Audition Nerves? How to Prepare for an Audition Using Science

Actors, singers, musical instrument players and all sorts of high-level performers have to deal with auditions. Auditions can be nerve-wracking experiences even for veteran performers, you have to perform at your best literally on-demand and the stakes can be very high! So we looked at how you can train yourself to give ace auditions using a few simple, research-backed techniques so that you can get the opportunities you deserve in your career.

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If you’re an actor, singer, or a musical instrument player, your auditioning skills can play a vital role in how far you progress in your career.

If you can’t audition well, you’ll have a hard time landing gigs even if you know in your heart that you’re the right person for the role.

Auditions can be stressful whether you’re brand new to the world of performing, or even if you’ve been around for a while.

The pressure of having to perform at your best to impress the producer can be nervy for anyone, especially if you’re at a point where you really need the work.

But the good news is that you can train yourself to remain calm and mentally sharp under pressure, so you can perform at your best and get the opportunities you deserve.

Here, we’ll discuss research-backed tips to help you master the inner game before your next big audition.

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4 science-backed tips to help you prepare for the next audition

It goes without saying that to succeed in your auditions, you need to prepare well. You need to rehearse your lines, the notes, or whatever else your role or character requires.

But it isn’t only about practicing your art. You need to prepare mentally as well, and build up your confidence for auditions.

Let’s take a look at four things you can do that are proven to give you that extra cognitive edge.

1. Mindfulness for better stress response

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware or conscious of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment in the present moment.

There a few different forms of mindfulness practices, but meditation is the simplest and most popular.

According to Dutch researchers, mindfulness-based practices can reduce stress and improve overall psychological function [1].

You feel the nerves during an audition because it’s a stressful situation for you, and your body reacts by releasing certain chemicals and hormones that make you feel jittery [2].

If you can improve how your body handles stress (through meditation), then you’ll have less powerful of a stress response, and you’ll feel calmer in high-pressure situations.

You can take your battle against stress one step further by adding a yoga practice to your routine as well.

Yoga improves your heart rate variability (HRV), which is the variation in time between consecutive heartbeats. An improved HRV also correlates with a better ability to handle stress, according to Harvard Health [3].

2. Visualize the worst with fear-setting

You’ve probably heard that you should visualize positive outcomes if you want to succeed. But there’s another approach, and that is actively visualizing the worst, and coming to terms with it.

It’s the practice of fear-setting, which is based on the philosophy of stoicism. It was recently made popular by Tim Ferris in his famous TED talk [4], who calls stoicism “an operating system for thriving in high-stress environments, and making better decisions.”

But Tim Ferris did not come up with the concept of fear-setting. It has been around for thousands of years. It was initially known as the stoic premeditatio malorum, or the premeditation of evils.

There are three steps to fear-setting, and it works like this:

Ask: What can go wrong?

Define everything that can go wrong in your audition. For example, you might get so nervous that you could make several mistakes, and not get the role.

What happens then? Get very clear on the worst things that could happen in your audition.

Then define steps you can take to prevent the worst things from happening. Maybe that means practicing harder than you ever have before. Or perhaps it means you meditate and do yoga for 20 minutes each day leading up to the audition. It might be that you get an audition coach.

Finally, make a list of all the things you can do to recover in the event your worst-case scenarios do come true.

Then Ask: What could go right?

Fear-setting is not all about doom and gloom. In the second part of this three-step exercise, you list everything that could go right for you even attempting to audition for the role.

Even if you don’t get the role, you might make a connection in the hallway that could lead to other opportunities. At the least, you will gain experience and learn from it.

Take the time to list all the potential benefits for just making the attempt.

Finally, Ask: What happens if you don’t take action?

The last part is designed to scare you into action. List what happens if you don’t try. Explore what your life would look like in the near future if you don’t take any action. You might find out that your fear of the status quo is greater than of failure, which would push you into action.

For detailed instruction, be sure to check out the TED talk. You can also read more in our detailed article about fear-setting for anxiety.

3. Tactical breathing for instant zen

Tactical breathing is one of the most simple, yet effective, tools you have at your disposal to deactivate the fight or flight mode. Tactical Breathing is a trick used by Navy Seals to perform better under pressure [5].

It goes like this – take a deep breath to the count of four, hold your breath for four counts, release your breath again to a four-count, and repeat.

Tactical breathing can deactivate your stress response. It is something you can try immediately before or during your audition to calm your nerves.

4. PerformZen for a cognitive boost

For an additional mental boost, you can try PerformZen before your audition.

Not only does PerformZen help you remain calm under pressure by boosting GABA neurotransmitters in your brain [6], but it also helps with mental focus by combining magnesium and vitamin B6 [7].

It will help you calm the nerves and at the same time improve your cognitive performance so that you can be at your sharpest when it matters most.

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Final thoughts on managing audition nerves

Auditioning is a skill. Just like you prepare for your role as an actor or a musician, you can prepare and practice to be in the right frame of mind when its time to walk into an audition.

You can train yourself to remain calm under pressure, and be mentally sharp so you can perform at your best level.

Try mindfulness and yoga practice to improve your stress response, as well as fear-setting to shift your mindset about the outcome of an audition. And remember, you can rely on tactical breathing if you feel the jitters right when its time to walk into that room.

And finally, if you’re looking for an added cognitive boost, be sure to give PerformZen a try before your next audition.


Agnit is a performance expert and the lead writer for PerformZen. As an avid health and fitness enthusiast, he is passionate about helping people take control of their health to live happier, more productive lives. Someday, he plans to listen to his own advice and drink less coffee.

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