Auditions can be an excellent tool to help us exceed our own expectations, gain confidence, and manage nerves under stress. Here is my personal take (and how I coach my students) on preparing for auditions such as All-State, Districts, solo competitions, etc., so I hope you find some new ideas as you prepare for your upcoming auditions. It’s important for you to find your own routine, and it’s okay if your methods are completely opposite from mine. Take what works and leave what doesn’t. Good luck!
- CONSISTENCY is key
- Schedule your practice time and stick to it!
- Figure out what needs the most time
- Flash card method
- “chunk” your piece into 3-4 sections and write each chunk down on a flash card. Choose randomly and work diligently on that one chunk until you feel you’ve improved and can move on.
- As the audition becomes closer, have 3 piles for your flash cards: “Still Challenging,” “Getting Better,” and “Confident.” Work every flash card from the “Still Challenging” pile every practice session, a few from “Getting Better,” and only one or two cards from the “Confident” pile. Eventually, the cards should all move up until they’ve reached the “Confident” pile.
- This method works great for memorizing!
- Schedule of pieces
- If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of music you need to learn or memorize, write out a schedule of pieces. We tend to put the majority of our effort into the most difficult pieces, so sticking to a schedule helps us even out our practicing. Adjust the schedule as necessary.
- Don’t ignore the “easy” ones
- We perform what and how we practice. If we perpetually skip over the “easy” parts of our etude or solo, we’re more likely to make a silly mistake in the easier spots under pressure.
- Middle and High school flutists sometimes think the slow etude is the easy etude and put the most time into the technical etudes. Remember that the slow etude shows off a different set of skills than technical etudes, so be sure that you’re practicing with just as much attention to detail (subdividing, using a tuner/drone, focusing on tone and phrasing, etc) as you would getting solid technique in the fast etudes.
- Flash card method
- Know the performance tempo and track your metronome progress
- Practice Performing
- As the audition nears, run through your pieces every day. No stopping. Mental preparation is just as important as technical preparation!
- Perform for others, especially those who make you nervous
- LISTEN. Record yourself and listen back.
- Make notes either on your music or a separate notebook
- Listen with your music in front of you
- Listen with a critical ear and give constructive feedback – no negative thoughts
- Ask others to listen
2. Mental Preparation
- Immerse yourself in the music
- Listen to professional recordings if you can find them
- If possible, try to play in a big space before the audition
- LADIES – wear comfy shoes! If you decide you audition best in heels, at least do one run-through while wearing them
- Imagine yourself performing in the space
- Get your heart rate up (jumping jacks, climb stairs) and play your pieces through without stopping. Figure out what breathing techniques you will use to get your heart rate down
3. Day Of
- Try not to change your routine too much. Treat the day like any other day.
- Wear layers – you never know how warm/cold the audition room will be.
- Bring water and healthy snacks (bananas are great for nerves!)
- Be careful with peanut butter, honey, or other sticky foods. They can cause dry mouth
- Play a slow, easy warm-up. Now is NOT the time to run through your piece 10 times.
- Smart warm-ups include: long tones, slow/medium tempo scales, arpeggios, and any normal warmup you usually do. Stick to your routine!
- If you must play through your piece, play it slow (especially the challenging bars). You will not make any improvements the day of your performance.
- You can do as many mental run-throughs as you want! Breathing and air acceptable, no blowing into or fingering your instrument.
- Breathing techniques
- Whispered “Ah” (Alexander Technique method)
- Breathing Gym Inhales/Exhales
Recommended Books for Performance Anxiety
- Gallwey, Timothy The Inner Game of Tennis
- Green, Barry The Inner Game of Music (read after the Greene books)
- Greene, Don Performance Success
- Greene, Don Audition Success
- Ristad, Eloise A Soprano on Her Head
FREE (Excellent) Resource for Performance Anxiety, Practice Tips, etc.
www.bulletproofmusician.com Noa Kageyama, Performance Psychologist