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Getting Ready For Music Auditions

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Whether you're getting ready for All-State, college, or orchestra auditions, you'll need to practice more than just your musical piece.

Here is what you'll need to practice and how to properly practice these pieces.

girl playing tenor saxophone

1. Scales

Scales can be boring, but they are rather important for your piece you are playing and for the judges. Most auditions require you to play scales from memory. The bigger the audition, the more scales you'll need to know. Most times, you won't know which scale they will require you to play either, as it will be announced during the audition!

So how can you learn, let alone memorize, all the scales? Depending on where you currently are, this may take some time, but don't worry, we're going to get you there. Make sure to print off all the major scales, minor scales, and the chromatic scale.

*Depending on the level, you might also be asked to play:

  • Arpeggios

  • 2 octaves

We recommend starting with one key signature (I like no sharps, and no flats to start with). That means you will practice the C Major and A minor scales, since both have no sharps or flats. Each time you play, say out loud, "C Major Scale", or "A minor scale". This helps you remember which scale you are playing because as we memorize all the scales, it's going to be harder to remember which scale goes with the amount of flats or sharps. You can even say out loud how many sharps or flats there are as well "C Major Scale, no sharps or flats." Play the major scale a few times looking at the music. Then attempt to play without. It helps to remember that the scale moves up the alphabet and down. Then repeat for the minor scale.

The Chromatic Scale is always the same pattern, half steps. Our scale starts on C, but it might be different for your instrument. Make sure to ask your music teacher which note you should start on for the chromatic scale.

We first recommend playing the chromatic scale reading the sheet music and playing nice and slow. Play a couple of times. Just like with the major and minor scales, attempt to play one measure by memory. This scale, we'll break down into sections because it takes a little more thinking power. Once you start to remember 1 measure, work on memorizing 2 measures together. Start working your way measure by measure.

Once you start to feel you are mastering and remembering your scales, move on to the next major/minor scale. Repeat for F Major/D minor. Once that's mastered, learn the E♭ Major/G minor scales. You'll want to learn it as 1 flat, 1 sharp. Then 2 flats, 2 sharps. 3 flats, 3 sharps. Do not just learn the scales down the line. It won't benefit you as much, especially with auditions coming up.

2. Your Musical Piece(s)

Of course, you'll want to practice your musical pieces for the audition. There are steps in getting a good practice for these pieces as well.

  • We recommend playing the piece one run all the way through at the beginning and end of your practice (when first learning).

  • Take note of any challenging spots. If there are multiple spots, divide the time to work on each section.

  • Play slow.

  • Focus on getting the notes. Once those feel and sound good, add in the details.

  • Add in articulations & dynamics

  • Use the metronome to fine-tune rhythms

  • Start putting the piece together and playing it together instead of just playing the challenging spots

  • Work your way to the right tempo

sheet music book

The more you practice, the faster you'll advance. If you have more time to practice, use it!

3. Sight Reading

This is the portion that is most challenging for most people. It's an area that most students forget to practice (yes! You can practice sight reading!) Most auditions will give you a piece of music to play right then and there. You'll have to perform while looking at the music for the very first time.

So where/how can you practice sight reading? Here are some online places you can go to practice sight reading:

4. Place Yourself As If You Were At You Musical Audition

Another missed thing is placing yourself as if you were there. Are you one who gets extremely nervous during your audition? Most people are, but there are a few things you can do to prepare for that.

cartoon of nervous violinist

When practicing, imagine that you are there. Picture the judges. Imagine the lights. Run through the motions you normally would while at your music audition. The goal is to make you feel like you would when you are at the audition, so you want to make yourself feel nervous.

If you can't bring yourself to feeling nervous, go for a quick run and then play your piece. You'll have very similar responses from when you are nervous (sweating, heart racing, shortness of breath...) Learn to play under those conditions.

Perform for others before your audition, whether you play at an open mic, play for friends and family, do a live stream, etc. The more you are able to play in front of people, the more at ease you'll be when it comes to your audition.

5. Get One-On-One Lessons, if you can

Having a music teacher will really help you advance in all these areas. They know the tricks to playing that fast passage, or will see that you're not breathing correctly and that's why you can't make the whole phrase. You'll get the one-on-one attention needed to really make you thrive in your musical pieces (and more!)

6. Practice With Your Accompanist (If applicable)

There's a big difference when playing by yourself versus playing with a piano. It's important to practice with your accompanist to make sure you know your cues and play together and in tune. Practicing together will work out any problems you may have or need to discuss together. Skipping this step may lead to unwanted surprises DURING the audition!

7. Enjoy the Journey

Getting ready, playing at the audition, and moving forward is a journey within itself. Set goals using the Practice Book, watch your progress, have fun, and whether you ace the audition or not, there's something to be learned somewhere.

Best of luck with your musical auditions & if you need help, there are resources all around, including help from Musician's Addition. 🎶

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