I know I’m going to be nervous and not be at my best when I audition – what should I do?

  • Energy spent on worrying is better spent on practicing!
  • Remember that the only thing you have control over is your audition preparation – focus on that instead of the things out of your control (such as how other musicians will play)
  • Replace negative/anxious thoughts with positive ones – instead of thinking that you’ll feel horribly nervous, think about how relaxed and excited you will feel to be able to play the music you’ve worked hard on preparing
  • Have family and friends help you prepare by walking into a room and playing for them as you would in an audition. Doing this will teach you how to switch into performance mode quickly

How should I approach learning the music for my audition?

  • Play things correctly from the start! If there is a difficult passage, play it very slowly to ensure that the pitches and rhythms are correct. If you start playing passages more quickly than you’re able to, you will learn things incorrectly and have to work twice as hard to unlearn and relearn the correct way
  • Use a metronome to train your tempo sense and track your progress as you begin to play difficult passages faster
  • Break difficult passages down – just pitches or just rhythm. Pay attention to articulations and dynamics, learning them from the beginning
  • Make sure all parts of your solo are prepared – don’t always start practicing at the beginning of the piece. You should plan to work intensely on different sections of the piece over several days
  • Practice “backwards” – play the last 30 seconds of the piece, then add the preceding section, etc. until you are playing the whole piece beginning to end. This will enable you to feel more confident the further you get into the piece. Use the same method to master playing longer technical passages (e.g. play the last 4 notes, then the last 5, then the last 6, etc.)
  • Record yourself! You don’t need to have a high-end recording system – just something that will help you identify elements that need improvement (notes, rhythm, intonation)
  • Once you know the piece well enough to play it through beginning to end, get used to playing without stopping, even if you make mistakes. It will help you get used to letting go of mistakes that may happen and keep from compounding them as you continue. Of course, remember where you have problems and focus on fixing them in subsequent practice sessions

What should I focus on when practicing my chosen scale and arpeggio?

  • Things to think about in scale and arpeggio preparation
    • Is my tempo steady?
    • Am I in tune as I go from one octave to the next?
    • Are my notes as in tune going down my scale/arpeggio as they were when I went up?
  • Tempo/rhythm: Use a metronome to help develop a steady tempo and accurate rhythm
  • Intonation: Use your tuner or an online tone generator such as the one at http://seventhstring.com/tuningfork/tuningfork.html) to produce the home tone of the scale or arpeggio you are practicing. If you have access to an iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, or Android device to use while practicing, Tunable is a first rate tuning and tone generation app. Listen carefully as you play each note and adjust until you are in tune. This will help you develop a solid sense of tonality-based intonation
  • Listen to make sure that your pitches are the same going up and coming down (e.g. don’t be flat coming down your scale!)
  • Play with a consistent dynamic and articulation pattern

How can I prepare for the sight reading in my audition?

  • The only way to get better at sight reading is to sight read music regularly!
  • Find a variety of material — etude books, song books, school orchestra/band books, scanned music from online sources — and play it
  • Develop good sight reading habits! Don’t start playing right away – take a moment to scan the music for the following:
    • Key signature — can you tell from the phrase if the piece is in a major or minor key?
    • Time signature — how many beats? which note value gets the beat?
    • Tempo indication — can also help tell which note length gets the beat (half, quarter, dotted quarter, eighth.) While you don’t need to play all the way up to tempo when sight reading, it’s good to know what the character of the beat/rhythm should be based on the tempo indication.
    • Smallest rhythmic value (if there are 16th notes, don’t play too fast!)
    • Accidentals — remember the time signature so you know to cancel the accidental (which could be a “natural”, not just a sharp or flat) in the next measure
    • Syncopated/complicated rhythms
    • Anything else unusual? You just want to avoid being caught completely off guard by anything on the page