What Is the Most Effective Way to Warm Up for an Audition?
By Noa Kageyama, Ph.D.
It’s been many years since I was in the market for a new violin or bow, but I still remember how self-conscious I’d be when playing in front of the shop owners.
Why so self-conscioius?
I was worried about being judged.
How would I compare to others who had tried this violin? What would the people in the store think of my playing? What if they didn’t think I was good enough, or worthy of playing on this violin?
I’d feel a bit like Julia Roberts in that scene in Pretty Woman where the ladies in the clothing boutique made it clear they don’t think she deserved to step foot into their store.
Anyhow, with all this self-imposed pressure and impressing to do, something rather peculiar would happen. Namely, my entire repertoire would suddenly evaporate, and the only thing that would come out of my instrument was a 2-octave G major scale and the opening of the Bach G minor Sonata.
Rather than really listening to the violin, putting my ego aside for a moment, and playing whatever would help me decide whether I and the fiddle were a good match or not, my brain would freeze up and I’d find myself going through the motions.
Not surprisingly, the same thing would happen when warming up for auditions or competitions. In the presence of my competitors, I’d get self-conscious and fail to warm up in a manner that would best prepare me for my performance.
A tale of two warm-up routines
It doesn’t look like it’s just me with this peculiar problem. I’ve been watching my students warm up lately, and have observed the same curious phenomenon.
When I ask if this is how they warm up at home, they smile, admit that this is not at all how they typically warm up, and proceed to do something that is often slower and sounds nothing at all like music.
Yet whatever weird idiosyncratic warm up routine they have, whether it’s some combination of long tones, super slow scales, or a single note varying bow speed and pressure, it is infinitely more effective at helping them get connected to their instrument, quiet their mind, turn their ears on, and settle into the right mental state for performing well.
Resist the temptation to impress the wrong people
In an audition situation, whether you are auditioning for Juilliard, a local TV voiceover spot, or the LA Phil, you will be surrounded by others who are auditioning for the exact same spot you are going for. There will be a tendency for the self-consciousness to kick in, and for you to go through the motions of warming up, or trying to impress those around you by playing something that sounds difficult.
Resist this temptation, and begin by warming up the way you do every day. In the way that you know is going to be most helpful – even if it makes others snicker and shake their heads in amusement. We all have different ways of getting connected to our instrument and getting into the right state for performing well. Warm up the way you know works best for you and enjoy the last laugh.
Besides, it’s not their opinion that matters, it’s the committee, the audition panel, the audience, and YOU that matter.
Like everything else, remember to practice warming up this way around others. Go to orchestra rehearsal early, and instead of flashing the tricky bits of your concerto, warm up the way you do when you are at home in your PJ’s.
Train yourself to become more comfortable sticking your head in the sand and doing what you need to do, no matter what others will think. I guarantee it gets easier with repetition, not to mention when you begin to experience more success as a result of warming up the most effective way you can – the way you do every day when you want to connect to your instrument and start the day off on the right foot.
Performance psychologist and Juilliard alumnus & faculty member Noa Kageyama teaches musicians how to beat performance anxiety and play their best under pressure through live classes, coachings, and an online home-study course. Based in NYC, he is married to a terrific pianist, has two hilarious kids, and is a wee bit obsessed with technology and all things Apple.
After Countless Hours of Practice, Why Are Performances Still so Hit or Miss?
It’s not a talent issue. And that rush of adrenaline and emotional roller coaster you experience before performances is totally normal too.
Performing at the upper ranges of your ability under pressure is a unique skill – one that requires specific mental skills and a few tweaks in your approach to practicing. Elite athletes have been learning these techniques for decades; if nerves and self-doubt have been recurring obstacles in your performances, I’d like to help you do the same.
Click below to discover the 7 skills that are characteristic of top performers. Learn how you can develop these into strengths of your own. And begin to see tangible improvements in your playing that transfer to the stage.