Tag Archives: audition

Advice for young musicians

We all know how it is. You want to prove yourself and show the world (and your peers) that you ‘have what it takes’ to work in music; Self assured and not in need of any advice of pointers from anyone else. How would they know your ‘story’ anyway? How could someone advise you when your style, your sound, your ‘voice’, is unique to you.

True, confidence can be a great asset to our chosen profession. Even in an industry where we work together because it’s the fundamental nature of how music operates, it can get lonely out there sometimes. But a false confidence, or bluff, will leave you alienated and likely to make the same sorts of mistakes thousands of musicians have made before you.

So swallow your pride, take a seat, and listen to a few words of wisdom from those who have made music work – and pay – for themselves.


Keybaord player and composer Ben Folds wrote some advice a few years ago on his Facebook page. Boiled down to the essentials, I found three things especially true:

    Work on finding your own voice
    However much you try, you will always be you. Stop trying to be anyone else and accept this fact. Once you have come to terms with this, work on being the best ‘you’ that you can be.

    Learn your technique, then forget it
    learn as much as you can, as widely as you can. Read about it & practise it. Then follow the advice of the previous point and learn to present these techniques in your own, unique way.

    Before you can express yourself in words, you first have to learn the language; it’s vocabulary & grammar. But think of how many books & poems were all the more interesting for their yearning up of the rules? The same applies to music first. However, to reach this point, you need to know which rules you are breaking…

    Don’t they to force people into liking you or your music
    There will always be people out there who find what you do interesting, provided you are doing it well, and playing from the heart. don’t bend over backwards trying to commercialise your sound, compromising your music in the process. The audience will come to you, so just persist at it.

    This is even more true in our digital age – search for good advice on putting you material online. You should never have to pay to do this, due to the high number of platforms out there. It might be slow at first, but you will eventually reap the fruits of your hard work.


NobleViola.com also features a really interesting article entitled ’10 things I wish I knew when I was a young musician’ which, while echoing the sentiments of Folds, adds the following gems:

  • Practicing isn’t a matter of how many hours you put in, but how many good hours you put in. It’s quality, not quantity.
  • Your body is also your instrument – learn how it works and take care of it.
  • Being professional is a 24 hour job.
  • Keep busy, and do a variety of things. Diversify as much as you can.
  • Love what you do – and remember to nurture that love.
  • As Pat Metheny says on his website, “for me, after everything, the only thing that finally remains really true is the feeling that at the end of the day, I know that I played really good, or I didn’t ; or that I made some progress and understand something that I didn’t understand at the beginning of the day; or I didn’t. This, to me, is the real currency of what it is to have a life as a musician”.

    Well said, Pat.

    As always, comments and responses are more than welcome. Feel free to check out my previous articles too! Enjoy the rest of your week & happy playing!

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    Audition tips (for both sides of the table)

    This is a post from just over a year ago, concerning the auditioning process for bands, and how to make it run more smoothly. I hope you enjoy. Tim xx

    Tim Higgins

    Auditioning. In this line of work, almost everybody has to go through it at some point. I don’t know a single person who enjoys the process – and by that I mean the groups holding the auditions as well.

     

    Whilst looking for members for JazzBaby, I’ve held a few auditions recently, plus I was invited to join another group recently so have added to my own experience of being the auditionee this very year. Here are some simple tips to make the whole thing go that little bit more smoothly.

     

    1) Be clear about what you are looking for from the outset

    Obvious but true. Many bands, in an attempt to appear open (and more likely to attract as many interested candidates as possible) will be vague about who/what they are, and what they are looking for. Others may outright lie.

    If you’re getting regular paid work and…

    View original post 643 more words

    New Direction – the joys of being a mature student

    All very last minute, but I am now officially a mature student.

    I’ve been meaning to return to higher education and ‘top-up’ my foundation degree in Music, and now seemed like the right time. This time next year, I should – hopefully – have a BA in Music.
    At present, I am unsure as to weather I will continue on into either a teaching qualification or head down the Masters/academic route. I will of course keep you all updated.

    Despite considering this for some time, it was only following a chat with a friend that I originally contacted Sunderland University with a view to applying for next year – I mean, it’s already September, I assumed it was too late for this year! However, they mentioned available places and suggested I speak to the Head of Course. Following a ten minute phone conversation about the modules of the course and my relevant education and working experience I was offered a place.
    To ensure the university had everything they needed (presumably for audit/OFSTED reasons) I had to complete the basic application form and take along a copy of my last HE certificate – and that was about it. Now all I need is for the Student Loans Company to get their finger out and send the fees/living expenses over!

    So here’s some tips if you’re considering going into (or indeed returning to) higher education –

    * Speak to the Universities you are interested in DIRECTLY. Find out as much as you can about the staff, facilities, teaching & assessment methods and of course the course itself. If it seems like a good fit for you, keep the information handy.

    * Leave UCAS out of it – they operate best when catering for A-Level students waiting on results for their conditional offers. As a mature student, you only need ONE reference (an employer character reference).

    * Wait until Universities are in their ‘clearing’ phase. This is immediately after A-Level results day and they will be very keen to fill up any places they haven’t yet found students for and therefore very attentive and helpful.

    * Have everything ready to apply for any student finance. Find out what you are eligible to receive and what you need to provide in order for your application to be processed smoothly & quickly, without referring back to you for extra evidence (usually this is proof you have been self-funded for rent, mortgage, food, bills, car, etc, etc for the last three years). The Student Loans Company are notoriously awkward so make it as easy as possible for them and you!

    * Finally, have fun and enjoy broadening your horizons! Don’t be put off by the perceived age difference – on my first day I realised everyone else was a 20 year old going straight onto the course from their HNDs, and hough I’m only 30, I had concerns it would be difficult to get along with a gaggle of younger pups. However I was surprised to see a motivated and mature group of individuals so I’m still very glad I signed up! I did, however, get mistaken for a lecturer as well – pros and cons I suppose!

    My blog will continue with updates on my (mature) student life as well as information on my written and live-based project work. Either way, it will find a way into the projects I am currently working on in my own time.

    Peace out for now xx

    Audition tips (for both sides of the table)

    Auditioning. In this line of work, almost everybody has to go through it at some point. I don’t know a single person who enjoys the process – and by that I mean the groups holding the auditions as well.

     

    Whilst looking for members for JazzBaby, I’ve held a few auditions recently, plus I was invited to join another group recently so have added to my own experience of being the auditionee this very year. Here are some simple tips to make the whole thing go that little bit more smoothly.

     

    1) Be clear about what you are looking for from the outset

    Obvious but true. Many bands, in an attempt to appear open (and more likely to attract as many interested candidates as possible) will be vague about who/what they are, and what they are looking for. Others may outright lie.

    If you’re getting regular paid work and need a competent player, with own transport, who can read  say so. If you do not have any gigs at present but are looking to get into paid work once you have a full lineup – say so. If you are doing original material and the money won’t be that good – say so. If you’re all amateurs and would prefer someone of a similar playing ability to yourselves – guess what, say so!

    This saves a whole lot of time having to filter through adverts responses from people who are simply unsuitable for your act. Likewise, auditionees looking for gigs – if you can’t sight read, don’t say you can and hope to busk it. Be clear on the styles you have knowledge of. You WILL get found out and not get the job. Worse than that, word will get around that you’re a bullshitter too!

     

    2) Agree on songs to go through before the audition / Plan a structured audition

    You’re not doing any favours by inviting a potential band member down to your rehearsal space, shouting out a tune at him and charging into it to see how well he/she copes. Even seasoned pros like to prepare first – that’s what makes them seasoned pros!

     

    Have your space ready to go by the time the candidate arrives and try to have everyone in the band already there and set up.

    If going TO an audition, make sure all of your gear is in good working order, arrive on time and set up quickly.

     

    Choose songs from your set, and perhaps some tunes both parties are reasonably familiar with to work through. At a maximum, I’d suggest four or five. Make sure you also have plenty of time to chat and reaffirm exactly what it is both sides want out of working together. For a first meeting, I’d suggest an hour to an hour and a half. That should be more than enough time to find out how you gel musically, and crucially if you get on as people!

     

    3) Relax – remember everybody is human

    As I said at the top of this blog, no one I know enjoys the audition process. Make it as welcoming and relaxing as possible. Keep the pieces to learn down to a small number and make no attempt whatsoever to ‘catch someone out’ musically. Smiling always helps too! Even experienced players can be nervous entering a room of musicians known to each other, but not to him, and there solely to watch/listen to his/her playing and assess him in the space of an hour or two. Short and friendly are the key things here.

     

    4) Follow up!

    One of my biggest pet hates is when I put in time and energy into preparing for an audition or job interview, going through the whole nervous procedure, and never hearing back. It takes minutes to drop someone a quick line to follow up, whether that is to arrange a second audition, offer them the gig or to let them know you’ve decided to go with someone else. It’s highly unlikely a rejection will cause an argument down the phone so man up and get on with it!

     

    Also, as a quick side note, have you ever found the ideal candidate through an audition, while still having other people left to see? If so, are these other candidates due the same day or in the next few days? If so, my advice would be to see them anyway – they will have put in time and effort preparing and it’s always best to have a wider network of musicians (in case you ever need a dep, etc, etc). If the next audition is not until the following week then by all means call them and politely cancel – but be nice doing it!