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How to Select Your Audition Song

How do you select an audition song? Is there a right way and a wrong way? Is there a good and a better way in making your selection? The reality is that selecting your audition song is as much of an art as the craft of the musical theatre itself. A well chosen selection can go a long way toward landing you the role.

Before we continue, we need to acknowledge that there are two schools of thought among auditors (casting directors). The first says that you must never sing a song from the show that you are auditioning to gain admittance into the cast. The second says that you are only allowed to sing songs from the show that is being cast. So your first job is to determine which school of thought your casting director falls into and proceed from there.  Usually, if they fall into the second they will make it clear in the announcement.  Still, if it is from the second that says only songs from the show being cast then a lot of your work is done for you and you can skip to tip number three.

So how do you select an audition song? Here are some tips that should help you make better choices:

  1. If possible, know the show you are auditioning for before you choose a song and unless it is an audition for a season of shows that have not yet been announced it is almost always possible with everything that is available today. The music you choose to perform needs to match the show you are doing both in style (rock / classical / light / jazz / etc.) and in tone. Performing something from Annie in an audition for a roll in Miss Saigon, for example will not serve you well. 

  2. Consider a choice by the same composer from another (but similar) show. This shows that you can sing in the style and demands of this particular composer.

  3. Choose a song that moves you emotionally. You have to make an emotional connection on stage with the song and other characters on stage (though they will only be on stage in your mind during the audition) that the auditor can see and a song that you connect with will help you to do so.

  4. Choose a song that displays your vocal range and ability - but be careful that you don't overreach your abilities, you want to show that you can give a great performance of a song not simply perform a great song!

  5. Find a song that you can perform completely. Your voice teacher should be able to advise you at this point. What this means is that the entirety of the song is in your vocal range. Even in situations where they only ask for sixteen bars directors have been known to ask performers to go back and sing the entire song. Be ready to wow them.

  6. Consider great songs from musicals that have been forgotten or have fallen into disuse. Most of these have great music.

  7. Choose a song written for your own gender.

  8. Avoid 'signature' songs such as Memory from Cats. Unless you can sing it better than Elaine Page or sing Defying Gravity better than Idina Menzel you are wisest not to try as the casting directors will be hearing that signature performance in their head along side your performance and you will not measure up.

  9. Avoid overdone songs. There are a handful of songs that casting directors hear over and over again. These are usually dynamic songs that are worth doing but the directors are tired of hearing them so it is best to find another song where you can stand out as an fresh and exciting performer.

Note:  Experienced performers should always maintain at least two audition songs in readiness.  You never know when  an opportunity to audition will occur or when a director will ask to hear something else so know the songs and have sheet music and / or accompaniment (as dictated by the theatre company) with you when you go to any audition.  This is rarely necessary in a children's theatre or school theatre organization.

Selecting an audition song is both harrowing and exciting. Do your homework carefully, choose the song that your preparation leads you to, then commit and practice it so that you can perform it with all your heart at the audition.









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