Most music students will have to complete some sort of an audition throughout their musical careers, whether it be for college, and honors ensemble, or just an in-school seating audition. The thought of an audition can give someone a lot of anxiety, often because they don’t know how to properly prepare for their audition. Here are some tips that I use to best prepare myself for an audition.
Most auditions consist of three components: solo, scales, and sight-reading. First, is to know your scales. Personally, I think scales are the easiest part of the audition because they are standards to know on your instrument. Every time I practice, I like to warm up by playing a few scales. Most auditions require major scales up to 4 sharps and flats, but it is also good to know your major scales in all 12 keys. It is important that each scale can be played up to the required tempo and with the proper style. There are different ways to practice scales, as well. One way is to go around the circle of fifths/fourths. This helps you become more fluent both around the circle and with your scales. When playing scales, I also may go up each key chromatically. It is important that scales, mainly major, are practiced on a regular basis to ensure confidence and consistency. Additionally, if you have spare time in your practice sessions, work on minor scales and arpeggios, as they help with your musical skill and your theory skills.
The main focus when preparing should be directed towards the required solo or solos. Almost always, the solo takes up most of the score of an audition. It is important to start working on the piece or pieces as soon as they are announced. If it is your own selection, try picking something that you have already played before or pick something that will showcase the best of your abilities, while also still being in your skill level. You don’t want to pick something too hard, as you will spend too much time working on the technicality, instead of other things such as phrasing. When preparing, make sure to listen to the pieces multiple times. Hearing professionals play the piece will bring your attention to different types of phrasing that make it sound the best. Since the solo is normally scored the heaviest, it is important to not leave any details out during practice. This means practicing in sections and really picking it apart to get the best results.
The last section of an audition is sight-reading. This is the most difficult to prepare for since you don’t know what you will be asked to play. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to get yourself ready for it. There are tons of sight-reading books available for purchase that have excerpts in all 12 keys, as well as different time signatures, tempos, and styles. Doing one or two of these each time you practice as a mock audition will improve your sight-reading skills. In addition, reviewing your scales will also help you play better during the audition as it prepares you for any possible key in the sight-reading excerpt.
Besides preparing all of the above-listed sections, the most important element is to build up confidence. You may have everything prepared to the best of its ability, but a lack of confidence can affect how you perform during your audition. Obviously, it isn’t a simple fix to boost self-confidence. However, you can try to think of all of the positives about the situation, such as why you want to do it, what you will get if you are successful. Try your very best to eliminate any negative or pessimistic thoughts, as they can push your audition performance off track from its greatest potential.