How to Create Spliced Recordings of Your Excerpts

Part 1 of the Recording Series which will cover all things recording-related… from recording audition tapes, recording your practice, listening to recordings, and more… stay tuned!

Many people have asked me how I create spliced recordings of just the excerpts of whatever pieces are on a repertoire list. (This is one of the checklist items in the Four Stages of Preparation). I'm sure there are many ways to do this, but I use iTunes. Below are the steps I take to splice an excerpt. Without iTunes, this can easily be done with Audacity or other similar programs. If you have other ways of doing this, please leave a comment below!

1. Select the track you wish to take the excerpt from and figure out exactly where the excerpt begins and ends. Write it down if it's easier to remember the timings. 


2. Right-click or control-click the track and select "Song Info." 


3. In the Song Info box, select the "Options" tab and check the start and stop tabs. In the start tab, type the start time your excerpt begins at; in the stop tab, type the time your excerpt ends. (Note: It's always best to include a few measures or phrases before the excerpt to help you get into the character). Click OK. 


4. At the top left corner, select File > Convert > Create AAC version. This will make a duplicate copy of the track, but only from the start and stop times you specified. 


The copy will have the same title and likely show up in same the album or folder as the original track, it will just have a much shorter duration. I like to immediately rename the duplicate track, "Audition Edit: piece/excerpt," and move it to a playlist of spliced audition edits. 


5. Be sure to undo the durational parameters you set for the original track. All you have to do is go back into the same Song Info/Options menu from above, and uncheck both boxes. It is important to remember this step. That's it! You're done! 


Every time I splice an excerpt, I try to make sure I immediately copy it to the playlist for the audition I am preparing as well as a master playlist of all of my audition edits. Over time, I have built quite an extensive library of spliced recordings of excerpts and have managed to keep them organized enough that I can very quickly and easy locate each excerpt when it comes up on another audition. (I eventually organized them by composer as well!)

An audition playlist with spliced excerpts or "audition edits"

An audition playlist with spliced excerpts or "audition edits"

A folder of many spliced excerpts or "audition edits," organized by composer.

A folder of many spliced excerpts or "audition edits," organized by composer.

Favorite Practice Apps of 2019

I used to be very anti-tech in the practice room. No phones, no apps, no nothing — just pencil, paper, metronome, and tuner. Even as technologies evolved and better practice apps were developed, I still resisted. I thought it was too much of a distraction. And it totally can be — but that’s what airplane mode is for. Today, I use technology in the practice room every day — in ways you’re probably already using, like tuner and metronome apps, and in some other ways you maybe haven’t yet considered. In this post, I’m going to walk you through a few of my favorite apps that I use daily to plan my practice and practice my plan.

Plus… you get a nice smiley face when you’re in tune. Screenshot of Tonal Energy.

Plus… you get a nice smiley face when you’re in tune. Screenshot of Tonal Energy.

Tonal Energy
iOS and Android

Let’s start with an app you’re probably already using — Tonal Energy. If you’re not, download it now! This is hands down the best tuner/metronome app available and only costs a few bucks. As a metronome alone, this app is exceptional, allowing for preset programming in ways most metronome apps have not yet developed. The tuner and drone functions are similarly wonderful, allowing you to toggle between “equal” and “just” temperament and adjust the sensitivity of the tuner, among many other things. On top of all of the basic tools, a unique element of Tonal Energy is the analysis function, which allows you to record a piece and play it back at a much slower speed — you can literally hear and see intonation discrepancies in slow motion. Seriously, the best on the market.

Screenshot of Seconds Pro

Screenshot of Seconds Pro

Seconds Pro
iOS and Android

Seconds Pro is an interval timer app designed originally for circuit training, introduced to me by Andrew Bain. This app is fantastic. If you’re struggling to keep your practice sessions efficient and on track, this is especially for you! Using this app, you can program exactly what you want to practice, the duration of each session, the duration of each excerpt or exercise, and how much rest between each piece… just “set it and forget it!” Click start, let it run, and the timer will tell you when to move onto the next excerpt. This is fantastic for those of us who plan to practice things for x-amount of time, but often go over (or under)! The latest version of the app even lets you specify beats per minute for each set. In other words, you can use the app as a built in metronome as well, if you choose.

Screenshot of Hours Pro — the times on the left show how much time I have logged in each category today. At the top, an active timer is running.

Screenshot of Hours Pro — the times on the left show how much time I have logged in each category today. At the top, an active timer is running.

iOS and desktop only

Hours is a new discovery for me and has become a big part of my day-to-day life. I am a big fan of personal analytics — no surprise of someone who wrote a book on planning and assessing. With Hours, I basically track how much time I spend completing tasks in certain areas of my life throughout the day. You can organize it however you wish and track any element you can think of — you can even track tasks within tasks (like how much work you’re doing on excerpts versus fundamentals). While I use this for multiple areas of my life, you might choose to only track your practice — logging exactly how much time you are spending on each piece. At the end of each week, I can get a sense of where most of my time and energy is going and where I should make changes the following week. I find that when I see small numbers for an activity I thought I was doing a lot of — ahem, mental practice — I am much more likely to make a change the following day or week. And, let’s just say, it’s enlightening to see how much you really practice. The app is totally free, but the Pro upgrade unlocks additional features for the most nerdy among us.


Musicians Hypnosis
iOS only; mp3s available for purchase online as well

Very simple interface — after all, your eyes will be closed while using this app! Here is a screenshot of a session built to focus only on auditions and confidence.

Very simple interface — after all, your eyes will be closed while using this app! Here is a screenshot of a session built to focus only on auditions and confidence.

This one is a little hard to explain but an invaluable tool to have to strengthen your mental game and reduce stress at the same time. You might have heard clips of these recordings before there was an app, but they have since been expanded. The app lets you custom build your own hypnosis sessions, focusing on any number of topics, such as auditions, creativity, confidence, sight reading, stage fright, visualization, and more. (And please don’t be scared off by the word “hypnosis” — this isn’t some cartoon madman waving a pendulum to make you dance — think of it more like a deeply restful and intentioned relaxation). Many musicians I know listen to their custom sessions at night, before bed, getting their mind in the right place for the next day and helping them fall into a deep, restful sleep — which many of us struggle with especially as auditions approach! While the benefits of this app are plenty, if all you get out of it is better sleep… well, I think that alone is worth its weight in gold!

Read about how the app works or download the recordings separately here.

Screenshot of buddhify. The wheel is customizable — you can add and delete categories. Within each category are 5 or 6 different meditations of different lengths and focuses.

Screenshot of buddhify. The wheel is customizable — you can add and delete categories. Within each category are 5 or 6 different meditations of different lengths and focuses.

iOS and Android

Another tool more for your mind than your intonation, buddhify is a guided meditation and mindfulness app designed for the busy, everyday person. A fantastic way to center yourself before you walk into the practice room everyday. Whether you’ve never meditated a day in your life or are a seasoned Zen master, you can find something very rewarding in this app. With a beautiful, simple interface, you can choose from all sorts of guided meditations for many different situations — simple, everyday situations like taking the bus or walking through the city, or dealing with difficult emotions like sadness and anger, or struggling to fall asleep, or just trying to “be here now.” The durations range from 3 or 4 minutes to upwards of 10 or 15. Really, this app is for anyone. Meditation is a great way to stay grounded, centered, and balanced, whether you’re preparing for an audition or not! This app has brought a lot of focus and clarity to many people’s lives and practicing — mine included!


Rain Rain
iOS and Android

Screenshot of Rain Rain — a small collection of the sounds to choose from.

Screenshot of Rain Rain — a small collection of the sounds to choose from.

Rain Rain is a rain sounds app. You’re probably thinking… how on earth do you use this in the practice room? Well… I don’t. However, I do use this app at auditions. Ever take an audition where you’ve had to wait around in a group warm-up room? Or, ever take an audition where the individual warm-up rooms had paper-thin walls and you had to wait there for what seemed like hours while the guy next door played every excerpt on the list and, for some reason, every excerpt not on the list? I don’t want to hear any of that. But usually I don’t want to listen to music either — it’s too much stimulation, too much sound, and too much to focus on. Instead, I put on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and play rain sounds. It’s both soothing and functional, drowning out external and internal noise and distraction. I can mentally rehearse the round ahead and even buzz or play a few notes to stay warm, without hearing a single Beethoven-7-up-an-octave from the next room over. You can mix a bunch of different rain sounds — city rain, forest rain, tent rain, etc. — or listen to different types of white noise altogether.


The Piano
iOS only, but many similar available on Android

Screenshot of the slidable keyboard in The Piano app.

Screenshot of the slidable keyboard in The Piano app.

This one I use all the time… in the mental practice room. This is a simple free app that shows an octave and a half of an animated piano and, of course, plays whichever pitches you click on. I do not have perfect pitch, so I use this when mentally practicing a piece to keep checking that I am hearing things correctly in my head and not gravitating away from the key — without ever having to touch the horn. After all, if your mental picture is fuzzy, your picture on the instrument will be too. For a while, I used the drone wheel of the Tonal Energy app for this, but as you move around the wheel, the octaves adjust. This is a much simpler, much more efficient app for mental practice.

(this specific app is only available via iOS, but there are countless piano apps on both platforms — just find one you like!)


Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall
iOS and Android; web and tv streaming

A screenshot of the “search by composer” function — it is a quite extensive collection!

A screenshot of the “search by composer” function — it is a quite extensive collection!

Aside from the obvious — listening to great performances by an amazing orchestra — I use the Digital Concert Hall app to play alongside recordings. Through decent speakers or a smart tv, I find this to be the easiest way to play with a recording. Why do this? Well, there are many reasons — maybe to be expounded upon in a future post — from getting a [very rough] sense of what playing a piece in the orchestra is like to getting a sense of how to pace your endurance within a piece. I prefer doing this with a video performance of high quality like DCH over one that is just audio, as you do get some sense of the visual aspects of playing in an orchestra as well. After all, playing in an orchestra is not just an auditory skill. I read once an interview with Phil Myers, former principal horn of the New York Philharmonic, who said he prepared like this for years before winning his job in New York, playing alongside recordings of the orchestra. He mentioned that when he finally started the job, it didn’t seem nearly as daunting, as he had been “playing those pieces with the New York Philharmonic for years!”

If you don’t have a DCH membership, I highly recommend subscribing or asking your school for a subscription. There are so many great recordings by so many wonderful composers — and the collection grows by the week. Plus, it’s the Berlin Philharmonic. They’re pretty good.

And last but not least…

Voice Memos and Clock/Timer
built-in apps on your phone!

Sometimes the simplest tools are the best tools. I use the voice memos app to record my practicing every day. You don’t need expensive studio equipment to record your practicing. You’ll hear all those tempo and intonation discrepancies on your phone — I promise. Similarly, if you’re not using Seconds Pro to time your practice, be sure to use your phone’s timer. The most efficiently planned and executed practice is done with very clearly set time parameters. Check back soon for a post on this!

Lastly, be sure to check out the Resources section of the website for more suggestions. There are apps, articles, books, podcasts and more. If you’d like to recommend a resource, please feel free to click the link there to do so or leave a comment below! If you have a great practice app to recommend, let me know below!

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What is the
Audition Playbook? 

Click here to read more! 

The Four Pillars of Audition Preparation

four pillars 1.jpg

Audition preparation can be overwhelming. 

There are so many moving parts to preparing that it can easily feel like there's just too much to do and too many pieces to practice and never enough time. It's so easy to get so hyper-focused on learning the excerpts that you neglect all other areas of your preparation... and of your life! (I'm sure I'm not the only one who has woken up the day after an audition, looked around at a messy, long-neglected bedroom, and wondered if I slept through an earthquake!) 

I'll be honest... I have dined on Frosted Flakes and Advil at midnight over the kitchen sink far too many times after long practice days leading up to an audition. In those moments, usually while icing my shoulder and smearing Aquaphor on my lips, I tell myself, “No pain, no gain!” and, “I am really preparing well!” Regardless of the fact that, in the four weeks prior, I have not cooked a single meal (or probably eaten a single vegetable), I haven’t spent any time with friends or my hobbies, I haven’t taken a single day off from practicing, I’ve put off all of that “mental training stuff” for later, and I have practically lived by the old adage of "plenty of time to sleep when you're dead!" ... but I’ve practiced my excerpts for many hours a day, so I am super prepared. Right? 

Inevitably, time and time again, this would lead to burnout, injury, and ultimately, a bunch of really, really crappy auditions. 

Eventually -- and very stubbornly -- I discovered that my best auditions and performances were born out of a much more balanced and thoughtful type of preparation, giving equal care and attention to four specific areas of development: Technique, Music, Mind, and Wellness. I call these areas:

the Four Pillars

Together, they form the entire foundation of the product I wish to present -- my playing. All four pillars must be cared for and developed equally, for if any one pillar is neglected, the others must strain to compensate, and the whole structure is at risk of collapse. 


sorting through all of the nuts and bolts of your playing


developing and strengthening your clear musical picture and understanding of the pieces


strengthening your mental training skills


maintaining your physical and emotional health and general well-being
By refusing to buy into shoddy craftsmanship and cheap ingredients for the sake of time, we are building a structure that will last a lifetime, through the roughest weather and circumstance, not just the next audition.


While audition preparation is incredibly personal, I think it is safe to say that the most efficiently and effectively prepared musician at any audition is one who has taken the time to develop and nurture all four of these areas. Exactly what makes up all of the elements within each pillar will vary from person to person, but overall, these are the four fundamental qualities of a healthy, balanced, and prepared musician.
Technique, Music, Mind, and Wellness.

It is entirely up to you to determine the elements that form the cement of each pillar.

four pillars 2.jpg

Maybe your Mind pillar is all about meditation while your friend’s is more focused on centering and visualization. What is important is that you give this some thought and you reassess your personal pillars throughout your preparation. Are you focusing on only one of your pillars? Is there one pillar you consistently neglect? Is the whole structure going to collapse? Are the elements right for you or do you need to adjust? 

It may seem like slower progress, balancing your preparation deliberately instead of throwing all of your eggs into one excerpt-drilling basket. It takes patience and a willingness to trust in the process. But by refusing to buy into shoddy craftsmanship and cheap ingredients for the sake of time, we are building a structure that will last a lifetime, through the roughest weather and circumstance, not just the next audition.


Click here to download the Four Pillars sample worksheet for ideas on constructing your own.

Click here to download a blank Four Pillars worksheet.





What is the
Audition Playbook? 

Click here to read more! 


Interview with Andrew Bain, principal horn of the LA Phil, on auditions, practicing, and the importance of the process



interview by Rachelle Jenkins

I feel very fortunate to have studied for three years with Andrew Bain, principal horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has shaped so much of my approach to the horn and auditioning and was a huge influence on the development of The Audition Playbook. Andrew is always thinking, learning, asking questions, and trying new things. He was gracious enough to sit down with me last week to answer some questions about his audition journey, practicing, preparing, and why we all need to focus on the process. 


First, can you talk a little about your audition journey from your very first auditions to now? 

Well, the very first audition I took was a sub-list audition for the Adelaide Chamber Orchestra during my 2nd year of university. I was not prepared at all and I didn’t know the excerpts. I know the panel was just thinking, “Why are you wasting our time?” 

A year later, I took a sub-list audition for the Adelaide Symphony. It was also a disaster. What I failed to realize was that most sub work was actually for low horn… and I couldn’t play low at all! They asked the Beethoven 9 - 4th horn solo. I almost got the low Bb and then had about 7 goes at the pedal F, but it didn’t come out. I played through the rest of the excerpt fine, but they had me try it again — same thing — no low notes. In the end, they came out and said, “Well, we put you on the sub list, but you know we can’t actually hire you for anything.” 

The first audition I took for a full-time position was for 4th horn in the Sydney Symphony. I took it just for experience and I didn’t advance. I was not prepared at all. But, a few years later, I auditioned for and won a job as associate principal horn of the Adelaide Symphony. I was studying with Geoff Collinson at the time and had prepared very well with him. About five days out from the audition though, I started having real chop issues because I was practicing a ton and playing theater shows every night. Geoff suggested I make a cassette tape of all of the excerpts and just listen. So I drove around Sydney listening non-stop. I just kept singing and hearing the excerpts and basically did zero practicing other than my warmup routine during that time. 

I had played in Adelaide for about a year when the third horn job in Sydney came open. I missed a couple of notes in the first round and did what a lot of people do when that happens: I thought, “Oh, I missed too many notes, I’m done.” So I went back to the green room and sat there for about two hours, thinking I’m done, and just chatting with the other horn players. Eventually they came in and said, “Ok, these four people are going through to the next round. Andrew, you’re on in five minutes.” So I raced back and tried to warm up and play the next round, but it did not go well. I obviously did not win the job but I learned a lot in that audition. I learned never to shut down. Until they tell you to go home, you’re still there and you’re still in it — no matter what.  

I learned never to shut down. Until they tell you to go home, you’re still there and you’re still in it — no matter what.

Then Principal in the Queensland Symphony opened up. I was really gunning for that. I prepared very well. I played for a lot of people, recorded myself a lot, prepared my tapes to play for myself all the time, and did a lot of mental rehearsal. I won that job and was principal there for a bit until I won a scholarship to go study in Europe. 

I left the job in Brisbane and went to Vienna to study. I took several auditions in Europe but with no success. By this point, I had started to get myself in the really bad habit in auditions of judging myself as I was playing. I’d be playing and, as I was playing, thinking, “Why would anyone vote for this?” I managed to hold it together enough to win a job in the Münchner Symphoniker very shortly before I was to come back to Australia. For the next two years, I took a bunch of European auditions in radio and opera, but we were doing something like 38 services a month in Munich, so I wasn’t going to auditions very prepared — physically or mentally. And I was assessing myself too much as I was playing, so I ended up getting knocked out in the first round of at least a half a dozen auditions — and for jobs that I thought I should have been winning. 

I got to a point where I realized something just wasn’t quite right. I had been intrigued with Don Greene’s work, so that was when I started doing a lot more reading and preparing in that way. 

I then took an audition for 3rd/associate in Stuttgart in the opera. I played the semi-finals and thought, “I played a fantastic audition and I am definitely going to get this job,” but then I didn’t get it. I didn’t even make finals. And I really struggled with that. But my teacher, Will Sanders, had asked someone in the section what happened and they said, “Well, he sounded too much like a 1st horn and the job was for 3rd. It just wouldn’t have worked.” It was a good example of playing an audition just how you want to play it but simply not fitting what the panel was looking for. Another great learning experience!

Around the same time, I did an audition for the opera in Sydney. It was like an individual audition kind of thing that they did so it took a different kind of preparation. I won that job, but once I got to Sydney, I realized I was better suited to symphonic life. My old job in Brisbane hadn’t yet been filled so I auditioned again for that. I obviously prepared very, very carefully for that audition — implementing more of the Don Greene stuff on a daily basis. 

After I had been back in Brisbane for about five years, Melbourne Symphony came up, which was always my dream job. I made a pact with myself that I would do everything I possibly could to do my absolute best in that audition. I went on a five month process of preparing. The first step was to do everything I could to improve my technique on the horn, working really hard to iron out any of the weaknesses that I had. The second step was to embrace the mental approach and create a strong mental plan. I listened to the excerpts nonstop for months. And then in the final three weeks before the audition, I followed Don Greene’s 21-day plan. I just locked myself in a room during the day, with a huge whiteboard with all of these charts, writing down all my practice times, tracking whether or not I was covering everything, dividing my excerpts into groups, making lists of exercises to expand my technique for the excerpts, identifying the excerpts that needed the most work… everything. I flew down to Melbourne two weeks before the audition and played for a bunch of people. I went down into the room so I could see what my walk from every practice room in the building to the stage would look like to make sure I could remember that from every aspect and could replay and rehearse that in my head over and over. 

So going to the audition, I felt very, very prepared. The first piece on the audition was the exposition Mozart 4 and I probably missed more notes in that than I ever had. If it had been for any other audition I had taken up to that point, I would have been done. But with all of the mental and physical preparation, it just ramped up my determination and focus. The next excerpt was Haydn 31 and I’ve probably never played a single excerpt as well as I played that excerpt that day. It also happened to be the hardest excerpt on the list, so that got everything back on track and the rest of the audition went very well. It was one of those auditions where all of my negative experiences from other auditions really contributed to being successful. I was left in a practice room waiting before the finals and they said, “The next round will be at 3:15…” but then 3:15 comes and goes, 3:30, 3:45, 4… and normally in other auditions, I would have been playing and worked myself up and made myself exhausted, but I had a plan for that and for every scenario I could think of. So when 4:15 came and they said I was up, it was no problem. I was mentally switched on, fresh, and ready to go. I played a great final round and won the job. 

When the audition came up here for the LA Phil, my preparation was very good. I went and stayed with friends in the US for a week. I prepared there that final week and played for them a lot. I came to LA and really didn’t know what to expect about the job. I was very happy in Melbourne and in the job, so it was a different sort of audition as I didn’t really feel any sort of pressure. The only pressure I really put on myself in that audition was just to represent myself really well and play as well as I could. I was sort of just interested to find out how far I could go. And the first round was ok, second round ok, but the final round was very good. By that round, I had convinced myself that I was going to win. I had missed a couple of notes in the second round and thought, “If I get through this, they really like me and I am going to get the job.” I really felt I played great in the finals, so walking out of that round, the result of that audition wasn’t going to matter much to me. I thought to myself, “That’s as well as I can play under the circumstances. I prepared as well as I can imagine. If they want me, they want me — if they don’t, they don’t!” In the end, I was fortunate that enough members of the panel voted for me.

Now you’re more often on the other side of the screen for many auditions — at the Phil, at Colburn, for your students' mock auditions. What tends to be the most neglected or overlooked aspects of preparation? 

I think it varies depending on the level of the audition. Generally, with students, it’s most obviously the lack of knowledge of the piece. In LA Phil auditions, the level tends to be pretty good. A few are a bit dodgy, but most people can play the notes, can get around the instrument, and know the excerpts. But there is a level of context and clarity of what’s going on around them that is lacking in bigger auditions. You can hear a lack of assertiveness or conviction in what they are playing. They’re presenting something they hope the panel will like instead of presenting their opinion of what the piece should sound like. 

You can hear a lack of assertiveness or conviction in what they are playing. They’re presenting something they hope the panel will like instead of presenting their opinion of what the piece should sound like.

As a mass generalization, bad rhythm and intonation are pretty obvious things you hear a lot of that will always get someone eliminated. But on the other hand, if that’s all that you’re offering — good rhythm and intonation and right notes — in an orchestra like the LA Phil, that’s not going to win you the job. 

In terms of students auditioning for Colburn and mock auditions there, it’s similar, but the biggest issue is always just not really knowing the piece or understanding the context. It’s very obvious, very quickly. In any audition, at any level, that will get you eliminated fast. 

Whenever someone asks me what it's like to study with you, the first thing that always comes to mind is that it's all about Process over Result. Did you always approach the horn and auditioning this way? How did that come to be? Why is this so important? 

Actually, I was always very result-based — especially when I was in university. I never really did a lot of technique work. I was a reasonably natural player and I was pretty musical, but I would only play stuff I liked and was comfortable with — hence the terrible Beethoven 9 in the Adelaide audition. So it took a long time for me to really understand anything about process. It was always about result, even in my first couple jobs. I was always trying to just work out how to make a nicer sound and how to get around the issues I had. I still vividly remember playing Mahler 5 and having to create a road map of what notes to take off or play softer… I had to plan every second of that symphony in order to just get around it. I was not focused on process, I was focused on “how do I get this out?” The idea of actually technically being able to get around stuff on a regular basis was just not something that I had spent any time working on. I’d practice a lot of pieces and excerpts, but not the elements that were going to actually make those excerpts successful. Because I was reasonably talented and had done a lot of work getting a clear mental picture in my head, my poor technique wasn’t as obvious. I was able to do a really good job getting around my problems, but that meant I spent a lot of time running in a zig-zag instead of a straight line.

When I went to Germany, I thought, “Well, I sound pretty good. I won this job in Brisbane. I can play Mahler 5. I listen to my recordings and I sound pretty good. All I need to do is learn the German style and I’ll win a big radio job.” And the first things that Will taught me when I went to him were all technique. I was like, “I don’t need to learn technique… I can play the horn…” It wasn’t until I was about a month into it that I realized there was a ton of stuff that I just couldn’t do and that, unless I sorted it out, I’d be really limited.  

So it got me on this path of understanding what the important elements were in order to be successful. Instead of focusing on the end result, I started focusing on the elements that were going to get me the end result. 

It took a while for it to evolve into this thinking of “process over result” for me. It really wasn’t until I combined those technical aspects with the Don Greene’s stuff and my sporting background. My focus when I was teaching and coaching basketball was on winning… you gotta win, you gotta win… But one of the things John Wooden would talk about was focusing on executing the skills and processes as well as you can in order to give yourself the best chance of winning, rather than focusing on winning. It made me realize that the best chance at winning really comes from focusing on the elements I can do that will put me in a position to give me the best chance. 

...focusing on executing the skills and processes as well as you can in order to give yourself the best chance of winning, rather than focusing on winning.

Your job in an audition is to represent yourself and play the best you can. The result will take care of itself. If you play as well as you can, it’s because you gave yourself the best chance to be the best player. If I was going into those auditions when I was younger in Australia and Stefan Dohr showed up, it wasn’t going to matter what my focus was — he would probably have played better. But I would have no control over that. What I can control is only what I am doing. That translates into your preparation. What processes can I put into place to give myself the best opportunity to be as prepared as I can be and to play the best that I can under a high pressure situation? After that, it’s out of my hands. No one on the playing side of the screen gets to determine whether they win or lose the audition. The two major uncontrollable factors in the audition are who else turns up and what the panel is looking for. So if you are focusing on the process of what you can do to sound your best, you give yourself the best chance.

You're a big proponent of "learning the excerpts away from the horn"  spending a lot of your practice time working on developing your technique while strengthening musical pictures mentally   never simply drilling excerpts over and over. That can be a very hard change for many people to make. It definitely was for me! Can you talk about why this is so beneficial? 

The thing that I learned reasonably early on in my audition journey was that if my technique was at a high level and the quality of the image of my excerpts was at a high level, then I was going to play the excerpts well. As a horn player, there are only so many hours in a day that you can physically practice. But if I am going to spend the majority of that time shredding through excerpts, trying to learn the notes, then I have to ask myself, “Am I really addressing the technical deficiencies that I have in my playing — or am I engraining through those excerpts the faults?” By practicing an excerpt a thousand times, if it’s not practiced the right way, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. You’re just engraining the deficiencies throughout the practice and, under stress, that will fall apart. 

You hear it a lot and I did this many times early in my career... you get into a stressful or high pressure performance and you come away saying, “Wow, I’ve never made that mistake before.” And initially you write that off but normally there is a reason behind it. Maybe there is not a deficiency at that particular moment where you made that mistake, but it might have been set up from somewhere else. It may have been set up because you’ve been building this shaky foundation on a daily basis by going over and over and over the piece. So again, going back to the first audition that I won, the biggest advantage of running into fatigue and chop problems was that I had to practice away from the horn. Creating in your head the crystal clear, uncorrupted version of the program — of the excerpts — gives you the best chance to put that into the horn. If your technique is at that same level or higher, you’ll be able to produce what’s in your head. 

If I am practicing the excerpt over and over again with built-in technique flaws that I am not really addressing away from the excerpt, it may work because of the amount of repetition, but it’s already at a limit. What I want to do in my preparation is raise my technical limit as high as I can and then have the purest, most uncorrupted mental picture of the excerpt so that that is what I am putting into the horn — not something that is limited by how I can play the horn. To me, it’s hard because I’ve also always had that belief of “if I don’t have the horn on my face, I’m not practicing.” What I’ve learned now though is that I can do a lot of other practice — mental practice, listening practice, visualization — away from the horn. It’s far more beneficial because then I can spend much more time fixing or expanding my technique so that when I get to playing the excerpt, it’s just like pressing “Go” on the GPS and I then just get in and drive the car — instead of pulling out the map book and charting it all out, which is what most people are doing in auditions. 

A lot of people these days worry that panels only want to hire "note-perfect" musicians -- technicians who don't miss anything. Do you think this is an accurate depiction of audition committees today?  

I can’t speak for any orchestra committees or my colleagues, but I will say this from my own opinion. In an orchestra like our’s, I’ve never heard anyone who plays like they are trying to be clean and perfect actually win a job. Because at the end of the day, the music director — by nature of the fact that it’s in his title — is looking for a musician. And in my experience, panels will generally gravitate to someone who plays music beautifully and convincingly. It’s a given that you have to play with good technique. 

We had an audition in LA where one of the candidates played a very musical and convincing final round. But in the super final round, they ran out of steam. The panel still saw their way to continue the audition to an extra final round with the orchestra and this person ended up winning the job. It was the clearest example I’ve ever seen of someone being given so much credit for their musical and convincing playing that they were forgiven for a multitude of sins later on. So I find that panels will generally forgive a lot of things if there are special elements and the playing has a really musical approach and musical intent — of course on top of obviously technical things. Making mistakes is never really the issue.

I’ve never heard a note-perfect audition in any audition. I’ve heard some incredible ones, but not perfect. Even in world-class performances, you hear mistakes in every concert. The best players in our orchestra make mistakes. But they don’t make two in a row and they don’t make many. You always notice with the LA Phil and other great performers that the focus at the beginning of the concert is always at a very high level. Things will go wrong, but the recovery is always immediate, as though nothing happened — a blip on the radar and then back on track. 

You often hear in auditions when someone makes a mistake, they get this mentality of “oh my God, I’m in trouble” and then they don’t recover. But I actually get nervous in auditions when people don’t make a mistake. If they play four or five excerpts in a row and we don’t hear any mistakes, I’m asking, “OK, but how will they react when they do make a mistake?” Because everyone will make mistakes and I am interested to find out what happens when they do — does it throw them? Does it re-focus them? What happens? 

The people who are focused on that as a priority — not making mistakes — they’re the ones who will make them anyway and then what do they have? If you make a mistake and you’re not saying anything, all the panel hears is the mistake. If you’re presenting a great musical product with a very clear picture and you’re drawing the members of the panel into that moment in the orchestra and piece and they can hear their part around what you’re playing, they will forgive a multitude of things.

I have won seven auditions and I have never played a perfect audition — not even close. 

Can you talk about what it means to "live above the line"? 

It again goes to process against result and basing your practice on having asked yourself, “How do I get myself to the point where my worst playing is above the line of what is employable?” 

That’s been my goal for a long time — to make my worst possible day one that still can win an audition. When you get there, you’ll never have any problem of getting a job. It’s working out “What are the technical elements that I need to work at on a daily basis so that I can produce something that will be at the level that will win an audition?” 

Generally, what happens in auditions is that there are many people who can play several excerpts that can win them a job — but their worst excerpts are way below what’s acceptable. As soon as the panel hears that — especially given the amount of people playing — it instantly makes life more difficult for the player. 

Sometimes you hear after an audition, “There were a lot of great players but no one got the job.” But that could be the fault of the audition panel and how they set the audition. There could be one or two excerpts placed in an order on the round that made it really difficult for anyone to stay above the line on those specific excerpts. So my mental approach is that I actually want an audition set up like that because it helps to eliminate a lot of people. I spend a lot of time in my mind preparing the transition between excerpts. It’s something you can really work on in your preparation, setting up orders of excerpts that are extremely difficult and the most uncomfortable, so that even your worst excerpt is still above what is the acceptable line. 

We hear it a lot in auditions — someone comes in and plays two or three fantastic excerpts and then two or three that are just like, “what happened?” In the mind of the panel, it’s highly concerning. 

So, simply just ask yourself… (for example...) is your low register acceptable of someone getting a job? If it’s not, you need to get that above the line. 

You encourage practicing in smaller chunks with more sessions throughout the day. Why is that?

There are two reasons. One is that research tells us it’s very difficult to concentrate at a high level for more than a half an hour at a time. So my practice sessions when I am preparing an audition or something very serious are no more than 30 minutes. Within that, I break it down to very clear segments — normally 5-minute segments, but I can divide it into even smaller.

When I was a student, I’d just take a piece out and I would play it until it got better — it might be 20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour — and then I would move on. But as I got older, I realized that there were many elements I wasn’t practicing over the course of the week. I would go weeks without practicing certain techniques, musical elements, or even certain pieces that I should have been practicing. Why was that? It was because if I was spending forty minutes on Mozart 4 and hoping it would just get better, I wasn’t practicing low register, or flexibility, or any number of other things. And 40 minutes is eating a lot into the three hours of my practice time! So what I found was that by breaking my practicing into 5-minute segments, I was much more focused. Because in that 40-minute Mozart session, a good 10 or 15 minutes of that would just be mindless repetition and not really focusing on solving anything. But if I practice things for five minutes at a time, I focus and work much harder and get a lot more done. So if I do need to practice Mozart for 40 minutes, I will break that up into eight 5-minute segments throughout the day so that my brain is always coming back like fenceposts to these things and holds it all together. 

I learn things a lot quicker that way, I work things more intensely, and it gives me the opportunity to really sit down and ask myself if my practice plan is balanced. It takes a while to get used to it and organize it so that you’re covering all of the elements you want, but the benefits are much greater. And this is what I did for the Melbourne audition — very strict way of working it out. I assessed that I needed to work on the Schoenberg Chamber Symphony for 30 minutes a day, so in every one of my six practice sessions, I was playing it for 5 minutes. What it does for me too is that after five minutes, I’m like, “Oh, but I still want to do more…” But I’ve planned that I will come back to it six times, so I move on and I know and trust that it will develop. And over the course of a week, or a month, or six months, I know that the development will be far greater than what it would have been with a single twenty or thirty minute segment. 

Tony Robbins said something along the lines of this: “People generally overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” And I feel it’s sort of that kind of thinking. You panic because you’ve only got five minutes, but if you put that plan in place and are doing those 5-minute segments all over during the course of a week or a month, there is a huge difference because you’re practicing and focusing at a much higher and more intense level. 

Do you get nervous? How do you deal with nerves and negative self-talk? 

I get nervous. Along with the Don Greene stuff, I have my own centering routine that I’ve developed for myself over the last 15 years or so that I know works really well for me. The more stressful the performance or audition, the more repetitions of that process I will go through during the day leading up to and during the performance. If it’s just a regular concert, I’ll probably just center once when I’m on stage. If I’m playing a solo concerto, I’ll probably center throughout the day and before I go on stage and maybe even when I am on stage if there is time. It’s something I use in every performance — a centering routine to get me focused and to utilize the nervous energy that everyone has when they’re performing. 

Negative self-talk is your left brain being active. For me, I use another tool of Don’s — I characterize the voice as a little dude that I just tell to sit on my shoulder. His name is Bob. When I feel the negative self-talk come in, or even sometimes just the commentary of the brain going, “Hey, this is going really well!” I just tell the voice — Bob — to sit on my shoulder and we’ll talk about it later. 

Negative self-talk is normal but it can make you feel unconfident. If I am feeling that way, part of the centering process will be to give myself something positive to think about. So the focus of the centering will be to “go for it” or to tell myself that I’m feeling really good. 

And if there are times when I’m really not feeling confident about myself, I actually will make out that I am someone else. I will focus the centering around me almost being an actor. I can act like Stefan Dohr, Sarah Willis, Radovan Vlatkovic — or in our orchestra, any of our wonderful principals — people who seem to me to never be flappable or concerned. Obviously they get nervous, but if I can convince myself that I am them and that they are completely confident, then I will be confident as well. 

So sometimes it simply goes back to the old adage of “fake it ’til you make it.” Sometimes I can convince myself that I’m great and other nights I can’t so I have to convince myself I’m someone else who’s great. And that’s fine because the result will end up being the same because I go through that mental process. 

You've held jobs in the U.S., Australia, and Europe. Do you find that the audition processes are largely different? What changes did you have to make auditioning in these different places? 

I actually didn’t really make a lot of changes. The goal was always the same — to play as well as I could and represent myself as best as I could. There is no real “Australian style” of horn playing, so one of the advantages of growing up and studying there is that we have a lot of influence from the German, American, and English styles. It creates a flexibility so there was no real style for me to have to hang onto. When I was auditioning in Germany, I was studying there, so the style was how I was playing at the time. 

Coming to LA for that audition, I didn’t really have any expectation of the style I was coming to. I had never heard the LA Phil live, I had heard a few of the Mehta recordings years ago, but I did not make a conscious decision to play in that style. I was maybe naive but also well-informed — because I knew that if I was going to try to change my style to what I thought they wanted, I would not represent myself the best I could. I had played in the States for many summers at the Colorado Music Festival and I had played with many American horn players, so I understood the elements of the style, but I certainly wasn’t going to make any big changes to what I was doing. 

I would say it’s important though — if you’re going to play for a big orchestra with a very strong tradition — to understand and learn as much as you can about that style and to make it a part of your own. But I wouldn’t be changing styles to fit each orchestra for every audition you take because you won’t present yourself as best as you can. However, if you’re auditioning for the Vienna Philharmonic, you’re not going to turn up with a Conn 8D. Likewise, if you’re going to audition for the Cleveland Orchestra, it’d probably be wise to show up with an 8D. If it’s an instrument you don’t have, you just prepare as best as you can. 

What are the most vital tools auditioning musicians need to be using to prepare today? 

Your phone. You have access to any number of performances, recordings, scores, and metronome and tuners. But really the most important tool you have access to is just a piece of paper and a pen. 

Sit down and plan out all of the elements. Ask yourself, “Why is Stefan Dohr great?” or whoever your favorite player is. Why are they great? What do they do better than you and why are you not doing it? What are the elements you need to get a job in your dream orchestra? What do you need to be able to do technically on your instrument that will get you to the level where you can get that job? What are the elements that you need have on a daily basis to be able to do that job? How do you get yourself to the point where you understand the Brahms symphonies as well as the Berlin Philharmonic does? What is your mental approach? What is your physical approach? What is your musical approach? Write it all down and work out a way to put it all into your practice and your listening and studying. Planning is the most important tool. 

And, Rachelle, you should be congratulated because your book puts all of these things together. It gives you a framework from which to plan that preparation — not only for auditions but for your development as a musician and as a player. And I think it’s one of the most valuable publications I’ve read in a long time.

Lastly, do you have any pre-audition rituals or superstitions? 

My normal pre-audition ritual is that I wake up and feel sick. I have thrown up in the hotel before many auditions. It’s just what happens. But it’s normal and it means that I’m ready. 

In terms of what I do once I’m there, my ritual is my centering. I do a lot of centering throughout the day. I also find that just holding the horn makes me a lot more comfortable, so I spend a lot of my time just walking around with the horn like a security blanket. But the centering is really key. 

I also spend a lot of time singing through the excerpts and I make sure that I leave myself an extra hour to warm-up because my chops always feel bad on an audition day. It’s just another thing to check off my list of “normal things that will happen on an audition day” and then I go back to my process. My process at the start of my warm-up is focusing on setting up a mechanism that is based on breathing well and blowing well. I just want to give it more time because everything always feels a little unusual on the audition day. And honestly, if it doesn’t feel unusual, I’m concerned. If my chops feel weird, and I feel edgy, uptight, and nauseous, then I can spin it in my mind very positively. I expect it, I want it to happen, and I don’t fight it. Then I know I’m ready to play well. 


Andrew Bain is principal horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the horn teacher at the Colburn School Conservatory. Prior to moving to LA, Andrew held positions as principal horn of the Melbourne Symphony, Queensland Symphony, Münchner Symphoniker and the Australian Opera & Ballet Orchestra, and associate principal horn of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. He can also be heard playing principal horn on many major film soundtracks, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

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Audition Playbook Summer Announcements

Waikiki Beach; March 2018; pic by Rachelle Jenkins

Waikiki Beach; March 2018; pic by Rachelle Jenkins

I am happy to report that since launching on May 15th, I've completely sold out of the first run of printings (and then some)! As with any new venture, there have been a few small hiccups along the way, but I am very happy with the feedback I am hearing from the first readers and I am looking forward to expanding from there. As such, there are a few announcements to make! 

Any future summer orders will not ship until late August/early September

Because the Audition Playbook project is (currently!) a one-woman venture, I am strained at times to keep up with orders while maintaining my performance schedule. Between now and the end of August, I am playing in Los Angeles, Montreal, Oregon, Edinburgh, and Dublin... needless to say, it's a bit challenging to fulfill orders and keep inventory with me while hopping around that much! As a result, any orders received between now and the end of summer will not ship until late August/early September. 

However... new printer... hooray! 

The second printing of the Audition Playbook will be printed by a different company. What does this mean? The material within the book will be the same, but some aesthetic and quality changes will be made, as per the feedback from some first purchasers. 

Supplementary copies of just Part Two: The Workbook will be available then as well

With the new printing, I will also begin accepting orders for supplementary copies of just Part Two: The Workbook both as single- or three-packs. 

Bundle packs for college studios will be available for special prices in the fall

This is another thing made more possible by a new printer. Keep an eye out for more information on this. If you are a studio teacher and would like to reach out about special requests, contact me here. 

iBooks edition available soon

eBook versions of the Audition Playbook will be made available this summer, starting first with iBooks.  

Editions for younger students are coming down the pipeline

I am now at work on an edition of the Audition Playbook for younger students, particularly those in high school and auditioning for colleges and All-State programs. I hope to have this done by the fall as well! 

Guest interviews and special posts

While orders will not ship for the next two months, I'll still be busy at work with this project. In addition to working on what's outlined above, I will be posting some guest interviews on this blog that I think will interest you all! Keep your eyes peeled. 

Always feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, feedback, concerns, or delicious recipe ideas. 

Have a great summer! 


The War of Art, Ron Howard, and the Orchestral Audition

I recently signed up for the online learning platform Masterclass. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s essentially a collection of video lectures and tutorials taught by experts and industry leaders in a wide range of fields. 

I eat this kind of stuff up.

I’m currently spending my vacation jumping back and forth between Film Directing with Ron Howard, Space Exploration with Chris Hadfield, and Comedy with Steve Martin. I have no intentions of writing and directing a comedy about space travel -- actually, that sounds exactly like something I’d like to do -- for now I’m just taking these classes because I love to learn and I love to find the commonalities between creative people across different fields.

I just finished the sixth lesson of Ron Howard’s class -- “Developing the Film” -- which is basically an overview the entire production process of a film. There were quite a few takeaways from this lesson that I thought were relevant to audition preparation and I’ve outlined some of them below. 

1. The director is the Keeper of the Story. And every decision he/she makes in every sequence/scene/moment comes back to how it can best serve the story. 
Always be asking: “What is the FEELING that the AUDIENCE needs?” 

I really like this idea of the Keeper of the Story. The director’s role is to coordinate all of the different teams and collaborators to ensure everyone is serving the ultimate goal: the story. To me, this is exactly our role as a musician. We are the director, coordinating all of the different departments of our production -- our technique, mental skills, performance skills, logistics -- all in order to bring the whole package together to serve the story. Our story is the music -- the character of an excerpt, the intent of the composer, and the emotions we are trying to invite our audience to feel. We are serving the story -- and the story is serving the audience. 

(watch Stephen Colbert's Northwestern commencement speech for more on service!)

2. Making a film can be divided into three distinct phases:
Development and preparation;
Editing/The Final Re-Write.

The first stage, Development and Preparation, is filled with excitement. You’re thinking ahead and dreaming the big dream -- anything is possible! You're going to win an Oscar! (You're the next Principal Theremin of the Transylvanian Philharmonic!) Riding the wave of your excitement, you’re also starting to get organized, planning, finding the resources and collaborators you’ll need. (In the Audition Playbook, this is the Early Prep and Planning Phases). 

The second stage is Production -- filming the movie or, as a musician, putting in all of the nuts-and-bolts, deliberate practice in on your instrument. (This is the Core Prep Phase). 

The third stage is Editing or "the Final Re-Write." The editing room is where the movie really gets made. All of the work has seemingly been done -- the film has been shot / the practice has been put in on the instrument -- but it’s the last stage of piecing together exactly what you want to present as the final product to best serve the story that really makes the film. You are stepping back and looking at the entire project as a whole -- it's not about changing the material you have, it's about packaging it up to give to the audience. (This is the In-The-Pocket Phase -- lots of mental rehearsal, focusing on the story/character, trusting in the work being done, and serving the ultimate goal).

3. Heartbreak is part of the human experience. It’s part of every experience worth pursuing.

Howard says that every film he has ever worked on has broken his heart one way or another, no matter how successful the movie ended up. In the endeavor as a whole of being a filmmaker -- or musician -- you have to not steel yourself against heartbreak, but instead accept it as inevitable, and even learn to love and appreciate that you are doing something so meaningful to you that it can cause such pain. I have had my share of audition heartbreaks -- from wanting a certain job more than anything in the world and then not even advancing, to the bittersweet heartbreak of being “runner-up” at the end of a long audition day. I appreciate all of those experiences now on some level -- though I didn’t in the moment -- and I can pull valuable lessons about myself out of each of those moments. How lucky we are to want or love something so. 

4. Embrace the logistics and planning phases of your project, even though it doesn’t feel creative or rewarding -- it is actually a HUGE part of the creative process and vital to your end goal.

We sometimes like to think that the creative process is just sitting in an open space and letting inspiration come to us -- "just express yourself and let the muse speak through you!"

If only! 

The reality is that there are parameters -- artistically, financially, logistically, technically -- and we have to embrace all of the planning, preparing, and the “roll up the sleeves” kind of work that doesn’t feel very creative or artistically rewarding. All of that work -- planning your practice, working the fundamentals, creating structure and routine, assessing your technique and your limitations -- all of that is creatively serving your ultimate goal which is (hopefully) to serve the music, the audience, the composer, the character, and the emotion. It may be boring to spend time crunching budget numbers for a film or practicing excerpts slowly, but understanding exactly what you have to work with helps you allocate your resources accordingly to best serve the creative and artistic vision of the film or music. 

This last point relates also to a book I just read by screenwriter and novelist Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.


Whether you work in a creative field or not, I highly recommend this book. It’s a short but powerful read and it’s all about the #1 internal obstacle to success: Resistance. The ultimate enemy within.

Resistance is a liar, a saboteur, and a fraud.

To me, the voice Ron Howard was speaking of above -- the one not wanting to do the logistical work because it’s not “creative” -- that’s Resistance. The voice that tells you that you’re not prepared enough and shouldn’t bother showing up... Resistance. The voice that feeds off of “Imposter Syndrome”... Resistance. “You’re not good enough”... Resistance. The voice who convinces you to re-watch The Office ... again ... instead of practicing? Yep, that’s Resistance too. 

Resistance is a jerk and it's in all of us. Sadly, sometimes it shouts the loudest to those with the most to say --  gifted and talented people whose potential sadly never goes fully realized because they bought into the lies Resistance was spewing. 

I battle Resistance daily. 

I battled Resistance to get this post written and it'll be another battle to convince myself to click "Publish."

Sometimes he wins. Hard. But I wake up the next day and go to battle all over again. This book has totally changed how I think about the internal struggle of the artist -- or anyone pursuing success. I am still sorting through everything packed into this small little book -- but I feel excited to have a better personal understanding of the internal creative struggles we all face on some level. I hope you find it just as helpful! 


Creative work is...a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution.
— Steven Pressfield

Trust the Process: Two Audition Playbook beta testers share their experiences and successes


Today I am excited to share a conversation I recently had with Charlie Rosmarin (percussion) and Hannah Ji (violin), two close friends of mine who were among the very first people to try out the Audition Playbook. Both Hannah and Charlie have won jobs in the past few weeks! Hannah won a contract with the St. Louis Symphony and Charlie is the newest percussion fellow at the New World Symphony. Read below to learn about their processes, experiences, and recent audition successes. 


Up to this point, how many auditions have you each taken? 

CR: If you count school auditions, festivals, professional auditions.... many many. I'd taken ten professional auditions before this one.

HJ: Three auditions so far.

How many weeks did you spend preparing for these auditions? 

CR: Generally, I like to have lots of time. Six weeks used to be what was best for me. Over time, that amount has shrunk. An old roommate, Michael Harper, used what he called 'the shotgun approach' where he took every audition that came up. Sometimes five in a month, and it would work really well for him. I admire that. This particular audition was unusual for me in that it came exactly three weeks after another one I'd taken in Utah. So, less time than I'm used to. For one of those weeks, I was heavily booked with two performances, and I knew I'd have minimal access to practice room time. So it was a new sort of challenge, in that there was about half the time I'd normally allot toward physical practicing. But since I was still invested in getting into NWS, my mind kicked into gear with strategizing and planning. It all reminded me of the Bernstein quote: "To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time."

HJ: The audition was on April 30th, and I had started about a month before. According to my Audition Playbook, March 28th to be exact. I think this was actually crucial because for those first three auditions I did not really start prepping until 2 weeks before.

Were you preparing for other performances/auditions/competitions at the same time? How did you juggle that? 

CR: Throughout that over-committed week, I tried to realistically count how many practice hours I would be able to get in a day. i.e. hours where I'd be able to really focus, and that I wouldn't be dead on my feet. Some days, there was only time for two solid hours, or none! No matter how busy, each day I made a point of warming up thoroughly. I wanted to rehearse the act of getting ready to play on audition day. How many exercises and how many minutes would it take for me to feel like I was mentally and physically ready to perform? Relaxation in both areas was a big focus. I was lucky that there was no repertoire on the audition list which was altogether new. Everything had been prepared for performance at least once in the past. If I had some free time at my rehearsals, I would mentally practice the rep that seemed fuzzy.

HJ: I actually had a jury and a recital the week before the audition which turned out to be a nightmare. Besides practicing a lot more than I should have, I focused on whatever was coming up one by one, and at the same time, I played my excerpts for my friends and mentors as much as I could— even the day of my recital.

How many mock auditions did you do to prepare? 

CR: Not many for this one. A few for my teacher. Maybe just one or two outside that. But this audition came on the heels of Utah, for which I had performed many mocks. So I felt like I was still retaining a strong sense of my performance tendencies.

HJ: I played seven mock auditions.

How often did you record? 

CR: A whole lot. I hooked up a microphone to my computer and recorded through Audacity every session. At Utah, a panelist had given a comment which essentially said, "I can hear when someone has recorded themselves and really knows what they're presenting, rather than being biased by what they think they're presenting." I would put myself in 'performance mode' and record what happens. Sometimes recording a whole mock, sometimes just an individual excerpt in the 'performance mindset'. Then I'd listen back and not give any lenience with flaws! I'd assume that every flaw occurred for a fixable reason. Even the weird, flukey, "never-done-that-before" mistakes that you get in mocks--those are usually because your body has unnecessary tension in it.

HJ: Every other day until a week before. I didn’t have time and just wanted to play things through while thinking about big picture stuff.

How much time and focus do you spend on mental practice or rehearsal? 

“If you can imagine yourself doing it wrong, you’re not ready to do it yet.”

CR: More and more. Last summer, a BSO musician said, "If you can imagine yourself doing it wrong, you're not ready to do it yet." I was like, dang. Loved that! On the morning of a prelim, I allot a little time to just mentally run through the super standard rep which I'm likely to play that day. Empty handed, eyes closed. Maybe a metronome on, but under tempo. It puts me at ease with the rep, and makes warming up easier, strangely.

HJ: I just listened to the excerpts a lot... for me especially, the problem was getting the techniques right and learning the excerpts itself. The orchestral playing and what they look for in auditions is so different from solo or chamber playing which is definitely what I’m more used to, and switching back and forth definitely was more challenging than performing/playing itself.

For both of you, this is your first big win (but many more are to come!) -- what do you think did differently or better this time around that made the biggest difference? 

CR: A few things--knowing what every item on the list sounds like in performance (i.e. recording myself). A lot of real confidence can be drawn from that. Muscle relaxation continues to be a big focus; all the hard work goes out the window if you try to play with loads of bodily tension. And lastly--this will sound vague--engaging the mind throughout the process. There's no formula to doing it, which just means you have to get creative. New approaches, new games, rewriting the excerpts a little bit for fun... it all keeps your mind sharp.

HJ: Basically for me it’s just practicing! And a lottttt of metronome work and getting the character right without jeopardizing the technical things. I think playing for others definitely helped a lot as well. I've always had a problem with procrastinating and I think prepping for this audition actually helped me break the habit.

What's the biggest thing you learned this time around about your playing, your preparation skills, or even yourself?

CR: The New World percussion audition is unscreened, and I know that your visual presentation is taken into consideration. So I set out to eliminate any strange 'faces' or postures that might be happening as I play. I wanted to look clean, professional, elegant. I'd put the camera on the music stand, filming my face as I played the rep. I'd watch to see what sort of faces I made, and at which junctures in the music. Brow furrows, nose wrinkles, grimaces, eye shuts, jaw clenches, jaw drops... I do them all from time to time!! The first few times you watch back, it's pretty horrifying. Then you develop a feel for if/when you're doing it. It seems like a cosmetic, non-musical chore to concern yourself with. I always considered it as much. But it was one of those 'everything-is-connected' moments, where you make a positive change in one area and it affects nearly everything. 

Trust the process... And instead of thinking “I’m gonna win this, I really want this,” it was more “ok whatever happens happens...”


HJ: Trust the process... And instead of thinking “I’m gonna win this, I really want this,” it was more “ok whatever happens happens...” But I think that’s also because I was just absolutely exhausted towards the end...  but definitely keeping your cool helps.


How did the Audition Playbook help you better prepare and which parts did you most utilize? 

CR: The Four Phases Checklist continues to be a big help in making sure I've dotted my i's and crossed my t's. There's a lot of steps to organizing yourself for an audition, and I'm usually overlooking something. You don't want to get caught in a distant city without enough triangle clips. The Initial Assessments help me honestly focus on the skills that need building. This audition had a snare drum etude which is bitchingly hard. Finding the vocab to make it come off as easy and cool was a process of discovery. Having an organized space to keep track of everything made it a lot more feasible. The Scenario Planning was really relevant for this audition, because it was unscreened. So the panel was free to ask me any question they pleased. Generally I'm good at winging it in conversation, but auditions add this level of over-analyzing everything that gets said... At what point upon entering the room do I say hello? How far is too far away for me to go up and shake their hands? I know it's stupid, but I eventually settled on a 'tone' I could strike during the audition that would keep things upbeat but professional.

HJ: I think mainly the Technique and Repertoire Assessments, making sure that I stay organized and not neglect any excerpts, and the Audition Day Script. Definitely used the Recording charts as well. I wouldn’t say I’m a disorganized person but this definitely helped me a lot to stay on track with my prep. My favorite part was definitely the recording section.  

What are some favorite practice or preparation tools and resources? (Apps, websites, etc)

CR: Audacity is my favorite for self-recording, and also for making click tracks. The Amazing Slow Downer is my favorite for analyzing professional recordings (there's no pitch shifting). For practice notes, I use a combination of Evernote and a good old-fashioned marble journal. The journal gets the day-to-day, nitty gritty thoughts, and Evernote gets the golden nuggets of wisdom which sometimes appear. The sort of things I'd want to be reminded of when I pick up the excerpt next time. Airplane mode is great, and I don't use it enough. Turning off notifications from Snapchat and Facebook was a good move. Remember that these companies' business strategies consist of interrupting your productivity.

HJ: I  have this app called Tunable that Mr. Tenenbom, the violist of the Orion Quartet and faculty member at Curtis recommended. I use it to better control my vibrato width/frequencies. Also I use Dr. Beat for all the metronome works including subdivisions. It also has a cool drone effect for intonation work at the same time

What's your ideal pre-audition meal?

CR: I don't eat much on audition day if I can avoid it. Usually just coffee, an apple, a granola bar. The night before, I like pad Thai and edamame. Or Chipotle. If a city doesn't have either of those things, you don't want to work in that city.

HJ: I don’t really eat before my auditions... definitely no coffee, which is always so difficult for me. But I drink lots of water and always bring two bananas for before and after. If there are more rounds then I bring more— the next thing you know I basically have a banana tree in my bag.

How do you manage your energy levels -- with all spikes and drops -- through the long, grueling day of an audition?  

CR: Drinking water. Taking beta blockers if you're feeling skittish. Not playing too much--I'm pretty sure there's a limited amount of performative energy available to you each day. So don't exhaust it in the warm-up room. And when you're on stage, leave it all on the floor!

HJ: I definitely stay away from people and keep it to myself— with auditions nowadays you just run into literally everyone. It’s nice to catch up with them but I’d rather do it after my audition. For St. Louis, I went back to my hotel in between rounds and watched The Office for a little to save my strength but also to not drive myself crazy thinking about the audition.

Do you have any pre-audition rituals? Or superstitions? 

CR: I often end up clipping my toenails on the morning of an audition--can't explain it. Some underwater basket-weaving, if time permits.

HJ: Bananas. I don’t even like bananas but I always have one before and after I play. Also centering, right before I go on stage. Proctors sometimes look at me funny after, but if it works it works!

Lastly -- importantly -- how did you celebrate? 

CR: I'm giving myself a couple weeks of me-time. This semester has been freaking bonkers. So I'm sleeping like I'm trying to survive the winter. And making the most of my last days in Los Angeles!

HJ: The audition was on my birthday! But I was so tired afterward, so we celebrated a day later with great food and drinks and then went to a Cardinals game— I love sports! 


Congratulations to you both! 


Why I created the Audition Playbook and my audition journey so far...

I took my first professional audition at the end of my first year of graduate school. In the warm-up room prior to the audition, my friend Juan walked in and said, "You know that note is an F-sharp, not F-natural, right?" I hadn't even learned the excerpts correctly and that was only the beginning of my preparation failures. Needless to say, I did not advance. 

I was a late bloomer to the horn. I gave it a try in 6th grade but abandoned it within six months. Around 11th grade, I came back around to the instrument and (somehow!) ended up going to college for horn. I was very fortunate that my school, the University of Central Florida, cultivated an environment that gave me the space to make up for some of that lost time and learn how to play the instrument, and still offered numerous playing opportunities for me to jump into and grow.

When I started at UCF, I didn't know you could actually major in performance... or what an "excerpt" was... or how to transpose... or that horn players even needed to transpose... or how people got jobs in orchestras... I had never even been to an orchestra concert! Needless to say, I had a lot of catching up to do, but UCF was a wonderful and safe place to do so. 

By the time I started at McGill, I had a slightly better understanding of what the orchestra world was like and how auditions were a huge part of that. My playing was improving, I was getting work experience in various orchestras, and I thought I would walk out of McGill with a big job in hand. Spoiler alert: that was not the case. 

But shortly after that ill-prepared first audition, I advanced for the very first time in an audition for solo horn of l'Orchestre symphonique de Québec. I was so excited! I got out of the first round! 

But then I did not advance again for three years. 

Three years!

It pains me even now to type that. But I had no idea what I was doing. Admittedly, there were some big holes in my technique that needed to be sorted through, but there was also just a complete lack of understanding about what it takes to properly prepare for an audition and be a real contender. 

Then I ended up at Colburn.

There I started studying with Andrew Bain and Don Greene and they changed my life forever. I spent my three years at Colburn working not just to fix my horn playing (which needed a lot of work!) but also my approach to auditions. In my first semester at Colburn, I advanced in the 3rd horn audition for the Montréal Symphony and I felt as though my curse was finally broken. Within the next year, I started advancing regularly, and was even making finals and super finals in auditions. 

So what made the difference? 

The most obvious reasons are that my playing improved and I started to develop the mental skills needed to strengthen my mind in auditions. 

But on top of all of that, I had a plan. For every audition, I was organized and had a plan. A plan for the weeks of preparation, a plan for the improvements to my technique, a plan for the moments on stage, a plan for how each excerpt would sound... everything. 

And the plan didn't always work. In fact, it often did not work. But I took note, adjusted course, and changed the plan for the next one. And I still do! And I will forever! 

The things I learned from Andrew and Dr. Greene were huge. To keep it all organized and try to implement everything they were suggesting, I started making charts for myself. At first just to organize my daily practice. Then my weekly practice. Then to choose which things to practice when. Then to rank my excerpts. Then to plan the audition day. There were a lot of charts. Admittedly, I went a little "Leslie Knope" with it! 

At a certain point, it felt like it was a hindrance more than a help, because every time a new audition came around, I felt I was re-inventing the wheel all over again, creating yet another new set of charts for whatever was coming up. One day I realized... wouldn't it be so much easier if I just had all of this ready to go, like a workbook? I could just print it off for each audition and jump straight into preparation. 

So I worked one summer on creating a master workbook for myself. I called it my "playbook" and friends started to take notice. Many people asked me about it or for copies for themselves, but I had created it just for me. There were no instructions. It was very crude and basic. They wouldn't even know what to do with it. With every audition, performance, and breakthrough, I changed things about my Playbook. I was learning so much about my playing, my auditioning, my work habits, my learning style... the Playbook evolved fast.

Over time, my desire to keep this to myself was overruled by my realization that this could be extremely helpful to so many people, so I got to work turning it into the version it has evolved to today. I was hesitant because it never felt "ready" -- I was always changing things. But just like the horn, and the auditions, I realized that will be happening forever. That's growth!

I was hesitant too because I thought, "How I am I an authority on auditions? How could I publish something related to auditions? I went three years without advancing!" But the truth is all of those experiences gave me so much. I learned more from those failures than the successes... and I have learned a lot from the successes! I've collected quite the bank of information about what works and doesn't work -- for me and for others -- and I know that these experiences have provided me the unique opportunity to create helpful tools for everyone.  

I'm very excited that the Audition Playbook has grown into the useful tool it is today and I am so happy to share this with all of you. I hope you will continue to grow and ask questions and enjoy the process... as I plan to do!