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The Art of the Mock Audition

New year, new auditions on the horizon!

Even though 2022 just started, audition season is in full swing as musicians prepare for conservatory, university, orchestra, and other auditions.

An essential component of any successful audition is the mock audition, which will help you build physical endurance and mental resilience to prepare for the real deal.

Here’s everything you need to know:

What is a mock audition?

Auditioning is an art form, just like music. Just like you practice to prepare the required music and excerpts in hopes of playing your best, you should also practice taking auditions to develop the mental fortitude necessary to play well despite (completely normal) audition day nerves and jitters.

A mock audition is simply a practice audition to improve your audition-taking strategies.

What’s the difference between a mock audition and normal practicing?

When you’re practicing, you can stop and start wherever you like. If you miss a note, you can simply go back and correct it. If you get tired, you can take a short break.

When you’re at an audition, you only get one chance to make a great musical impression, so it’s important to add mock auditions to your practice plan when preparing for auditions.

When should you incorporate mock auditions?

Once you feel your repertoire is sufficiently prepared, I think it’s a good idea to begin adding performance run-throughs and mock auditions to your practice routine. There is no magic formula, but I like to begin adding mock auditions a few weeks or a month before the actual audition.

How many mock auditions should I plan?

As many as possible! The more you are used to “auditioning,” the more in control you will be at the actual audition.

If you’ve never done a mock audition before, I recommend beginning with performance run-throughs of your music. By playing through all of the required music, you will develop physical endurance to complete the program, but you will also train yourself to quickly move past live performance errors and mistakes. It is important that you do not stop, go back, or correct any mistakes during these run-throughs so you don’t make this a habit at actual auditions or performances.

Once you’re fairly comfortable with live performance run-throughs, it’s time for the mock audition.

How to set up a realistic mock audition

The first step involves some research. Find out everything you can about your audition, from the venue, the acoustics, the panel/jury, the temperature of the city (any drastic environmental changes can wreak havoc on reeds if you’re not prepared), and anything else you can about your audition. Will you definitely perform all of your music, or is it randomly selected? What’s the warm-up room situation? Can you practice in your hotel?

Knowledge is power, and the more you know about the audition environment, the more in-control you will feel on the actual audition day.

Once you’ve gathered this information, it’s time to step up your live performance run-throughs:

  • Find some friends or teachers to be the jury.
  • Record yourself and take notes as you listen back.
  • Enter the room before your mock audition and exit afterwards.
  • Leave yourself sufficient time between each piece to mentally change gears to capture each style.
  • Avoid talking. Many auditions are “blind,” meaning the judges should not see or hear you.
  • Randomize your repertoire (if this is applicable to your audition).
  • Practice bowing. If you will be auditioning in front of visible judges or an audience, practice your stage entrance and exit.
  • Make it a true dress rehearsal. If you will be wearing something drastically different than your normal practice attire (heels, for example), wear these during your mock audition.

Changing variables

No matter how much you research your audition, there will always be a few elements left to chance. I like to switch things up in my mock auditions so I feel adequately prepared for any eventuality. Here are a few examples:

  • Practice at different times of the day. Stay up late, wake up early, and change your normal practice times to train your body and brain to be ready for performing at all hours of the day.
  • Practice in different mental and emotional states. You will never know exactly how you’ll feel on the audition day, so try to practice with as many different emotional variables so you’re used to performing in a variety of circumstances. For example, I try to do mock auditions when I’m tired, angry, upset, hungry and other less-than-ideal scenarios just as much as I try to perform in ideal circumstances. This way, I can be prepared to focus on the music despite how I may feel on audition day.
  • Play on a variety of reeds. An irrefutable fact of clarinet life is that reeds are not constant. The perfect you reed picked out for the audition might not feel so great when it’s time to take center stage, so practice performing on a variety of reeds so this won’t distract you during the audition. (You should also make sure to protect your reeds from any environmental changes to keep them playing more consistently!)
  • Change the lighting. From dimly lit stages to unnatural fluorescent multipurpose rooms, be prepared to play in any situation.
  • Change the temperature. Same as above, but this will help you prepare for any tuning challenges presented by overly hot (or cold) rooms.
  • Add in distractions (even better if they’re random). Leave your phone on (just this once!) to get used to random beeps, buzzes, and other distractions so you can train yourself to stay focused on the music. Have your friends or family make noises or walk by as you play. The more you train your brain to focus on the music and tune out any external distractions, the more comfortable you will feel during the actual audition.
  • Simulate stress. Several musicians run or jump in place before a mock audition to increase their heart rates to better imitate some of the sensations they might experience on audition day.

Final thoughts

Becoming a successful audition-taker is an important skill to develop in conjunction with your musical preparation. By adding mock auditions to your audition-preparation strategy, you will feel much more prepared and confident when it’s audition day!

Here are a few of my other audition resources you might find helpful:

Good luck!