Auditioning for a Band

Auditioning for a band can be a nerve racking, frustrating experience, but it's one of the necessary evils of the music business.

I once accompanied a close friend to a Nashville audition for a major label recording artist. This friend is a drummer that I had toured with for several years and he is an awesome player who could get on stage with anyone.

While waiting for his turn to go in we could hear another drummer auditioning that was nailing it. When my friend got in to take his turn, his nerves got the better of him and he fell apart. He didn't play anywhere close to the level he was capable of and, as a result, didn't get the gig.
lyrics 1There will surely come a time when you will face a "casting call" and be placed in the position of putting yourself out there in hopes of securing a gig. When that time comes there are some things you can do to ready yourself.

Be Prepared

This may sound like a "duh" statement, but I have seen musicians go into an audition with no clue as to  what they were going to play. Going in saying "let's just jam on some blues in E" is not going to impress anyone.

If you are auditioning for a cover band, try to secure a set list of the band's material, along with the keys the band plays the songs in. No one will expect you to know all the songs on the list, but if you have five or six songs ready to go in advance you will probably get their attention. A band wants to hire a good player, but they also want to hire someone who can slide right into the spot without a lot of effort and rehearsal.

When auditioning for an original band, make the effort to get recordings of their material and learn a handful of their songs. The safest bet is to learn their songs exactly like the recording. Avoid trying to show them how much "better" the songs can sound played "your" way. You will score more brownie points if you can fit right into what they already do.

Be Punctual

This might also sound like a no brainer, but some musicians can be notorious for a lack of time keeping.
clockBe mindful that they may be auditioning a number of guitar players and could be on a tight schedule. If you show up late that could put everyone, including other auditioners, behind schedule.

In addition, if you can't show up on time for an audition, how can they expect you to be puntual for rehearsals and gigs?

Be Considerate

It's always a good idea to mind your manners at an audition. Learn everyone's name and avoid talking too much about yourself.

In addition to looking for a guitar player, they will also be looking for someone who fits in, someone they can enjoy being around and making friends with.

Don't talk negatively about other players that may be auditioning or the musician in the band that is being replaced. "Down" talking anyone has a tendency to alienate people and may hurt your chances.

Check the Ego

You may be the hottest guitar player since sliced bread. The next Stevie Ray or Eddie Van Halen. Even so, a humble attitude will get you further than anything.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of self confidence when getting on stage, but an out of control ego will do nothing for you.

A band is comprised of a number of people that make up the whole. Not one individual. A "look at me" or "listen to me" attitude is contrary to to the very concept of a "band". For those with a "me" attitude, a solo gig would probably more appropriate.
too old 2In my experience, the best and most talented musicians are the most humble. The ones that don't feel the need to "tell" you how good they are. Conversely, the players that go out of their way to inform you how great they are, are usually not.

Even if you really are the hottest thing since sliced bread, let your guitar do the talking.

When wrapping up an audition, make sure to thank everyone for the opportunity, even if you know that they are going to hire someone else.

The person they chose might have something more in common with them, they might work together in a day job, or they might go to the same church etc. It might be a very fine line between choosing them and choosing you.

The one they
choose may not work out so you want to leave in their good graces, and you might be on the top of their list if the new player doesn't work out. They might also refer you to another band that is in search of a guitar player.

Auditioning for a band can create a high level of stress, but preparation in advance can cut down greatly on the level of anxiety. Try to keep some of these things in mind on your next audition and you may just increase your odds of being picked for the gig!

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!

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Keith Dean

keith01 lowKeith Dean is founder of and a 30 year veteran of stage and studio. He toured extensively as a road musician throughout the US and Europe, was a former lead guitarist for Jason Aldean, and has shared stages with Little Big Town, Wild Rose, Winger, Confederate Railroad and more. He is a published songwriter, owned and operated a successful music store, and has instructed numerous students in guitar.

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