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PhiNotPi's avatar

How can I improve my auditioning skills?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12677points) February 13th, 2012

So, I had an audition today on clarinet. (It was actually a challenge against a person to move up a chair). Long story short, I failed so badly, I cannot even attempt to convey to you how badly I messed up on the stuff that I had been practicing for weeks.

I don’t think I completed a single octave of a single scale correctly, even though I’ve known several of them for five years. I hyperventilated and my hands were shaking so badly I could hardly turn a music page (and I had some nausea). I messed up my etude pretty badly even though I received it over a year ago and have already auditioned multiple times with it. I pretty much forfeited the challenge without actually forfeiting the challenge.

So, I am in some desperate need of some advice to improve my auditioning skills lack of ability. What do you recommend?

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8 Answers

6rant6's avatar

Nothing builds confidence like performing in public – even badly.

Musicians sometimes perform in public venues such as streets or subway stations. I have many times thought that they were doing more practicing than actually playing. Last week we stumbled across a couple of guitarists almost out of sight of the flow of traffic. Perhaps what they were doing was working on their nerves.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Keep auditioning, nothing improves your game more than playing it, and practice can only take you so far.

thorninmud's avatar

I’m not a musical performer, but I’m regularly faced with having to deliver the goods in public presentations. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the day before the event, I allow myself to intensely feel the dread. I really just soak in it, not trying to convince myself that it will be anything but horrible. I stay at that for awhile, until it fades by itself. Pretty much always, that defuses the dread for me, and the actual event feels like no big deal.

When I try to bullshit myself with positive imagery confidence crap, that all seems to vaporize when the big moment comes, and I have to deal with the full force of the fear right then. The fear will have its say, so I’d rather that happen earlier.

linguaphile's avatar

When I’m being evaluated for anything, I think of it as a game where I want to rack up points. By making it into a game where points count, not an all or nothing thing, but an accumulation of points, I feel less stressed.

By making it a game, I take out the dreaded evaluative vibe, and make it a competitive vibe. When I feel evaluated, like I’m going to be “good or bad” or “right or wrong” (absolutes), I am more liable to choke, but if I see it as a game, I get rid of the absolute pass vs. fail thing and don’t feel evaluated.

I just see it as wanting to beat something—like in your situation, maybe look at each octave as a level of a game you have to beat to move on to the next or break it down into something you want to beat or conquer and it becomes an incentive. It becomes a drive rather than a measurement. Just how I do it—hope that helps!

Bellatrix's avatar

I can’t play an instrument so this could be a very stupid idea, but what about busking? It just seems to me the more you play in public, the more comfortable you will be. I realise it isn’t the same thing. I am quite happy to give a lecture to 100s of students, but ask me to present to my peers and my knees knock and I break out into a cold sweat. Still, the more you perform, perhaps the more at ease you will feel.

wundayatta's avatar

The problem with classical music is that it is supposed to be perfect. One mistake, and you’re done. You only get one chance. So a mistake is catastrophic. The idea that a mistake is catastrophic makes you tense up. Your mouth dries. Suddenly, you can’t play, and of course you make mistakes.

My trumpet professor in college was an alcoholic. He simply could not perform without booze. It became a habit. Eventually, he couldn’t perform at all.

Many classical musicians face this, and some take a little xanax or something to take the edge of the anxiety away before they perform. Anxiety is a serious problem.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to play with some musicians from the most prestigious music conservatory in the world. Fortunately, at the time, I did not know how well respected they were or it would have been even worse for me.

I thought I was going to be part of an orchestra. Turns out, it was an “orchestra” as in five musicians. The director, three Curtis students, and me. The students were from Russian, Taiwan and Korea. When I got to the rehearsal, I was still expecting an orchestra, and when told it was just the five of us, I went into shock.

In any case, I simply could not play when I got in the room with them. My mouth went totally dry. I had to go get some water and calm down a bit (hah). Then I came back in, and the first four times we tried the piece, I could not play it right. I got the timing all wrong. It was utterly mortifying.

Plus I don’t practice much, so my lip isn’t up for all this, and my lip gets even more tired when I am under stress. We played through the piece three or four times and I was dying and I had no idea how I’d make it through the next day, and I have no idea what these students, used to perfection, were thinking.

Driving to the Easter service the next day, I was trying to figure out how not to get nervous like that again. I had to hit the first note right at the start, and it was a difficult note to hit. I tried to meditate in the car. I tried to talk myself into thinking that it didn’t matter. I would do the best I could and that would be good enough. No one would remember this. The students would survive.

I did all right. I am grateful for that. I hit the notes I needed to hit. I was relatively in tune. I even had fun.

Putting this in perspective helps. Enjoy the audition for itself, not for whether you get chosen or not. Just enjoy the music you play, and enjoy sharing it with these people who listen.

I like @linguaphile‘s game idea. Focus on each part of the piece instead of the whole thing. A kind of one day at a time approach. You don’t have to wrack up the most points at each stage. So you forget each stage as you pass it, and are on to the next, in the moment with it, instead of remember what you didn’t do a moment ago.

Good luck.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Part of the thing is that in a full-scale audition, any particular scale is an all-or-nothing thing. You get one point for a correct scale (some partial credit for fewer octaves than required). If any notes are missed, you get no partial credit and the whole scale must be replayed if you wish to receive credit, and there is a strict time limit.

6rant6's avatar

I have noticed that people who read for parts at auditions seem to do a better job if they are not really interested in getting the part.

I wonder if you auditioned where you did not actually want an offer if you would be less stressed, and able to do well and improve what you expect of yourself.

__I have no idea if auditions are easy or hard to come by.__

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