Audition season is officially upon us. Whether you have a sibling at college, or a friend at Plymouth North, thousands of young singers are belting and power-ballad-ing their way through September, hoping to be the four or five chosen new members of their favorite
a cappella group. It's one of my favorite times of year because I get the privilege of hearing dozens of young people share their gift and love of music in an incredibly risky but brave setting! I mean, do you know anyone who doesn't find auditions a little frightening?
What I'd like to do is take a little bit of the edge off your audition prep by (hopefully) give you some tips or pointers to help you choose, prepare, and slay your audition. I'll also be talking a bit about what exactly I'll be looking for from each singer and how you'll be evaluated.
Choosing A Song
Aside from the audition itself, this might be the most intimidating part of anyone's audition. I mean, there are literally thousands of songs out there to choose from! How to even start? Here are some suggestions based both on my experience singing a cappella and directing a cappella groups, as well as some tips I found from some reliable websites:
1. Know Thyself
It's not just important to know what you like to sing, but it's even better to know what feels good to sing. If you're auditioning with a song that's in an R&B style but you're more of a pop or rock singer, move on to a different song. If you don't know your voice all that well yet, stick with what you know and what you've been singing for a while, even if it's not an ideal song choice. The whole point is that you can sing comfortably and own your audition.
2. Know Your Song
Inside-out, outside-in, backward, forward, spoken, and sung. And don't just know the words! Know what the song's about, know what it means to you. Why are you even singing it? Just because you think it'll land you points? If you're singing a song that you don't know, it'll show. You'll also be more nervous because you're trying to remember lyrics, or you're trying to convey a message you may not be sure of.
3. Know Your Audience
Most contemporary a cappella groups sing contemporary pop songs. That means you should try to shy away from classical, standard musical theatre, barbershop, or other unrelated styles. If you're really stuck, the internet is an amazing place and YouTube has thousands of videos from contemporary a cappella groups. Just get some ideas from them!
Owning Your Audition
So you've chosen your song, you've learned it inside-out, you've thought about its meaning and what you want to say in your audition. Now it's time to execute.
1. Ask For A Starting Pitch
I've been in an alarming number of auditions in which the singer didn't ask for a starting pitch! There's nothing wrong with asking the person or people auditioning you for a starting pitch so you can start your song on the right note, in the right key, and own it from the first pitch.
2. Don't Try to Be Someone You're Not
One of the most important elements you bring to your audition...is YOU! We're all looking for good singers and talented students, but we're also looking for people that will make up an ensemble who will spend the next year together learning and sharing music with their audience. It's essential that you bring yourself into your audition and own who you are. Do that, and you'll instantly make an impression on your judge/s.
3. Dress Like This Audition Is Important To You
No one's asking for a suit and tie, or a dress. Be yourself, but be the best version of yourself you can be. Standing out from the crowd is difficult at an audition, and you want to be memorable not just for your song, but for your personality and style. As much as we may not like it, appearance matters!
Ok, I'm Done, How'd I Do?
Different judges look for different things when evaluating singers, but we all try to go by three basic elements:
1. Pitch Accuracy
This element almost speaks for itself. In short: Did you hit all the notes? How accurate were they? Did you stay on key throughout your audition? Were there a few notes that were a bit wonky? A few missed notes won't make or break your audition, but it does give the judges a good idea of who can hold down a part on their own and who may need a little help, which is fine!
2. Rhythmic Accuracy
Again, this one's pretty simple. Were rhythms consistent with the song? Did you take some liberties and, if so, did they work? Was the tempo consistent throughout?
3. Stylistic Choice
This one's a bit trickier, but basically: Did you sing a style that worked for your voice? Were the style choices you made effective? Again, if you decide to sing a gospel song, was it a good choice for your vocal style and range?
For more advice on auditioning for a cappella ensembles, or for other performance opportunities, feel free to follow the links below!
Best of luck and I'm looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible this Wednesday!
CASA: Choosing An Audition Song
CASA: What I Wish You Knew Auditioning
The Voice Club: Killer Singing Audition Cheat Sheet