Choosing the Right Audition Song
Auditioning for a part in a musical can seem daunting, but there is no need to be fearful, when you are prepared. One thing that can really help your confidence is finding the right song to use in your audition. When I first started my musical theater journey, I had no idea where to start when it came to an audition song. What type of song did they want me to sing? Was my favorite song I heard on the radio okay to use? Or is there some secret that I wasn’t aware of, that everyone else seemed to know. When I asked around, most my friends would tell me to just use whatever song I wanted or felt comfortable singing. I would then end up feeling uncomfortable at the audition, because I didn’t know if I was doing it right.
When reading an audition announcement, it seemed every theater was different in what they wanted performers to do. For example, a theater might request a certain number of bars, and say they will provide an accompanist. Sometimes, instead of an accompanist, they ask performers to bring a track on a CD. Other audition announcements are even more vague.
For the sake of anyone embarking on their theatre journey for the first time, and who might be just as lost as I was when I began, I will start with some of the basic terms you will need to know and go from there.
Sheet Music: Printed music, as opposed to recorded or performed music.
Bars: In musical notation, a bar is a method of separating a song into smaller parts. Musicians call the divided parts “measures” and the vertical lines that separate them are called “bars.” Musical theater folks use the term “bars” to refer to the number of measures in a song.
Vocal Range: The span from the lowest to the highest note a particular voice can produce in the context of singing.
Audition cut: When a theater asks you to prepare a 16 bar audition cut, they are asking you to prepare only a small portion of a song so they can hear what your voice sounds like and get a feel for your abilities as an actor.
Accompanist: An accompanist is someone who will be playing the sheet music you bring in.
Track: A vocal track is simply instrumental music without anyone singing; in other words, a karaoke song.
Now the fun part begins; choosing the right song.
Yes, it’s true people audition with all kinds of songs when they first start out. I've heard people sing “Happy Birthday,” Christmas songs, church songs, pop songs, and even commercial jingles, but songs such as these might not be the best to use. When auditioning for a musical, a song from another musical that will show off your vocal range and talent is usually a better choice. The first question to ask is what kind of character are you auditioning to play? Suppose that you were trying out for the part of Cinderella. A song with a lot of sass and belting such as “Poor Unfortunate Souls” sung by Ursula the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid, might not really be your best choice. Instead, choose something sweet that shows off your soprano range like “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady. Choosing a song that fits your vocal range as well as that of the role you are auditioning for can help the director see you as a clear fit for the part.
Another important consideration when choosing a song is whether or not the song is age-appropriate. Can you relate to the lyrics of the song you’ve chosen? When I was 10 years old, I sang “Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie when auditioning for Annie. “Gimme Cupid’s famous arrow… gimme, gimme that thing called love,” wasn’t exactly anything I could relate to at that age. It also showed the directors I didn’t understand the part for which I was auditioning.
So where do you find a good song choice to use for your audition? Since I'm a young actress myself, I’ve put together two lists of 30 songs for boys and girls . If the songs are new to you, check out Youtube or Spotify and have a listen. Once you think you’ve found the perfect song, you will need to find the sheet music (link below!) and a vocal track. I’ve found that some songs are harder to find vocal tracks for than others, so be flexible when making your choice. The Singer’s Musical Theatre Anthologies (with CDs) are another good place to find both of these. Once you have your sheet music in hand, decide on an audition cut that best showcases your voice.
A tip I’ve learned along the way that you might want to keep in mind: I highly suggest you avoid singing songs from Wicked, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Frozen, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Don’t get me wrong, some of the songs found in these shows are among my very favorites, but they’re everyone else’s favorites too. I’ve heard from directors that it makes them crazy when they hear the same songs over, and over, and over, AND OVER. So think about choosing a song that’s unique and will set you apart, and save your favorite popular songs for crooning away in the shower. Or maybe bust them out at the Ghost Light Vocal Jam!
Once you've done your research, found the perfect song, and chosen your bars, then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. And, check out Molly's post about audition accompanists.
You might still be nervous at your audition, but you'll be ready. Get in there and kill it!
-A kid who likes to shimmer, shine, sparkle, and glimmer!
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