We've all experienced this - making fun of the guy at the karaoke mic, who's straining every muscle in his body to reach the notes in the middle of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and absolutely butchering Freddie Mercury. And what do we say to one another when he's done? "Why did he pick that song to sing???"
Poor song choice. It happens to everyone. It must be stopped!
In an audition, your song choice can mean the difference between receiving a call-back or not. Sometimes it can even mean not being cast at all. That's an extreme situation, but the point is that the selection of your audition song shows the casting folks more than just what your voice sounds like. Ideally, all musical theater actors should have an audition book, with appropriate songs for any and all auditions. But if you don't have an audition book, or if you're just starting to build one, here are some things to keep in mind when searching for music:
1. Pick something you enjoy singing. If you like the song you chose, you will be more relaxed, comfortable and confident in your audition. And those are all things that directors and musical directors like to see. There is never a point to bringing a song you don't like to an audition.
2. Choose a song that best fits the musical/role that you are auditioning for. This means doing a little homework. You don't necessarily have to research the whole show, but you should have a general idea of the plot, especially where it pertains to the role you're auditioning for. If the show or character is dark in nature, you don't want to walk in with a peppy, happy song. It just doesn't fit for the audition. Moreover, it sends an instant message to those evaluating you, that you didn't put a lot of preparation into your audition. You may sound great, but you'd better hope that gets you a call-back. And such is not always the case. A little preparation goes a long way.
3. Read the audition notice. There's generally a lot of great information there, that will make choosing the right song a lot easier for you. Look for words like 'upbeat', 'ballad', and 'in the style of the show'. Also see if it specifies '16 measures' or '32 measures'. You never know how many other people have seen the audition notice and are planning to be there. If there are a lot of other actors also auditioning, the directors may only have time to hear a portion of your song, instead of the whole thing. This is a good lead in to tip #4 ...
4. Choose a section of your song that you feel best highlights your voice. If the directors don't have time to hear your entire song, be ready to present only that part of the song you REALLY want them to hear. It would be awful if you started to sing and, in the interest of time, the director cut you off before you got a chance to hit that "money note".
5. If you can, have a second song ready to go. Sometimes a director might ask, "What else do you have?", not because you didn't give a good audition, but because they would just like to hear something else - something different. If you can walk in with two songs, great! If not, don't fret. If you're starting to build your audition book, or if you already have one, this is a no-brainer. Simply ask your accompanist to flip through your book and choose something, as your book is filled with appropriate songs that you enjoy singing, right?
So there you have it. If you follow these five steps, you will stroll into every audition confident, prepared, and ready to wow your directors. Now go get 'em!