If you haven't checked out Part 1 on setting the tone, give it a look. We continue on with the details here.
Prepare to Prepare
Select a few songs with which anyone could audition. Prepare a packet for them with MP3s of the songs, PDFs of charts and sheet music, and even link to tracks that they can listen to. Send this to them well in advanced so they have plenty of time to prepare. If applicable, include more than one key. For instance, for a vocalist, if they audition with a song in the key of D, include MP3s that are also in the key of C, Bb, and perhaps even E. They may have a great voice but they might not have the same range as the original demo.
When a person comes to audition, make them feel comfortable. Break the ice, take the edge off. Explain the steps of the audition. If you have tracks for them to play along with, use them. If they are an instrumentalist, have them play the song in the original key. Jump around in the song: find an easy portion for them to warm up with, then perhaps jump to a more challenging section. If they make mistakes, reassure them. If they are doing a really good job, ask them if they would feel comfortable doing the song again in a different key. At least two different songs will give you a feel of how they play.
Give them plenty of time to prepare.
When auditioning vocalists, ask whether they prefer singing the song in one key over another. Notice how well they know the lyrics. After you've gone through a portion of the song, switch to the original key. Get as clear of a picture as you can of their range, their timbre, and how well they prepared for the audition. Again, have them sing through at least two different songs. After they sing through the song on melody, sing harmony with them. Then switch to determine how well they harmonize.
Finally (and this is truly my litmus test for singers), I have them match pitch. I'll play different pitches on the piano and have them sing that same pitch on a “la.” I'll jump around within their register to see if I can throw them off. I'll start off easy moving around in seconds, thirds, and fourths, but then I'll jump around to see if they can match more difficult pitches. If they can match ten or twelve pitches, I know I have something to work with. If they can't match pitch, they are probably not gifted enough in singing to lead out in worship.
Matching pitch is the true litmus test for singers.
If they are a good match for the team, tell them specific areas in which you were impressed and contact them in a few days. If you don’t think it’s a good fit yet, still encourage them, and tell them that you appreciate them trying out, and point out specific strengths. Let them know they simply need a little more time under their belt and direct them to helpful resources…namely Worship Artistry :-). Tell them to practice for about six months and then invite them to audition again. Ask them about other passions and giftings in their life and whether they are plugged into any other ministry at your church. Help them get plugged in while they are continuing to work on their skill. That way they still feel connected rather than being dismissed.
The audition process should be a pleasant one for all involved. No matter someone’s performance in an audition, you want that person walking away feeling encouraged and connected. Whether the worship team is a good fit for them or whether they are encouraged to get plugged into another ministry, communicate acceptance and love. In the end, auditioning is going to sharpen your team and make it the most effective that it can be in leading people in worship.