Violinist performing“Auditions may be among your most significant career-building performances. Why not enjoy them?”
The Musician’s Way, p. 222

Having heard countless auditions over the years, I’ve learned that few young musicians audition well.

Time and again, gaps in their preparation cause them to underachieve.

This post will help you perform commanding live auditions.

1. Choose Music Strategically
You might be surprised to know how often young musicians underachieve at auditions due to misguided repertoire choices.

To avoid making such mistakes, opt for titles that meet any audition requirements and are within your capacity. Favor tried-and-true pieces over untested ones, and never program music at the edge of your ability.

If published repertoire guidelines seem vague, write for clarification, and get feedback from a mentor before you commit to any titles.

2. Master Your Material Early
Begin learning material far in advance of audition dates, and stick to a practice schedule – maybe use a practice log.

Remember that auditions can trigger worry, which can lead to avoidance and injurious cramming. Pace yourself.

3. Be Ready to Interview & Sight-read
At many auditions, other than orchestral ones, you’ll be asked to explain your artistic vision and goals. Therefore, draft talking points and rehearse what you’ll say.The Musician's Way book cover

Be prepared as well to articulate why you want to attend a given school or festival, work with a particular group, or be part of a show. Get ready to ask questions too: see page 294 of The Musician’s Way for a list of questions to pose at a school audition.

If sight-reading will be required, add extra sight-reading practice to your daily routine.

4. Plan Meticulously
Minimize stress and prevent foul-ups by tackling logistics step by step: show a draft of an application to a mentor and then submit it well ahead of the deadline, arrange travel & meals, line up accompanists, etc. Use a Preparation Timeline to ensure that you stay on track.

If possible, visit an audition site before your performance and acclimate to the space. For distant appearances, arrive the night before and get ample rest.

5. Arrange Mock Auditions
To fortify your confidence, besides doing practice performances, arrange mock auditions with teachers or mentors – have them play the roles of judges who ask you to perform your pieces in random order and who might interrupt and interview you as well. (Be sure to record.)

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Depending on the type of audition you’re preparing for, your mock judges might also instruct you to sight-read, re-tune, execute scales, or improvise.

6. Build Inner Strength
Auditioning entails being judged. Musicians who appear before audition panels without a solid sense of self can feel their composure crack.

Take care to approach an audition with a firm belief in yourself and your artistic mission. In that way, you can stay centered and focus on what matters most: making music.

7. Perform Soulfully
Although you’re going to be evaluated, what your evaluators most want to hear is your musical personality and potential. For that reason, aim to deliver a polished yet emotion-laden performance.

In the case of college or conservatory auditions, teachers don’t expect perfection; they realize that students pursue education to gain expertise. Teachers do anticipate, though, that students will have basic skills in hand and exhibit heartfelt expression and enthusiasm for learning.

So, even if you’re zinging with adrenaline, play or sing your heart out, and let mistakes dissolve into the past.

8. Display Professionalism
The moment you arrive at an audition site, show respect for the process: display a positive attitude and impeccable courtesy. Be well-dressed.

Most of all, demonstrate through your playing or singing that you’re in love with music and serious about your future. Take pleasure in meeting the challenges of auditioning, knowing that, whatever the outcome, your participation fuels your growth.

The Musician’s Way provides detailed audition strategies along with proven practice and performance techniques. Discover why performers and teachers consider it one of the most important books ever written for musicians: read reviews on

Related posts
The benefits of accessible music
The competition question
Effortless sight-reading
Practicing performance
The zing of adrenaline

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © Nicholas Sutcliffe, licensed from

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