As music director and music supervisor for many West End musicals and now currently working as a conductor with the Vereinigten Bühnen Wien I have spent much time over the years sitting on the other side of the desk - also with Jacqui Dunnley-Wendt of MCE shows - and would like to take this opportunity to share my feelings and opinions about what I consider to be good preparation and execution of a singing audition.
Paul Christ’s 20 tips how to prepare for a singing audition
- Be prepared! This seems really obvious but make sure that you know what’s expected of you. Show up early and be prepared to sing straight away.
- Be in good voice. If you haven’t sung in a while, you can’t expect to go into a singing audition and perform well. Singing every day is essential for keeping your voice healthy and strong.
- Know the Show. In musical theatre, there’s no excuse for not being familiar with the show you’re auditioning for. When preparing your audition material never sing something from the show you’re auditioning for, unless you’re specifically asked to. On the other hand, choose a song that’s similar in style and range to the character you’re auditioning for.
- Always give yourself plenty of time to learn your audition material. Rehearse with a pianist and don’t solely rely on learning from a recording since that version may be considerably different from the sheet music you have. Never audition without the music! If you make a mistake while singing, do not stop! An audition is like a performance; just keep going and do not let your face or body language reveal the fact that you’ve made a mistake. Oh, and never glare at the pianist!
- Never sing a Capella. Don’t choose a song that’s notoriously difficult for a pianist to play. Know your lyrics and your music; do not hold a cheat sheet or the sheet music, and don’t look over the pianist’s shoulder. Although this may seem obvious, choose a song that suits you. Many singers do not.
- Have properly prepared sheet music. Make sure it’s written out in the right key, and that any tempo changes, and change in musical directions are all clearly marked. Never give a pianist sheet music in the form of a music book. That makes it too difficult to turn the pages. Make a photocopy of your song, and tape the edges together accordion fashion. When you hand the pianist your music, make sure you smile and say hello. Give them a good idea of the tempo by singing a few bars quietly for them. If there are tempo changes or the like, point them out.
- Enter the audition with confidence – first impressions are key here. Keep good posture and walk with confidence, even if you’re terrified!
- Don’t apologise. Not for any reason. Make no excuses. Always be professional.
- Dress for an audition in a smart/casual way. Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes, or something that’s too tight. Don’t come in costume and don’t reveal too much! If you’re called back, wear the same outfit you wore the first day, and wear your hair and makeup the same way too. They liked what they saw…so don’t change it! In a large audition, wearing the same outfit also makes it easier for the panel to remember you.
- Be friendly but don’t be overly talkative. Smile and be personable.
- When you sing, just stand there and sing. Never do choreography or blocking to accompany your song. Don’t wander around. But do use hand and arm movements providing they are natural. This is no time to be shy, so sing out and give a performance.
- Never Snap your fingers or clap your hands at the pianist. Even is you’re just trying to help them with the tempo. Keep your hands out of your pockets.
- Good luck! The more you can audition the easier it gets.
Preparing to sing (not only in a singing audition)
- Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. This gives the air a chance to warm and moisturise before hitting your larynx and lungs
- Do not lose body heat. 70-80% of body heat-loss happens through the neck and head so wear a hat and scarf even in mildly cool weather. This helps keep your vocal muscles warm.
- Drink plenty of water. Both outside cold air and indoor heating and cooling systems can be very drying on the voice. If your throat is dry keep the fluids up, take a long warm shower (or even better a visit to a steam room) and do not talk. This will reduce any swelling to the vocal chords.
- A warm drink will help warm areas around the larynx, but remember that caffeine is a diuretic and can dry you out.
- Warm up wisely. It’s advisable to begin every day with some humming and light vocal exercises (it’s like stretching muscles before a gym workout). Ask your singing teacher or vocal coach to record a vocal warm up tailored to your needs.
Singing in public
- Choose the right song and make it work. In order to connect with your audience you’re going to need to connect with the song itself. Be sure to select something that you enjoy singing, and equally important – understand what the song is about. The next layer to add is your own interpretation to the song and what exactly it is you want to say.
- Posture and body language. Remember that your posture can increase or decrease the quality of your vocal production and your body language (especially your facial expressions) enhances the story you want to tell, so use these to your advantage. If you are not sure how you come across when you sing, then this is something to work on with your vocal coach and then practise in front of the mirror and family and friends! It’s all part of the performance. Keep your shoulders down and relax your jaw and breathe!
Paul Christ was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, later taking up a place at the Royal College of Music in London. He furthered his conducting studies with the opera conductor Jacques Delacôte in Vienna. In 1989 Paul founded the London Arts Orchestra and conducted many classical concerts in Europe, making his Barbican Hall debut in 1992. Paul has also conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Danish National Radio Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Musical Theatre credits include ‘Mary Poppins’ (Original West End production), ‘The Producers’ (Original West End production with Nathan Lane), Music Supervisor for Disney’s original Broadway production of Beauty & The Beast in Korea, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, 'Miss Saigon' (National Tours), ‘The King & I’ (with Elaine Paige at London Palladium) 'Beauty & The Beast' (UK National Tour), 'Miss Saigon' (Original West End production), 'Les Misérables' (Supervisor & MD Original West End), 'Les Misérables' (National Tour), 'Phantom of the Opera' (Supervisor & MD National Tour), 'Cabaret', 'Little Shop of Horrors', 'Iolanthe', 'Fiddler on the Roof' (Bloomsbury Theatre), 'My Fair Lady' (European Tour) 'Carmen Jones' (European Tour) 'Camelot' (Covent Garden Festival).