When a pianist is provided for you at an audition, you will have zero rehearsals and only one chance to perform in front of judges. No sweat! Luckily, it doesn’t matter one whit how your pianist feels about you. They will happily provide you the same level of support whether you treat them like garbage or not. Pianists are machines-with-fingers that can read minds, seamlessly adjust for your errors, magically adapt to your miscommunications, and make you sound at least a few notches better than you really are.
Below are 17 specific ways to alienate and annoy your pianist while still achieving the best results for your audition. It’ll be a ambitious adventure, even if you just try one or two of these tips!
1. EXPECT TRANSPOSITION AT SIGHT
Bring your music in the wrong key and ask them to transpose it at sight. All pianists are awesome at transposing on the spot, and you won’t even notice any difference in their performance in the new key versus the written one. It’s such a pain for you to hit one button and transpose instantly to the correct key when purchasing from online vendors such as www.MusicNotes.com. Why bother?
2. LOOK SHARP (OR FLAT)
If you do get your piece transposed, choose a key with the most possible sharps or flats. Sometimes when you transpose your piece through one of the digital sheet music vendors, it ends up in a really awkward key like D# major with 9 sharps instead of Eb major with 3 flats. Or it transposes up or down the octave, causing the notes to exist in the stratosphere or in the depths, with ledger lines for days. But no matter. Just make sure the key is exactly the best key for you, despite the end result for the pianist.
3. GIVE THEM YOUR PHONE
Bring your music on an iPad or on your phone and expect the pianist to read off your device.
4. PRAY IT STAYS
Bring your music in a book with a really tight binding so the book won’t stay open on its own.
5. KEEP IT LOOSE
Bring your music on loose sheets and hand them to the pianist in a wrinkled wad. Bonus points for rolling the music in your hands to settle your nerves before your audition. If the room is sufficiently air conditioned, the pianist might enjoy chasing the music as it flutters to the ground.
6. GO THE LONG WAY
Tape your music together into one really long snake. It’s best if you have more than four pages stuck together so there’s no possible way the pianist can fit all the pages onto the music stand at once.
7. BE OUT FOR BLOOD
Staple your music together. You will get a souvenir of your audition experience in the form of bloody streaks across your pages after the pianist rips their finger on a staple while turning the page.
If you are an overachiever, put your music into a 3-ring binder, but to maximize the amount of page turns, don’t put the music back-to-back. The more page turns, the more fun it is for the pianist. It’s like going to a casino every time a page turn comes up -- will they get it turned successfully or not?
9. GLARE AT THEM
If you use page protectors in your 3-ring binder, find the cheapest, shiniest ones money can buy, to make sure the glare makes your music unreadable under stage lights.
10. PLAY A LARGE PART
When you make copies of your sheet music to put it into the binder, don’t worry if the whole page gets copied. Since sheet music books are usually bigger than 8.5 X 11, pianists are super-used to making up the left hand part at the bottom of the page, or guessing at the key signature on the left side.
Uh-oh, no left hand part here at the bottom of the page...
11. REPEAT ONESELF
If there are repeats in your music, lay out your music so it involves the most complicated page turning possible. If the repeat sign or D.C. is on the top of a page, put that page on the left side so the pianist will have to turn the page forward and then back right away. You’ll probably get to perform a few bars a cappella that way, so the adjudicator will get a great chance to hear just you, free and clear.
12. BE MYSTERIOUS
If there are tempo or dynamic changes, make sure the markings are as tiny and indistinct as possible, ensuring the pianist will have to use their eagle-eye to find and decipher them on the fly.
13. DO FORGET TO WRITE
If you are not performing the whole piece, just point quickly to the start and end points while you set the music down. The pianist will certainly remember. Don’t worry about writing down the exact bars where you’re starting and/or ending your piece, or where the pianist should begin the introduction. That takes way too much effort on your part. Same with any cuts in your music - don't write them down, just point and pray.
14. DARE TO BE DIFFERENT
If you are singing different lyrics or playing different articulations than written, don’t worry about letting the pianist know. They don’t even look at your part and won’t even notice. Taking the time to mark them in yourself is beneath you.
15. BE SNAPPY
Snap your tempo at your pianist as if they’re a dog.
16. FIND FAULT
If the pianist plays anything unusual or unexpected, whether due to your lack of communication or not, turn and scowl at them in the middle of the performance so the adjudicators know it wasn’t your fault.
17. THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
When your audition is finished, go pick up your music from the pianist but avoid eye contact. Feel free to tell them what they did wrong, but for heaven’s sake, never say “thank you.” It was their job to play for you and they don’t ever need to be acknowledged. And remember, whatever rude things you say to the pianist will stay confidential. They won’t know any of the audition’s adjudicators and won’t ever spill the beans about your bad behavior.
If you follow any number of these handy ideas, you’re guaranteed to piss off your audition pianist. Remember, your pianist’s performance and attitude has absolutely no bearing on your performance -- and vice versa. So best of luck on your audition. You’ll be great!
Beth Syverson has been a pianist and singer since age three and she's taught piano and voice since age 12. She's played for hundreds of auditions through the years, and has had reasons to be pissed off at more than a few auditioners she's accompanied. (Being the professional that she is, she still played her best for them, though.) She recently created Singer's Notebook, Pianist's Notebook, and Choir Director's Notebook to help musicians meet their goals. FInd out more about how she can help nurture your inherent musical voice at www.BethSyverson.com.