I don’t know about you but i’ve read countless articles on how to act/behave/play once you’ve got yourself a gig. That’s all very good and there’s some great advice amongst it but really, that’s the easy bit. Learning not to act like a tool shouldn’t be too difficult, the hard part is finding the gig in the first place!
I’m far from an expert on the subject, but I’ve recently landed myself a few european tours as a sideman with a blues-rock cover band; i’m getting my expenses covered and paid on top of that, not alot, but I won’t be out of pocket and i’ll be doing alot of playing.
This particular gig I managed to get from a posting on a music classified website (I think it was musofinder.com) by complete chance, just googling to see what turns up. And most of the time, not alot does but as this demonstrates something good does appear once in a while ( As an aside most gig’s I get offered come from people I already know and work with anyway, so this is a bit different from all that).
What worked for me was having the confidence that I could do the gig, regardless of anything else. The ad stated they were after someone over 25 and in the Yorkshire area. I’m neither, but felt like I could do the gigÂ and was willing to do what it takes.
It helps to have a sample of your playing on hand, even if it’s pretty rough. I sent them a youtube video of my group playing Autumn Leaves, nothing over the top, but just to show I could function in a group setting. I don’t think 8 minutes of Billy Sheehan-esque shredding would’ve gotten me too far;Â but I digress.
After sending them all this information along with a little history of my bassing thus far I got a reply. The VERY first thing that was commented on was my appearance, apparently I look like Berry Oakley. This, as it turns out, was one of the reason they gave me an audition!
All of the info thus far is stuff that gets reiterated thousands of times by pretty much every successful musician. And they were right, who knew?
That’s getting the audition. Now for actually doing it.
I try to be as flexible as I can with dates, I think there was only one date that I was definitely not able to do. Everything else could be shifted around with varying degrees of difficulty, as for the tunes themselves I had 16 songs to learn in 12 days, quite alot maybe, but not impossible.
I made the decision to really learn, memorise and internalise all of the tunes. It seems a much greater first impression if you play those tunes down cold as well as you would on a gig and also means you don’t have to be fumbling around with bits of paper with hastily scrawled notes written on them.
Fast forward a few days and i’m heading up to Hull for the audition. I live in Northants, so this is a Â£50+ train journey, I don’t really want to have that wasted, another incentive for getting everything down!
The audition itself was a 3 hour affair, longer than i’m used to but with 16 songs it makes sense. By this point all the groundwork should be done, it’ll be obvious whether you’ve done the work or not and there’s nothing that can be done by this point.
The songs were run through, I was given the full list of tunes (a good sign) and told they would be in touch. The next day I got an email saying the gig was mine if I wanted it! Very nice.
Most people know what they need to do to nail an audition, it’s obvious, you play the songs well with good feel and tone, make sure you act nice and that really does seem to be it, the appearance thing is helpful but I don’t consider it an essential, just an extra bonus.
As for finding the gig it’s a healthy mix up of searching everywhere you can think of and having a good group of friends who will hook you up because they know you can do the gig.
Those four criteria have worked for me, so that’s what i’m sticking with!
Being on time, having done your homework and all those other things that show you are going to be an easy person to work with all count for a lot. It does, of course depend on the band. Some are all about the image, so you really do need to grow your mullet and turn up wearing spandex. Others are all about partying so the real test is whether you hang round for a drink rather than retreating once the songs are done.
Neither of those scenarios would particularly appeal to me; I think the bottom line for confidence is going in well-prepared but also with the idea that you are auditioning the rest of the band as much as they are auditioning you.
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