Hi Mike,

I apologize, I know you must get questions like this constantly, but I was wondering what advice you could give on a) what skills a keyboardist should be proficient in to be ready for everything that a major tour requires and b) how to land such a gig. I obviously don’t expect to be touring with a major artist right away, but what would you say are the major requirements and/or most common deficiencies that you find among keyboardists? I’m a Berklee grad and a full-time professional musician, so I’m looking for a way to get to the next level. Thanks!


Hi Tim,

I do get this question a lot, but it just never ceases to amaze me how completely unprepared many musicians are when they show up at an audition, so maybe this bears repeating. Obviously you need to be an excellent player that can play many styles of music by ear and by reading charts. The most important things though are a bit less obvious. You need to know the music of the artist that youíre auditioning for before you set foot in the door. Itís a complete waste of everyoneís time to show up at an open audition unprepared. You should have a general idea of the ìlookî the artist is looking for as well and dress appropriately. Little things mean a lot. Donít be late, doní run your mouth about all the stuff youíve done, just get your gear set up, nail the parts and the sounds, and remember that the most important thing is to not overplay. Iíve seen dozens of really good musicians overplay and lose a gig that they couldíve done with a little more discipline. Once the audition is over, give the musical director your contact information and move on. Theyíll call you if youíre what theyíre looking for.

Once you get the gig, then itís crucial to really nail the parts and sounds exactly like the record, then and only then you can expect to take liberties with the music if the artist allows it. Itís just disrespectful to play a bunch of stuff that is not appropriate to the style of the artist just because you have the chops to do so.

Treat the gig in a professional manner. Do not ever be late, at rehearsals or TV shows between songs resist the temptation to jam, especially when other people are there working and would appreciate the silence to get their job done.

If youí have your ìchemical issuesî under control fine, but be very careful, itís not worth losing a gig over, and if youíre stupid enough to try and transport your ìchemicalsî across state lines or to other countries and get caught youíll be dragging down the entire production. Trust me, there is no faster way to get fired. In this business once you get your first gig, other gigs will come to you via word of mouth, so you really donít want a reputation for being late, or being stupid with drugs. Just work hard, keep your mouth shut and youíll get plenty of work.

As far as finding tours that are looking for players, thereís no definite ìwant adsî way to find the openings. You need to network, without being totally annoying, with other musicians that are playing with the types of bands you want to play with. Keep your eyes on the trade magazines to see who is coming out with a new CD or a new tour. Send resumes, very brief and to the point, to management of artists that you feel you are a good fit for musically explaining (again very briefly) why you would be good for their artist. On my website is a list of a lot of trade magazines and resources for finding gigs:

99.99% percent of getting the gig is luck, 100% of keeping the gig is being professional and always doing the best job that you can. Thereís always someone just like you waiting for his or her chanceÖ good luck!

Mike McKnight Sounds Inc.

34145 Pacific Coast Hwy, Suite #302
Dana Point, CA 92629