Singing/Acting Auditions
How to prepare like a pro even if you
aren’t one yet
Types of singing auditions
• 16 to 32 bars
• 1 complete song
• 2 contrasting songs (1 ballad/1 up
Finding and Choosing the ‘perfect’
Audition Song for you
• Like the song - this is important.
• Choose a song that showcases your vocal
talent to the fullest - the strongest and most
secure parts of your range that you can
comfortably sing while nervous.
• Make sure it is age appropriate for the age
you project.
• Choose a song that is positive in nature.
Finding/Choosing a song
• If you only have 16 bars stay away from
narrative or story songs (Sondheim and
Schwartz are 2 of the biggest).
• Avoid songs with repetitious melody lines.
• Think twice about signature songs (those tied
to a specific star performer).
• Pick a song of a similar style to the one you
are auditioning for.
The Pianist/Accompanist
• This person can make you look good – or bad. So
common courtsey
• Don’t choose an overly complicated arrangement
(Sondheim, Bernstein, Weill, Shire, and Brown).
• Make sure all the print is clear and easy to read –
nothing handwritten.
• Stay away from ‘nightclub’ or ‘revue’ arrangements
with too many embellishments.
Parallel Songs
• Choose a song that has a similar feel (musically, rhythmically,
and emotionally) to the show and/or part you would like to
• Some examples of types might be:
– a “want song” (“My Own Little Corner” and “Somewhere that’s
– a “hopeful romantic song” (“Someday My Prince Will Come” and
“Someone to Watch Over Me”)
– a “show song” (“Me” and “Pirate King”)
– a “ingénue song” (“Happy to Keep his Dinner Warm” and “People
Will Say We’re in Love”
– “a Character/Villain song” (“Little Girls” and “When You’re Good to
Parallel Songs (cont.)
• Styles
– Country/Western (Big River, Oklahoma)
– Tragedy/Historical (Cabaret, 1776)
– Fantasy/Fable (Pippin, Wicked)
– Sci-Fi (Carrie, Little Shop of Horrors)
– Horror (Mystery of Edwin Drood, Sweeny Todd)
– Gay/Drag (Avenue Q, Hairspray)
Parallel Songs (cont.)
– Teens/Children (Grease, Zombie Prom)
– Ethnic (Fiddler on the Roof, Godspell)
– Circus (Barnum, Carousel)
– Asian (Flower Drum Song, Hot Mikado)
– African American (Dreamgirls, Once on this Island)
– Spanish/Latino (Evita, West Side Story)
– Story (The Last 5 Years, Ordinary Days)
– Pop/Rock (Aida, Rent)
– Marriage/Relationships (Baby, Company)
– Show Biz (A Chorus Line, Gypsy)
– European (Light in the Piazza, Gigi)
– British (Oliver!, The Secret Garden)
– Underdogs (Assassins, Hairspray)
Styles by decade “sound”
1960s – Hair, Promises, Promises
1970s – Applause, Pippin
1980s – Chess, Les Miserables
1990s – Jekyll and Hyde, Tommy
2000s – The Lion King, Legally Blonde
Non-theatre Songs
• Unless you are instructed to select a
song from a musical choose a song of a
similar style of that musical but not from
a musical (example: Audition for Big
River with a country song)
• Piano based pop/rock artists are great
sources (Billy Joel, Elton John)
Overused Songs
“Popular” from Wicked
“My Philosophy” from Charlie Brown
“Out Here on my Own” from Fame
“Someone Like You” from Jekyll and Hyde
“Take Me as I am” from Rent
“On my Own” from Les Miserables
“Memory” from Cats
Some other things to
• Watch songs that are really obscure or
• Research composers/lyricists you enjoy.
• Research a performer you feel you are
close to in type.
• Be open to lots of musical styles
Other song choice
• Avoid choosing
Songs where the dance is featured
Production numbers
Signature Songs
Vogue numbers
Fictional Character songs
Acting the Song
Acting the Song
• The “Moment Before”
– Why is your character compelled to say
these words right now?
– What does the character want or expect to
get by saying these lyrics?
– Do not wait for the ‘musical introduction’ to
finish before you start establishing
character choices. (cue the pianist)
Do something
• Acting means doing – living in the moment.
• Action (verbing) propells the words you say.
You should play active verbs (begging,
seducing, celebrating, etc). Playing verbs like
remembering, thinking, telling are more
difficult to translate into active choices.
• Don’t confuse adjectives with verbs. Feelings
are not actions.
Find Interesting Actions
• A great exercise for finding actions is to
change the situation of your song in an
improvisation. Try different approaches
– you may be surprised at what you find
works “playing around”.
Pace your Actions
• Don’t start your song at the highest
emotional intensity – you’ll have
nowhere to go. Otherwise your
character’s journey will end with your
opening lyric and they have no real
reason to sing the rest of the song.
• To help find out what your character’s objective is,
figure out what the author’s purpose to writing it and
placing it in the musical at that moment in the show
• Questions to ask yourself:
What does this song accomplish for the story?
What does it help the audience understand?
Does the song work outside the context of the show?
Why are these ideas in song instead of dialogue?
Do you personally relate to the given situations?
Take a Journey
• Is there any transformation or change in your
character from the beginning of your song to
the end? (hopefully the answer is yes)
• Discovery, Incident, response question songs
all need to pace the journey so it ends when
the song does.
• Don’t play the ending at the beginning of your
piece – don’t play the results.
• Whether you move or not is determined by
the song you have selected.
• Ballads should not have a lot of movement –
up-tempo songs should have at least some.
• Plan this out in advance.
• This should not necessarily be “performance”
movement – tone it down so you still can
Key Points
• Rehearse often enough that you don’t have to
“think” about what you are doing.
• Remind yourself of the objective.
• Define the moment before you start.
• Remind yourself of the journey/arc before you
• Allow yourself to live in the moment and take
the journey for the first time.
Cutting your Song
Defining 16 bars
• More difficult with modern musicals –
AABA structure is not always used.
• Remember you are finding a section that is
the best one for both range and lyric that
has a journey/dramatic interest.
• This is usually not the beginning of a song
but rather the climax to the end.
Defining 16 bars (cont.)
• For 70% of auditors:
– 30 seconds of ballads
– 35 seconds of up-tempo
• Your cut should have no extra music on the page –
just the measures you want played (no arrows or
other ‘road signs’). This means you will have to
provide/type the following info:
- Composer’s Name
Title of show
- Musical style (jazz, ect)
Tempo Markings
- Key signature
Musical Intro (clearly marked)
What will 16 bars give the auditors?
Your sense of musicality
Your physical appearance
The power of your voice
Your personality
Understanding of lyrics (acting)
Intonation/pitch problems
Your performance presence
Musical Introductions
• Purpose – to help you find your first note as well as
establish your emotional beginning.
• Should be short – don’t waste precious time (or bars)
on this.
• Types
Bell Tone – using 1st pitch as your intro (Ballads)
Arpeggio – a rolled chord (Ballads)
Open Vamp – repeating phrase until you are ready (Up-Tempo)
Set number of bars – same phrase to always find note (Up-Tempo)
• Needs to be just as strong as beginning – this
is the lasting impression you’ll leave with your
– Types
• Extend the musical rideout – Add a little music so you
can hold the last note.
• Shorten the musical rideout – If the note is too long for
you to hold comfortably cut some music.
• Create an ending that matches your physical “button” –
let’s them know you are done both musically as well as
A Strong Button
• The final moment – both musically and
• Time these out so they happen at the
same time.
• One approach – figure out what the last
word or phrase for the song might be that
was “left out” and then physicalize it (eg:
“So there! or Whew)
Key Points
• Approaching a 16 bar audition should
be the same as approaching a full song.
• Make sure you research and learn the
full song.
• Have a strong beginning and ending.
Your Music
Working with your Accompanist
No Loose Pages
• Put your music in either a 3 ring binder
or mounted on cardstock/cardboard.
• If your music is in plastic sheets make
sure they are non-glare.
• Many tape sheets together – not the
best method (older pianos don’t have
• Do not have any extraneous markings
(breath marks, chord symbols, ritards,
etc.) you are not using in the audition.
• Vice versa – highlight any markings you
DO want the accompanist to follow.
• Make sure your music is in the right key for you – a pianist
should never have to transpose on site.
• Pay to have it transcribed and printed out FOR you – that way
you reduce the possibilities of mistakes from the player.
• Do not suppose that the book you are using for your sheet
music is in the same key as the cast recording you have listened
• Humming the tempo or taping the pulse with your hand before
you begin is fine – but telling them what style the music is to be
played in is even better (jazz, gospel, waltz, soft-shoe, ect). This
language is more specific for a musician.
• If you are moving lyrics (say from an
earlier part of the song to the end part of
the music) make sure you have whited
out the unused lyrics and written in
(clearly) the ones you ARE using.
• If you are bringing the music digitally make
sure your music has no vocal tracks (backing
or lead).
• Bring the electronic device you KNOW it’ll
play through.
• The smartest performers will bring sheet
music just in case – singing acapella should
never happen in an audition.
Extra Copies
• Regardless of whether you have sheet
music or digital music you should
always bring extra copies with you – just
in case.
• Should you bring your own?
– For a 16 bar audition the expense isn’t
worth it. If your 16 bars are that difficult to
sight read then you need to pick a different
– For a full song and an important audition –
it might be worth it. Don’t worry that this will
offend the audition pianist – they’ll probably
welcome the break.
The Audition
Top 10 pitfalls of
Singing/Acting Auditions
• Not wearing something to suggest the milieu of the
show auditioning for
• Not getting enough sleep the week of the audition
• Not making choices in advance of the audition
• Not eating (breakfast or lunch) the day of the
• Not being polite and/or communicating needs with
the accompanist
Pitfalls (continued)
• Not bringing water (and perhaps a light snack
in case you are kept waiting for a long time)
• Not knowing where the audition is being held
• Not bringing extra headshots or music
• Not warming up in advance
• Not turning off your cell phone
• Really think about your clothing. They
should be comfortable and appropriate
for your age and suggest the time
period (for example if the show is being
set in the 1940s women should wear
heels and pull their hair up. Auditioning
for Rent might mean nice jeans and
Attire (continued)
Nice pants/skirt/jeans (if appropriate)
Nice shirt and tie/blouse/sweater/dress
Nice shoes/heels/sneakers (if appropriate)
Conservative make-up (women only)
Flatter your figure – be able to move
Do not wear all black
Keep accessories to a minimum – anything you might
play with nervously is not setting you up to succeed
Audition specific
• Follow the lead of the stage manager
• Do not approach the auditor’s table unless
• Set your personal belonging right by the door
or piano (out of the way)
• Give the accompanist your music as soon as
possible and give them about 10 seconds of
Audition specific
• Don’t waste your time using a chair – or
assume you are going to have a chair – in the
audition room
• When you have finished explaining your
music and telling them the cue you will use to
begin playing to the accompanist walk to the
center of the room – with plenty of space
between you and the auditors that they can
see your whole body.
Audition specific
• State your name – the song title is not important
(unless they ask)
• Wait for the direction that they are ready to hear you
(although don’t expect them to make eye contact
throughout your performance)
• If you are singing a ballad (especially a love song) do
not sing it to the auditors directly.
• If you are singing an uptempo song you may ‘include’
the auditors from time to time, but not exclusively
• ‘
Audition specific
• ‘Locate’ your imaginary scene partner either 1 head space
above the auditor or the space between 2 auditors
• If the accompanist plays the wrong tempo or feel within the first
2-3 bars stop and explain politely “I believe I gave the pianist the
wrong tempo.” (even if you gave them the right instructions the
first time). Don’t restart more than once however – if it’s wrong a
second time you have to try to make it work. Chances are the
auditors will know (from previous auditionees) that the pianist is
at fault.
• Never blame the pianist (verbal or non-verbal). Chances are
they have a voice in the casting process.
Audition specific
• If you are given a direction and you don’t understand ask for
clarification. If you can’t do it then be honest. If possible ask if
you can make adjustments to show them what they want to see.
• When you have finished singing wait quietly for further
instructions. They may talk quietly a moment. They may ask for
another song. They may say “Thank you for coming today.”
• DO NOT ask the auditors when they will be making their casting
decisions – or any other questions you might be able to find the
information from outside sources.
• Once you have been dismissed simply say “Thank you” and
leave. Nothing else is appropriate for you to say/offer.
The Acting Audition
Cold Readings and Sides
• If the director has given you ‘sides’ (prepared
material from the actual script) then make
sure you prepare them in advance.
• Memorization is not required or in fact
• Make choices – similar to the song
preparation process.

Singing Auditions