How to Prepare for a Singing Audition: Top Tips for Success
Singing audition is a difficult art to master and we are delighted that Mr. Paul Christ, a very experienced music director and music supervisor who has worked on many Broadway and West End shows all over the world, has been so generous to share these great tips for anyone facing a singing audition! We hope you will find his advice as helpful as we believe you will – if you do, please share, using the buttons at the end of this article – thanks!
Getting the Audition
Before considering how to prepare for a singing audition, first, you’ll need to get one! Unless you want to spend all of your time combing the Internet, this is where networking can come in handy. Chat with other singers, and get your name out there in your community; you never know who may know of an upcoming audition opportunity!
Choosing Your Music
There’s a temptation when auditioning, especially when it’s for a professional situation, to show off and choose something beyond your capabilities. Don’t! The best songs to sing for an audition are ones that are well within your range, preferably ones that you have already performed in public, and most importantly, that are appropriate to what you’re auditioning for. You will make a much better impression by singing something simpler very well than by attempting vocal tricks that you can’t reproduce in a pressure situation.
Preparing Your Music, Part One
If you’re auditioning for a rock band, selecting a pop ballad for your audition song probably won’t fly. By the same token, if you’re auditioning for a musical theater or opera role where the character has great emotional depth, rather than showing the panel you’re versatile, a light and fun piece will simply show them you don’t understand how to prepare for a singing audition, or worse still, you’re not familiar with the plot! For stage auditions, you’ve most likely been given something from the show to present to the panel. How you prepare this is essential to your success.
Preparing Your Music, Part Two
If you play the piano well enough even to pick out a tune line, you can familiarize yourself with the melody of something new to you very quickly. Identify the bars you’ll have trouble with, and work out exercises based on those bars that will help you conquer them. Don’t worry about memorizing your words just yet, but make sure that the melody is really part of you, practicing on a variety of vowel sounds. Read through the text of your song or aria as a piece of prose or poetry, and note how you naturally color the words when you say them. Go back to your melody, sing through it on the vowel sounds of the words, and then gradually add the text. You’ll find that the memorisation process is much easier this way.
One of the hidden factors of how to prepare for a singing audition is the unsavoury truth is that it’s a visual business. Make yourself the best version of you that you can be – clean and pressed clothes, clean shoes, and a high level of attention to personal grooming will all make the audition panel see that you take the job (and more importantly, yourself) very seriously. In the longer-term, pay attention to diet and physical fitness; even if you are carrying extra pounds, fit and healthy shows in the way you move and present yourself.
The Day Before
Often overlooked in how to prepare for a singing audition is factoring in fun! Aim to be so well prepared that you don’t need the day for extra preparation (unless the audition was a very short notice surprise!); spend that day in the beauty salon, walking in the park, or meeting friends for lunch to clear your brain ahead of the pressures of the audition room.
The Day Itself
Get up early, and certainly no later than three hours before the time you have to sing. Remember that your voice takes longer to wake up than you do! Layout your clothes and music the night to say time and double-check that you have everything you need. Take advantage of the steam in the shower, and do your warm-up then – there may not be time or space at the venue. Also, make sure you leave extra time for traveling and finding exactly where you need to be, especially if you’re not familiar with the venue.
Another unsavoury truth as you get further on in the profession is that other singers may do all they can to psych you out in the waiting room. Don’t engage with this behavior, and certainly don’t be put off by tales of how they’ve done the role before for X or Y company, or how they had dinner with the director only last week. Factor in being calm and collected as part of how to prepare for a singing audition. Make sure you have copies of your resume and headshots with you and don’t forget to check your schedule for any clashes with the rehearsals!
Saying Thank You
If you feel you’ve done poorly, you may want to run out of the room as quickly as you can, but don’t be tempted to leave without a word. Thank the panel for their time, and even by email afterward – especially if their response has been positive! Picture it like this: two sopranos are auditioning for the same role. One is a little better than the other, and while very reliable, musical, and well-prepared, has a reputation for being a little difficult. The weaker singer, however, has a reputation for always turning up on time, prepared to throw themselves into any extra jobs that need doing, and able to get along well with their colleagues. Who do you think gets the job?
20 short tips on how to prepare for a singing audition
- Be prepared! This seems really obvious but make sure that you know what’s expected of you. Show up early and be prepared to sing straight away.
- Be in good voice. If you haven’t sung in a while, you can’t expect to go into a singing audition and perform well. Singing every day is essential for keeping your voice healthy and strong.
- Know the Show. In musical theatre, there’s no excuse for not being familiar with the show you’re auditioning for. When preparing your audition material never sing something from the show you’re auditioning for unless you’re specifically asked to. On the other hand, choose a song that’s similar in style and range to the character you’re auditioning for.
- Always give yourself plenty of time to learn your audition material. Rehearse with a pianist and don’t solely rely on learning from a recording since that version may be considerably different from the sheet music you have. Never audition without the music! If you make a mistake while singing, do not stop! An audition is like a performance; just keep going and do not let your face or body language reveal the fact that you’ve made a mistake. Oh, and never glare at the pianist!
- Never sing a Capella. Don’t choose a song that’s notoriously difficult for a pianist to play. Know your lyrics and your music; do not hold a cheat sheet or the sheet music, and don’t look over the pianist’s shoulder. Although this may seem obvious, choose a song that suits you. Many singers do not.
- Have properly prepared sheet music. Make sure it’s written out in the right key, and that any tempo changes and change in musical directions are all clearly marked. Never give a pianist sheet music in the form of a music book. That makes it too difficult to turn the pages. Make a photocopy of your song, and tape the edges together accordion fashion. When you hand the pianist your music, make sure you smile and say hello. Give them a good idea of the tempo by singing a few bars quietly for them. If there are tempo changes or the like, point them out.
- Enter the audition with confidence – first impressions are key here. Keep good posture and walk with confidence, even if you’re terrified!
- Don’t apologize. Not for any reason. Make no excuses. Always be professional.
- Dress for an audition in a smart/casual way. Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes or something that’s too tight. Don’t come in costume and don’t reveal too much! If you’re called back, wear the same outfit you wore the first day, and wear your hair and makeup the same way too. They liked what they saw…so don’t change it! In a large audition, wearing the same outfit also makes it easier for the panel to remember you.
- Be friendly but don’t be overly talkative. Smile and be personable.
- When you sing, just stand there and sing. Never do choreography or blocking to accompany your song. Don’t wander around. But do use hand and arm movements providing they are natural. This is no time to be shy, so sing out and give a performance.
- Never Snap your fingers or clap your hands at the pianist. Even if you’re just trying to help them with the tempo. Keep your hands out of your pockets.
- Good luck! The more you can audition the easier it gets.
Preparing to sing (not only in a singing audition)
- Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. This gives the air a chance to warm and moisturize before hitting your larynx and lungs.
- Do not lose body heat. 70-80% of body heat-loss happens through the neck and head so wear a hat and scarf even in mildly cool weather. This helps keep your vocal muscles warm.
- Drink plenty of water. Both outside cold air and indoor heating and cooling systems can be very drying on the voice. If your throat is dry keep the fluids up, take a long warm shower (or even better a visit to a steam room), and do not talk. This will reduce any swelling to the vocal cords.
- A warm drink will help warm areas around the larynx, but remember that caffeine is a diuretic and can dry you out.
- Warm-up wisely. It’s advisable to begin every day with some humming and light vocal exercises (it’s like stretching muscles before a gym workout). Ask your singing teacher or vocal coach to record a vocal warm-up tailored to your needs.
Singing in public
- Choose the right song and make it work. In order to connect with your audience, you’re going to need to connect with the song itself. Be sure to select something that you enjoy singing, and equally important – understand what the song is about. The next layer to add is your own interpretation of the song and what exactly it is you want to say.
- Posture and body language. Remember that your posture can increase or decrease the quality of your vocal production and your body language (especially your facial expressions) enhances the story you want to tell, so use these to your advantage. If you are not sure how you come across when you sing, then this is something to work on with your vocal coach and then practice in front of the mirror and family and friends! It’s all part of the performance. Keep your shoulders down and relax your jaw and breathe!
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