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The Singing Audition

(or how to get the job over the
other 300 people in line)

Madonna Singing in Concert
Even Madonna used to go to auditions 1

Okay, so you’re dedicated; you’re taking classes; you vocalize and exercise your body every day. You have a great vocal teacher to help you grow and stretch your vocal chords.  So give me the work!! 

This is where it gets a bit more complicated.  Not only do you have to show the director or bandleader or conductor that you are trained and have talent but you have to prove you should get the job over someone else.  This is where your personality and creativity have to kick in.

Song Choice

For example, the song you choose to sing at auditions.  You need to find a song that is dynamic and good for your range that allows you to show off a bit (but not too much) and isn’t being done by every other performer just like you. This is where your voice lessons are going to come in handy.  You need to know all different kinds of music so you can find pieces that will be unique and not overdone. 

One of my favorite songs that I use for auditions is perfect for my range and is very dynamic but not many people are familiar with it.  I was doing a musical revue and the director liked my song so much they decided to add it to the show.  The goal is to have the director say, “What show is that from, I love that song.”  It makes you stand out. 

Now, if there is a song that people do know but you feel you just have to sing it, then we will work together to do something original with the song to show the director that you can be creative.  Change a note or take the ending and do something dramatic, show the director you are creative.

Obviously, if you are auditioning for a cover band then don’t play with the music.  They will want you to do it exactly how the song is written.  The audience is very well aware of these songs and will expect them to be the same.

You are performing, not just singing

Now, I want you to think outside the box.  Anyone can have a pretty voice but that doesn’t make a star.  A star finds their own voice and its not always the prettiest.  Many, many singers make the mistake of trying to sound like someone else instead of working on their own unique sound.  Obviously when we are first learning to sing we do a lot of imitating but at a certain point you have to find your own sound.  That is where all your work on performing a song is going to pay off.

You tell a story when you sing a song and no one tells a story the same way.  A good example of this is when someone tells a joke.  Have you ever heard someone tell a joke the same way?  No.  the way someone tells a punch line or which part they emphasize, whether they tell it in a funny voice or completely straight.  It’s always different.  Singing should be the same way.  The way you feel the song, what it means to you, the richness of your tone, the colors you put into the words. The dynamics you use.   These are all unique.  Unless you are imitating someone else’s version.  There are people out there who do a good job imitating and get work, but its not enough to carry you above being ordinary.

Audition Day

The audition is one of the most nerve wracking parts of being in show business, but it can also be a lot of fun. The following advice is tailored towards theater auditions but you can use the spirit of the advice for whatever audition you are going for, whether it be for a role as a singer in a band, for a cruise ship entertainer or for American Idol!

Now when you get to the audition please be prompt if not early, believe me, it may not seem like it but they notice. Those people handing out pencils and audition forms are probably great friends with the director and most likely help run the theatre you are auditioning for.  Its important to show respect for everyone you meet.

Make sure when you are filling in your audition form be honest.  If you are only willing to be a lead then let them know. There is nothing more disappointing then finding out the person you want to cast in a part says, "sorry, I only wanted a lead role". 

When they ask for conflicts let them know ASAP.  Don’t leave a conflict out because you think you won’t get the part. If they decide they want you they will make it work.  I have seen people get fired for this reason. 

Make sure you have a picture and resume.  A good resume can sometimes make all the difference.  It shows a professional attitude and dedication.  Many community theatres won’t require one but what a difference it can make. 

You will most likely be given a number and put in a room to wait.  In some cases you will wait in a room or theatre with your fellow auditionees, waiting for your turn to dazzle.  This can be a bit disconcerting, but it’s really the best scenario for you.  Imagine you can sit there and study other performers and figure out the things they do well and the things they do not so well. Learning what not to do, can be just as beneficial as all your training. 

When they call your name you will then go to the pianist.  Sometimes this is the music director or it could be someone hired for the day.  Again, it’s important to be respectful.  Say thank you, ask if they are familiar with the song.  Show them where you are going to start and finish and they will usually ask you the tempo.  Try and be as brief and to the point as possible.  Show your knowledge but also show respect for the pianist they have been doing this a long time (occasionally you will have exceptions to that rule).

Next, you will go and stand before the director and whomever else he or she has invited to join them in making casting decisions.  Again, please be polite and energetic.  Let the director know through eye contact, posture and energy that you are excited to be auditioning for them.  Some directors will talk with you and want to know more about you.  Be yourself.  Other directors will just want to see what you can do.  They may be tired or overwhelmed by the day.

One thing to keep in mind that many performers don’t realize is that directors want to like you.  They are rooting for you to be good.  They are behind you to do well.  How great for a director to be able to say,  “there he is, that is the guy I was waiting all day for!!”  Its amazing how nervous people can get themselves who have so much talent.  Well, that’s okay, less competition for you. 

Now its time to sing.  You nod at your accompanist , you take a deep breath, you become your character and you transport yourself and whoever is listening into your world for just a minute.  Well, sometimes you only have 16 bars to do it in. So, again your song choice is going to be very important.  You have to wow them in a short span of time.

You have to be willing to pay your dues and the best piece of advice I can ever give a fellow performer is to be flexible.  If they ask you to stay and work on something, do it. Always be kind and respectful to people, not only will you earn a reputation of being someone easy to work with, but you never know who will suddenly be in a position to give you your next job.  Your goal is to continue working and build your resume.  The best position to be in is when they start calling you, instead of the other way around.

Now, being reliable, flexible and an all around great person to work with is going to get you far.  You would be amazed to find out how often a person with great talent loses out on a job because of a bad reputation.  The cliché that "it's small world" is absolutely true.

1 Photo by Brent Murray

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