From DRUM! Magazine’s July 2017 Issue | By Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz
Unless your ability and reputation precede you, you should expect to audition for any band or gig you’re interested in joining. It’s basically a job interview, except that unlike most professions, there are no credentials that certify your ability. A degree from a music school may show achievement, but it carries little weight with an artist or band looking for a drummer. The audition process levels the playing field, and while drumming and musical ability are obviously important, they’re not the only considerations.
You’ll usually get some advance direction on what you’ll be playing, so be prepared. Don’t overplay, regardless of the style. If the band wants more from you, it’s better to let them ask. If you start out playing over the top, they’ll just conclude that you don’t know how much is too much, and politely say “next.” Most of the gigs out there require pretty straight-ahead playing, and being a little understated typically works in your favor. The same goes for more progressive music — play appropriately, but don’t go too far.
If drums are provided, ask if you should bring anything in addition to your sticks (it’s smart to have a pedal, snare, and cymbals waiting in the car anyway). Even if the kit’s not perfect, just go with it and don’t complain. If you are bringing your own drums, bring the minimum necessary for the material you’ll be playing. Show up early, and be friendly and courteous. Personality and good interaction are as important as being able to play, and bands want a “good fit” as much, if not more, than just good playing.
You probably won’t get an answer on the spot, and don’t take their reaction or nonreaction as an indication of how you did. If you think you did well, that’s a positive, but remember that it’s completely up to the other players to assess your suitability for the gig. Hopefully they’ll get back to you within a week or so, and if not, a friendly call or email is appropriate. Don’t be pushy, and if you didn’t get the gig, don’t argue about how well you thought you did. That will guarantee that you’ll never hear from them when they need to hold auditions again. In the music business, nice guys finish first, and that begins with the audition.
JON “BERMUDA” SCHWARTZ has been the drummer with “Weird Al” Yankovic since 1980, and is seen and heard on all of Weird Al’s albums, videos, and concert and television performances. Visit www.bermudaschwartz.com.