college · Life Lessons · Music

Oboe Life: Take 20 – Audition Tips

I think everyone, no matter if you’re a student or professional, gets nervous. It can be at a job interview or music audition, even during public speaking or performances. Well, no matter the case there are several helpful tips to overcome nervousness and achieve whatever it is you’re doing. So, I thought I could list up and explain some of these tips for people whoever need it (or whoever magically finds this page).

Tip#1 – Breathe. I’m not talking about hyperventilating or focusing on breathing. Think of it as when you’re sleeping – we don’t think about breathing when we sleep. It just happens automatically and naturally. It should be the same as when we’re talking or playing our instruments. So, before that moment of walking into that audition room, take a couple of seconds to breathe in and out deeply and slowly. This will slow down your heart rate and calm your nerves. Remember naturally.

Tip#2 – Imagine. Take the time, any time, to imagine yourself in that audition room performing your prepared work to the judges. Treat every practice time to mentally preparing yourself for these auditions. The easiest way of doing so, is to also think positively about your upcoming audition. Imagine that you did really great and played the best to your abilities. The more you see yourself in that positive situation, the better you’ll be at feeling comfortable in the actual event.

Tip#3 – Practice Smartly. This usually works about a month in advance of your audition, but there is a way at practicing smartly. That way is not skipping over mistakes and playing the whole piece fast with those mistakes. Work 1 or 2 measures repeatedly perfectly at a slow tempo, then build up the speed to the designated tempo with a metronome perfectly. Now if it’s like the day before the audition, I would just play everything slow and make sure your fingers hit every note at the right time. Metronomes are your friends. Oh! And try to practice around the same time your audition would be so you could get use to playing at that time of day. For my 1st Music Jury I had at school, they scheduled Oboes at 7am (Who the heck does that????). So, for about a week, I would wake up at 5:50am, eat breakfast at 6:30am, and then get to the conservatory at 7am then practice for an hour until my 8am Theory class started. When it got time to the actual jury, I was already comfortable waking up and playing that early (and I got straight A’s on my jury, so I was jumping with joy afterwards). Remember, imagine yourself in that situation, practice yourself being in that situation.

Tip#4 – Eat correctly. Yes! There are certain things you should eat leading up to your audition. Bad foods to avoid the week of audition day would be salty foods, dairy products, junk food, and caffeine. Salty foods and dairy products tend to dry out your mouth, so it’s going to be hard to play; battle that with lots of water the day of your audition (pee before your audition). Junk food is just bad in general, and it makes you feel more fatigue and not energized to play or focus; battle it with lots of fruits and vegetables (banana has potassium which is good for energy). Caffeine gives you energy, but too much of it tends to give you too much energy and will make you rush on certain passages in the music, so lay off the soda and energy drinks and coffee (I’m a Starbucks/tea person, but I have to drink water or certain juices during the week of auditions to really be able to focus on what I’m doing). Just be healthy, and I know it sucks not eating the foods you want, but eat it afterwards when you ace that audition as a reward!

Tip#5 – Listen to various artists/recordings of your audition piece. Many people who sit in auditions know what they want to hear, and there are many interpretations of the piece you’re playing because music is meant to be interpreted in many ways. However, we have to interpret the music from a professional’s stand point. So with that, listen to professional recordings, and not just one but many recordings. Take the Mozart Oboe Concerto (*screams internally*), I have listened to recordings by John Mack, Eugene Izotov, Alexy Utkin, and many other great players that you can find on Youtube!!!!! Youtube is your friend, utilize it. Even play along with the recording to follow the orchestra or piano or band.

Tip#6 – Wear comfortable clothes. Of course, you want to look presentable to your judges to make an impression, but don’t wear anything that will inhibit you from playing or even distract your playing. Don’t wear tight clothing or fancy jewelry. Don’t try heavy make-up on for the audition. Ladies…don’t wear heels. Just don’t. I guarantee that most auditions I’ve been in, not many have chairs during warm-ups or in the actual audition, so your feet are going to kill you. The point of the audition is not really about the clothes; it’s about the music that you worked on to show these judges how well you can get a piece, work on it, and present it. Save the fancy things for the concert when you have time to be comfortable in them. Men…no baggy clothes? I find with males that dress shoes, khakis, and a nice shirt is appropriate. Be comfortable and play comfortably.

Tip#7 – Be friendly. A good impression and positive attitude is the way to go for any interview or audition. The judges know you’re nervous, but when you put on a nice smile and show up being brave then they’ll know you can work under pressure. I picked up this thing from a summer camp back home, and it was that you should walk into the audition room by 1) introducing yourself, 2) shake the hands of your judges, and 3) just being friendly with your judges. That will give you extra attention for you from your judges; you will be able to stand-out from all the other 20 something people auditioning the same piece as you. Also, be friendly to the other musicians around you. In the music world, I hate when I hear someone boast about what they can do, or try to say how better they are at playing their instrument. This kind of behavior doesn’t really make people like you, and it could all just be talk and no show. My mom would always tell me “Don’t tell people what you can do, show them”. Of course, don’t be an excessive show-off either. You’re there to make a nice and friendly impression.

Tip#8  – Accept the results and learn from it. I’m no Eugene Izotov (professional oboist who has never lost an audition), so I learn to accept the results of the audition whether or not I passed it. I auditioned on flute for the High School District Honor Band my freshmen year, and I didn’t make it in. Of course, I wasn’t happy with the result, but I accepted it and learned as much as I can from the audition. If possible, when the auditions are over and the results came out, and you’re not sure why you got the result you got from the audition, ask the judge what was wrong and what you have to work on. If you can’t get in contact with the person who listened to your audition, ask your private teacher or music director.Play them your audition piece and ask them to tell you what was wrong with it. It’s better to get as much feedback so you know the things you need to work on to become better and succeed. Try not to be like “Oh! I should have gotten into that school or band or ensemble! I played it perfectly! Blah blah blah…”. Most auditions are not perfect, especially at the high school level, and no one should complain about the results. Just ask, learn, and move on.

Tip#9 – Don’t stop playing your audition piece. A lot of musicians do this, and it’s that they hide away their audition piece after the audition is over. I like to treat it as continuing skill that needs to be accomplished on a personal level. There’s so much you could improve on it musically and the potential could really be brought out if it’s worked on to the next level of practicing and understanding. Few musicians do this, myself included, but from the people I know who continue to work on it build better understanding of other pieces and they get those pieces done quickly because they see the same issues they’ve already worked on. Don’t hide it, keep working on it. Room for improvement.

I think that’s it, but there are other things to help with auditions, especially if it pertains to your specific instrument or voice or situation. The number one thing that I find that’s helpful for auditions (not really a tip), is to just keep auditioning and keep putting yourself in a situation that is under pressure where you can learn how to calm yourself and just work with it.

Let me know if you have other tips to add, so I could add it on here for other people to see!



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