Tips on an All-State Tryout on French Horn

French horn players have specific requirements because of their extended range.

Auditioning for All-State Band or Orchestra is a stressful process that will help improve your musicianship and prepare for college and scholarship auditions in the future. The adjudicators are looking for specific elements that a qualified candidate will display. Knowing what these characteristics are will make you better prepared for your audition and enable a successful audition process.


The audition judge will likely first ask you to play two to four scales in your audition. You should be prepared to play all 12 major scales in at least two octaves. Check with the individual audition sheet requirement for your state. Each audition will have to tell you whether you need major and minor scales or just major scales. The audition sheet will also let you know how fast to play your scales. Generally, you want to aim to play your scales at 120 beats-per-minute in 16th notes. Use a metronome and slowly increase your speed at playing scales.

Audition Music

Each audition will provide you with audition excerpts ahead of time. You must learn to play these perfectly. Pay attention to all dynamics, tempos and articulations in the music. Get help from your school ensemble director and private tutor to ensure you know the proper way to interpret and play the music. Concentrate first on learning the rhythm of the music. Then practice playing the pitches; if you don't get the rhythm perfect, they will assume you are not able to read complex music.

Prepared Piece

The prepared piece will be of your own choosing. Don't make this decision on your own. Speak with your director or instructors to pick a piece that will best represent your abilities as a performer. Choose a piece that shows your range, your flexibility and your ability to interpret a large piece of music. The judge will likely stop you before you complete the piece. This does not mean that you have failed; they rarely let anyone complete an entire piece. This is the time to show your musicality.


Sight-reading is hard to prepare for. The best thing you can do is play as much new music as possible. Study rhythmic counting and practice your scales -- major and minor -- every day. When you begin the sight-reading session, take a few moments to look at the piece. Look at the key signature, and scan for any difficult rhythms. Especially on the French horn, the judges may let a wrong note slide -- but rhythm has to be accurate. If you make a mistake, do not stop and do not apologize. Keep playing, because they want to see that you can make a mistake and keep going.


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