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Discussion in 'Orchestral Auditions [DB]' started by bassbaterie, Sep 2, 2004.

  1. bassbaterie


    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Took an orchestra audition recently and felt well-prepared on the material, but at the crucial moment I could NOT get in control of my nerves. Kept thinking I would fall into a groove, but I just could not. My playing sounded as jittery as I felt. If it was a speed-metal orchestra I may have won. I guess I need to learn to channel that "fight-or-flight" adrenaline rush into more fight and less flight. Maybe if I lose another one or two, I will get pissed off enough and that will work.

    I tried preparing by visualizing walking into the hall, sitting down, starting my first piece...worked on this for several weeks beforehand and tried to immunize myself to the adrenaline. It just didn't work.

    Well it was the first orch. audition I took in about 20 years. Lots of gigs in between, but no full-time orchestra and no behind-the-screen auditions.

    The night before, I dreamed there were 120 bassists auditioning for the post, and the only bow I had with me was a French bow (which I don't play) with the hair falling out, and the end of my fingerboard was warping upward into the strings, and then my 'A' string broke. Needless to say I took every spare string I had to the real audition...and the only spare I don't have is an 'A' so I figured I would use a 'D' if I had to.

    Nothing went wrong except I played like I was on 13 cups of coffee and an 8-day meth binge. I understand auditioning is a skill and that I will likely take several before winning a position. Just wish I could work out that little nerves detail in a more efficient way. It's probably a common concern, that the audition where you feel the most confident will be the job you're least interested in winning. Put another way, if you attempt to take an audition just to add to your preparedness, all of a sudden you find yourself moving the family someplace you never planned to live.
  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Here is an old thread which is semi-on-topic. It kinda got ravaged at one point, so it's "not all there," but you get the gist.

    The material on Hal Galper's site was extremely helpful to me when I had a nasty and unexpected bout of inability to handle energy in performance. While it does not address the orchestra audition process directly I suspect it will still be worth you time.

    Now start dreaming about doing so well that the conductor offers you HIS job!
  3. LaurenBell


    Aug 10, 2004
    Cincinnati, OH
    I used to have huge problems with nervousness too. My teacher told me it was in direct relation to how well prepared you were. He said you would play better if he could get you up at three o'clock in the morning and you could run through everything. Honestly, at first I didn't believe him because your playing is never perfect, that's just something you have to accept with music, so I thought since it would never be perfect I would never be comfortable and confident in my playing, but I practiced, and I bought a book called Audition Success by Don Greene which taught me some breathing techniques. I got to my audition, and I was more nervous standing outside the room, but once I started playing, everything was just boom there. It wasn't perfect, but like I said it never will be, and the conductor told me, "See you at the first rehearsal," so I guess it went well. This audition was he best I had ever had because I got my nerves under control with deep breathing and preparation (especially with a metronome so my tempo was consistent and I couldn't rush off like wildfire.)
  4. bassbaterie


    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Thanks Sam and Lauren! Read the Galper article on stage fright and identified several mistakes I made. #1) Repeating to myself, I need this job, I need this job....

    Big difference between band auditions, where you sit in with the band for a few songs or a night, or even play through several songs with the bandleader, and orchestra auditions, where you have just minutes, solo, to sell yourself. I've passed a lot of band auditions even if i was nervous when I walked in. After a song or two I could get a feel for what's happening and settle down. But with the behind-the-screen setup there is just no time for that and it's Sink Or Swim. Just something to get used to.

    You're right about the preparedness too. Thanks again for the input!
  5. Flame

    Did you go to music school? One of things school is supposed to do is make you so used to playing solo in front of people (classes, juries, etc) that you don't freak at an audition. I just enrolled at our local JC which happens to have a superb music program and at $26 a unit, can't beat the price. One of the first things we are doing in applied music class is playing, the challenging "scale-of-your-choice" in front of the other class members just to learn how to deal with it. I'm excited.

  6. Hey Blue

    Judging by the timing and your location, I think I was at the same audition. Like you I hadn't done a classical audition in a long time (over 30 years)
    I didn't know it was possible to go blind, have your mind go completely blank and feel like someone else's hands were attached to your arms all at the same time, but the big mystery was how my tone went from nice and big in the warm up room to sounding like an old am radio on stage! I've played many large venues in the past (mostly on slab) and never experienced this amount of nervousness.
    Thanks for brining up the subject, and thanks to Sam, Lauren and J for the help.
  7. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I have no magic formulas. I get nervous simply because I care about doing a good job!

    But one thing I can offer is recording yourself. I'm usually my own worst critic, so a lot of my confidence in playing for others comes from being happy with myself and what I'm doing. Of course, there's always something to learn from someone else's playing and suggestions, but it doesn't make me anywhere near as nervous as the expectations I hold myself to. When the playback makes me feel good, then I am much more interested in sharing it under any conditions.

    Hope this helps, and best of luck with your auditions!
  8. bassbaterie


    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Hey Bobby! Yeah we were at the same place - sometime when you have a minute at Dave's or whatever, I wanna check out that Wan-Bernadel! BTW you have done an AWESOME amount of work in the amount of time you have been back to upright bass! I have been back at it for 2 years after 12 years off, and feel like the first 1 3/4 years was wasted wrestling with a crappy bass (I rented one for a few months too, then bought a student bass and finally got a pretty good one in June.)

    And in reply to Johnny, you are so right about recording. I record into the computer which just seems easiest these days. With each playback I just sit there going, well that sux, well that sux, let's do another one...eventually before this audition it just was not getting appreciably better. When it starts sounding good I agree, I want to save that take and let someone else hear it. Maybe that's a sign the material is 'ready' (been in the oven just long enough).

    Are you both going to the symposium in Waco in November?
  9. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I hope to be there, if other commitments don't get in the way. :hyper:
  10. Woody's Theme: ( a free pizza to whoever gets that)
    When I find it, I'll post a link that discusses how to get better results with calm, logical thinking, rather than the physical and emotional devices which ultimately compund the problem. Those who know me know I'm in the Alexander Technique mode with that.

  11. Any time, I love to hear other people play it, plus (now that I know who I'm talking to) you have such a wonderful warm tone and vibrato I really would like to hear it on mine.

    Come hell or high water! When will we ever get to see 2 of the greatest at one time again? Do you have any details on the symposium?
  12. Bubbabass


    May 5, 2004
    Do people still admit to using 10mg of Inderal? You still have to do the work, but if you really need a gig, why not meet an artificial situation with artificial means?

    On the holisitc side, there is good wisdom in "The Mental ABCs of Pitching" by H.A. Dorfman. I was amazed at how much applied to our craft.

    Good luck. BTW, what led you back to the orchestra audition world after such a layoff?
  13. A friend in a larger city symphony told me "we all use 10 mg of Inderal for auditions". I'm like, you could have told me this BEFORE! Not that it would've made a difference other than a few less white hairs maybe.

    I'll have to check out that Dorfman book. Thanks.

    Why I'm back in the orchestra world...I always had a small regret in the back of my mind for letting DB fade out of my life as I got more and more involved with slab and rock bands in the early 70's. Turning 50 will tend to make you take an introspective look at life and a few months after I hit 50, that small regret turned into a rather large itch so on Jan 2nd I scratched it and rented a bass and bought a couple of Simandle books and it was off to the races. Now I'm just having more fun than the law allows!
  14. Bubbabass


    May 5, 2004
    Sounds like you chose a healthy mid life thing! We can't get little red convertibles because our mistresses won't fit. I think a recent union paper advertised an opening in the Austin S.O. Good luck if you take it. Heard some fine bands there on my last visit in October '02.
  15. That is a total Bull$hit approach to take.
    Go to
    Scroll down to on-line articles.
    Scroll down to Working With A Violinist.

    There are other articles that relate to this.
  16. Bubbabass


    May 5, 2004
    Don how many salaried symphony gigs have you auditioned for, and how many have you won?

    This is similar to a college kid with his heart set on the NFL who tries a little juice, except the effect is benign and much shorter.

    Getting match-tough through many podunk auditions helps, but when the chips are down for a living wage gig, a little extra helps.

    Auditioning is nothing like performing.
  17. Zach Edmands

    Zach Edmands

    Jan 24, 2003
    Wow. I was unaware that people use drugs to win auditions. It's sad how drug abuse has become a part of any skilled profession. My chances at winning an audition, it seems, just got a lot lower.
  18. Bubbabass


    May 5, 2004
    Use and abuse are different things. I've heard that neurosurgeons routinely take a dose of Inderal before performing brain surgery. Would you want shaky hands with a scalpel inside your head?

    I just read the learning methods article which Don H linked. It is very good. Much similar ground is covered by the sports psychologists in the inner game books and my favorite listed earlier. To paraphrase that one--the most important phrase you play is the next one. In other words, concentrate on your next move. What is done, is done. Concentrate on proper execution. The results (the judges' opinions) are beyond your control. Please note that what I just said is not quite the same concept articulated in the Learning Methods article. I believe both are valid, and each player needs to use them in their own workable combination.
  19. Three incorrect statements.
  20. Where do you get this stuff?
    Since when is it a given that the neurosurgeon who doesn't use a drug will necessarily have shaky hands?