Picking a Song for an Audition

Selecting the right song for an audition significantly affects your chances of getting a call-back. Whether you plan to audition for jazz, rock, blues, or opera, you must research appropriate music for the group. Personal preference may also play a role in the selection of music, but ultimately, you should play to the tastes and requirements of the group holding the audition. Some preparatory work and research make it possible to select an appropriate song.

The Ensemble

Learn about the ensemble holding the audition. Determine the style of music and what role you will perform. For example, a group that hires Broadway singers will likely want to hear music from Broadway and may be looking for a singer with range and versatility. If you audition for a choir, you should choose pieces demonstrating your ability to blend and serve as a soloist. If opera is the goal, you'll want to focus primarily on solo works. Listen to performances of the ensemble ahead of time so that you can determine the style they are looking for. 

Range and Capabilities

Assess your range and capabilities. The song you select is one of the few parts of an audition you have control over. Select a song that shows off your range and capabilities. Don’t choose a technical piece if you sing best with lyrical songs. If you have a high range, select a piece demonstrating that range. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you select a work that makes sense for your current ability. An audition may include sight-singing and prepared pieces, so if you can choose your own song, this allows them to gauge your range and capabilities more effectively. 


Prepare a song you can sing from memory. Memorize the song well in advance to reduce the possibility of forgetting your words in the middle of the piece. If you have trouble memorizing songs, don’t pick an overly complicated song. If you have great difficulty with memorization, select a piece with repetitive phrases to minimize the memorization you must complete. Memory can be improved, and it would be beneficial to start memorizing every song you are working through. Even if there isn't enough time to help you with the next audition, memorizing a piece ensures you have thoroughly learned the work and will gradually increase your ability to remember more complex works. 

Music theory can help you memorize a work. By learning to identify the major sections, types of phrases, chord progressions, and other "pillars" of a composition, you can better keep track of where you are in the music. You don't need an extensive understanding of music theory, but you should be able to identify certain progressions by ear. Many times, the beginning of a phrase will stay the same and the second part of a phrase will change. Music theory can also help you interpret a work. 

Difficulty Level

Select a song that is difficult enough to show off your expertise and minimize any weaknesses but not so difficult that you are prone to making a mistake in the audition. Remember that the judges expect you to have this piece well rehearsed. Consider another song if you have a song that shows off your high range but exposes a weaker low range. In most cases, the difficulty level is less important than the quality of your voice and interpretation. Learn more about how composers write music and listen to other performances to start creating your own interpretation. 

When assessing the difficulty level, you should also determine the appropriate style for the piece. Don't simply add an articulation or play a repeated section differently for the sake of making a piece less repetitive. You must understand the style and time period of any piece you perform. Conduct research with every new song you sing, and you'll find that your ability to perform future works will improve. Every audition is a chance to test yourself; even a failed audition should be considered a success. The fact that you made it to the audition and learned from the experience offers invaluable training. 

Practicing the Song

When you practice your song, start slowly and aim to avoid making mistakes. If you make a mistake, slow down and perform it five times correctly without making a mistake. The brain doesn’t differentiate between a mistake and the intended outcome very well, so you should aim to perform the piece correctly every time no matter how slow you take the piece. Take some time to map out the phrases, and sing one phrase at a time until you sing perfectly. You should also record yourself to listen to your performance and make tweaks as needed. Avoid starting from the beginning every time you practice the piece. Breaking the song into different sections and phrases can allow you to dedicate time to each and learn the piece more thoroughly. 

Performance Anxiety

If you have anxiety, feeling confident that you can perform the piece will help you improve your ability. Some performers flex every muscle in their body and then release the tension to relieve stress. It's essential to find ways to deal with your anxiety, and you may find that meditation, exercise, or finding outlets outside of music can help improve your ability to perform. Remember that singing is simply a creative outlet, and your experiences in life can improve your ability to perform. For severe cases of anxiety beyond performance anxiety, you may need to work with a doctor to discover the best course of action. 

Making a mistake could make the judges lose confidence in your ability. However, if you keep singing and don’t get flustered by your error, it will show that you have competent performance skills. Look through several pieces before making a final decision. Don't apologize for any mistakes you make when you perform the audition. If you make a mistake, keep going and don't draw attention to your errors. A judge will be less forgiving if you need to start over than if you sang through the entire piece without stopping. Treat the audition like a performance, and take a brief moment to center yourself before you begin. 


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