerous. Every once in a blue moon is ok, but do NOT make it a habit.

    4) Transportation? How are you planning to fit your 87 piece drum kit into that Fiat? ( I had a drummer with a 80’s era monster kit and drove a Civic coupe. One of the other guys with an F150 had to drive 30 miles one way to pick him up. Lame. )

    5) Alcohol, smoking, drugs? Your call on just how much of this you want to deal with.

    6) What is your ideal scenario band wise? This is a question for you and the person auditioning. Remember like any interview its a two way street. Do I really want to work at this place?

    7) Financials like how you’re splitting gig money. Is it by a percentage or by a set dollar amount? This is probably the primary topic for any contract you will write up. This can get VERY ugly if not handled well from the beginning.

    8) Band Funds and joint gear? A band account that requires at least 2 names to draw from is somewhat ok as one guy can’t stiff you. I would recommend a set/predictable % of gig money so that no one person is contributing more than the others. This is not for individual gear purchases, but for studio time, promo packs, t-shirts, etc… As for joint equipment, who gets to keep it if somebody splits? What’s the buyback policy going to be?

    9) What about damaged, lost or stolen gear? How is that going to be handled? Do you have insurance? This is another biggie for the contract.

    10) Are friends and your “honeys” allowed at rehearsal? This usually turns into a major distraction, although I’ve been in situations where the girls have cooked up an amazing feast while we were off noodling around. It can also make them feel more involved in your life and give them a chance to hang out with the other “spouses”. Generally speaking, I would keep most rehearsals behind closed doors, and then hold a rare open rehearsal to give everyone a chance to hang out as more of a party.

    11) Do you understand the difference between practice and rehearsal? Practice is what you do at home on YOUR time, while rehearsal is on BAND time. Band time is harder to arrange as it is far more involved, so it is therefore more valuable time. Don’t waste it. Do not show up to the rehearsal without doing your homework, whatever that may have been. Again this one is all about professionalism and respect of your band members time.

    12) Who’s handling promotion, website, booking, etc? How does that affect the pay split? Anyone doing “extra” work should be compensated in some way in my book.

    13) Are you scheduling more rehearsals, or longer rehearsals, than you need to? Are you not scheduling enough rehearsals? Is the schedule consistent? It should be.

    14) EVERYONE should be made aware of a possible gig BEFORE agreeing to it. Also give them time to check their calendars. Do not expect an immediate answer. You never know when somebody’s grandma is celebrating her 100th birthday and one of you can’t make it. Do not assume everyone will be available even if they normally are. It is a matter of respect.

    15) Treat everything you do with your band professionally. This is YOUR COMPANY, so how do you want it to be perceived? If you tell somebody you will call them on Tuesday at noon, you better be calling them on Tuesday at noon. If you make an agreement, stick to it even if it is not in your best interest immediately. If your band agreed to play a gig for $50 bucks, do the show and learn from that mistake, and try not to repeat it. It seems simple, but it’s amazing how many people mess this up in their day to day lives.

    16) Take into count the host club/bars perspective. Your band is merely icing on the cake. Paying a band to play is a financial hit for them, one that most companies won’t even consider. Do your research and try to understand how their type of business operates. The bar is not always in the right by any means, but the more you understand their perspective the smoother the interactions will go.

    17) Find the gig location BEFORE the night of the show. In one band I was in the drummer and I would head to the locations the week before to see if we could even find the place, and then we would try to assess what issues and facilities were available there. How many outlets are available? Is the stage big enough for the monster drum set or do we need to scale it back? How’s the parking situation? How is the load out going to work here? (Upstairs? What the...) Where is the bathroom? Do I need to bring my own TP? (Hey I'm not kidding on this one) What’s on the menu? (I might get hungry, so good info to know)

    The wrap up:
    Ok if you got this far through the post .... good on ya. I am by no means a gigging/band building pro. These are simply some suggestions taken from personal experiences, conversations with others, and a ton of reading. To the OP take what info or ideas work for you in your situation and disregard the rest if need be. Again I hope this can help anyone that read this in some way along their own musical journey.

    Whew.... I'm spent. Ha ha. I think I need to write a book or something. :D
  10. goldenglory18

    goldenglory18 Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Amateur. Take my advice for its resale value.
    All extremely useful info.

    Thanks Raymeous!!!
  11. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    Having just rejected a band, my advice is a little more "raw".

    If you're looking for people:
    -Don't lie. About gig dates or money.
    -Make sure that if you ask someone to learn songs, that you know them yourself.

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