Seven Steps to a Successful Audition

Over the years, I’ve helped numerous collegiate and high school trumpet players prepare for auditions of all sorts.  Whether it’s a major career audition or the annual audition for your school’s band,  here are seven practical suggestions that capture the process from preparation to audition to reflection:

  1. Practice creatively.  Use all of your “tools” to practice good rhythm, pitch, sound, articulation, dynamics, phrasing, etc.  Clap, sing, buzz, say, and blow the music to hone these things.  Slow the tempo down until you can play it perfectly, and practice small sections at a time.
  2. Perform often.  Make time in your daily practice to simply perform.  Stop trying to fix things and simply focus on making music.  Ask your friends, family, band director, dog, and others to listen to you play.  Even more important than getting their feedback is the opportunity for you to have an audition experience.  (Plus, Mom will always think you sound great!)
  3. Record yourself.  Certainly you’ve heard a teacher say, “You can’t be listening to me if you’re talking, too!”  The same is true with an instrument. While we’re playing we can’t listen as well as when we only listen.  Plus, it gives your chops a needed break to listen back to what you’ve played.
  4. On the day of the audition only think positively.  While you’re preparing for the audition in the weeks and days beforehand listen critically to yourself most of the time.  Then on the day of the audition vigilantly dismiss the voice inside you that offers doubts and criticisms of your playing.  Remind yourself of what you do well.
  5. Don’t try to win the “warm-up competition.”  Listen to your warm-up, not the others’.  The other guy always sounds great warming up, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is how you play in the audition.  Don’t play too much before the audition, and focus on preparing yourself to share enjoyable music!
  6. Focus on breath.  Breathing fully and comfortably not only keeps us relaxed, but helps the production of sound to work freely.  Make sure to add breath marks to your music and practice these ahead of time.
  7. Learn from the experience.  Take some time after the audition to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and why.  Regardless of the outcome, take something away that you can use to improve your music for the next performance.

Let me know how these help you not only audition well, but more importantly, become a better musician!

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Why it Might Be Worth Memorizing Your Next Solo

sheet-music-1229481_1920A few years ago, if you had asked me to memorize a piece of music I probably would’ve quickly dismissed the idea. Other than marching band, a few orchestral excerpts, and some warm-ups, I played very rarely without music. More recently, however, I’ve come to realize what I had been missing by not getting away from written music at times. Here are a few things I’ve discovered:

1) The process of memorizing makes learning the music more important than learning how to play the music. Here’s what I mean: too often we focus on the challenges that a piece demands of us, like the fingers, tongue, range, speed, endurance, etc. Of course, we have to work on these things, but when we are working to make music away from the page, we’re more focused on getting the sound of the piece inside of us. Recalling the musical story becomes the goal rather than overcoming any technical hurdles involved.

2) Memorization can free us up to pay attention to the other parts of a piece of music. Single line instrumentalists and vocalists too often forget that there is more to a musical work than what they hear in the practice room. The fact is that our part in most pieces works together with other parts, such as a piano or ensemble. A great benefit to memorizing AND a solid way to build memory is to get to know the other parts that work together with ours.

3) Once we start memorizing a piece of music we can practice it anywhere and anytime, with or without our instrument or music. My eight-year-old son who studies with the Suzuki method goes about many days singing or whistling the pieces he is working on. I’m convinced that even though he doesn’t know it, he is essentially practicing at these times. Subconsciously, he’s working out the details of the sounds, patterns, rhythms, phrasing, etc. This is a great advantage, especially for those of us who have limited practice time with our instrument.

4) It’s an empowering feeling of accomplishment when we really know a piece of music, not just because we can read it from the page. We’re no longer dependent upon something like a teleprompter to feed us our lines in performance. Plus, we now know the piece better than we ever would have with the music staring us in the face for the thousandth time.

If you were like me and rarely have committed music to memory, why not try it? Let me know what you discover along the way.