I caught a bit of X-Factor/ Pop Idol or Fame Academy or whatever the fuck its called the other night, I find the bit when the hapless fame hungry yet devoid of talent scumbags audition for Simon Cowell and co the most entertaining part of the whole show. If they are talentless and self dillusional, then they are usually all the more entertaining for it. If they have thick pushy and delusional parents who are going to belive Simon Cowell will pluck “our Kazza” out of her Chipshop and big earrings and into megastardom and a life of wealth then its just the icing on the cake.
Crap TV aside auditioning can be a fraught thing. There are many factors to consider and not just the X one;)
In my 20 years as a gigging guitarist, I’ve auditioned for quite a few bands. Some auditions have been more successful than others. I don’t know if these are handy tips or not…more a recollection of what went right and what went wrong.
1: Where is the Audition taking place? and what gear do I need
Usually for most bands its a rehearsal space, so you’ll need an amp or at least access to one. Most places usually let you hire/borrow one, but a quality amp is not always guaranteed. I’d also avoid taking along your full rig until you know the people a little better. This will also allow you to focus on the parts you need to learn rather than what echo or flange to use. The basics are best worked out as cleanly as possible IMHO. It will also enable the band to judge your ability more fairly rather than be distracted by your 10 channel super amp or the pedalboard you could land a Sea-Harrier on.
Also is the audition all night or just a 10 minute “Cattle Call”. If its the latter then you won’t have time to piss around.
Personally for my most recent auditions I bought along a Tech 21 Sansamp TRI AC pedal which has been a brilliant little device as it gives me an acceptable high quality tone no matter what piece of shit its plugged into. It also gets used as backup if my main amp goes down. A similar distortion/preamp device is perhaps a useful investment, Maybe even a multifx unit with just some good basic clean and dirty tones, as it will make you feel more comfortable with the tone coming out of the speakers, therefore you’ll relax more and probably play better. If you spend the first 35 minutes of your audition trying to get a good sound out of your amp then you’ll look like a twat and no one will hire you.
The two “Bedroom” (ahem) auditions I did were both for indie bands led by winsome and indie songwriters. In both cases a small practice amp was provided. Sometimes these can be entertaining just by observing someones living environment. I auditioned for a sensitive Singer Songwriter in 2000 at his Camden Flat and found my guitar playing disturbing a sleeping semi naked girl on his sofa, who then procceeded to manically clap along to the final track we tried while skinning up while forgetting to wear clothes. In the end it was a “dont call us” type scenario, but an entertaining afternoon nonetheless.
2: First Impressions
Often people will judge you quickly, on silly things like what you wear, what guitar you own and if you smell or have flies following you around. For example if you turn up at a heavy metal band audition dressed like Paul Weller or brandishing a Semi Hollow Jazz guitar then they will usually not be interested, unless its Queens of the Stone Age maybe.
Back in 2001 I had a bassist audition for the Stoner Rock band I was in, he was wearing shorts and a bemuda shirt. The rest of us were all in black….this guy looked like Timmy Mallet and despite having good gear and playing ability……we didn’t gel as people and he didn’t get the gig.
Its sad but instruments will also play their stylelistic part. After the 80′s rock band I was in folded I auditioned for several bands who all regarded me with suspicion as I was playing an Ibanez RG superstrat at the time. I soon worked out that they saw me as a “metal” guitarist and I quickly went out and bought amore traditional and less widdly 62 Strat re-issue.
Nowadays with Myspaces and CD-R’s its easy to get a copy of a bands songs and learn up the parts. It usually helps if you’ve worked out some ideas of your own too. Some bands or songwriters get really arsy over any terretorial pissing on a guitar players parts. But most are usually happy for you to bring your own style to bear as long as its sympathetic with the material.
4:Ability & Style
I auditioned for a signed Hard Rock actin 2003, however the CD never arrived in the post from them, musically it was simple enough, but for one thing. Every song was in drop D. While I can play in drop D,its not my strongest suit as a guitar player. So on the heavier material, I felt as though I was just doubling the other guitarist and nothing more. Needless to say I didn’t get called back.
Bands are essentially a gang of dysfunctional people, so it helps if you can fit into that dynamic and find your own niche within it. Some bands are obsessed by image, others less so. I always think if you can feel comfortable working with people in a collaborative way then go for it. Sometimes mavericks and genius’ can be disturbed people. However I would be wary of stepping onstage with such people unless there was either a lot of glory or a big fat paycheck at the other end.
Also its worth looking at the dynamic of whats already there…….are the other members close…..are they happy…..do they look like they enjoy each others company???? Can you imagine being stuck in a van with them for 5 weeks at a time?
If they like what you do, then comes the tricky bit…..what are there goals? Is it just playing the local blues club once a month….or just a few covers at weddings. If its a band/solo artist playing original tunes. Then what are the goals and where is the band going…..you may be asked to commit a big chunk of your time, so its worth knowing whats expected of you before you sign on with them.