We all get to the point where we make the bold decision to move forward on our musical journey and venture into uncharted land of musical opportunity and promise. There is no experience more vulnerable than the moment you decide to put all of your skill and ability on the line for an audition.

Auditions involve directly comparing yourself to others and competing against other musicians, in front of other respected musicians that will be scrutinizing every single note you sing or play. As terrifying as this all sounds, with the right perspective and the right tools, you will be able to confidently audition for any role you desire.

Imagine This:

It’s a cold March day in Newark, New Jersey, 2012. Yesterday, you waited in the bitter cold and rain for over nine hours to get an early audition time. Why? You’ve done your research and know that X-Factor judges are happier early in the day – and more likely to let go of one of their precious qualifying slots.

Today, you will wait an additional 12 hours. But today is the day that matters, as you are finally admitted to the arena to wait, yet again, in another line.

As your line inches forward, your heart feels like it’s going to pound out of your chest as you witness other incredibly talented singers belt out shards of their soul, only to be ushered to the loser exits with tears streaming down their defeated cheeks. That doesn’t phase you though; you keep rehearsing your “story” in your mind. And remember: smile big, like the Cheshire Cat, once you finally meet the person that will decide your fate.

What happened?

You walk into one of at least 50 makeshift audition areas partitioned with walls of beige linen. Three songs later, the judge looks at you, smiles, and says “Congratulations, I like you! Here’s your paperwork for your second audition tomorrow. Wear the same exact clothes and good luck.”

As you walk off the battlefield with a small taste of victory and some cool nostalgic trinkets to prove it, it suddenly hits you. A feeling of every emotion you have ever known suddenly flushes throughout your body at the realization that you are one step closer to being this year’s X-Factor season winner.

The X-Factor – Demystified

I wanted to share my experience not only to put you in my shoes (where I was a few years ago) but to also help you realize that anything is possible when you put your mind to it and have the right tools to succeed! My audition story of success will become your story, as you embrace these four key factors:

  1. Confidence
  2. Time Management
  3. Personality
  4. Environment

Do the math: X = (Confidence) x (Time Management) x (Personality) x (Environment)

Let’s begin with the first two factors: Confidence and Time Management. There’s plenty to talk about here, so we’ll save Personality and Time Management for How to Prepare for the Big Audition, Part 2.

Confidence

The whole essence of confidence may seem to be a slippery concept to grasp or execute, but it doesn’t have to be once we break it down. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of confidence is “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances”. By consciously understanding and optimizing everything within your control to have the most successful audition possible, you will exemplify the essence of confidence.

Think about it. Most people create this external component of fear and let that get in the way of their confidence to audition successfully by imagining a terrifying outcome. Whether you are the most or least technically experienced person auditioning for the role, the only thing you physically have control over is creating the best conditions possible for a successful audition.

A musician with 18 years of experience can stroll into an audition nervous and unprepared. Her confidence will be reflected as such and not yield the best results. Whereas a musician with four years experience can take the time and dedication to execute the four factors and approach the audition with unshakable confidence. She will win over the more experienced musician every time.

And speaking of time…

Time Management

Allocating the most amount of time possible to practice and improving your technique is absolutely critical to having a successful audition. It’s just as important to not get lost in the details and allocate smart practices.

Effective practice techniques are just as important as the amount of time you allocate.

If you have multiple songs to audition, try not to get too hung up on the hardest song. For example, I’ve known fellow musicians who were to given three songs blind audition style – meaning they don’t know which or how many of the songs will be selected. They focused most of their time on the hardest song and ended up not even having that song selected.

I like to employ the 80/20 approach for audition material, which means you allocate 80% of your available time to learning all of the songs – and then use the additional 20% of your time focusing on songs that are more difficult.

Smarter, not harder

Effective practice techniques are just as important as the amount of time you allocate. You want to practice smart so that each and every minute you spend is efficiently directed to increase your chances of success.

It’s a good idea to record yourself, then play and listen later to identify problem areas. Even better: ask a friend or fellow musician to listen to your practice and give you an outside perspective.

Depending on the importance of the role, you can also invest in a vocal coach or teacher that will help guide you through your material. Stepping out of your bubble and working with others will help you prepare for the personalities you will encounter at the audition.

Face the Fear – And Do It Anyway!

Afraid to face those judges? Think you’re not “ready”? Then now is the perfect time to schedule your first audition. Nothing inspires good time management like seeing that big audition date looming on the calendar! And nothing builds confidence like making the steps real, having the experience, and embracing the learning.

Time management has much to do with all the time between now and that fateful day. In How to Prepare for the Big Audition, Part 2, we’ll look at the factors relevant to the big day itself. Until then, go ahead! Make the call, set a date and start practicing!

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