Preparing for an audition? Learn how to select your repertoire with these helpful tips from San Jose teacher Alison C.:
Picking out the best song for a musical theater audition is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make. Your selection must demonstrate not just what a great singer you are, but also your ability and appropriateness for the role you want, your professionalism, and your ability to follow direction. Of course, once you have your song, you will need to rehearse and coach it to perfection! Here is a criteria list, in descending order of importance, for selecting the best song for an audition. Above all, items #1 and #2 are most important.
1) Follow All Requirements Outlined by the Producing Organization
- Length (in minutes, seconds, or bars) – Time it!
- Style/Tempo (upbeat, ballad, blues, pop, legit, etc.) – Give them what they ask for!
- Format – (CD, flash drive, sheet music, etc.)
- Make sure karaoke tracks have lead vocal eliminated. They want to hear YOU, not another recording artist.
- If using sheet music, make sure that all the notes are visible, no cut off lines at the bottom!
- Sometimes companies specify formats with sheet music. Follow them!
- If there is no requested format, taping music back-to-back, 3-hole punching, and putting in a binder is a good way to go. Loose pages can create nightmares!
- Do not put plastic sleeves over music to protect it. This can cause glare.
- Mark all cuts, tempos, vamps, etc.
2) Pick a Song That Makes You Sound Great!
Not the song you wish you could sing, and not the song you will sing well next year… the song you sound great on right now! It’s good to get an objective, experienced set of ears here. Singers often get very attached to a favorite song that is special to them, but it might not be the most the best choice for any given audition.
3) Pick a Song That is in the Style, Range, and character of the role you are auditioning for.
Do your homework and find out what the vocal range of the role is and what style of music they sing. Pick a song that shows that you can do what is needed for the character.
4) Avoid Songs That Are Currently Overdone, or Too Tied to a Particular Star.
- It’s not to your advantage to be the 50th person to sing the same hit song the directors have heard all afternoon.
- It’s not to your advantage to be compared to a beloved star.
- Most musical theatre organizations prefer to hear songs not from the show they are auditioning for.
There are other considerations to make as well, but this is the survival list for top priorities for finding the best audition songs. When in doubt, consult your voice teacher or coach. They are there to help!
Looking for specific song ideas? Check out our list of song recommendations!
Alison C. has taught at San Jose State University, Chabot College, and privately. She has appeared as a featured soloist in Opera, Musical Theatre and Concert throughout the United States, Europe, and China. She holds a B.M. in voice from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and M.A. in vocal performance from San José State University. Learn more about Alison here!
Photo by U.S. Army