Every live band will go through personnel changes throughout the life span of the band. Members of the band will quit for all sorts of reasons from health issues to the ever popular “artistic differences” which is really just code for personality conflicts. Whatever the reason, if your live band is going to continue you will have to find a new member to replace the one who is leaving.
Sometimes you’ll be lucky and know a musician that can step right in and replace the person who is leaving. Most of the time you’re going to have to do some asking around and find a few musicians who would be interested in joining your band. Once you have a few names, it’s time to have an audition session and give the candidates a chance to show you what they can do.
When holding auditions for new members it’s important to select a good variety of music that your band plays. You’ll want to choose three to five songs that will challenge the auditionees in different ways. The songs you pick should challenge their ability to play difficult songs, test their ability to take a solo and check their ability to stay in sync with the band. Make sure the musicians that will be auditioning all have copies of the songs that they will be auditioning on.
For example, if you’re auditioning for a new singer you will obviously want to have them audition on a song that will challenge their vocal range. Pick a song that has a lot of high notes as well as a song that will test them in the low ranges as well.
When holding the audition, make sure you’re nice to everyone. Make them feel comfortable and offer them a drink and a place to sit down. I’ve been to some auditions where I felt like I was herded through a cattle chute. When you’re ready to start playing, make sure the auditionee can hear themselves.
As you play, make sure you listen to how accurately the auditionee is playing the song. Are they paying attention to the little details? Hitting the fills in the right places and not overplaying? If they’re injecting their own personal style into a song is it working? If it is, then that’s a good thing!
There are a couple things to watch out for when auditioning replacement players. You have to remember that it’s unfair to expect a new member to play things exactly like the person they are replacing. Everyone plays a little bit different. Music is an art and not a science so there’s no way for the new player to play everything exactly like the old guy. The key is to find someone who can make good music with you.
You also want to make sure you don’t fall into the “2nd marriage” syndrome and expect the new player to be perfect. A lot of times problem band members will be kicked out with the illusion that the new band member won’t have any of the problems that the old guy had. What you’ll really get is a new player that may have some of the same problems as the old guy or different problems to deal with altogether. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” band member.
After you decide on who you will ask to join your band be sure you let everyone who auditioned know that they did not get the gig. Remember to be gentle and tell them they did an excellent job but that you have found someone else who was a better fit. It’s a good idea to have some constructive criticism ready if they ask specifically why they didn’t get the slot in your band. Don’t just say “because you sucked!” even though that may be true. It’s always better to say things like “you had a hard time hitting high notes in tune” or “your solos weren’t as accurate as we would have liked”.
It’s a good idea to ask if it would be okay to keep their number handy in case things don’t work out with the new member. Networking with other musicians is critical in your personal success as a musician. That’s why it’s always a good idea to be kind and professional before, during and after and audition.
The audition process can be taxing for you and the musicians you are auditioning. There’s a lot of anxiety for everyone involved but if you’re careful and make sure you find the best person for your band, everyone is going to be better for it. The real winner will be the audience that will be cheering you on as your live band gets onstage and delivers an excellent show!