If you’ve ever been to an audition you’ll know that it’s possibly one of the most nerve-racking things you can go through as a musician. It can seem overwhelming, and there are numerous things to take into account; you’ll get different advice from different people based on their experiences but I think it comes down to three things, and if you can get these three things right then the gig is yours for the taking.
It goes without saying that you can never be over-prepared. If you’ve been given material to learn you need to learn the shit out of it and then some. Preparation also involves researching the artist, both on a musical and personal level, so you can get a better idea of what they like and don’t like. You must listen extensively to the artist’s back catalog as this will give you a feel for the artist’s music. Any decent musician can replicate an artist’s work on a technical level, but few can bring the right feel into the equation, and these are the guys and girls that get hired. Remember the 6 Ps: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance; over-prepare but don’t overplay, most of the time whoever’s doing the hiring wants to see what you can bring to the situation rather than how good (you think) you are. Leave your ego at the door.
Attitude is almost everything but what’s the right attitude to have? It’s a difficult thing to describe but I think Mike Mangini’s attitude during the Dream Theater drummer auditions a few years ago really encapsulates the perfect attitude to have if you want to get the gig. Mike is literally brimming with positivity and enthusiasm, there is no doubt in his mind that he’s the next Dream Theater drummer; his preparation is flawless and the vibe he transmits is reciprocated by the band members. Check out the video below.
The third piece of the jigsaw is (unfortunately) image. We were told this on the very first day of Music College, and it was drilled into us throughout the course, although most of the guitarists scoffed at the idea of doing any kind of personal grooming. Truth be told if you want to make a career out of music then you need to look after and tailor your image to the gigs you’re going for. If you happen to be one of those people who can shape-shift chameleon-like into any genre then use this to your advantage. If you’re strictly [insert name of genre] then stick to that genre as you’ll be wasting your time if you’re unwilling to work on your look. In the above video Mike Mangini just looks like he should be in Dream Theater, and all he did was throw on some black clothes. If you watch the later episodes, you’ll see the amazing Marco Minneman trying out, who’s probably technically the best drummer there, but doesn’t really dress for the occasion and looks out of place when they’re all sitting together. Mike, on the other hand, just blends in perfectly with the rest of the band. I’m not saying that Mike got the gig because of the way he dressed, but he really understood the dynamic of the gig, and what Dream Theater were looking for in a drummer. If you look at Mike’s image a couple of years down the line you can see that the band’s image department really worked on it. Getting your head around the dynamic of the gig should also be part of your preparation; think of yourself as the solution to the hiring artist or band’s problem by understanding what they require from you.
Go get that gig!