How should I plan an audition?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by javi_bassist, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. Hello people!

    Today I had a couple of doubts. I am putting together a band again and I got the "honor" to be the band leader (or the one who cares to look for people). We had already a couple of people coming. The thing is that, today, I received an email from a girl who wants to join the band. There is still the vacancy for a singer so I answered her an email. The thing is that, since we had already people coming who want to be in a band as a hobby (perfectly understable) and our project is more serious than that, I started to include an extra paragraph in the emails saying exactly that: we are not going to be rockstars but we like to work. Then, I send them a list of 10 songs and they pick four. We play the four and see what's the feeling and if the singer likes us and if we like him/her.

    On the other hand, I am also looking for other projects. And when I contact a band, their emails are usually "Come to our rehearsal and watch us play. See if you like it and then join". Then, it makes me wonder: Am I asking too much for my auditions? I mean, I don't really see the point of asking someone to come to see my band playing without a singer... I need to listen to them playing or singing. What do you guys do in these situations?
  2. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    If you're auditioning them, then of course you need to hear them. Your approach makes perfect sense to me. I would guess that bands that invite someone to just come hang out and listen must be more casual bands.
    Oddly, javi_bassist and swooch like this.
  3. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    If anything, you are being too lenient. Allowing them to pick 4 of 10 allows them to pick songs they likely already know. When I joined my last band, they gave me a list of 5 to learn. When I joined the band, I had to learn a full set list (45 songs) in three weeks. You want to see how they can work with songs when it is not their strength as well. And having them come and watch is a waste of everyone's time.
  4. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    I'm with @buldog5151bass on this. Additionally, once they are there and have done the 5 you picked, ask them to try one they didn't rehearse. This will give you a good insight into their general musical skills.
  5. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    I think your approach is fine. If you think four songs is enough to get a decent impression of the candidates skills, then no need to complicate. I would definitely plan to run a second level of auditions where you specify a few tunes that represent songs that your group feels are key or representative of your set list. For example, I was working with a classic hard rock project and the guys would always make them pass the "War Pigs" test. That was their litmus. We usually did at least 2 rounds, with the first being like you did, very casual and informal - "pick some of these songs, lets see if we gel". The second was usually a bit more specific with a couple of songs that really exposed the vocalists abilities.

    You don't state that this is the case, but for others that might, if you are in a situation that you expect people to be able to learn your entire set list quickly (ie you're ready to gig and just need the vox up to speed), then make sure you include an audition stage that includes a "prepare # songs by next week" so you can see if they are able to meet your needs. But be sure to have reasonable expectations - I would think that more than 10 or so a week is a pretty high expectation - especially if they are expected to have lyrics memorized in that time.

    Your audition process should be as complex as you need it to be to properly evaluate your candidates. Don't draw it out too much (3 stages max - 2 is better), but make sure you get what you need. Make sure you're up front with folks as you make decisions - if you've passed on somebody let them know nicely ("thanks, we're going with someone else" or "thanks, we didn't feel the fit" etc). If there is something they did that they can learn from that you can pass along in a constructive way, than do so - ("thanks, but we had problem with your timing", or maybe their range just wasn't right). Unless they are just tools, try to be helpful and let them get something out of their experience besides rejection.

    As someone preparing to audition, I always prefer to have at least some tunes to work up for them and just show up cold. I'd ask for as much of their set list as they would share, ask if there was anything in particular they wanted from me and then I'd focus on getting # songs tight (# being the number they requested that I prepare - make sure I was ready for what they asked for) and then keep working on others to be able to continue an audition "jam" if the opportunity presents (show a little intiative and show that I could work up songs quickly). For the right situation, I would tolerate 3 audition stages, probably no more. Anything I can learn from the experience is always of value to me, it can only make me better.
    Oddly and javi_bassist like this.
  6. It is a nice idea actually! However I might see more like trap so to speak. I don't know

    I think four songs is fair. But as you say, if we like someone we ask him/her to come again with more specific songs that we tell him/her. Like a second round of songs with 4 different songs that they need to know and they are the same four songs for everyone in this second round
  7. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    Not really a trap. Are you not interested in how they can handle themselves on the fly?
    LowActionHero likes this.
  8. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I see nothing wrong with them choosing a few songs and then coming out to meet and play with you. I will always request a band to have some audition songs for me to come to the audition with. If they wont and just say "come and jam" then I'm out.
    lfmn16 likes this.
  9. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I would first give the auditionees about five songs to learn that show off a variety of styles you need from them. Give them a reasonable amount of time to let them learn the songs.

    Schedule them at different times so they aren't bumping into each other if the auditions all occur on the same evening or time window. Like, with a half hour grace period in between each one. Let them know before hand that no decisions are made at the audition -- you talk about it privately as a group and then let everyone know within 24 hours who you picked.

    At the audition, ask them which tune they want to start with. People are often nervous at these things so help them feel at ease by picking the first song they do. It also gives you an idea of what they are most comfortable with or may like.

    Let them know that if the audition is successful, they will need to sign that you can use any pictures, video or recordings with them in it even if they leave the band eventually. Work out issues regarding pay expectations to make sure you aren't hiring one of these guys that thinks he's the only one in town who can play and therefore deserves five million dollars. And spend some time finding out how many other groups the guy is in, his situation (so you can judge if he's never going to be available due too many gigs, and whether he is an employee, entrepreneur or artist type of musician).

    Get back to the candidate musicians who show up for the audition the day after. Reiterate any terms with being in the band and ask if they are interested (remember, it's a joint audition -- they decide if they like you, and you decide if you like them).

    In my case I have an orientation video they watch (13 minutes). For the ones taht don't make it, don't be afraid to tell them why, musically, they didn't get picked, and give pointers for improvement. You want a good supply of musicians so help them learn from the experience. If their skills are up to par, or near par, ask if they are interested in sub work. Again, keep your options open to work with anyone. If the person's skills are good, i even indicate they can play a gig if they give me a lead or booking.
    Oddly, squidtastic, StayLow and 2 others like this.
  10. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Depends. If this is a band that works off a set list and doesn't try to wing it through a new song at gigs, not so important. I'm more interested in whether someone can do thier homework and show up prepared.

  11. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    huh... i've never auditioned for a band that didn't want me to play with them. how is that an audition? btw, i wouldn't join a band that told me to come by and hear them play, either; in fact, i wouldn't schedule a time to watch them play. it doesn't make sense to me.
    buldog5151bass likes this.
  12. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    If a band want you to come and watch them, and then YOU get to decide if you want to join, they probably don't have their #&[email protected]# together.
    javi_bassist likes this.
  13. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    I agree on that one. Depending on the kind of band, I'm willing to work with musicians that are not (yet) good enough to handle themselves freestyling on the fly - if and only if - they are willing and able to put in the time and work to show up 100% prepared for the rehearsals.
    I've worked with guys that were so good they hardly ever practiced songs for rehearsals, they were able to wing them just like that. The problem is, when two or more do that - then you don't get the general structure of the song up and going and no one is able to wing it from there.
    People who can not rely on their abilities and improvising skills need to show up prepared and have practiced a lot already - the downside is that they don't react well to sudden changes.
    I live in a remote area that is sparsely populated (for Germany, that is) where you have to compromise when putting together a band.
    javi_bassist likes this.
  14. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv

    It's not always true, but I've found that generally the bands that expect more out of you at an audition have more to offer.
    bassbully likes this.
  15. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    It isn't about winging it on a gig. It is about how well they pick up on things. It make rehearsals go a lot better. It tells you if he has an ear or not. If you prefer not to do it, that's your call.
    javi_bassist likes this.
  16. That's actually a really good point. I didn't see it like that
    Gravedigger Dav likes this.
  17. I would give people 5 songs and two "maybe" songs with a two week lead out to learn them.
    I would also send a PDF of charts for the "maybe" songs (not big band charts, more like the cowboy chord ones). Auditions were 30-40 minutes and a quick rap session and that's that. It was surprising that many chose not to learn anything at all or show up and have to listen to the songs or some other drama. One guy futzed with his amp for 20 minutes even though we provided backline.
  18. Last week a guy came to the audition and he didn't learn any of the lyrics. He kinda knew the melody (not quite well) but didn't know any of the lyrics. Then, why would you show up? I mean, if you are interested, you try to be prepared to give your best. Or that's what I do anyways. It is harder than I expected to find someone who takes it seriously
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
  19. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Today's work ethic. Pretty amazing how unprepared some folks are. can you imagine having to wade through job applicants (for a "real" job) with this attitude? So many people just assume they can fake their way through everything.
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