Here are some of my insights into presentation as someone who watches and listens to many auditions. Please feel free to add to this in the comments below. I won’t talk about equipment or software now, an internet search will provide lots of advice on this subject.
Audio or Video? If given the choice, I prefer video, or at least a mix of audio and video. Good audio is a pleasure to listen to, but it is easier to get an idea of your musical personality with a video. If there are many excellent candidates to choose from, this can be a deciding factor.
Visual Aspects for video auditions:
- Lighting. If you find a good acoustic space, please make sure you are not back-lit by a window or any other light source. The main source of light should be from the front and sides. It is very frustrating to watch someone but not be able to see them properly.
- Music Stand. Keep it as low and flat as possible. A rule of thumb is to have a flute length’s distance between you and the music stand. Make sure to do a trial-run to see if your musical movements sometimes get hidden by the music stand. If you are someone who ducks down a lot while playing, put your stand even lower.
- Unless otherwise stipulated, videos can be edited (montage) with fade-in and fade-out between orchestral excerpts or repertoire pieces with what are called “jump cuts” in film jargon. However, even if jump cuts are allowed, it is very impressive if one can do a complete unedited video of all one’s orchestral excerpts and do it well.
Audio Aspects: make sure you record in stereo and that your mix is in stereo. It is a bit strange to hear a candidate through only one ear of my headphones. Somehow I feel something is missing, even if it is only psychological.
Make sure the recording levels are decent. Some devices will flash green to indicate a good signal, with others you will have to watch a meter, or rather have someone watch it for you. An internet search will give advice on how to achieve good recording levels for your device.
Cheating: Audition tapes and videos usually stipulate unedited materials. This really means no post-production manipulation of your sound signal such as splicing or enhancements. Simply mixing your audio and video together does not fall under this category. Other exceptions may be adding “jump cuts” (see above) and titles to your video, but check the requirements.
Really good digital manipulation is very difficult to detect, even by professionals. But you would be surprised at how often I come across it done badly. If you don’t want to make your auditioner suspicious, watch out for the following:
- If you are making a video, make sure your audio has realistic reverb decay and pre-delay times that correspond to the size of your room.
- Make sure there are no sudden changes in the noise-floor level. This is a dead giveaway that indicates the dynamics have been manipulated. Some microphones that are optimized for recording speech have built-in compressors that automatically change recording levels according to the level of input. However, with these you will hear an increase in the noise-floor level during quiet dynamics and a decrease when louder. With post-production digitally manipulated dynamics you hear the opposite.
File Formats: this may depend on the requirements. For me personally, a streaming platform is better for audio and video such as YouTube, Vimeo or Soundcloud. This is more convenient than waiting for a file to download on your computer.
Be aware some formats and platforms are Apple specific. It is better to avoid those and choose cross-platform formats.
Putting your last name in your file: For example, “LastName_Repertoire.doc” or “LastName_CV.doc”. This is particularly important for supporting materials such as resumes, letters of recommendation and repertoire lists. Auditioners may have many documents open at once, and it is easier to navigate them if the file name has your last name in the heading.