How to run Guitarist Auditions?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by fendsboy417, Dec 7, 2008.

  1. fendsboy417


    May 1, 2007
    Hey guys. My band is looking for a new guitar player, so we are trying to find as many guitarists who fit our 'job discription', and then we plan on having a day of try-outs/auditions. I figure each audition would last about 1/2 an hour, but I've never held an audition for a band member before so I'm not sure if that's long enough.
    So the trouble is that I don't know how to run an audition. I figured it would consist of one song playing with the band (guitarist auditioning plays with the band to see how we fall together), one song where the guitarist plays alone (he would be able to choose this song), and lastly maybe an improvisational solo.
    Any suggestions, comments, criticism, or threats:smug: are welcome. Thanks.
  2. Jeff Martinez

    Jeff Martinez

    May 10, 2005
    Denver, CO
    I've always preferred to meet potential bandmates for an "interview" before ever taking the time to play with them. Personality is a big factor in whether or not someone can last in a band. It's a good way to weed out candidates who have no chance of working out before you waste time trying to play music with them. This also gives you a chance to give them a CD sample of some of your band's songs to learn before the actual audition.

    When it come to jamming with the potential player, they should have learned a few of your songs, so you can get a good idea of how serious this person is. I do also like to have them play some of their own music, it's a good indication of what style of music they write.
  3. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    Depends what kind of music. If you're a bar cover band I would think that your plan would be good. I wouldn't have them play alone but that's me. The solo idea is a good one, but I think it would be best to just pick a song with a built i solo (i.e. Crossroads)

    as for the time factor I think a half hour is long enough to play a little and then do an "interview" (you can also cut it shorter if need be)... I would only schedual one player per hour for each half hour audition though. that was everyone is out of everyone's way.
  4. Assuming that you're playing original music I think it's a good idea to give the person a demo CD with a few songs on it, and let the auditioner select which song(s) they would like to audition with. Maybe give each potentional new member charts for the songs as well.

    Personality is big for me, because playing in a band is quite a bit more that if the guy can play or not. Be very upfront about the bands goals, how much you plan on gigging, how much input the "new guy" with have in the gigging schedule, writing new material etc.

    I like Dogbert's idea of auditioning each guy for a 1/2 hour, with a half hour interview. Try to leave enough time for the first guy to leave before the second guy arrives etc.
  5. We are doing the same thing in my band.

    We schedule a guy to come out and jam with us for the night. We usually give him a three song list that we expect him to learn. We try to give him a week to learn them as well. This can tell you a lot about their work ethic.

    We spend the night jamming around on those three songs and what ever else we all may happen to know. This can tell you a little about the candidates ability to improvise.

    Also, before we finish, I suggest that we play three song list one more time... this gives the candidate the opportunity to shine... he should be over any nervousness, and if the songs were a little weak he should be able to nail them the second time.

    I think 30 minutes is too short. You can tell if a guy sucks in half an hour... but to find out if the guy is right for the band... that takes more time.

    Also, I think "having a beer" or whatever after the jam session can give you a better idea about them too. Personality is just as important as how good he plays.

    Remember, the candidate is being auditioned... and so are you. I have been asked into a band after an audition that I wanted no part of because they were all too interested in getting baked. Be on your best behavior.

  6. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    First thing's first: What kind of band is it (original, covers, corporate?) and how professional are you (for fun only, part-time but get paid, full-time, touring)?

    If you are a cover or corporate band, not touring, it is less important that you have things in common and like hanging out together. If you are touring, it can be easier if you are friends as well as coworkers, or it can make things worse.

    If you are just looking to have fun, maybe gig once in awhile, perhaps for money and perhaps not, it's more important that you get along.

    Bottom line, are you looking to hire a coworker, find a new buddy who can also play guitar, or a bit of both? Don't be too quick to pick the last one; it's not necessarily ideal for all arrangements.
  7. svtb15

    svtb15 Inactive

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig. Q+
    +1 to all above.. But also see how he/she plays with the drummer.. Most guitar folks (even seasoned guitar players) i find play way on top of the beat.making some stuff sound rushed or uneasy.... It would be nice if they were as conscious about where the drums are as we bass players are..
    Really listen to how they groove with drummer or click or whatever you use a s a constant time... doesnt matter if its grunge, pro rock, motown, metal, jazz, pop country etc... it has to groove in one way or another and that is what sets the boys from the men.
  8. yeah... even though I posted something that contradicts this... I still agree with what you wrote here Dave. Good advice.
  9. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    An approach that works well is a trial period. For some reason, people tend not to consider this when they're auditioning people. It's good for both the band and the newcomer because it doesn't set up the pressure of making a permanent decision. Basically, if you find someone you like, tell them you're going to give it a two-week trial period before you spend the money for new business cards, photos, web content, etc. Book at least two or three gigs and two or three rehearsals in there, and hang out at least once without involving music. Make it clear that at the end of the two weeks, either party is free to say it's not working out, with no hard feelings. If the guy turns out to be a flake or a douchebag, at least you found out about it *before* you're in the middle of a 22-date stretch, and you didn't spend $$ on new promo materials. Or, if it turns out he doesn't like your music after all, or *you* guys turn out to be flakes or douchebags, or the money isn't as good as he hoped it would be, he can move on without anybody getting upset. You might even end up with a fill-in player from the experience.

    Hope this helps.
  10. fendsboy417


    May 1, 2007
    I apologize to everyone who posted in this thread. I did not clarify that the guitarist will not be playing original music in the audition. Eventually my band will play original music, but that's a different story.
    I'm basically looking more so for a co worker, not a new "buddy" as Dave put it.
    So no original music in audition, and the band aura is to be very serious. Sorry again for misunderstandings, But all your posts helped a lot nonetheless.
  11. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    Personally I wouldn't recommend this at all. I know if people have asked me to meet with them before I audition I have refused. It's a complete waste of time and quite frankly I find it rude.

    People can meet you and audition you at the same time. If they want to have a talk at a later date once they have heard you play fair enough, at least that way you aren't going to waste your time if they don't even like your playing, or if you don't like theirs for that matter.

    I know I am not going to go and meet with some guys before I have ever heard them play or they have heard me just so they can check my "personality" out. They either don't care about your playing and only want to see if you have the right outfit on, or they might like you and hate your playing.

    No, don't do this, I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that think like me and they won't bother with it. You might miss the right person for the job that way.

    What I would do is make a schedule for the audition. If you are going to make it half an hour give them a couple of songs to learn. I would also throw a key at them and have a quick jam for ten minutes that way you can see what they can do with improvising and coming up with ideas. It will also give you a good indication of how they are to play with in general in terms of their musical "personality". Far better than wasting your time in some cafe or bar talking about nonsense. I would also give them a few chords on a chart and see how they follow it.

    I wouldn't bother getting them to play their own stuff, you are auditioning them for your music. If you really want to hear their stuff ask them if they have a demo of it.

    Good luck
  12. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    In that case just have them learn a few of the songs. I wouldn't bother with the meet and greet stuff either way.
  13. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I agree that a fairly long personal conversation is first. At the audition, I usually want to do four or five songs. Sometimes it ends up at ten songs as kind of a jam to see whether we have common ground.
  14. fendsboy417


    May 1, 2007
    If I were to persue the interview idea (maybe for like 1/2 an hour or less) what questions do you recommend I ask him? What are important questions in general for any interview?
  15. ask them what a bass is, and how important it is in a band. Whoever gives the best answer wins.
  16. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    I think that's fine as long as it's over the phone. Phone interviewing is almost essential in setting up auditions, I should have said earlier too. I just think it's completely unnecessary, inefficient and for the most part unprofessional to meet someone in person before you audition them.

    You can do the social thing with them if you like them musically, if you don't like their musicianship why waste everyone's time?
  17. fendsboy417


    May 1, 2007
    That is possibly the most intelligent answer to my question ever thought up.
  18. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    I would ask them firstly what experience they have, it usually the first and foremost thing anyone wants to know in any interview.

    Also you want to find out what gear they have. You don't want to find out that the guy, or girl as the case may be only has a 10 watt practice amp when you want to go and do covers gigs. You need to be a bit diplomatic in this area though because some great players make do with some gear that you might not really think is up to par or might not be your cup of tea. You have to remember you are auditioning the player, not the gear. You do need to make sure that the gear is usable though. This will be resolved at the audition either way though.

    Also ask them what general music interest they have, bands they like musicians they like. This is always a good indicator of whether you are going to get on with them musically.

    I don't know how important it is to you but I always want to know what their level of theory is and whether they can read or not.

    Lastly I would ask them where they would like to go in terms of playing with a band, what kind of gigs they want to do, whether it's club circuit or corporate gigs.

    I would have to say though that in some aspects of those questions, if you are asking them you should really have your act together at least with some ideas of how you want to go about doing things yourself.
  19. I usually do a phone interview before setting up an audition. I discuss things like preferred musical styles, availability for practice, and gigging goals. It is important to make sure expectations are lined up. If your band is a gig-once-a-month cover band, and the person auditioning wants to make a living playing music, it probably won't be a good fit. Likewise if you play R&B and they're a metal shredder (though if you outline your musical style in your advertisement, that shouldn't happen).

    For the actual audition, I provide 5 songs from our setlist for them to learn. This shows if they can do their homework and come prepared. Sadly, a lot of players failed to put much time into learning the song. I'm not expecting a note-for-note rendition, but they should have a good understanding of the song structure. I like to give about 30-45 minutes, although most times I know within the 1st song or two.....

    I'm not interested in how well they play by themselves. I've known plenty of guitarists that sound good playing solo, but suck in a band situation, usually due to their "unique" sense of timing.

    Good luck with your search.
  20. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    Yeah I agree with you there, the availability thing is an important question to ask, that I forgot. No point having the best guitarist in the world if he can't do Friday gigs because it's "date night" with the wife.
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