last minute audition? no sweat.

“hey rob, are you taking the canton symphony audition?”

“what? omg, there’s a canton symphony audition? when is it?!

“it’s in 19 days.”

:-O :-O :-O :-O


one time, at band camp, there was an audition in 19 days and i freaked out.

ever had that feeling?

it’s a gut feeling that’s like, OH MY GOD. this seems really important. i NEED to do well. but there’s an outrageously short amount of time for me to practice. the following thoughts rush through my brain:

  • how on earth did i hear about the audition so late?

  • how can i possibly prepare and do well in this short amount of time?

  • should i just NOT DO IT so that i don’t have to deal with this crazy stress?

and if i even go down the path of how to do it, these questions also pop up:

  • what do i do to prepare for an audition like this in less than 3 weeks?

  • what important things should i skip since there’s not enough time?

  • what’s more important… mock auditions? recording myself? learning the notes? research?

  • should i just give up?


today’s blog is about how to take an audition on short notice.

i’m also taking this opportunity to announce a special new bonus for students of the auditionhacker formula called the last minute audition kit. it’s a full training that teaches you how to spend the least amount of time and get the most results when you’re taking an audition on short notice. it’s available only to those enrolled by tuesday night, april 19th, at midnight, ET.

go check out all the enrollment details about the last minute audition kit and the auditionhacker formula here:


ok. there 2 types of auditions where you’ll feel the relentless pressure of time:

  1. when the orchestra doesn't release the list until very close to the audition, and

  2. when you decide to limit how much you're going to practice for an audition



1. if the orchestra takes forever to release the list,

that’s ok. i mean, that kinda sucks because it doesn’t allow you to spend your ideal amount of time preparing for the audition.

personally, i love having the freedom and space to practice for 4 or 5 months for an audition. i feel like the more time i have, the more problems i can solve. so if the list is released 6 weeks before the audition, or less, i feel like i have a pretty significant disadvantage.

but actually…i don't have a disadvantage. everyone has a disadvantage. everyone taking the audition has the exact same amount of time to prepare for the audition.

this is an important distinction. you’re not preparing in spite of having this disadvantage. you’re competing against a bunch of people who all have the same disadvantage, so it’s fair. you’re competing against every other person's ability to prepare with a shortened audition period.

know what i mean? everyone has 24 hours in a day, and everyone is in charge of their own moment to moment decisions in the practice room. your job is to choose the most effective possible actions to take that will get you the most results in the shortest amount of time.

2. sometimes you impose your own limits on how much you're going to practice.

here's one case.

in the spring of 2010 i was living in my dad’s basement and practicing 8-10 hours a day in FULL AUDITION MODE. i was gunning for the percussion spot in the new world symphony. at some point, there was a principal timpani audition for the winnipeg symphony announced. it was on may 8th, and the new world symphony audition was on may 25th.

i was faced with a conundrum. focus on one audition, or divide my time between two?

my decision? gun for one and, in the middle, spend a week on the other.

instead of dividing my time throughout and giving the new world audition a much smaller chance, i decided to make new world priority #1 and give one lonely week to the winnipeg audition.

i said to myself…

“self (that's me), i’m going to spend one single week doing the best possible job i possibly can do on the winnipeg audition. and THAT’S IT. i know that doesn’t give me a great shot at winning it, but it definitely doesn’t mess up my chance to dominate at new world.”

in that case…it’s the same thing. i had to find the actions that would get me the most results in the shortest amount of time.

aight. so it doesn’t matter why you have a limited amount of time. either way you have the same goal: figure out how to use that short time wisely.


so... how do you prepare for an audition on short notice?

step 1: write down what it means to you to prepare completely.

i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it again: audition prep is an assembly line for your excerpts. you put them in on one side and spit ‘em out the other. along the way, they go through the set of actions that you put them through.

my excerpt assembly line looks like this, in a really boiled down sense:

research 10-12 recordings --> learn the notes and muscle memorize all the details --> meticulous self-recording and polishing --> mock auditions for days (and days and days and days)

(what’s yours? i seriously want to know. give us all the details the comments!)

now, each of those stations along the assembly line is highly developed and has its own set of actions. like, for instance, i wrote about my self-recording workflow here. that fact will be important in the next step.


step 2: go through each excerpt on the list and analyze what from step 1 will prevent you from crashing and burning.

some excerpts, like new ones, need to be built up from scratch. and planning to sight-read is a disaster waiting to happen.

chances are that the rep list you’re preparing for has excerpts at all different states of readiness.

for excerpts you've done before, maybe you can skip some of the foundational stuff, like the research. if you’ve researched it before, you can just refer back to your notes, or listen to your favorite recording once or twice.

(that’s called a ‘shortcut,’ by the way. when you’re preparing with limited time, you’re required to take shortcuts.)

for completely new excerpts, what is the least you can do to make sure it’s playable by audition day?

the only person who can answer this question? you. you know what your practice strategies are, you know how effective they are, and you know how far you have to bring an excerpt before it feels audition-ready.


step 3: make a minimum viable audition calendar (M.V.A.C).

have you heard of a minimum viable product? it’s a car…without the air conditioning. it’s a sandwich…without the mustard.

it’s the very most basic and stripped down thing you can make and still call it by its name.

YOUR minimum viable audition calendar is the very least you can practice and still show up at the audition.

basically, you go through your calendar and you fit in the actions that you chose in step 2. if you have a week to prepare for your audition, maybe those minimum actions fill the entire week up. maybe it looks like this:

monday: learn the notes of 2 new excerpts

tuesday: learn the notes of 2 more new excerpts

wednesday: self-record half the list

thursday: self-record half the list

friday: 1 mock audition, 1 complete playthrough for teacher

saturday: 2 mock auditions

sunday: audition day

but if it’s a 6 week audition, then maybe you filled up 3 weeks with the minimum viable calendar and there are 3 weeks remaining.


step 4: with any remaining days, find the next most effective actions you could take and fill those in.

ok. YOU KNOW YOURSELF. do you get a lot out of playing excerpts slowly? do you get a lot out of self-recording?

here’s what i recommend: get to know yourself. if you don’t already know the next most effective actions you could take, then you should find out. if right now you’re trying to prepare for an audition in 2 weeks, then you can’t do this immediately. but next time you have an “ideal” amount of time to prepare for an audition, observe yourself and figure out which things work best for you. you need to have your own list of actions in priority order. you can even write it down.


now. i know what you’re thinking.

“i have an audition in 2 weeks. how can i create my minimum viable audition calendar?”

“what does your 1 week audition prep look like?”

“can you actually do well with a short amount of time to practice?”

“what’s the ideal timeline for audition prep, anyway?”


you aren't alone in asking those questions. i wondered them too, and a ton of people ask me about that. and i’m going to help you answer every single one of them.


the last minute audition kit

i’m releasing a complete video training module called the last minute audition kit. it’s going to help you get from point A to point B in a shorter than ideal amount of time. actually, it’s going to teach you exactly how to spend the least amount of time and get the best results.

it’s going to teach you…

  • how to unquestionably use your time more effectively than anyone else taking the audition,

  • how to create your M.V.A.C. (minimum viable audition calendar),

  • how to stretch it into any length of time, and

  • how to continually revisit and update your calendar every day to make sure you’re doing the right thing every second of every day.

there’s a concept called the 80/20 rule that states that, “20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of the results.” that’s absolutely true in audition preparation. of COURSE you want to be thorough and of COURSE you want to do everything that you possibly can. but if you have a limited amount of time then you need to choose the most effective possible actions that will give you the greatest results.

the last minute audition kit is going to be an added bonus in the auditionhacker formula training course. it’s available as long as you enroll by this tuesday night, april 19th, at midnight ET. the training will be delivered live, 3-4 weeks after enrollment ends.


woo! thanks for reading, guys. how do you prepare for last minute auditions? let me know in the comments!


rob knopper

hailed by @nytimes and james levine as needing 'louder triangle notes'. recorded delécluse: douze études for snare drum, percussionist in @metorchestra.