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Hi, I’m Roger Love, celebrity voice coach and top-selling author. I’m working to make the world a better place, one singing voice at a time, starting with yours!
I’ve been really fortunate to spend the last thirty years coaching numerous celebrities and Grammy winners from my studios in New York and Los Angeles. During that time, I’ve seen every possible angle of auditions—from behind the curtain prepping students to being in the audience as a decision maker determining who gets the part.
From that 360-degree view, let me tell you something that I saw countless times during auditions that just broke my heart. A singer with a great voice would come in and make a mistake with his or her accompaniment track (the music that plays in the background while they sing). And because of those mistakes, they’d mess themselves up, start in the wrong place, sing off key, get confused, or even try to stop the audition to fix the music. The end result was always the same: they lost out on the opportunity.
I’m here to help you be the best and most successful singer you can be. So I never want to hear that you had a bad audition because you made mistakes with your accompaniment track.
Since many new singers think that the accompaniment track is just a minor detail in an audition, I’ll emphasize the importance of it with a slight biblical twist. Here’s what I consider to be the five commandments for preparing your audition song accompaniment track.
I. Thou Shalt Not Forget Thy Accompaniment Track
Believe me, this happens all the time with beginning singers. Unless you’re performing a capella—meaning, without any music at all—you need to actually bring your music to your auditions. That can be in the form of sheet music, a CD or on an MP3 player. Check the audition announcement to see if the audition host will be providing an accompanist, like a pianist, or not.
If they’re providing a pianist, you may need to bring printed sheet music. If you need help getting that, don't be afraid to seek it out. Look in your city, online, or find people who help with sheet music for auditions, lead sheets, or copying services. Contact them and say, “I’m preparing an audition song and need a lead sheet for it. Can you help?” It’s not expensive and can save you endless hours of frustration and searching by trying to do it all on your own. If you search online first, you’re likely to find plenty of websites that’ll put the music in any key you want.
If the audition host isn’t providing an accompanist, you’ll need to bring a CD or MP3 player with your song on it.
II. Thou Shalt Edit Thy Audition Song
Your accompaniment track—no matter the format—needs to be in your key, the exact way you sing it, starting where you begin the song, cutting out any parts of the song you skip, and ending exactly where you want to finish. If you’re using sheet music, these edits are not too difficult to make but they need to be clearly marked on the music.
Lots of people break this commandment with CD or MP3 versions of their accompaniment track. Because they don’t have the editing tools, they try to just perform the full three- or four-minute recorded version of a song. That frustrates the heck out of the people holding the audition and they’ll usually cut you off before you have a chance to show them how special you really are. Please don’t let this happen to you! Look online for editing software or professional services that can help you edit the song exactly the way you want it.
III. Thou Shalt Properly Prepare Thy
Sheet Music for Thy Gracious Pianist
If the audition host provides an accompanist, it’s your job to make their job as easy as possible. If you get your sheet music from the Internet and print it out, don’t come in with loose pages! I’ve seen too many singers come in with a stack of disconnected pages, hand them to the pianist, and the pianist just starts playing what you gave them, even if all the pages are in the wrong order. You can imagine how badly that turns out!
Avoid this catastrophe by taping your pages together so that the accompanist can just stick your music up on the piano and start playing without losing, or turning, or flipping anything. If your song is only two-pages long, tape them together like a book. If it’s longer, tape them like an accordion.
IV. Thou Shalt Not Anger Thy Technical Crew
If there’s no pianist present, there will likely be a technical assistant handling your music when your name is called or when you arrive and register. Just like with the accompanist, it’s your job to make that person’s job as easy as possible.
Here’s the common audition scenario that breaks this commandment: Singers hand over a CD with a bunch of songs on it, tell the tech crew to play Song 18, stand on their mark, and as soon as they hear sound coming from the speakers, they start belting out their song. About three seconds later, they realize it’s the wrong track! So they stop, freak out, and yell to the technician, “No, that’s the wrong song! Can you please play Track 18?…”
This is embarrassing, looks unprofessional, and frustrates the people running the audition. The last thing we want is for you to be labeled with adjectives like “embarrassing,” “unprofessional,” and “frustrating.”
Instead, bring a CD or playlist with only your song that starts and ends exactly where you want. You can bring a karaoke CD, your smart phone with the playlist on it, or whatever MP3 player you have. Just make sure that whatever format you choose, there’s nothing but your song on it.
And don’t forget to bring any connection cables your device needs or read the audition notice carefully to see if they’ll be provided by the host. Then, remember to outsmart your smart devices, if necessary. Carry a power cable and make sure that the device is fully charged (and in silent mode!) before you walk in. Finally, did you remember to write your name on your sheet music or label your CD so your disc doesn’t get mixed up in the pile? Take care of those details before you arrive to help clear your mind and focus on your singing as you wait to perform.
Here's the fifth and final commandment: thou shall not forget these commandments! Obey them in every audition you go to from now on. And share these audition commandments with your friends and fellow singers. When they follow these as well, everyone’s auditions can run on schedule and be more enjoyable.
You’ve worked so hard to make your voice sound great. It’s not worth losing a callback because you were careless with your sheet music or CD! Remember to share your audition success stories with me in the comments section or @RogerLove1. Break a leg!