Auditioning Players for Your Blues Band
Before you can audition players for your blues band, you have to find them. You can pass the word around your neighborhood, workplace, or school, but that will net you just so many candidates, and their grasp of good blues playing probably won’t be at the level you desire. Therefore, you’re probably going to have to do some advertising and investigation.
Checking bulletin board postings
If you have a musical equipment store in your area, keep an eye out for postings on its bulletin board. This is a great resource for names of potential band members. (If you have multiple music stores in your area, cover them all.) These bulletin boards function as a clearinghouse for local musicians looking for work and selling equipment — two essential ingredients in putting a group together.
Posting your own notice
You can also post your own bulletin-board notice. Make it simple and to the point — for example, “Blues Musicians Wanted: Guitar player looking to form Chicago-style blues band. Need drums, bass, and harmonica players. Call Stevie at 555-0000.” Include tear-off tabs with your name and phone number at the bottom of your posted notice so interested folks can get in touch with you.
Meeting potential band mates one-on-one
To save yourself loads of potential organizational headaches, audition players one-on-one rather than trying out the entire band at once. You have a better chance to assess each player’s style, see how it fits with your vision for the band, and most important, find out whether the two of you can get along. If you’re already squabbling at the audition, the situation will only get worse after you hit the bandstand.
Picking a place for the auditions
Although there’s no set rule for where to hold auditions or rehearsals, a little common sense prevails in this matter. If you live in a one-room apartment, it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll want to find a larger place (without next-door neighbors) to rehearse a full electric blues band.
If you have some spare change, you may want to rent time in a rehearsal space. Most cities have such places available to musicians — inquire at your local musical equipment store or check the Yellow Pages under “Studio Rental.”
Your basement, recreation room, or garage are other suitable locales for holding auditions or rehearsals. Just make sure the room is soundproofed (carpeted rooms with drapes will absorb more sound than a room with wood floors and no window coverings). If you’re using your garage, make sure that you can keep it locked up and secured. It’s no fun having your equipment (and your friends’ equipment) ripped off while you’re taking a break.
Screening candidates with a pre-audition interview
You don’t have to audition everybody who responds to your casting call. You can usually weed out the pretenders from the real players just by asking a few simple questions over the phone. You won’t need to get their Social Security number on that first call, but they should be able to provide satisfactory answers to the following questions:
- Have you ever played in a band before? Better to get the answer to this one right away. Lack of professional experience can make for big headaches down the road. You don’t want to be constantly badgered with questions from a player who’s learning the ropes while you’re trying to rehearse. On the other hand, a newcomer can bring a level of enthusiasm to his or her first blues band that’s refreshing and a real energy-booster for the whole ensemble.
- Do you own your own equipment? Take a pass on anyone who doesn’t own his or her own equipment. If a candidate does own equipment, find out if it fits with what you’re trying to do musically. If you’re putting together a blues-rock combo that cranks up the volume, a guitar player needs something bigger than a little practice amp. Or, if your band will have a quieter sound and the applicant owns a gigantic amp left over from his days in a heavy-metal band, that won’t do you much good either.
- Do you have days free? Evenings free? Are you free for rehearsals? Are you free for local travel? Are you free for overnight travel? Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling. It’s what allows most bands to play beyond a ten-mile radius from their homes or, in some cases, even get off the ground. Find out what the player’s schedule is and if it works with everyone else’s hours.
- Are you at least 18 years of age (to sign a contract)? Are you at least 21 years of age (to play in bars)? Being under the age of 21 isn’t a crime, but it will limit the number (and types) of places where your band can play. If you’re going to be signing any kind of business agreements (including recording contracts or booking contracts), you definitely need to know who’s of age (in most states, 18 years old) and who needs their parents’ consent to sign a contract.
- Do you have a driver’s license? A touring musician without a driver’s license can be kind of a paperweight (unless they have their own chauffeur). Everything seems to revolve around picking up and dropping off a musician without wheels. And, sooner or later, everybody has to take a turn at the wheel of the band vehicle during those late-night drives back from a show.
Inviting players to come aboard
After you find some players you think can fill the bill, it’s time to call that all-important first rehearsal. Set a date, set a time, and make sure everyone has directions to the rehearsal space and that they read them back to you over the phone (just to make sure they got them right).
Don’t worry about legally binding anyone to a contract just yet. Wait until you’ve decided to become a band before you think about hiring a lawyer to draw up some paperwork (that is, if you even want to be bound by any contracts at all).