Need help selecting the perfect song for an upcoming audition? Finding the right song can take time — and there’s a lot to consider as you decide!
Even if you’re comfortable in the spotlight and don’t suffer from stage fright, there’s often a long, arduous process to prepare for an audition.
As a professional vocal coach, I can share two secrets to making it all easier. In fact, these two things make auditioning downright enjoyable!
- First of all, treat each and every audition like a performance. Why? Because it is a performance! Approach it like you have the job already.
- Second, you need to select an audition song that best shows you off.
But, how do you choose the perfect song to sing? Here are the 10 things I recommend thinking about as you look for the best audition songs.
How to Pick the Best Audition songs
Is your voice low and rich? If you’re auditioning for a band, you better leave the Beatles tunes at home (Paul and John were tenors, the higher male voice).
What about ladies? Higher-voiced females auditioning for a band may have a harder time finding repertoire, as most commercial music features mid- and lower-voiced females, but it can be done!
The best way to learn how to sing for your voice is to try out many different tunes. Any strain may mean it’s out of your comfortable vocal range. Your voice teacher can work with you on this, of course!
Vocal competitions are considered auditions too, and sometimes they have very strict requirements. For example, they may have you sing a song by a particular composer or a song in a particular style. Make absolutely sure you follow these rules! Once you’ve established what repertoire you can select from, the key is to choose a “crowd pleaser.”
- Let’s use classical music for an example, since they have many vocal competitions. At the world-famous Metropolitan Opera Auditions, they like “showy” types of singing. Mozart, with all of his vocal runs, trills, and leaps, is seen as very impressive if executed well.
- If you’re looking at a pop or rock competition, it’s a little different. Whereas classical world likes the tried and true, the best pop audition songs aren’t always the most current chart-toppers. The judges may be tired of hearing mediocre versions of Whitney songs or “Hallelujah,” also. Instead, challenge yourself and try a forgotten oldie or a song from the American Songbook.
- Musical theatre auditions usually require a singer or actor prepare 16 or 32 bars of a song, or two contrasting excerpts. In musical theatre, you must consider your voice type, but more importantly, your TYPE! Are you a funny girl? A leading man? The femme fatale? These are all critical factors in deciding on the best audition songs to show off your skills.
One more thing worth mentioning: As prevalent in all genres, there are many overdone audition songs to avoid. Make sure you don’t make that mistake. And don’t automatically write off musicals that didn’t do well at the box office — they often have great music!
Editor’s Note: Check out these top picks for musical audition songs, based on your voice type.
Are they asking for a cut from a song, such as 16 or 32 bars? Some songs are much more awkward to cut than others.
To avoid the awkwardness, choose songs that are fairly simple in structure (verse-chorus-verse, for example), rather than a song that rambles like a long musical monologue (think of many of the songs from “Wicked,” for example). Simpler is always better, if you have the option!
These days, kids have great repertoire to choose from. The problem is that kids often go into competitions or auditions with songs that are inappropriate; either the song’s subject matter is too mature or the song is beyond their capabilities.
When you’re looking at popular music, it gets especially difficult as most songs deal with romantic relationships. However, there are plenty of pop songs with positive messages. Look at the repertoire of Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, or Rachel Platten.
Kids can also do well by going “old school.” Young girls can look at the music of Connie Francis, and both boys and girls can sing a lot from the Lennon/McCartney songbook.
If you’re looking at musical theatre audition songs for kids, be aware of what’s overdone. No “Annie” — ever — unless they specifically ask for it. Get a good musical theatre anthology and explore the songs that you may be unfamiliar with. For kids, the main idea should be about confidence, personality, and fun!
If you’re a novice singer, there are plenty of good songs out there for auditions! The Great American Songbook is a great place to start for commercial music singers. Classical art songs (not big, technically-challenging arias) are best for those new to the world of classical or opera — especially for competitions.
Try not to bite off more than you can chew. You’ll want to choose repertoire that you’ll be able to sing fairly well, even on days that aren’t so great (i.e. if you’re sick or tired).
But of course, the more you progress, the bigger your repertoire pool will be! Your teacher and other music professionals will be a big help in this journey.
While there’s quite a bit of freedom in what either gender can sing in rock, pop, and jazz, it’s not the same for classical and musical theatre.
I’ll never forget the judges shaking their heads at a vocal contest when a young baritone sang “Addio del passato,” from the opera “La Traviata.” This is an aria meant for a light soprano! He’d never perform that role on the stage, so that’s why it’s not a good idea to present it in an audition or a competition!
Editor’s Note: Take a look at these top audition songs for boys for specific recommendations.
If you’re a shy, young soprano, it may be a challenge to do a sassy number like “All That Jazz,” for example. Likewise, a character actor type shouldn’t go walking in with a tenor power ballad — that may confuse people!
Know yourself and be proud to be yourself. There’s room for everyone out there — young, old, funny, sexy, nerdy — you name it. Playing “against a type” will get you nowhere and you’ll find you don’t land the gigs you want!
This is similar to selecting your audition song based on the required cuts, but also keep your audience in mind. Your audition panel has been listening to singers all day long and doesn’t really want to have to cut you off.
Singing a shorter song is fine, as long as it shows off what you’ve got! Less is sometimes more. The judges often know all they need to about a singer in a surprisingly short amount of time.
Frantically learning a new song before an audition doesn’t always work. If you have already found audition songs that show you off, by all means use one of them if it fits the audition requirements! Otherwise, there is more room for error (lyric flubs, weak high notes, etc.). I recommend that every singer maintains a book of the best audition songs they’ve worked on, ready to go at any time.
No? Then don’t do it. Period. Your audience can always tell if you’re not into it. Since there are so many songs out there, there’s no excuse for doing something you dislike just because it may fit your voice. You have to connect with all of your songs!