So you’ve started a band, great!
Believe it or not, starting a band was the easy part, keeping a band together is where it gets really difficult.
You’ll be able to tell real quick if people are going to be a good fit for your band once you start jamming together. At the end of the day you're really just looking for people who can play their instrument well and people who share the same career goals as you. The last thing you need are members who don’t take the band as seriously as you do. A jam session is a great way to filter out people who aren't a good fit for your band.
Here's a tip; trust your gut, if it doesn't feel right then move on, Immediately!
Here are some tips on how to hold a successful audition jam session.
1. Be Prepared
If you don’t have any of your own music written yet it’s best to have a cover song in mind when holding auditions, preferably in a genre similar to the music you want to create. It’s okay if they don’t know the song but please make sure that You Do!
The worst thing anyone can do in this situation is not know how to play the song you want someone else to learn. That's just stupid. Whether you’re teaching your own original song or a cover song, please know what hell you’re talking about!
2. Set your standards
A skilled musician can elevate everyone else around them, alternatively the bad ones will bring you down. If it a person auditioning takes more than 10 minutes to learn how to play a Blink 182 cover song, then you might want to move on. Ideally you want to have other musicians who are equally skilled, if not better than you.
So when your singers little brother wants to try out for the band, If He Sucks - He Gots To Go! I know it can be tough to weed out the weak players without feeling like a jerk but trust me, you'll be far better off and you won't waste time that could be spent rocking out!
3. Book A Room
I know what you're thinking... "we're a garageband, why can't we just rehearse in my garage?"
It's all about first impressions. Regardless of what type of band you are in, if you want to be taken seriously you need to present yourself in a professional manner.
You can typically find a fairly cheap rehearsal studio in your area that rents rooms by the hour, some of which even come stocked with a PA, drums and amplifiers (depending on the establishment). This accomplishes two things:
(1) You have a dedicated room to rehearse with no interruptions and decent sound set up.
(2) You won't have complete strangers don't come to your house and get a glimpse of all that expensive equipment you've got stored in your garage. It's a safety thing, you know?
4. Set A Schedule
Ideally you'll want to schedule a weekend slot so you can get through more than one audition in a day but most likely you’ll be holding auditions at night during the week.
Since most people work a day job, you're week-night rehearsal hours are going to be very limited so I wouldn't recommend trying to squeeze more than one audition per night. This usually doesn’t work out anyway because of the long set up/tear down time in between auditions.
Plus it can be a bit rude and some people get really offended that you’re trying to rush them out so the next person can audition. Especially if two people auditioning for the same position bump into each other in the hall. Awkward!
However, if you are going to hold multiple auditions in the same night, make sure you give yourself a 30-45 minute gap between people to account for any delays.
5. Time Is Money
If you go the night session route then you definitely want to make sure you rent a room that comes fully stocked with as much equipment as possible so you can get in, set up quickly and start jamming. Remember, you pay by the hour so time is money!
The less gear you need to set up the better, at least for this first initial audition. You want to make sure you have adequate time to set up, talk for bit to get to know the person and then start jamming. You’re not judging people on the size of their drum kit or how expensive their amps are, you simply want to see how well they play and if you can survive an hour of their company without getting into a fight.
With that said, reliability is key in a DIY Garageband. If the person coming in for the audition is running late and won’t respond to your phone calls or text, this is a bad sign. Just imagine if this was a show; you’re waiting at a venue, 5 mins before you're supposed to play and you can't find your bassist. No bueno!
6. Pick your team
When a new band forms or new members are introduced, you'll want to gauge how well people take directions and how quickly they’re able to learn a song on the spot. Some people just don’t like being told what to do, especially if they’re having a hard time learning the song, they might start to get a bit hostile. We're only human after all, so at the end of the day it really comes down to what you're willing to work through and what you're ready to walk away from.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search and committed to a line up, this is where the real journey begins. Get back into the rehearsal studio as much as possible, learn to work as a team, write songs, find your style. Start writing your own music and don't worry when your first 10 songs suck.