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Music Auditions: Songs & Tips

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

This lesson addresses how to achieve success during musical auditions. Tips include how to select the appropriate song, how to prepare, and self-care tips to be healthy on audition day.

Show Us What You've Got!

When seeking a musical job, enrolling in a music school, or hoping to join a performance group, the audition remains the most stressful event in the entire process. Performers want to show their range of talent and why they are the best selection of all the other candidates, but too often they are unprepared for the realities of auditioning. It takes more than just skill to ace an audition and the guidance in this lesson can help.

What to Sing?

No one can tell you exactly what song you should sing, but some solid advice can help narrow down the selection. You must know yourself, your skills, your limitations, and your audience.

Aretha Franklin Performing at Obama

Know Yourself (Skills and Limitations)

When auditioning, performers often want to be spectacular and really wow the committee. However, choosing a difficult song with a range exceeding their own will do much more harm to their chances. Committees don't want to hear a song performed nearly well, they want to hear something sung perfectly. If that means picking a simpler song that fits one's vocal range but delivering a polished, meaningful performance, so be it.

Know Your Audience

In the case of an audition, the audience is the audition committee. You don't have to know everything about them personally, but know what they are looking for in a performer. Are you auditioning for a classical opera? Select a song within that genre instead of something by Elvis or Michael Jackson. Are you auditioning for a specific role? Perhaps consider singing a song from that performance or one similar. If applying to a music school, look into what genres they specialize in and prepare a selection from those categories.

Know Your Music

Be sure to know you can handle any difficult parts of the song when nervous. This effects how your voice sounds. Picking a song that holds meaning for you, something you connect with, can also help give your performance something special and the emotional connection will help with nerves.

Preparing the Music

Unless you learn about the audition at the very last minute, you usually have some time to prepare and rehearse. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the piece you will perform. This means practicing until you can perfectly belt it out, start to finish, in your sleep. However, this can take several weeks and you shouldn't worry about practicing 24/7. Practice at regular intervals then take a break to rest your vocal chords and your mind. As you practice, take notes where you tend to have difficulty and give those sections extra attention. Also, make sure to practice in front of an audience as your audition approaches to help reduce anxiety.

Practice, practice, practice!
Young girl practicing the piano

Know the Audition Atmosphere

Will your audition be held on a theater stage or in a room with a panel of evaluators? Were you given advanced notice of the committee members? What do you know about them? These are vital questions before any audition, as the impression you make encompasses your every action from the minute you enter the room. Be professional, courteous, and above all else be confident! The committee wants to know that you have the skills necessary to meet their needs but they also want to know someone might be good to work with, has potential for continued growth, and will conduct themselves properly.

Show confidence!
Animated confidence meter

If you make a mistake, try to recover quickly and keep going. Errors happen all the time, especially in situations with a lot of pressure, like an audition. The committee will be curious how you handle such a situation. Will you run away? Will it derail the performance? Will you pretend it didn't happen and keep moving? If you can smooth over the error and keep going strong, the committee will see your potential to handle any surprises or mishaps during a show.

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