AUDITIONS - how to

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Matthew Bryson, Jan 15, 2003.

  1. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I’ve been playing just over two years. While I have jammed with a few different friends in some informal situations, I have yet to play in a band. I am by no means a great player yet, but I know that I am good enough to play in a cover band / bar band, and that is what I want to do. I want to play gigs. I don’t know anybody who is looking for a bassist and I don’t network very well – so my plan is to respond to musicians wanted adds. So now I need to get ready to audition. Having never auditioned I am wondering what usually happens. Will the band tell me what to play ahead of time? Will they ask me what I want to play? Will they expect me to improvise anything? Will I play solo for them or will they want me to play with them? I’m sure these things vary quite a bit, but I’d just like an idea of what some common scenarios might be.
    I had a friend who is a serious guitar player tell me a story of an audition for a national touring act. He said that there was a bunch of guitarists to audition and that they ran it kind of like the gong show. He said the guy that got the gig walked out on stage with his guitar on and a boom box in one hand. He set his tape player down, hit play proceeded to play along with a mix tape. He played well and got the gig. My buddy (who had never been to such a big audition) was impressed yet a little surprised - for some reason it struck him as odd (the playing with the tape) I’m really not sure what he expected or considers a ‘normal’ way to audition. I guess that’s what I’m looking to learn – what would be a normal way to audition for a band?
  2. SMASH

    SMASH Guest

    Jan 18, 2000
    Be early.

    Be organized with all your gear in a proper gigbag, etc., and make sure it is all ready-to-go (fresh batteries, etc.).

    Have a tuner, guitar strings, picks, 9v batteries, and an all-purpose tool in your gigbag. Any gigging bassist must and if you can save the day with your foresight that might get you the gig.

    Set it up quickly and quietly, use a minimum of processors/effects and make a minimum of noise. They do not want to hear your slap solo warmup. Go for a good appropriate tone.

    Have your contact info clearly written out and give it to them.

    Audition them - how often do they gig, where, what do they get paid, what's the setlist like, their crowds, is everyone a steady member or are people auditioning for other positions too, how do they do promo, etc. Show you have a clue about the things that matter in a working band.

    Ahead of time, ask them the format of the audition, what they expect of you, and how much time you have.

    When talking, less is more - don't be a bother.

    If they are not already a working band, or still have members to add, etc., then keep looking.

    Make sure you know some 12 bar walking lines and can lead a good boogie/funk/riff rave up.

    No matter who the leader is, play to what the drummer is doing and do not try anything fancy. Just be solid.

    Don't overstay your welcome. Leave when it is done. Ask when they'll be in touch.
  3. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Good advice from Smash. If you're answering musician wanted ads, here's some advice:

    1. The initial phone call. Try to keep the theme of the conversation (your end, at least) on the idea that you are a serious, commited player who will show up on time and know your parts. The party on the other end may be on a similar businesslike wavelength, or they may tend to want to explain the band's artistic vision, ambitions, etc. to you. This is good, to a certain extent, as it will let you decide what you think about the music and personnel you'll be working with. Be prepared for a few who will talk you silly. They may ask questions to try to pigeonhole you in terms of style, goals, etc. Try to leave flexibility in your answers. If you're pretty sure that they aren't your cup of tea, politely tell them so. Learn the power of a polite "no," as there are a lot of times you'll be offered the gig and you're better off declining. Don't emphasize or over-apologize for your lack of experience, otherwise you may not be given a chance when you really deserve one. I personally am very skeptical about working with inexperienced players, but I'd be more likely to give a newbie with a bit of confidence a shot. Of course, acknowledge when you're wayyy over your head, saves embarassment on both sides.

    2. The audition. You are right - things can vary widely. I usually propose to pick up a tape/CD and learn 2 - 5 songs for the audition. If they want to do things differently, they'll let you know. I'd be very wary of a band that used the 'gong show' approach you describe, or who were interested in putting you on the spot to play solo. How you fit in the pocket with the drummer is (or should be) more important than a 'show me whatcha got' solo and getting the chance to play with, rather than for, the group, is more respectful of you as a player. Like Smash said, be at your best - fresh strings, organized, quickly in tune.

    3. After. If they pass *your* audition, then try to project positive, friendly vibes so that all of the members will know that you're easy to work with. As Smash said, however, don't overstay your welcome. Confirm that they have your contact info. If they don't cut the mustard, be polite - say 'that was fun' in a somewhat restrained tone, and ease out the door quickly. Be polite but vague if they are clearly excited at the prospect of playing with you (or be direct, if you feel capable of doing so politely or aren't concerned).

    4. Good luck, and have fun!
  4. Don't let the horror stories psych you out. It's more informal and friendly than you think. I just wrapped up my auditions so I know how you feel. I always felt butterflies before the audition.

    ASK FOR MATERIAL TO LEARN BEFORE ATTENDING. Most of my auditions were sit-ins during their rehearsals. The best auditions were ones where I learned 3-4 songs before attending - I knew those puppies like the back of my own hand. Of course, they then proceeded to do their own renditions which were nothing like the originals. :rolleyes: Oh even worse, just last night, I went to an "audition" which was actually a jam performance for a packed restaurant. I didn't know any of the material and they couldn't provide charts for me to read before hitting the stage. I just said "Sorry, I'm not comfortable performing without proper preparation." During the first break, I shook hands, thanked them for the invitation and went home. (Oops, that was a horror story, wasn't it?)

    DON'T BE AFRAID TO JUST TALK. While the focus of the audition is the music, you want to be comfortable with those people (and vice versa). Most of the time, I would chat with the band for an hour after the audition, just shooting the breeze. Even went out for dinner together after the audition.

    SCREW THE EGOTISTICAL BANDS. I have found that the bands with attitude are incompetent and musically-challenged. (But they have nice Gibson LP's).

    (Wow, I said "audition" a lot.)
  5. SMASH

    SMASH Guest

    Jan 18, 2000
    Dress like you belong in the band / genre.

    If in doubt, ask what they wear onstage, copy it, and show up looking like it's a Friday night gig at the coolest club in town.
  6. lildrgn


    Jul 11, 2000
    Seattle, WA
    Hey Creepy,

    Another Seattleite here! Actually, Bellevue, but don't tell anyone!

    You're lucky to be in Seattle. Every band in this town seems to need a bass player. I know 2 bands that need bassists. Neither is a cover band, but they're both quite cool.

    Band A, Upwell, has an acoustic gig this Saturday at the Monkey Pub in the U-District. They've been looking for a bassist for awhile now. Michelle, the singer/guitarist/songwriter, is super cool and writes some killer music (kind of alt-pop, singer/songwriter kind of stuff, very melodic and open to killer bassline interpretations. And Steve, the guitarist, is a f*ckin genius!). They're on; you should check 'em out. (My singer/guitarist is doing a solo thing with them that night.)

    Band B is losing their bass and drums come early April. We are doing a farewell show with them on March 21st at the Central in Pioneer Square. Their music is RATM-ish. Chad, the guitarist, writes some cool, riff based songs and you, as the bassist, would need to supply some major power.

    Feel free to IM me if you are interested or just want to chat about the Seattle Scene!

  7. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    Thanks to all for all of the helpful replies.

    Hey lildrgn - I'm actually living in Kent, I just post from work (in Seattle) and I am interested in the local scene, but I have IM turned off because I don't know how to use it. I hope to move a little farther south soon for family reasons, maybe Olympia, and I'm going to try to find some auditions in that area. (although I'm not ruling out bands from Seattle as I'll still be here everyday for work)
    I clicked your link for Upwell and I like thier music, but I'm pretty sure they are too serious for me to audition for their bass job. (I've got mouths to feed and a day job I'll never quit - I think I'm looking for more of a hobbiest level band)I might have to check them out at the Monkey Pub this weekend.
  8. lildrgn


    Jul 11, 2000
    Seattle, WA

    Well, based on what I know about Upwell, they're not necessarily looking for the "big break". They (at this time, anyway!) seem to be happy just playing their music. They're artists. But they're music is pretty intricate and it seems, to me anyway, that they'd need a really melodic, musical bassist to fit in...

    That being said, I think you should check them out, definitely.

    And while we're on the subject, you should come down to Olympia on Valentine's Day (right! :rolleyes:) and see my band Ethyl play at the 4th Ave Tavern or Saloon or whatever. If not, at least check out my site and site below.

    Gwon :)
  9. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    Hey lildrgn, you guys have a real nice web site too...I like your MM bass! I've got "Bonehead" playing right now and it's good...I'd like to go check you guys out at the 4th ave tav. - when is valentines day anyway?
  10. lildrgn


    Jul 11, 2000
    Seattle, WA
    V day is 2/14/03. It's a Friday this year...
  11. Okay, I have been asked to audition for a heavy metal/thrash metal cover group. They play a lot of Metallica, Black Sabbath, Megadeth etc.

    Now I really need to know how to make a good impression. As far as I know, the audition is me jamming with them on a few songs, then me playing by myself for a while on whatever with the drummer, improvisation.

    Please give me all the advice you can - Dress, performance, anything. It would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you very much.

    (If I get in this band, we could very well take a few steps further to getting there, if you know what I mean.)
  12. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Ooops! Avoid 'em like the plague.
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    It depends on the genre and the status of the band really.

    Ideally it sounds like you need to learn the material before you get in there, so make sure you get a CD/mini-disc/tape in advance. Make sure you know which songs they want you to audition and learn them note for note.

    Conflicting comments, the key is balance. If you need to ask something, ask it, but dont tell them your life story I guess! :D

    Best advice I can really offer, is put in as much work as possible before the audition, do your best and TRUST YOUR JUDGEMENT!

    If the drummer sucks, or the guitarist is a snugglemuffin, or the singer is late and doesnt give a damn about your time, fk them and keep looking!

    Oh and I've never had an audition where I was expected to improvise anything on my own. You're there to make the groove happen not to wow the audience with chops in a free jazz style!
  14. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    To add to what has already been said. After you audition and you think you'll dig being in the band, give the guys/gals a follow-up phone call or e-mail to thank them for the audition and to let them know you are seriously interested.