Auditions can be scary affairs! I’m speaking from experience. I’ve done a few auditions with varying degrees of success. In fact, one BIG audition, for Disney. Mary Poppins was the show & it was my 2nd time auditioning for one of their shows as they had asked to see me based on my first audition for Lion King (that I didn’t get). I had to sing a crazy high note & in a vocal style I wasn’t comfortable. I ended up having a mild panic attack just while driving to the audition & bailed on it! I just kept driving….sigh.
I used to also be a tad on the conservative side. Not letting the real me that would tear it up on stage, show in that less than performance like environment.
So here I am with my tips on how to NOT repeat my mistakes auditioning. There are many different kinds of auditions but these tips mainly relate to a singing audition. However you could apply these to most auditions.
Auditions can be stressful, as mentioned, I know!! Be prepared so you can eliminate tension that could compromise your performance. Remember to also keep an open mind if you are given feedback. Use any constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn. Be as mentally prepared as you are vocally ready & you will have a great audition experience. Here are some tips that may help.
Submitting an online audition
1. Read the audition info – make sure you know all the details of the audition & that you are what they are looking for.
2. Shoot/Frame your face – Because you are applying for a singing job, a headshot should be fine. You can video a full length frame but usually the face will be portraying & delivering the emotion when you sing.
3. Use your cellphone (the camera on most smartphones are amazing), your webcam or a DSLR digital camera (you can hire or borrow if you don’t have one). Audition submissions are rarely expecting professional quality so don’t go crazy! If using an iPhone, be sure to hold it in landscape mode (horizontally, with the lens toward the top). Otherwise your video will either be very narrow or sideways when it’s viewed (even though you won’t notice this on your iPhone, since it automatically rotates the video). If you’re using a webcam, use your camera’s software to increase the video frame rate to the maximum (30 fps minimum ideally) otherwise your video could look a bit choppy.
4. Use good lighting – natural light coming at you is best. Have the sun/light in front of you i.e. facing a window that allows a good amount of evenly distributed light on your face.
5. Angle – try to get front on at head & shoulders level.
6. Make up – keep it natural as you can always get your stage face on to impress at a later stage if needed. You can book a make up artist or you can check out Youtube tutorials for help if you do it yourself.
7. Check the sound – test that there is no distortion & that the backing music or accompaniment is not drowning your voice out.
8. Background – a plain wall behind you is ideal. Avoid anything in the background that will distract from your performance especially other people or movement.
9. Move naturally – look at the camera lens NOT yourself if you can see yourself on the screen.
10. Generally keep the song under 3 minutes (unless told otherwise) & avoid doing audio or video edits to ’tidy’ things up with effects like auto tune or reverb! Natural is best!
11. Compress the file (use Handbrake) & upload it to YouTube or Vimeo then you can attach a link to your submission. You can also upload to Dropbox or Google Drives. Just make it super simple for your video to be accessed using a universal format like mp4.
Preparing for an audition
1. Again, make sure you know what is required from you for the audition. If no guidelines are given, it is a great idea to prepare two songs of contrasting tempos (one slow, one fast) & even contrasting styles if you want to show off your versatility. Pick songs that highlight your uniqueness & that you enjoy singing!
2. Pick songs that you are familiar with & are in a good key to showcase your voice if choosing your own or allow extra time if you have to learn new material.
3. Practice your audition to camera & review or in front of friends or family & ask for feedback. Tweak, keep practicing & reviewing until you are ready!
4. Memorise all your lyrics – cheat sheets are not a good look & will disadvantage you
5. Prepare your bio & headshot to take (even if not asked for, have one with you just in case)
6. Find out if you need to bring charts (lead sheet with chord changes or written out accompaniment), backing tracks or rarely, your own accompanist. Check first & find out what production is provided. If you are using charts make sure they are well presented (tape seperate pages together) & easy for the accompanist to read. They also need to be in the right key for you. DO NOT ask the musician to transpose the key on the spot!
Be prepared to count the tempo in. Practice this! If anything goes wrong or sounds different than you are used to, avoid giving dirty looks at the accompanist! Be courteous & gracious, they are there to help you!
7. If using a backing track, bring on both two different formats ie: CD & a data stick or email in advance. Don’t assume that music will be available to you at the audition. Try to edit out long instrumental segments & if you have a time limit stick to it! Consider editing the song to skip repeated elements (extra choruses) & get you to the money notes (in the bridge or end of the song) to showcase any strong moments (high notes or embellishments)
8. Avoid preparing an acapella piece as it is more helpful to hear you working with an instrument unless you are asked to specifically.
On the day
1. Warm up – before you audition! If you have an early morning audition – get to bed early & wake up early enough to give yourself adequate warm up time. Ie; 8am audition, start humming by 6am! If for some reason you can’t do this – try to get to your audition 45 minutes early to warm up (ask in advance if there is a warm up area or use the universal green room, the bathroom if appropriate.
2. Arrive early – at least 15 minutes before your slot, plan for traffic & parking so that you are in the building ready to sing 15 minutes prior.
3. Be prepared – Have your headshot & resume ready along with anything else you need to bring (water!!!, music, backing tracks)
4. Dress appropriately – something that you can move in if you’re asked to do some basic dance moves or shows who you are as an artist. Putting effort into your appearance, getting gig ready, can help you get into the zone in that sterile audition environment!
5. Be rehearsed – with whatever piece you are auditioning with. Reading lyrics or being unprepared is a sure fire sign that either you are lacking organisational skills or have a problem with nerves if you have learnt the material but freak out on the spot!
6. Be confident – from the minute you walk in the room cos first impressions count. Smile & acknowledge everyone in the room & introduce yourself before the audition kicks off “ Hi, I’m Cherie Mathieson & I’m singing…..(insert your song choices)”
7. Movement – If there’s a mark for you to stand on (there may be an ‘X’ taped on the floor for you), start there & move naturally within an arms length away from your mark in each direction especially if you are being videoed. Avoid going up to the audition table or including/mentioning the audition panel in the song – it can come across cheesy! (I’ve seen it happen!). Remember smaller rooms require less movement & big spaces may need more. Microphones may or may not be used in auditions so be prepared for either situation.
8. Eye contact – you do want to connect with the panel but apply the 90/10 rule: 90% of the time you are thinking about what you are singing (lyrics, imagery) & connecting with the song whilst looking at the panel’s FOREHEADS!10% of the time you can make eye contact. Too much eye contact can be uncomfortable for you & the panel!
9. Don’t apologise – if you make a mistake, just keep going. Avoid giving excuses or say you are unwell (even if you are!) or feel you are not at your best. Do your best, as is on the day or don’t do the audition if you are not up too representing yourself at your best.
10. Once you are finished – you can ask when you will expect to hear back. Say “thank you”, grab what you brought into the room & leave. Avoid asking how you did or for feedback as the audition team may need time to think about your performance & make notes.
After an audition
If you do receive feedback, take it on board so you can do better at your next audition. Don’t take it too personally if you are not right for what you’re auditioning for. Learn from the experience & upskill if your singing technique, nerves or lack of preparation let you down. You can be sure you’ll be ready for the next opportunity.
If you are looking for an opportunity to practice your audition skills, Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park are currently taking submissions for this years show! All the details are here: https://www.coke.co.nz/christmas-in-the-park/auditions. Audition submissions close 29th of July at 5pm so get into it!
As you may know, I was the artistic director for this show the last two years (I’ve retired now & am focussing on my vocal coaching biz & serving my gorgeous Big Notes Get Votes community) & came away from the entire process with a desire to share my knowledge to anyone who needed help with what I call “Going Pro”.
So I’ve seen been on both sides of the auditioning fence & I hope these insiders tips help you!
If you have any questions, yell out.
Happy Auditioning – go get ‘em!