Top 10 Tips for Honor Band Audition Prep (and every other audition)

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It’s that time of year. The leaves are falling, pumpkin spice lattes are back by popular demand, and you’ve got a big audition coming up! Don’t worry, Denis Wick is here to help! Let’s get right into it…

Before the audition

  • Tip #1 – Practice the hard stuff, not the easy licks
    • We’re all guilty of playing our favorite part of a piece over and over and over… and over again, while conveniently neglecting that 16th note run that needs our love and affection. Don’t do it! Focus on the hard parts early, and use the next tip to help…
  • Tip #2 – Use a metronome
    • 16th notes aren’t fast if you take them slow! That sounds like common sense, but so many of us (myself included) panic when you see that much ink on the page. Start slowly, with the metronome clicking 8th or 16th notes instead of quarter notes and you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to make progress!
  • Tip #3 – Set up mock auditions
    • Most of us do a good job practicing the audition music, but we don’t practice the audition itself! Do everything you can to simulate your audition experience. Ask your friends or family to listen to you play, make them sit behind a screen, even warm up in a different room in your house! Will you be wearing pajamas at your audition? No? Then don’t practice in them! Little things like this can help you stay calm and focused when you’re under pressure.
  • Tip #4 – Create a story to go with your music
    • Music is constantly used in television, movies and even video games to add depth to the action on screen. Listen to your piece and come up with your own story. Is the music fast, loud, and high? Maybe Luke Skywalker is being chased by stormtroopers! Is your lyrical piece in a minor key? Maybe somebody shaved Chewbaccca! The only limit is your imagination! When you connect to your audition music in this way it adds another layer of musicianship!
  • Tip #5 – Put yourself in the judge’s shoes
    • Being an honor band judge is hard. They might hear over 200 hundred trumpet players play the same two pieces in one day! I love the trumpet, but that sounds like too much even for me! Think about how you can set yourself apart from the competition by finding ways to express yourself musically that aren’t on the page. Maybe there’s no ritard marked, but would it be musical to put one there? Maybe a dramatic pause after a fermata would heighten the drama of a piece! Making these choices will show the judges you are a musically mature musician!

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Day of the audition


  • Tip #6 – Eat a good breakfast and pack a snack
    • If you’re anything like me you may get nervous on the day of the audition, and you might even lose your appetite. It’s important to eat so you don’t get shaky and lightheaded, especially if your audition is later in the day. Packing a snack is a good move because auditions of this size can run behind schedule. Just make sure you aren’t eating anything too salty, it could cause some swelling in your lips!
  • Tip #7 – Don’t Panic!
    • This is an important one. Most honor band auditions have a group warm up room, also known as the worst room in history of rooms. You’re going to hear people playing high notes over and over - yikes! You’re also going to hear lots of different interpretations of the music you’ve been practicing for months. Don’t panic! This is not the time to second guess yourself! You put in the work to get to this point, don’t let another player influence you into changing your tempo or style!
  • Tip #8 – Pace yourself during your warmup
    • Now is not the time to play your hardest audition piece 379 times in a row, despite what your neighboring trumpeters are doing! By the time you’re in the warmup room your only focus should be on staying relaxed and getting your best sound as easily as possible. Maybe play the first measure or two of each audition piece a few times, but there’s no need to play through the whole piece. (Especially if you did tip #3!) It’s important to save your energy for the actual audition.
  • Tip #9 – Bring water into the audition
    • Auditions lead to nerves. Nerves lead to dry mouth. Dry mouth leads to sadness and bad trumpet playing. Bring a bottle of water with you! This is an easy one! Drink the water, don’t get dry mouth, and play your best!
  • Tip #10 – Take your time in the audition
    • You’re finally here. This is your moment. It’s quiet… too quiet. Why is it so quiet? It can feel very uncomfortable to audition! The silence can make it feel like everyone is waiting on you to play, but don’t give in to the silence! Take your time, starting when you first walk into the room. Set your music on the stand and adjust the stand so you feel comfortable. Take a drink of water, empty your trumpet’s water. Take a second to breathe in and out. Once you feel ready, begin. You’ve earned the right to take your time in this audition with all of the effort you put into preparing.


After the audition


  • Tip #11 – Don’t judge yourself based on the audition result
    • What?! An 11th tip?! Unprecedented!


Every single professional musician has had a bad audition experience. Sometimes your nerves get the best of you, and you crash and burn. Other times you KNOW you’re going to be first chair… and you didn’t even make the cut. The most important part of auditioning is growing musically. All the work you put into your range, tonguing, flexibility, and musicality stays with you, regardless of what happened during the audition.





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