These honor band tips apply whether you’re auditioning for jazz band, concert band, or orchestra. I’ve made this list based on my own honor band successes years ago and my students’ more recent successes and failures, er, successful learning experiences.

1. Sign up for more than one private lesson

Many students come to me for temporary lessons in preparation for an audition. That’s fine! But I’m always disheartened when they sign up for one lesson a week before their audition. One week is not long enough to practice what I help them with. The most cost-effective option that would still give you considerable help would be to sign up for one lesson a month before auditions and another lesson two weeks before. Practice your pieces and scales before your first visit, go to a lesson, and spend the next two weeks trying to implement what your private teacher taught you. Go back to your teacher and see if you’ve been successful at the things they helped you with. Even if you have, they may have more to tell you. They probably wanted to give you an achievable list the first time. They may have only told you the biggest problems, and on the second visit, they can fine tune. The more lessons, the better, but make sure you get at least two, and with plenty of time before the audition if possible.

2. Work on tone and other basics

Everyone who auditions will have practiced their audition piece. Most of them will play the right notes. Many of them will play the right notes and dynamics. The difference may be your tone and general technique. Developing good tone and basic technique takes time, and it’s something you can be working on even before you know what your audition piece is, or even before you know you have an audition coming up. Plus, it will help you perform better if you DO get into the group you’re auditioning for.

3. Practice tiny chunks

Time-efficient practicing means taking that note you missed and practicing only that note and the note before it. Over and over.

4. Be confident

Don’t you envy those players who have confidence? I do! Some of them aren’t as good as me, but they play their best in stressful situations because they’re not worriers like me. For people who aren’t naturally confident, the sad truth is that caring too much about whether you perform well can be the very thing that takes you down. If you’re not naturally confident, you have to practice so much that you can play your piece in the midst of total mental collapse! Remind yourself that negative self talk is not helpful and tell yourself you can only do your best. You can speak humbly without trashing yourself. Believing that you might have something to offer the band is not conceit, it is hope.

5. Do it

Can’t get in if you don’t audition. Good luck! Even if you don’t get in, you’ll be practicing your auditioning skills, and that’s very valuable. But I have a feeling you’ll get in if you’re preparing by reading blogs. Now go practice, and do it!

Marie Millard teaches trombone at Music To My Ears in Cotati, CA. She played in the California All State Honor Band and Jazz Band back in the day when they weren’t on the same weekend.