Posts

best songs to sing for an audition

What Are the Best Songs to Sing for an Audition?

best songs to sing for an auditionMany of us have seen it happen while watching singing competition shows like The Voice, American Idol, or The X Factor— “You’re voice is incredible, but the song choice was all wrong.”  It usually ends with an elimination, especially if it is a consistent pattern.  You might love a certain genre of music, but knowing whether a song is a good fit for your voice and audition is critical.

Like many things, success is dependent on knowing your strengths and showcasing them.  So what are the best songs to sing for an audition?  Are there steps you can take to find them?  Absolutely.  Whether you’re auditioning for musical theater, a band, a reality music TV show, a college music program, or your high school jazz choir — take a look at these simple steps to choosing the best songs to sing for an audition.

Step 1:  Know Who You Are

Unless you’re a hard rock singer auditioning for “Heavy Metal Parking Lot”, the musical, the typical musical theater production probably isn’t going to pick you if you start head-banging on stage. Instead, stick to auditions and song selections that fit your voice, style, and strengths. That’s not to say you can’t croon along in your car to “Cats”, just don’t expect that your best audition song is always a good fit for that particular show.

Knowing who you are as a musician, and focusing on becoming that, will help a ton.  Whether you’re country, rock, opera, folk, or alternative, find where your voice shines — and then polish it even more with songs that highlight your skills.

Step 2: Know Your Range

Nothing will hurt you more than if you’re struggling with notes that are too high or too low for your range.  Comfort is essential. Understanding basic music theory can help you, too — that way, if there is a song you like that’s just out of range, you can adjust it to a better key for your voice.  You can always practice and improve your range, also, but expect that there is a place that will always make your voice magical.  Find that spot, and pick music that helps you blow the audience away!

Step 3: Know Your Appealing Quirks (and get rid of the not-so-appealing ones)

Some people love the rasp, others the trill.  Maybe you have a rich tone that doesn’t need an abundance of vibrato, or a simplistic but pure voice that shouldn’t attempt bold runs.  There is usually something about our favorite singers we like to point out: they never miss a note, their rich baritone is smoother than butter, their falsetto is unbelievable, the gravel in their voice speaks to you, or maybe the emotion is so strong it makes you tear up.  Many singers have quirks that make them stand out in a good way, like Mariah Carey’s amazing range, Kurt Cobain’s angsty growl, or Ella Fitzgerald’s clear-as-a-bell-never-overdone perfection.  Others make you crazy because their voices are consistently over-embellished.  Go ahead and find your appealing quirk, and make sure you incorporate it into your audition song.

Step 4: Know Your Audience

Do a little research before an audition and before choosing your audition song.  While you don’t want to lose yourself or your individuality by choosing a song you think the panel of judges wants to hear, you still shouldn’t go so far off the grid that they don’t want to listen.

Find a happy medium, and choose a song that fits you and the audition.  It’s natural that if you twang that you should consider country or a pop-country cross.  If you’re a first soprano heavy on the vibrato, opera probably fits better.  Also, who are you trying to impress? Auditioning for a high school theater production is going to require a different song choice than auditioning for a Broadway musical.  The judges may be at different experience levels, as well.  What might wow your high school music teacher is probably not going to be the same for a producer in New York.  And taking a risk with a bold, complex song choice might work in New York, but it might be too much for your high school.  Look at what you’re trying to achieve, who the audience is, what the experience level of the judges is likely to be, and what they might be looking for.

Step 5: And Finally…Choose the Right Song for Your Audition

If you’re not connected to your song, chances are the audience and judges are going to know it.  Ditto if the song is too complex for your experience level.  If the song doesn’t fit your tone, range, and quirks, consider selecting a different one.

Music is an intrinsically personal thing.  Choosing a song to audition with means you should be able to convey the emotion it stirs in you, and add enough of your style to make it your own.  It should fit who you are, and who you want to be musically.  If you’re not a bounce-around-the-stage type of singer, then choose something slower.  If you’re upbeat and joyous, then go with a song that’s a little more fun. Lastly, try to avoid the songs that you know everyone is going to sing.  Sometimes judges get sick of the “it” songs.  Be the person who stands out and is a breath of fresh air!

Some Final Thoughts

  • Enlist the experts – Never be afraid to ask for help!  Even seasoned performers have vocal coaches, who often help them select the best songs to sing for an audition.  Working with someone with the skill and background to make you a better singer might just be the boost you need to win the audition.  Plus, you can use those voice lessons to get more pointers and practice before the big day.

  • Stick to your experience level – It can’t be said enough: if you’re not Adele, don’t try to be.

  • Practice, practice, practice – Think of it as muscle memory, similar to an athlete’s.  It takes work to get better at something.  The more times you run through a song, the better it’s going to get.  It doesn’t hurt to know what you’re going to do with yourself on stage, either.  Practice motions, movement, holding a microphone, and your facial expressions.

  • Be prepared for nerves – It can be helpful to know what your voice does when you’re nervous.  Do you get sharp, flat, forget lyrics, or get a crazy wobble?  Prepare for it and know what to do if it happens.

  • Be prepared overall – Know what you’ll need at the audition.  Do you need background music or sheet music?  What key are you singing in?  Do you need to dress the part?  Find out as much information ahead of time so you come across as professional.

  • Be yourself and have fun – Writers get rejected over and over again, actors wait tables for years before a big break, and singers might sing the same song a hundred times before they find the right audience.  Just remember to love what you sing, sing like you love it, and choose a song that lets your voice shine!

Looking for specific song recommendations? Check out our list of 400+ songs to sing for every occasion!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Eva Rinaldi 

Nail Your Audition for X Factor and More

Do you think you have what it takes to be America’s next big singing sensation? With shows like The Voice, The X Factor and American Idol holding their open castings, you might be thinking about grabbing that microphone and sharing your talent with the world. As you prepare for your audition day, take some tips from expert TakeLessons certified vocal instructors to make sure that you really shine on camera! Read more

5 Insider Tips for The Voice Auditions

5 Insider Tips for The Voice Auditions

The Voice auditionsThinking about auditioning for a show like The VoiceBryan S., one of our San Diego-based teachers, offers a few insider tips to get you ahead of the game. Read on…

There are many of us out there that dream of making it big as a singer. The great thing about the day and age we live in is that your life can be changed in a second and your dreams can come true. With shows like American Idol, The X Factor and The Voice, more singers than ever are closer to being heard by a nation. With that in mind, there is a lot of work and preparation needed to get to that point.

This past weekend I auditioned for The Voice at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Overall, the experience was fantastic. I waited in line only about an hour and a half, and then literally walked in, sang and left. Though I sadly did not get a callback, I did leave with a better understanding of the process and what to expect from a television competition.

I went into the audition with a teacher’s mindset; how can I better prepare my students for an audition of this caliber? Here is what I learned from my time in Los Angeles:

1. Seek advice and training – Taking singing lessons will definitely help you be ahead of the game in these types of auditions. Having natural talent is fantastic, but if you rely solely on natural talents you may find that your overall performance is lacking. Find a good voice instructor and let them guide you to your goals.

2. Go in with your best – Make sure you sing the best part of your best song. Often times you will only get one verse and one chorus to show exactly how amazing your voice is. With that in mind, make sure you do your research. You have something special about your voice and you need to find a song that best shows that off.

3. Know the show – As with any television audition, it is essential that you know something about the show. Do your research and look at the songs people are singing. Do any of those songs fit into your range? Could you rock that song better than someone on the show? What are they wearing? Use the show as a resource to prepare you for the audition.

4. Come with your “A Game” – Though you may have to wait in line for some time, you need to be ready to go at any second. Make sure that you drink lots of water, do some humming and keep your voice warm, especially if you will be waiting in line outside. Do everything you can to be well-rested before the audition. This is your opportunity to shine!

5. The Voice is literally looking for “The Voice” – This may seem obvious, but when you go into the audition you are told that there is something particular that they are listening for. While they don’t tell you what that exact type of voice is, you do get some insight into the fact that you may be phenomenal but still not the “right” voice for the show.

Singing is becoming a bigger deal in the television world and as you prepare yourself for your auditions make sure you remember how amazing you are. It’s all too easy to let your nerves get the best of you. With that being said, get up, practice and get out there! You are the only thing coming between your reality and your dreams. You have it within you to be great, so let’s see it!

Bryan S. teaches singing, theatrical Broadway singing, opera voice, music performance, acting and music theory in San Diego, CA.  He is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, (NATS), the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA).

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of prescreened teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for safe, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photos by Kevin Klocker & JColman

How to Bounce Back from a Bad Audition

Last night at the 2012 BRIT Awards, Coldplay earned the award for Best British Band, despite being under fire lately for their Grammy performance earlier this month.  What can musicians learn from that?  Being a performer takes guts. Music, like all art, can be very subjective – and these days, everyone is a critic.

Negative feedback, less-than-stellar performances, and rejection from auditions can hurt – for anyone!  But if there’s one thing to remember, it’s this: having a bad audition or performance does not make you a bad musician!  Mistakes are just as essential as successes.  As long as you’re learning from them, those mistakes will mold you along the way as you improve.

Still feeling the sting?  Check out these fantastic tips for dealing with critiques from Brass Musician Magazine:

1. Just Breathe.
In most situations, getting angry is not going to help. There’s nothing wrong with being upset at the situation — that’s healthy! But yelling, sulking, hitting the walls or taking your anger out on friends or strangers isn’t healthy. Take a deep breath or three. Take a step back. Understand that in all likelihood your career isn’t over, things could be worse, and you have a valuable — if painful — opportunity to grow as a musician.

2. Unwind.
If you’re still really ticked off, upset, or in shock about what happened, you need to find a way to relieve your stress in a healthy way. Do something that engages your body and your mind — try yoga, meditation, jogging, martial arts, or hiking.

3. Analyze The Problem.
Once you’re calm, try to look at the experience objectively without obsessing or beating yourself up. Go step-by-step and figure out where things went wrong. Did you get nervous and fail to breathe properly? Did you overwork yourself the day before? Did you spend too little or too much time on your warm-up? Were you under-prepared? Did you oversleep? Did you let a small mistake rattle you so much you continued to make bigger mistakes? Were you unprepared for the physical conditions of the recital or concert? Did you have equipment problems?

4. Look For Solutions.
Once you’ve figured out what went wrong, see if you can fix the problem. If you had problems with nerves, perhaps you can start putting on mini-performances for friends or peers to get used to playing with an audience, or develop a warm-up routine that involves some calming and focusing mental exercises. If you were rattled by a mistake, practice making mistakes! Have a friend bump your elbow or move your music while you’re playing and try to keep going. Practice playing in a wide variety of conditions — hot, cold, too dark, too bright, poor acoustics, audience practically in your lap — so when it comes up for real, you’ll be ready.

5. Let Go.
Eventually, you have to accept that the best you can do is the best you can do. At the end of the day, if you have done everything in your power to be successful, then you’ve done your part. You can’t control everything else. If you’ve cleaned and oiled and maintained your valves, but one sticks in the performance, it’s beyond your control. If you’re solidly prepared and play the audition the best you can, but someone else plays it a little better, that’s beyond your control. If you’ve done your very best, you’ve succeeded. Even if the outcome isn’t what you had hoped, the process you went through to be prepared will make you a better musician.

Readers, what do you think of these tips?  What has helped YOU bounce back from a bad audition or a negative critique? Leave a comment below! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

 


You might also like…

What’s Causing Your Stage Fright?
Oops!  How to Handle Your Biggest Music Flubs
5 Secrets to an Awesome Audition

What’s Causing Your Stage Fright?

stage frightSeason Two of The Voice debuted last night on NBC, with the usual hype and over-the-top antics we’ve come to expect with the growing list of talent-based reality shows.  Did any of you catch the season premiere?  Any fan favorites emerging yet?

Even for practiced performers, we can only imagine how nerve-wracking it must be to audition in front of music industry veterans like Christina Aguilera and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine.  But if performance jitters are holding you back from showing off your talent, it’s never too late to start combating your fears.

Most of the time, performance anxiety stems from three main roots: the individual person, the task at hand or the performance situation.  When you understand the cause, it can be much easier to take a step back, realign your focus and take control.  Even if you start out reserved, you can learn to unleash the powerful, confident musician inside of you!  By learning how to handle each of the causes of stage fright, performing in front of others will get easier and easier. Here’s a great rundown from The Musician’s Way Blog:

1. Person
Our personalities and beliefs strongly affect our experiences on stage.  For instance, self-assured, extroverted people who view performing as a rewarding challenge are generally less jittery than those who are shy and dread being the center of attention.  Our performance histories then multiply our natural tendencies.

Timid musicians who have endured repeated episodes of shakes, dry mouth and butterflies, let’s say, will probably be extra worried before concerts; outgoing ones who have regularly enjoyed and succeeded at performing have reasons to look forward to making music for audiences.

The good news is that with well-directed effort, even anxious musicians can replace negative thoughts and experiences with positive ones.

How to take control: Take a moment to consider which of your personal qualities and past experiences enhance or interfere with your ability to perform.  Write the positive memories down, and focus your energy on these before you perform.

2. Task
Needless to say, exceedingly difficult tasks are more stressful to perform than easy ones. Similarly, insufficient practice can leave us feeling on edge when we step under the lights.  Two less-obvious but vitally important factors that affect our security are our practice and performance skills.  In particular, students who don’t practice their music deeply but depend on automated types of learning will feel their control drain away under pressure.

Likewise, when musicians aren’t skilled at basic performance tasks, such as speaking to audiences, performing can be extra nerve-wracking.  All musicians can increase their task mastery and therefore their stage power by choosing accessible repertoire, practicing it deeply and learning performance skills.

How to take control: Make note of the task-related actions you’ve taken that have supported or undermined your success on stage. Supportive actions include selecting manageable music and practicing it regularly.  Remember these as you prepare for your next performance.

3. Situation
The greater our concern for the outcome of a performance, the greater the potential for stress and anxiety.  An out-of-town audition, for example, exerts more pressure than a casual gig at a local coffee shop. A recording session at a pricey studio comes with higher stakes than a laid-back session at home.  Unfamiliar or poorly run venues can also add to a performer’s discomfort. Plus, intense public scrutiny can be unsettling, especially when vast numbers of people hear us and then tweet, blog and otherwise publish their reactions.

But whatever the performance situation, when we know how to prepare, we can deliver thrilling performances.

How to take control: Recall performance situations that have enhanced your creativity and ones that have fueled your nerves.  What was it about those positive experiences – did you have family and friends there to support you? Were you performing in a specific place?  Even if these things aren’t exactly the same, practice visualization techniques and imagine you’re in that familiar situation.

Readers, do you have any other tips for battling nerves?  Share them with the community by commenting below!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by B. Rosen

How to Sing Better with One Simple Trick

Whether you’re a fan of American Idol or not, the show has become a large part of pop culture.  And if you’re able to ignore the gimmicks, you’ll find that shows like Idol do have some merit in exposing some amazing talent: grunge-loving Chris Daughtry, country crooner Carrie Underwood, and of course Kelly Clarkson – just to name a few.

There’s also a way these artists can help you improve your own voice.  Don’t believe us?  It’s as simple as… learning to listen more efficiently.  As you listen, train yourself to focus on the intricacies of the singer’s vocal style, and you’ll be able to pinpoint the areas that you need to work on yourself.  And don’t worry – if we catch you rocking out to “Since U Been Gone,” we won’t judge.

Here’s an excellent list of elements to listen for in other singers’ voices, courtesy of PerformanceHigh.net:

1. Melisma (embellishments, riffs, trills, licks, runs) – how, when, and to what extent does the singer “decorate” the basic melody?
2. Texture – is the voice breathy, edgy, brassy, clear, gritty, etc?
3. Intonation (pitch) – is the singer on pitch? Do they use “blue” notes? Do they intentionally (or not) sing any notes slightly flat?
4. Emotional expression – what does the singer do to help you feel the lyrics emotionally?
5. Phrasing and space – what is the rhythm of the lyrics? Does the singer push or pull any lyrics ahead of or behind the beat? Where does the singer leave space?
6. Dynamics – how loud, how soft? How quickly or slowly do the singer’s dynamics change?
7. Mix – is the singer singing in chest voice, head voice, or a mix? If a mix, how heavy (chesty) or light (heady) a mix are they using? Do they use different approaches throughout the song?
8. Compression – how “compressed” is the voice? (High pop belting is often very compressed; breathy low-volume singing is not.)
9. Tension and release – how does the singer help you feel emotional tension and then release simply through the voice (and not the song structure or lyrics)?
10. Placement – is the voice “aimed” forward behind the nose? Or is it rounder and throatier? Is it more present in the mouth, or in the nose, or equally balanced?

Practicing better listening will also come in handy when listening to recordings of yourself.  With this one simple concept, you’ll be able to really feel the details in your singing, making it seamless.

How has the simple act of listening helped you sing better?  Leave a comment below!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Image courtesy of http://abcnewsradioonline.com.

Ace Your A Cappella Audition With These Handy Tips

The Sing Off is in full swing now, with eight talented a cappella groups remaining in the competition after this week’s episode.  The show, which is in its third season, features a cappella groups from around the U.S., performing each week in hopes of continuing on to get the grand prize of a Sony Music recording contract and $200,000.

While Glee helped make choir groups “cool” again, The Sing Off has brought a cappella singing to the spotlight.  This is truly a battle of the voices, as performers don’t have back-up bands to rely on as a safety net. Collegiate a cappella groups are especially popular, with Oxford University’s Out of the Blue and The Whiffenpoofs of Yale University leading as two of the most notable groups.

 

For those interested in getting into the a cappella craze, eHow contributor Tina Molly Lang gives us some tips for how to succeed at an a cappella audition:

(1) Understand that succeeding at an a cappella audition involves balancing a solo voice with the ability to blend. While classical training helps, a cappella groups are not necessarily looking for an operatically trained voice. While it is important to hold your own during a solo, a cappella groups like singers who will blend with the sound and harmony of the group. In a cappella groups, it is more important to be a team player than it is to be the best singer. If the group is going flat or sharp, you have to adjust to them, even when they are wrong. A cappella groups also like to have a pure sound. They like straight tone, as opposed to vibrato.

(2) Know that ear training is important. At the audition, the group might play a progression of notes that you will have to sing back. Alternately, they may play a succession of chords and have you find and sing the middle note. Preparing for the ear-training part of the audition will require longer-term effort. While voice lessons will help your vocal technique, they may not necessarily help in ear training or musicianship. There are many ways to develop a good ear: Listen to different kinds of music, practice chords at the piano and take music-theory classes. Instrumentalists tend to have an advantage in the ear-training section of the audition. Instrumentalists are used to reading more complicated music and hearing different tonalities.

(3) Recognize that a cappella groups also look for a personality fit. At the audition, they will ask you to prepare a joke. They want to see if you blend with the social dynamic of the group. A cappella groups like fun, outgoing people. Performing a cappella involves not only singing, but also stage presence, humor and the ability to perform off the cuff. That’s why so many a cappella singers also have theatrical training.

You can read the full article here.

We’re excited to see this music style keep impacting mainstream audiences, and can’t wait to see what’s next.  Students and teachers -are you part of an a cappella group?  What was the experience like?  Leave a comment below and let us know!

Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.