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Jazz/Music Major Audition Tips

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Garret Wheeler, May 12, 2016.

  1. Garret Wheeler

    Garret Wheeler

    Mar 1, 2016
    Hey everybody! So in a few weeks I'm gonna be graduating from high school and after summer I'll be heading off to college. Before I even applied to any schools I knew that I wanted to study music. Anyway, I got into my No.1 choice school and there are auditions required for the music program. I would feel pretty comfortable, but a large part of the audition is sight reading. I know my scales and everything, but being that I started off a self-taught rock bassist, sight reading was never one of my priorities. In the past few months I've been trying to get better at it, but I'm still not very comfortable.

    So bassically (pardon the pun lol) if anyone has any tips regarding sight reading, college auditions, or studying music in general, I'd be very grateful!
  2. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    As far as sight reading goes, you'll never be good enough. Meaning that it will be a lifelong task to improve. It's a skill and as such learning is a process, not an event. Get any written books you and find (cello, trombone, bassoon, bass, orchestral funk, rock , jazz) and play them as slowly as you need to to get them right. That means giving the sixteenth note a beat at 60bpm or slower. Speed will come in time. Know the neck, know it as well as you possibly can. Know all your scales in all the forms in all the places on the neck. Take your time, but work on it every day. Get with a group that reads, any kind of group, community band, church, theater, jazz whatever. Read music, read every day, read with good musicians.

    As far as the audition(s) go. Play things you can play well. No one gives points for difficult music played poorly. Remember, not only are you showing them what you can do, but you're showing them you know what being prepared is. Better to be excellent at simple things that clumsy at things you can't yet play.

    As for the school. Know what your goals are. Unless you plan to teach in a school you may not need to have a diploma or finish the degree. Your experience and knowledge might be more important than the paperwork. With that in mind, since you are in the college, you might consider training in some subject that will guarantee an income greater than what music will offer. Keep in mind that the school is a business selling education to people willing to pay for it. It is NOT the job of the school to insure that your training will lead to employment or the kind of life you want to lead, that's your job. Know what you're getting into.

    Good luck. And remember.... every minute you aren't practicing to get the best gig, someone else IS. That beer can wait. And no matter how great she looks, someone else is tired of her crap, get back to work, time is short.
  3. Garret Wheeler

    Garret Wheeler

    Mar 1, 2016
    Thanks for the thorough response! As far as my field of study goes, right now I'm positive that I want to study SOMETHING music related. Jazz Bass is one major I am interested in, but I'm also interested in the school's Music Technology and Music Entrepeneurship programs. Jazz Bass would definitely require more sight reading and practice time, but I'm more interested in the technical ability than I am in actually playing jazz music. If I don't study Jazz in school I'll probably find a private teacher in the city I'll be moving to to study some form of bass. I feel that I'm at the point in my musical journey that I need at least some guidance in order to get better. I'm a gigging musician, and like I said I'm very comfortable with playing scales and chords in different positions on the neck and I'm able to use that knowledge in the several bands I'm in, but I want to get better at finding new ways to use them. So I may have a music business-related major and study actual music outside of school, I'm not sure.
    PS. I love the quote!
  4. As I told each of my kids, school is a great place to learn things that interest you and those interests may change with the sunrise.

    Make sure that something-or-other-music is what you want to do and just remember that the notion of a starving artist may be all warm and fuzzy feelings right now: a starving artist with a starving wife and three starving kids is not.

    If you absolutely have to be seeking income in music, become a piano mover or piano tuner or a saxaphone reed-carver (all perfectly noble skills, i might add) ---- and leave playing the music for income to the other three-jillion starving artists who are willing to go to The Crossroads to get a leg up on the competition.

    I gave up music as an income source 57+ years ago and sought real employment, keeping music in my rear view mirror until I could afford to play for fun and some limited income. Splitting $500.00 six ways at the end of a 9pm to 4am show is NOT good money ------ except maybe in Botswana.

    Believe me, the hours, the associations and the complete reversal of normal human circadian rythms ----with or without the aid of recreational pharmaceuticals --- won't last you until you get famous enough to dictate your hours and what the venue is required by contract to put in your dressing room to appease you and your groupies.

    For the absurdly small 0.0005% of the artists who make a good wage from music, the odds are really stacked against you when Phds are out there, competing for jobs with all the glamour of flipping burgers.

    No ---- I'd rather crush your spirit now whilst you are redeemable than to have to toss a 50 cent piece into your hat where you're busking on a subway platform sitting on a steam vent to stay warm--- with your wife and kids.
  5. Garret Wheeler

    Garret Wheeler

    Mar 1, 2016
    Lol thanks for the brutal honesty. The reason I want to study music in college isn't so that I can have Being A Rockstar 101 at 9:00 in the morning, it's just that literally nothing else interests me.

    I know there are millions of other kids my age that would say something along the lines of "music is my passion/my life/calling/whatever", so much so that that line doesn't have much of a meaning, but that's really how I feel. That doesn't mean I've convinced myself I'm gonna be selling out arenas and I'm gonna have several platinum-selling albums under my belt, it just means I want to do something music-related.

    If i study Music Entrepeneurship I can graduate with a minor in Business, which would be helpful in a lot of different areas. If I study Music Technology (Basically sound engineering/ studio recording), it'll be more specific but I still won't be counting on my "big break" to put food on my table.

    My dad (A former bassist and current lead guitarist) was one of the several million musicians in the 80s that played on a pretty large club circuit and opened for several mainstream acts. He's drilled into my head that the lifestyle of musicians that haven't "made it" isn't something to be glamourized. I've heard countless stories about the overnight car rides, playing a 4 hour show, and then barely getting home with a profit. He made it clear to me that more often than not the money wasn't good and the 5-show-a-week lifestyle takes its toll. But now, decades after he decided it was time to grow up, cut his waist-length hair, and get a real job, he still admits that he loved every second of it!

    So now that I'm done rambling, whatever I study in college is more about ensuring that I'll be doing something music-related even if it means that performing won't be my main source of income lol.
  6. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Even the crappy 5-7 shows a week lifestyle is not an option anymore for most. 99.999% of those gigs are gone.
  7. Not to mention the radio cops who will fine you, the business/venue and everyone who's associated with the show if you haven't paid the RIAA/ASCAP for permission to play their music.

    If you've got a guy washing dishes in the place and someone can hear his radio, then you're in for a big fine.
  8. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Back in the day, everyone paid without whining plus the bands were union so got scale plus contributions to their pensions. And pay was about the same as today - but that was real dollars before rampant inflation killed its value.
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The school's website is going to have the expectations for the audition spelled out pretty specifically, so just do what they tell you to do. The audition process is for a couple of things - first, depending on the size of the program and whether or not it's a conservatory type program or another arts track program and a regular university or college, the school will want to make sure it has enough instrumental diversity to fill its ensembles. If they are short on certain instruments, they will be pretty loose with what it takes to pass the audition process, if they have an excess of applicants for a particular instrument, then the bar for what it takes to get in is going to be higher. Second, the audition process is an assessment for placement within the program itself. The school doesn't want to unduly frustrate you by putting you with ensembles that are too difficult or too easy. They also want to make sure that you have certain things under your belt, but if you don't they have remedial classes that will work on getting you up to speed on basic musical fundamentals. If, of course, they need more musicians on your instrument ASIDE: and they're always looking for double bassists, you're going to have a better shot of not only getting in the program but also playing above your pay grade if you double on upright.

    So you can go in just like you are and come out with the ability to make it through a club date/general business gig (don't worry, you'll learn what that means) along with literally THOUSANDS of other people playing your instrument. And like somebody up top said, that kind of gig is dying out.

    If you go in with some specific plan of what you want to learn, who is there that you need to study with to make that happen AND you are pretty much the main player in wherever you are, you stand a little better chance of coming out and making a living. But that's just as likely to be playing in a pit band doing the same thing every night (and thanking Mithra you have a steady gig) than it is getting on your private jet.

    Oh and SurferJoe, that's only if you own the venue. Performing rights agencies don't fine musicians and they don't license musicians. They license venues.
  10. I know a few guys who attended Berklee School of Music. They are excellent players and I dunno if they graduated, but I do know they are mostly playing the same venues I play and most are not as nice as the ones I play because I only play jazz so the spots tend to be nicer. The guys I know play only pop and rock.

    So, I just checked and the cost of getting a degree at Berklee (as opposed to getting a diploma and I didn't know there was a difference) was $63,220 per year. I can't ever imagine that it's worth spending a quarter of a million dollars just to play bass guitar. It's mind blowing to me that they charge this much.

    I just took some lessons for a few years at a cost of about $1300 per year. I was gigging after about a year and made up the cost of my lessons after a couple years of very casual gigging...

    A good friend of mine has a daughter who has just been accepted into Berklee starting the 2017 session. She's extremely talented, but I am dying to talk them out of all that. However, I don't want to disillusion her, plus once someone gets something like that into their heads, it's nearly impossible to talk them out out of it. It clearly looks like an insane proposition from my perspective. Another friend of mine has a daughter who graduated from Eastman and as far as I know, she's just playing bar gigs too, with the occasional local tour that usually cost more to play than she will ever make...

    A Music Technology degree isn't going to feed you. Anyone with a PC can do everything you'll be able to do without ever having stepped foot into a college. I don't know what Music Entrepreneurs do, but if it doesn't come with a minor in Computer Science or Engineering, you will starve... Loving every second of it is great, like your dad said, but it was waaay different back then. And love won't buy even one package of Ramen Noodles.
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  11. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    No. The venue can't legally fine you for playing music of any kind. It's THEIR responsibility to obtain the licenses they need to have music playing in a public place (the venue) and not the musician's problem. It's also impossible to entirely remove a music catalog held by BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC. Just the BMI catalog in fine print on paper would fill a warehouse. The venues need to get the necessary blanket licenses as they are making money off of someone else's intellectual property (music sells alcohol and brings people in to dance, etc... not to mention their possible cut of the cover charge). Not radio cops. They are protecting songwriters.
  12. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I should also mention that the sight reading part of your audition for the music school is to figure out where to place you. I knew many guitarists who couldn't read a note when they started in music school, so they were started at the ground level.
  13. It's not that simple. We used to play for the old folks in retirement homes and we got told they needed money to pay the fine they got from the music police. Needless to say that we don't play those places any more. There was no fee, no gate, no ticket and certainly no booze, but they got popped anyway.,

    I guess someone forgot to grease a politician's palm somewhere.
  14. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    They get paid to care for their "guests" - that care includes activities.
  15. Not really - the playing started out as us (4 guys) having a jam session and a few old folks came in to hear the noise and stayed. We had rented the space in their small pre-auditoreum, and just let the couple of people who can drive their wheelchairs that far into the room, to stay.
  16. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    It is that simple. Is it a public place? People can just walk in? Then it needs a music license (or 3). There are no music police. There are organizations that protect the interests of songwriters via copyright law. The place didn't get fined. Trust me. I worked at one of those performing rights organizations for 12 years. They were trying to pass on a small fee THEY were obligated to pay to you (the musicians). That's not how it works. It's a yearly blanket license. There are no fines. Lawsuits if you don't pay? Yes, if an area of a city is considered troublesome when it comes to licensing.
    Mushroo likes this.
  17. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    and anyone they rent out a room to.

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