Before we say anything in this article, we want you to know: being nervous before an audition is completely normal! In fact, if you’re not nervous, you must have some secret superpower that we’d all like you to share. The truth is, audition nerves happen to everyone. The most successful musicians and actors out there experience nerves, even after years of practice and hundreds of auditions, so we want you to know right off the bat that being nervous has nothing to do with your ability or potential as a musician.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s talk about how you can deal with audition nerves. In this article, we’re going to talk about both mental and physical nerves and give you a few tips to help calm you down before your audition.
The most significant contributor to your nerves is likely your mind. After all, it’s very intimidating to walk into a silent room with a few people that are there to listen to you perform for one or two minutes and judge your entire skill level. Here are a couple of things you can do to clear your thoughts and focus on your audition.
The best way to deal with nervousness is to know your audition piece and performance so well that you could do it in your sleep. If you’re not entirely confident in your memorization, you can quickly become consumed by nerves as your brain is reaching to remember a particular line or set of lyrics. You want to be so well-rehearsed that even if your mind goes completely blank, you find yourself involuntarily giving the performance of a lifetime!
Don’t panic if you make a mistake.
All of that being said, mistakes happen, and sometimes you can prepare for months and still forget something because of nerves. We know this is hard, but do your best to keep going if you make a mistake. Because the truth is, it happens all the time. No judging panel will be caught off guard by a mistake, but they will be massively impressed at how well you can recover.
If you’re in an audition where you’re using an accompanist, it’s also not uncommon for the accompanist to make a mistake or get off tempo. Again, don’t panic, and do your best to keep going. Something that will help you continue is if you have a plan ahead of time. Decide what you’ll do if you forget the lyrics, hit a wrong note, or get off tempo from your accompanist. Maybe you want to sing on a “la” instead of the lyrics, or you want to snap your fingers to keep the tempo going. Whatever you choose to do, if you’re prepared, you are less likely to be thrown completely off guard and taken out of the moment.
Exert some energy before your audition.
Before you go into an audition, you’ll probably feel like your mind is racing. That’s because you have a lot of adrenaline pumping through your veins! You might look a little crazy, but doing some jumping jacks, pushups, stretching, or merely clenching your fists several times can help release some adrenaline. Of course, you don’t want to be winded when you go into your audition, so don’t go too crazy! But taking a moment to release some of that adrenaline will allow you to think a lot clearer when you walk into the audition space.
Take your time.
Singing and instrumental auditions go by very quickly. After a few questions, the judging panel is essentially just waiting on you to start. Trust us, we know that the silence before you begin can feel like a century, but don’t be afraid to take a few seconds to compose yourself. This is your moment to remind yourself of any mental notes, plan out your performance in your head, and get in the right mindset to audition. Make any notes to your accompanist if you have one, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and calm yourself before you begin. It’s unlikely that the judging panel will tell you to hurry up, and even if they do, feel free to fire back with, “One second, please.” After all, it’s your audition, and this is going to communicate that you want to do your best!
Skip the caffeine.
You may think drinking a coffee or soda will help you be more alert, but caffeine and sugar can actually agitate the negative symptoms of stage fright. If you’re feeling sluggish, trust us, your adrenaline before the audition will be enough to wake you up. It’s best to avoid sugary foods or caffeinated beverages the day of your performance. If you’re a vocalist, pay special attention to any tea you may be drinking ahead of time, as many teas are caffeinated.
Learn to recover from poor auditions and keep auditioning.
Everyone has bad auditions, and no one gets every part they audition for. We know it can be challenging to recover from a particularly poor audition, but the quicker you can get back on the saddle, the easier it will be the next time things don’t go your way.
Though we can’t promise that your nerves will ever completely disappear, the more auditions you do, the easier it will get! You’ll begin to be familiar with how the audition process goes and maybe even start to enjoy it. Make mental notes after each audition and learn to take any criticism that comes your way as constructive. Also, remember that you might have to be your biggest cheerleader. Have confidence in the practice time you’ve put in, and don’t forget to reward yourself for a good audition, even if you don’t get the part! The key is to look at every audition as an opportunity to get better.
As much as you work on mentally dealing with anxiety, our bodies react to stress, too. Even though it’s an entirely normal and biological response, it can be really frustrating as it may prohibit you from giving a good performance. Here are a few things you can do.
For a dry mouth and throat:
Singers, in particular, tend to struggle with feeling dry in their mouth and throat, but it can be an issue for instrumentalists as well.
- Hydrate in advance. Unfortunately, gulping down water at the first feeling of a dry throat won’t do a lot for you. In fact, it might do you some harm if you drink so much that you need a restroom and don’t have time to get to one! Make sure you’re hydrated by drinking plenty of water the entire day before your audition.
- Bring a portable humidifier. Portable humidifiers and vaporizers might look a little silly, but they’re excellent for keeping your throat and mouth moist. Also, if you have any congestion, a humidifier will keep the mucus in your nose and throat loose. In fact, Ariana Grande uses one before every show! Grab one from Amazon here.
- Bite your tongue. Okay, so you’re in the audition room and seconds away from performing, with no water bottle or humidifier in sight. Try biting your tongue! Don’t bite too hard, but biting your tongue for a few seconds will cause saliva to fill your mouth and give you a little bit of moisture.
For sweaty hands and armpits:
Not only can sweating be embarrassing, but you don’t want your hands fumbling all over your instrument as you’re trying to do your best.
- Dress light. This might seem a little obvious, but make sure you’re wearing breathable clothes to your audition. You never know what the temperature inside the audition space will be, and it’s better to dress cooler than usual than to be sweating through your clothes.
- Bring a handkerchief. Trust us; no one is going to judge you if you pull out a handkerchief right before you play to wipe down your hands. First of all, it will look a lot more professional than hastily wiping your hands on your pants. And more importantly, it’s going to show the judging panel that you’re serious and that you want to do a good job!
- Drink some ice water. In addition to staying hydrated, drinking some cold or ice water will help cool your body down altogether and prevent you from sweating as much.
- Amp up your deodorant. You might not normally need extra-strength when it comes to your deodorant, but it might be a good thing to bring along with you to an audition!
For shaky hands:
Just like sweaty hands, shaky hands can prevent you from playing your instrument well. If you’re singing, you may have a couple of motions you want to do in your audition, and shaky hands can distract significantly.
- Clench your fists. We mentioned this before in the mental nerves section, but it’s great for physical nerves too. Before your audition, clench your hands over and over again to release some tension and energy.
- Again, skip the caffeine! Caffeine can make your hands shake on an average day, not to mention when you’re trying to fight anxiety! We can’t stress it enough, skip the caffeine!
- Breathe deeply. Deep breathing is often hugely underestimated, but the reality is that it can calm you down very quickly. Try inhaling and holding your breath for four counts, then releasing. Do this for as long as you need to, and eventually, you will feel your body calm down.
- Meditate. Sometimes the best way to cure an anxious mind and body is to simply be still for a moment. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for a minute and allow yourself to relax.
- Take your time. Just like taking a few minutes to compose yourself mentally is a good idea; you may need a few moments right before your audition to clench your fists a few times or breathe deeply. Again, don’t be afraid to do so.
For shallow breath support:
Nothing is more irritating than losing breath support during a singing or instrumental audition. For both, not only is breathing incredibly important for your performance, but it’s likely its own section in the judging, as breath support is a very important component of both vocal and instrumental music.
- Do breathing exercises. You probably already know a few breathing exercises from practicing or private lessons. Don’t neglect to do these before an audition. Deep breathing will calm your body down and focus your breath so that you can go in feeling more supported.
- Prepare in advance. If there is a particular passage where you’re typically short on breath, even in rehearsal, think about how you can sneak in a breath either before or after in anticipation of audition nerves. To avoid sounding like you’re gasping for breath, consider adding in a pause that comes across as an artistic embellishment, but really allows for you to catch your breath. Remember, if you’re working with an accompanist, you need to mark this breath or pause in your music and communicate with them beforehand.
- Stay technical. Singers are specifically trained in breathing from the diaphragm, and it can be easy to throw this out the window when you’re nervous. Remember what you’ve learned and stay technical. If you try taking shallow breaths from your throat because you’re nervous, you’ll find yourself running out of breath even more and becoming exhausted.
- Remember your posture. Posture is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind in an audition, but bad posture can make a huge difference in your breath support. Remember to sit or stand up straight so that you have proper airflow.
Now that we’ve covered some of the biggest mental and physical blocks, we have a few final tips so that you can nail your next audition.
Use the facilities.
It may sound silly, but don’t forget to use the restroom. Believe us; we speak from experience when we say there’s nothing worse than having to “go” when you step into your audition.
When you’re stressed, your body tends to stiffen up quite a bit. This can be both a mental and physical block, as well as a potential injury waiting to happen, so take a few moments to stretch before your audition. If you need a few ideas, check out our article “10 Stretching Exercises for Musicians.”
Pick the right piece.
It can be tough to find the perfect audition song, but make sure to spend a good amount of time finding the right piece for you. Your confidence can be bolstered a ton if you’re performing a piece that you know you sound good on and that you love to perform! If you’re a vocalist, make sure to check out Musicnotes Audition Cuts, short (16-bar) and long (32-bar) “cuts” of songs arranged to showcase your vocal range from top to bottom in a short amount of time.
Practice your audition.
It might feel a little awkward, but grab some friends and family members to watch and critique your audition before you do the real thing. Choose people that might make you a little nervous, and that will give you honest feedback. If you’re a student, consider asking a music teacher or professor to watch and critique.
We hope you now feel a little more confident walking into your next audition. Remember, you’re not alone in your nervousness, and the more auditions you do, the better it will get. We’re rooting for you!
For more tips on music auditions, click here.