Best Ways to Hold Auditions?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by FriscoBassAce, Sep 13, 2005.

  1. FriscoBassAce


    Dec 29, 2004
    Frisco, Texas
    Independent Manufacturers Representative
    If you've followed some of my posts, then you know that I joined a band, practiced over the summer, played a first gig and then lost two of the original members. So the other members and I decided to trudge on. I bought a PA system this week and we have placed quite a few ads looking for a drummer and a 2nd guitarist.

    Our plan is to have the drummers who want to audition come to our studio, one at a time, and audition. So far we've got 4 set up for Saturday. Some of them had MP3's or demos, others did not. We're kind of going on blind faith with the ones who didn't have a demo.

    So what are some ways that you have auditioned many during a "cattle call?" Once we pick a drummer, we get to do it all over again with guitarists. (And eveyone knows there are 4 times as many guitarists as drummers!) :)

    Would you do it differently? Would you require a demo cd or tape prior to setting an audition up? What I'm really interested to find out is how you've done it in the past, and what would you have done differently?


  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Just spend 10-15 minutes playing a few songs with each drummer. If he's really good but you're not sure, spend an extra 10 with him. Be honest and tell each drummer that's all they're going to get because you have other drummers coming out. You'll know whether a drummer can cut a gig within the first 2 minutes, usually. I've had auditions that lasted 3 minutes, and those were the more professional auditions I went to. Quite frankly, I wouldn't want an audition to go longer. I once had an audition that lasted 45 minutes, and they wanted to go longer, and I refused, saying that I gave them plenty to go on already.

    Having demos is nice, but I don't think it's necessary. Not everyone has one even though they may be good.

    Auditioning people isn't hard. Just use your instincts, don't waste their time or yours, and thank them for coming out, and you'll do fine.
  3. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Another reason for not spending too long with each drummer is that you'll probably find it fairly tiring. You don't want to get a bad impression of the last guy because you're getting bored with the process, as he might be the best of the bunch.

    If you're in the privileged situation of having multiple drummers to audition, two or three songs is probably plenty. Give them each a few minutes to warm up as well and allow some time to hang out with them at the end.

    After you've seen each one, write down your impressions - it may be a good idea not to confer too much at this point. At the end of the day, you can have a chat, referring back to your notes and, hopefully, the answer will be fairly obvious.

  4. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    Slightly offtopic.....

    What we have done in the past...and future... is anyone that is joining the band we tell them right up front they are on a 1 month trial period. We realized that some musicians(in our case drummers) weren't playing as much as they used to and they were rusty. The 1 month gave them a chance to sink or swim and there was no hard feelings if we told them it wasn't a go.

    Hope this helps,
  5. First thing I always do is ask drummers what kind of rug they use. I find out quickly who has a sense of humor and who doesn't.

    If at all possible get a drum kit set up and make all the players use your kit, no exceptions. They can bring their own kick pedal but thats it.
    1. it cut's down on time of each guy setting up, tearing down.
    2. A good drummer can make it work on any kit, it's not the arrows it's the indian your looking for. They can tell you about their awesome rig.
    3. You can look at 8 guys in under 3 hours.

    Give a list/CD of three tunes to each auditioner beforehand and tell 'em to learn one or all of those tunes. Explain that they will only play one maybe two tunes on the audition depending on time. I have found I know if the guy's gonna work in the first 2 minutes of playing a tune, sometimes much less.
    Book the auditions 20 minutes apart and tell people if they are late they cut into their audition time as you have people waiting. This also helps weed out the johnny come late to the gigs/rehersals.

    This makes it easy to get rid of those you don't like quickly and painlessly w/o hurting any feelers. If you see someone you really like, tell 'em you'll be calling them back.

    I've done the last 3 searches for a drummer this way and it works great. The real good players don't wanna waste time either and are not fazed by using a house kit. The guy's who can't play are outta my life in under 20 minutes.

    Demo's can be very deceiving, the proof is in the pudding. I've heard some good demo's and the guy who show's can't possibly be the guy on the recording.

    Take notes too, is not always easy to remember your impressions after you see 8 guy's in three hours.

    Good luck
  6. el_Kabong


    Jul 11, 2005
    This is a good point imo. It always takes more than the length of an audition to get to know each other and often it's personalities, expectations, habits and work ethic that can make or break the partnership, not chops.
  7. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    One thing I recommend for drummers especially, is pick a few songs to play that will show their range. Most people can play a straight rock beat. With my band that plays cover rock stuff, we made them play the Ocean. That bar of 7/8 every few bars weeds out the hacks in a hurry. That a nice 12/8 ballad like at last, and another two songs or so was all we did. 5 songs should be plenty.

    When I auditioned for one of my current bands, it was similar. They picked what they thought were the 5 hardest bass songs they played, and wanted to see if I could groove on em and also suprised me by making me solo over one of em.

    How you audition people depends on your expectations.
  8. Kael

    Kael Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    Spring a song on them that they aren't familiar with too. I am always more interested in how a musician thinks on their feet than in how good their pre-rehearsed chops are. That is a fairly quick way to seperate the men from the boys.
  9. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK

    I thought the purpose of the exercise was to find a drummer who's a good fit with the band?

    If your band often likes to pick things up at short notice and try out new ideas on the fly then it's not a bad idea but I'd warn people in advance of the audition. Otherwise you might scare off the folks who would be best for the role and end up with the guy who's always trying out different beats just to keep the bassist on his toes, or the one who sounds pretty good but who never does his homework when you're trying to work on a particular arrangement of a song.

  10. bassbully43


    Jul 1, 2005
    I dont think spring a surprise on a drummer tying out is a good this a song you cover or are you trying to break his b*%#s? Tell them the songs you cover if you are original tell them the style. A friend who was looking for a drummer met the dudes who called his ad first ...gave them a cd of a few of their tunes and gave them a few days to learn them. The guys trying out were instructed to call back and set up a tryout based on the cd songs (originals). The friend then already had met the guys trying out and rated them on looks and attitude before they ever hit a head for them. If they called back fine they set it up ...if not they wasted little time and figured the guy was not that good to learn their songs or not serious. A guy called back in two days and tryed out nailing all the songs and is thier new drummer in a tight regional band with a label and recording their second cd. Suprising a person trying out can backfire...telling them what you do and being up front is the key.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Unless you're a band that does a lot of stuff on the spur of the moment that requires quick thinking, I really don't think you have anything to gain by surprising people at auditions. On the other hand, if you are, it's only fair to let the auditioners know that beforehand, and then you can surprise the hell out of them with a clear conscience.
  12. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Another thing to keep in mind is to close the deal on the guy you want and fits. As much as you are auditioning a player, the player is also auditioning you.

    Here's some pointers:
    - Have a couple of interview questions for each person that auditions. Questions should include stuff like schedules, level of commitment, musical goals, financial requirements, etc. Write em down and ask them of everybody. You might find a killer player, but he/she may only be available to gig once a month. If you're goal is to gig every weekend, you run into problems as well.

    - Clarify your musical goals, and be able to transmit them. Phrases like "to be the best" or "hit it big" doesn't relay anything meaningful. Do you want to do originals or covers? Would you like to tour or stay local? 5 nights a week or on weekends only? What styles of music do you want to perform, and what kind of crowd do you want to draw?
    Clarifying goals will not only help your auditon, it will help your band.

    - Be honest and real with the people who audition. Don't tell them that you have representation, when it's really just your brother who hangs out at the local bar. Don't tell folks that you'll have $700 gigs in the future, when you don't even have a single gig in sight. Pros with experience can sniff out this kind of BS purely because they've heard it all before. Please be honest in what you can do and will do, and what you have going. It will save time and potentially bad feelings in the future.

    - Have an audition plan. I know it's been said before, but know what you want to accomplish. I have walked out of auditions within 15 minutes when the band had no clue on what they wanted to do. I don't mind learning the material on the fly, but I do mind when I waste time on figuring out what the band wants to use to audition.

    - Have enough time between auditions to discuss among band members, take notes, and to spend more time with a candidate if needed. I know that guys say 15 minutes for each guy, no matter what. But, if someone seems like a good match, I'd like the opportunity to get a better idea of what they can do and want to do right there and then. To me, it's more efficient than a second audition or finding out the guy is a bad fit weeks afterward.

    - If you found your guy, let him know. Some bands try to play it cool, and lose out on a great player because of it. We all like to be wanted, and if that's the case let it be known. I've auditioned with bands who played the "cool" attitude and see their ads up for months and years. I know some of the guys who auditioned for them, and they were plenty good but they didn't feel like a fit or didn't care for their attitude.

    - Don't cop an attitude. Attitudes within a group setting can be amplified exponentially. Especially, bands without gigs shouldn't cop attitudes. There's nothing tangible that you are doing that will make anyone think that you are the next big thing or that your project is worth making sacrifices for. Whether or not you're in that boat, be respectful. Save the "band attitude" for a performance, not an audition.
  13. bassbully43


    Jul 1, 2005
    Awsome Jive... great advise. I think making the player trying out comforable is a big help. The guys i played for did and i really helped me nail the gigs...if any of these guys or anyone in my playing future cop an attitude with me ...i'll walk no matter who they are or how good the gigs not in music for the money i have a job its all about the fun and love of music.Im lucky now the guys offered me the bass job and they are all very cool :cool:
  14. FriscoBassAce


    Dec 29, 2004
    Frisco, Texas
    Independent Manufacturers Representative always, TB folks come through. We are definitely going into this with a's not going to be random. And with some of the great ideas from you guys, I think we can even have a better audition than we expected to. Jive I especially like the idea of asking each person the same questions. We should be able to audition them, interview them, set them on their way, then discuss what we liked and didn't like about each one. I'm going to personally call back each person and let them know if they made it or not. I think that's the only classy way to do it.

    Thanks guys....auditions are later today and tomorrow. I'll let you know how it went.

  15. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    I do hate it when I audition for a band and never get a call back. I hate it more when I answer an ad, the band says they'd like to audition me, and THEN never call back.

    Our audition process for our band is simply to play with whoever is interested. In our town, the musician population is severely limited, so most of us know each other... and half of us have already played in a group together... lol...

    One time we did audition and play with a guy who was from out of town. He ended up spending an hour and a half on the road every time we practiced. That didn't work out for very long.

    One more thing you might want to ask about when auditioning new band members: What kind of gear they're using.

    I've played with a dozen drummers without drumsets. I've played with even more drummers whose sets are barely beginner level. I've played with bassists without even their own AXE, and many more without a gig-worthy amp.

    The drummer's set is an important part of your band's sound, and the aesthetic factor is something to think about as well. If you're a country band, you might want to avoid the drummer with the huge 13 piece double bass kit. You'll also want to make sure that the drummer's cymbals are up to snuff. Sabian B8's might cut it for some styles, but most serious drummers will have spent hours and countless dollars on their cymbal set.

    The bass and amp are also important to know about. If the rest of the band plays through small combos, you might not want the bassist to use his huge 12x10 bass rig. If your two guitarists use a 8x12 Mesa stack and a 8x12 Marshall stack, a 12" Crate combo for bass might be less than sufficient. Also, the Explorer style axe might look a little odd in your jazz group.

    Just another few things to consider, especially if you're replacing a musician who pushed all his FOH sound with his rig. The most talented guy in the world won't be of much real use if he has to play on borrowed gear all the time (I've been in that situation too).
  16. FriscoBassAce


    Dec 29, 2004
    Frisco, Texas
    Independent Manufacturers Representative
    You just can't anticipate which ones are going to flake out.

    We had 3 auditions set for Saturday, and three for Sunday. Guess how many drummers ACTUALLY showed up? TWO! Even with calls to confirm their audition time, and everything handled just about as professionally as I could possibly make it, some guys just flat stood us up. No show, no call, no nothing.

    The good news is that we found one guy who ROCKED! and has expressed interest in joining. The bad thing is he has another audition in two days. I think we will offer him the job tomorrow if we can.

    Next up: Guitarists.... (Oh brother!) :rolleyes:
  17. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    You've done your part and the other guys have selected themselves out. If the "drummer who ROCKS" doesn't take you up, was the other person who showed up any good?

  18. bassbully43


    Jul 1, 2005
    Man i 'll tell ya i am opened up to whole new world known as weird and strange musicians. I am in my first real band in years after i got two offers from two auditions. The first band turned out to be odd and not so good plyers so i went with band two.. good players and guys. All i hear is how guys come and go we had a guitarist no show us last seems no matter where you go their is egos attitude and not many loyal players. In my area there are bassists who only join for the gig money and since they are in high demand jump band to band gig to gig for the $$$ and no commitment to one band...good for the bassist bad for bands who want to get and keep a lineup.but i will say this i am a commited loyal player looking to gel and get with a good band...if the band i am in will not keep up their end of the deal and develop attitudes etc...i will walk on them and look elsewhere...lifes to short im to old and play music only for the fun and love of it...i have a job and any money made from playing is great but i'm in it for the S'n'G only. :D
  19. Hi All,
    I am in a Prog/ Metal band, (we do alot of Dream Theater covers) and we were auditioning guitarists for about a year and a half. What we would do, when a guy answered one of our adds, we would have him come over and give him a CD, sheet music and tabs for three songs.We would set up a time when he would return for the audition. This way we would weed out all the no shows before an audition. Don't put alot of stock in demos, the guy we hired as a guitar player didn't have a demo and he played Stream of Conciousness with no problem, the other 30 we auditioned, some with demos, couldn't come close.

  20. FriscoBassAce


    Dec 29, 2004
    Frisco, Texas
    Independent Manufacturers Representative
    The guy that "ROCKED!" said yes and is now a member of our band. We were fortunate. He plays really well, sings back up vocals, and is from New York City with lots of gigging experience. The other guy that showed up was also good, but had been out of practice for a long time and was a little rusty. I'm sure with some practice he'll be fine.

    We're doing guitar auditions on October 1st. I emailed all the guitarists that had shown some interest, and now only two have replied. I've got 8 more spots to fill before the 1st. Hopefully we'll get some more interest. It's classic rock, so it's not that hard...where did all the guitarists go?