Auditions can be a daunting prospect, even for the seasoned professional singer. Choosing what to sing and wear are always somewhere on the singer’s ‘worry list’!
Regardless of whether the audition being applied for is for examination, competition, or a part in a show, there are several things that the singer can do to ensure that their performance is as stress-free as possible.
Those of you who have never attended an audition before need to be aware that you can be waiting for several hours before it’s your turn to perform. This in itself can be stressful so it is important to prepare yourself for a long day! Take a bottle of water to ensure you’re well hydrated throughout your wait.
Choosing the right songs for vocal auditions
There’s little point in singing a new song or one that you are unsure of. Your vocal performance will lack conviction, and under stress you may forget the words! Any song used for audition purposes should be one that you have memorised and feel confident singing under any circumstances including unaccompanied.
Choose material that is suitable for your voice and the type of audition you’re attending. In some cases, you’ll only get to sing part of a song so avoid tracks with long instrumental introductions, if possible get an arranger to help you organise the songs into a suitable format for audition performance.
When auditioning for a theatrical show the musical director or producer may supply a list of appropriate songs, always choose song/s you know well and that display your vocal range and versatility. If a list is not supplied and you’re aiming for a particular part in the show, unless instructed otherwise, avoid singing songs from the show itself. Instead, choose material from shows of a similar style and caliber that reflect your capabilities.
The song should not only suit your voice but also the type of audition you’re applying for. If you’re going to audition for something like X-Factor, then vocalists are usually expected to sing a pop song. The same applies for any audition – the song must suit your voice AND be relevant to the part, show or competition for which you’re entering.
Finally, be aware that many auditions now require the singer to perform unaccompanied. This means that there will be no music to aid you with the timing and pitching the song to the right key for your voice. Any mistakes the singer makes become glaringly obvious and in a large room, the singer will need to be competent at projecting their voice so that they can be heard if no amplification is provided.
What should I wear for my audition?
There are no strict rules, but you may be waiting around for hours before you perform, so it is advisable to wear comfortable clothing, keep your audition costume clean and safe in a cover, and then change at the venue. Trainers are out unless you’re auditioning for a contemporary pop artist etc. where they are considered acceptable footwear, and high heels should be avoided unless you can walk and move gracefully in them.
No matter how well constructed, the stage invariably has small cracks, (usually for a trap door) and fiddly little steps that are easy to trip over or get a heel stuck in. Avoid thin heels and watch where you’re going – tripping up will likely make a memorable impression, but not the one you intended!
The clothes you wear should not interfere with your ability to sing. Constricting or tight outfits will prevent the singer from breathing and projecting effectively so a balance between looking good and being comfortable has to be found.
When the audition requires dance skills as well as singing ability, it’s wise to wear clothes that allow freedom of movement such as lycra leotards and dance shoes, which should be packed as part of your audition kit in case you’re asked to do a separate audition for the choreographer.
Auditioning with accompaniment
Examine the requirements that have been provided by the company or director running the audition. Check the type of accompaniment provided, if any. Are you allowed to use backing tracks? Will there be an accompanist provided who can read your sheet music? If so, how many and what type e.g. pianist, guitarist, band, orchestra? Can you use your own accompanist?
Unless you’re attending an audition that requires or encourages you to play a musical instrument, avoid accompanying yourself. Playing an instrument will NOT enhance your performance, it prevents the singer from concentrating on the voice and moving fluidly. Of course, there are always exceptions to this, but unless otherwise stated the auditioners want to know how well you SING, not how well you PLAY!
The exceptions to this are band auditions, songwriting and talent competitions, in which case proficiency in singing, songwriting, and playing an instrument are assets that the performer will need to acquire.
TV and Film Singing Auditions
When auditioning for television or film the singer should be aware that there are certain things they are expected to know.
A spot will be marked that provides the auditioners with the optimum camera views. The singer has to remain within the parameters that are provided. In most cases, a stagehand will direct you to the spot, but if unsure, ask!
Hand-held and trolly cameras will move around the singer during the performance, even closing in right next to you. Be prepared for this and don’t let it put you off!
Work to the camera. The camera that is active will show a small light, look into the camera but don’t try to follow the cameras ALL the time, concentrate on your performance and use the camera when it’s suitable, i.e., if the camera to the left is filming, turn slightly and look into it during a pertinent passage in the song. Remember, the auditioners want to view you from all angles, they need to see that you can use the camera effectively without overdoing it or allowing filming to affect your performance.
Singers are often required to perform their audition Acappella, without accompaniment or the aid of amplification so do not be surprised if required to do so and have suitable songs prepared.
In some cases an overhead or boom microphone is used to capture your natural voice as it sounds with the acoustics of the room, do not try and oversing to compensate. When used, microphones can be placed on a stand, handheld, attached to your costume, or provided as a headset.
If using a microphone with a lead attachment ensure that your movements don’t cause you to become entangled or trip. Practice using a lead mic at home! Costume attachments and headset microphones are very sensitive, don’t try to belt out your song so that the mic picks you up – it’s the sound engineer’s job to set the level to suit your voice, so sing normally and let them worry about the volume.
If used, stage monitors are usually placed at the front or side of the stage so that the performer can hear themselves. Sing a quick scale into the mic or speak a few words to make sure they’re set at the correct level. Any adjustments will need to be made BEFORE you start your audition, most of the time the levels will have been preset but if you are aware that your voice is exceptionally quiet or powerful, it’s worth warning the engineer or stagehand before you’re called up on stage. Some systems do not re-produce effects like reverb through the monitor so your voice may sound dry to you but any effects added will be clearly heard by the audience.
The singer may be placed behind a screen or in a separate area from the accompanist. In this case, a monitor is essential for the performer to hear the accompaniment. If you are unable to hear the music or your vocals, stop and tell the stage crew immediately.
Avoid pointing the microphone towards the monitors or speakers, this causes feedback which will interfere with your performance. Learn how to use a microphone effectively before attending an audition that requires its use!
Competition will be fierce and you should expect there to be an extremely high standard of performers. Even if this is not the case, you should be prepared to sing and perform to the very best of your ability. This includes knowing your songs, having sheet music or backing track in the correct key for your voice, and being capable of performing in front of strangers under unusual and stressful conditions.
Whilst some TV shows allow singers a second chance to audition, this is rarely the case for professional auditions so you must ensure you are well prepared so you get it right first time.
The day before your audition should be spent preparing everything you need for the day. Write a checklist and pack all the items you intend to take with you, including a large bottle of water, snack or light lunch (nothing too heavy and try to avoid eating before you sing), sheet music, backing tracks, costume, makeup, hairbrush, hair spray, money and something to read while you wait. It’s also a good idea to use an app on your smartphone to record your audition for later review.
Always check that you have everything you need before you leave the house and allow plenty of time to get to the venue in case of delays. Warm up your voice on the way to the audition or as soon as you arrive while you’re waiting for your turn. Although it’s fun to meet new people and make new friends, try not to tire out your voice by chatting all the time!
Some auditions and examinations allow the singer to use their own accompanist, if this is the case make sure that you have made arrangements with your musician well in advance, including rehearsing the songs you wish to perform on the day. Travelling together is advisable and prevents stress caused by delays in appearance from either party. Have a backup plan in case your accompanist falls ill!
If using backing tracks, create an mp3 playlist on your smartphone with the tracks in the correct order and make sure your phone is fully charged!
If using sheet music, mark it with your name and make sure there are enough copies for all the musicians. In most cases the music for a pianist is adequate, but for band auditions, full orchestrations may be required. If you have an opportunity to discuss your music with the accompanist before you are due to audition, take it! This saves time and prevents mistakes from occurring at the audition.
Note that some audition accompanists may not be able to read music but can understand basic chord tablature so ensure that any music scores or arrangements you have include these. Read the audition requirements carefully and don’t be afraid to call and check with the organiser if you have any queries.
If you’re traveling by public transport check bus and train times carefully. If travelling by car, work out the route and parking facilities before the day and include a backup route in case of unforeseen traffic or emergencies. Leave well in advance of the time you’re expected to be at the venue. Getting there early will allow you to relax and prepare for your audition.
At the Audition
Once you’ve arrived at the location, check in with the organiser immediately. Find out who is auditioning ahead of you and approximately how long it will be before you’re required to perform.
If you’re going to be waiting for a long while, don’t spend the whole time singing!! Wait until an hour before you’re due to audition, then change into your costume, touch up your make-up/hair and do your vocal warm-up exercises.
10 Top Tips to Look Confident
There are ways of appearing confident, even if you feel like a bag of nerves!
1. Do a few relaxation exercises before you’re required on stage. Take a couple of deep breaths and exhale slowly when you’re called to calm yourself before proceeding into the audition room.
2. Walk gracefully or stride across the room/stage with purpose, keep your head up and look where you are going.
3. Wear clothing that is comfortable and enhances your appearance.
4. If an accompanist is provided, take time to greet them before starting and thank them after your performance (even if they don’t play the tune well!).
5. Face forwards and look at (or slightly above) the audience/judges/examiners who will indicate when they want you to start and stop you when they have heard enough.
6. When you’re ready to start your audition, say hello to the auditioners, state your name along with any other information they have requested (i.e., name, age, and part applying for if a stage production) then provide them with a brief introduction to the song you’re about to perform (i.e. this song is my interpretation of X by Y).
7. Concentrate on the music and your performance. Do your best.
8. Don’t fluster or stop if you make a mistake, continue as if nothing happened.
9. Be Yourself
Take criticism gracefully!
If the auditioners comment on your performance, don’t answer back or be rude in return, even if you don’t agree with their opinions. By all means, ask questions but remember, you may encounter these people again at another audition, alienating them will destroy any future possibilities of selection purely because of your attitude. Smile and thank them for any criticism you receive before you leave the stage.
At the end of the day, you may not get chosen for their project. Don’t be disheartened by this. Review any recordings you made of your performance and work to improve any weaknesses. In all cases, the musical director is looking for a certain ‘sound’ or ‘look’ which they feel they will know when they see or hear it. Just because you’re not what they’re seeking for this project, does not mean that you won’t be chosen for a future project at another audition by the same company/director if you have previously impressed them with your singing and attitude.