I hosted a free Zoom seminar this January to try to help folks sort through the issues that come up when recording auditions. It was interesting to see what came up.
What’s the biggest difference between a recorded audition and a live audition? You have the ABILITY (double edged sword here) to record it as many times as you want or have time to with a recorded audition. When it is live, you get one shot. Most of the recorded auditions now are being asked to be done straight-through, with no edits. This takes more planning and preparation than being able to record one selection at a time. It also gives us as the listeners a better overall idea of your playing.
There are some other differences we don’t often think about…With live auditions, when it finally comes to it, we just walk in and play. Getting there takes a lot of planning – transportation, lodging, etc. but it all takes place well in advance of the actual playing.
Recorded auditions require advanced planning as well: reserving a space, setting up equipment, setting recording levels, making sure lighting is decent (“Will the heat be on in the church choir room where I am recording?”). ALL of these things need to be done as much as possible before the day of the recording so you can just show up and play. After all, it is hard enough to do that! So do this prep before the recording session as much as possible.
It seems these days like people really don’t love recorded auditions – I get it, playing for people and either knowing they are sitting on the other side of a screen or seeing their smiling faces makes a big difference.
Trouble is, there’s this thing called COVID… maybe you’ve heard of it…
Yeah – it’s a whole THING. Anyway…
Most schools and music festivals aren’t allowing live auditions, which is a shame, but try to find a place of acceptance of the current reality, and just DO YOUR BEST. That is what we’ve been doing for two years, and we will continue to do the same until we reach a new normal, and are back playing everything live etc! So, keep that chin up, and let’s find some better ways to approach recording so you can get into the school/festival/orchestra/polka band of your dreams.
Here were the things that came up in the meeting and that seemed to stress people the most, in no particular order:
- How do you know when the recording is “good enough”/done?
- How many sessions should you give yourself to get it done?
- How nice/big/resonant does the room in which you record need to be?
- What kind of mic do you use/what works well?
- How do you deal with feeling like once you press the record button everything feels DIFFERENT?
- How do you decide what to record when you’re given the choice of excerpts and solos?
Let’s dig in here…
Set up a healthy number of sessions as it relates to the music you have to record.
How to decide how many? As many as you can manage and still sound good! That being said there are some things to consider:
- How often can you reserve the space?
- How many times can you run through the list and still sound good? (the lower this number, the more sessions you should allow yourself – HINT: the harder the list, the lower this number will be!!!)
The number of sessions you schedule should also be governed by a simple rule – the better you can prepare for recorded auditions, the easier they will go.
Should you try to “step it up” when we are recording?
This is the biggest mistake musicians make when auditioning or recording. If you’ve set up your sessions in an organized manner, the only thing you are doing is trying to play in the sessions the same way you practiced. This means that how you practice is critical. As much as possible, you must try to play with the ideal version of the music in your head (this assumes you have listened to enough recordings to have chosen a favorite and memorized the nuances of said favorite player). That way, when the red light is on, you just listen to that version in your head that you have been hearing for weeks/months/years and trust your body to produce it as well as it can in that moment.
You don’t really need to think about where to place your feet when you walk down the street – you just do it. Recording is the same. Set yourself up well with your logistics and then JUST PLAY.