Lately I have been asked a lot about how I got into pop gigs and what to expect during the auditions.
As far as getting into the pop gigs - it was not really that different than getting any other local gig. I came out to LA and did a really wide variety of local gigs. I ended up meeting and performing with lot of great musicians. About five years ago a couple
of players I had worked with on different local gigs (they were already in the loop of big gigs) recommended me for two different major gigs. After that, everything kept rolling on its own. Since then, I've had to do a few auditions, but most gigs have been handed to me through referrals. I am fortunate that I like pop music because otherwise I would be miserable playing that stuff. The gigs are a lot of fun. Most
of the musicians on these gigs are great to jam with. I also learned a lot and expanded as a player through the whole experience. If you are interested in doing something like that, the most important thing is to move to a city where all the gigs are being created. I still love recording my own music and will always be doing that as well.
The following is what I have experienced during most of the auditions.
Be on time. By this I mean be early. Shoot for arriving at least 30 minutes before your audition time. This will eliminate stress in case there is traffic, a bad parking situation, etc. When you get there early, you will be able to socialize with other musicians and industry people. Have business cards ready.
Learn the material you are supposed to learn. If there is more than one guitar part and you are not sure which part you will be playing, learn all the parts. You should be familiar with the bass part/chord quality/key centers throughout the song, not just the guitar voicings. By doing so, you will be able to improvise leads and chordal parts if asked. Many singers prefer to sing a half-step down from the original version
of the song. Being able to transpose is a good skill to have.
Have the right equipment with you. You should be able to get the right tones for the parts you are going to be playing. Sometimes an amp will be rented for you. In this case you should have all the right pedals since the amp provided might not be comfortable to play through.
Look the part. If you are auditioning for an ultra heavy band do not go there in a tux. For pop gigs, don't look too sleazy. For a Christian act don't wear anything promoting Satanism. You get the idea.
Set up as quickly and quietly as possible. Play only a couple of chords to make sure you have the right tone. At this point there is no need to entertain or impress everyone around you. As soon as you are set up, wait for further instructions. Make sure you are in tune before you start playing your part. Bring a tuning device which allows you to tune quietly.
Listen to the music director or whoever is holding the audition. He or she should not have to repeat anything. If he/she is explaining something to the bass player, listen. Do not doodle during this time. Not only would that be disrespectful and annoying, it would interfere with those who are trying to pay attention.
Play the best you can with confidence. Play the part. Do not overplay unless asked. Nobody cares if you can shred in the middle of a verse of a ballad. You are there to play a part which fits into the large picture. Playing the part also means having the right tone for the part. If you are asked to play a lightly distorted part make sure you are not using clean tone or a thrash metal tone. Basically make the song sound good while having fun.
After one run through, chances are the music director will make some changes such as trying the song in a different key or asking you to play something different than what you have learned. This is not because what you played was bad. It is to see how quickly you can adapt to any given situation. The music director may ask you to come up with a funky line rather than strumming chords during a certain part of the song. He/she may sing, or play you a line they want you to play. Sometimes sections may even be broken down to very basics like: drums and guitar only, then snare and guitar only.
When you are done playing, do not talk about how good or bad you just played. Chances are, you are your worst critic. Pack up your gear. With a smile, thank and compliment the other players, MD, and whoever else that may be involved. Make sure they have your contact info. Leave the room.
Waiting outside the room and mingling may be a good idea. If you know you will be informed with the audition results the next day, wait for them to call. You do not need to bother them. If they want you they will get a hold of you.
BE POLITE AND USE COMMON SENSE.
Best of luck.
Like many guitarists from the 80's, Joy Basu grew up in the world of shred guitar. His favorite guitar players were Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Jason Becker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Randy Rhoads, Neal Schon, Paul Gilbert and Jake E. Lee. Since then Joy's musical tastes and abilities have grown a lot. His recent influences are artists/producers like BT, Dezrok, Mac Quayle, Hex Hector, and Thunderpuss.
As a recording artist, Joy has released two solo CDs and is featured as a performer on nine others. Joy's solo music has been used by MTV (Undressed), NBC (Passions) and by CBS for promoting over a dozen different shows.
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