Preparing the Music for Your Audition

Preparing music for auditions is a tricky game. Notebook preparation is a big part of your audition success. If your music is easy to read and the accompanist plays it well, your audition will run smoothly.

It’s common in all types of auditions to have a notebook with songs. For opera and musical theater, you’ll have copies of songs or arias. Other genres, such as pop-rock, R&B, or jazz, require that you either have a copy of the music or create a lead sheet — a sheet with the melody, chord progressions, and lyrics written out for the accompanist.

Your coach can help you prepare this notebook for your auditions, or you can hire your coach to come to the audition with you. Occasionally you’ll be asked to bring a recording instead of sheet music.

The biggest rule of notebook preparation is that whatever is in your notebook or in your bag is fair game at the audition. The audition panel will most likely ask you what you want to sing first. If you sing your favorite song and they ask to hear something else, be sure that your notebook of audition songs doesn’t include a song you haven’t rehearsed.

You’ll be giving your notebook to the audition pianist to play from, and he may flip through your notebook and suggest one of those unprepared songs as you’re handing out your resume or talking to the other people in the room. You don’t want to have to say that it’s not ready.

Keep all your songs that are ready in one notebook and the songs that are works in progress in another. To prepare your songs for your audition notebook, follow these guidelines:

  • Punch holes in the music and insert the pages into a three-ring notebook. Put the sheets back to back, just like they appear in a book, and punch the holes or copy the music double-sided. When turning the page, the accompanist should see two new pages of music, just like a book. Tape (don’t staple!) the sheets together on the top and bottom-right corners if your pages aren’t double-sided.

    Another option is to photocopy the song and slip the pages back to back into nonglare sheet protectors. You can purchase these at most office supply stores. Be sure to purchase the nonglare protectors so the lights in the room don’t create a glare off the music.

  • Original scores written by hand are hard to read. When the earlier musical theater shows were written, the composer wrote out the music by hand. Older copies of original scores done by hand are hard to read. If you have to err on the safe side, find a copy of the music that’s a little easier to read.

  • Know when to bring a copy of the song or a lead sheet. Bring a full copy of the song, not a copy from a fake book or lead sheet for opera and musical theater auditions. Books that offer a thousand songs in one book are usually fake books.

    A fake book has only the words, the chord symbols, and the melody line; the accompaniment part isn’t shown. For auditions other than opera and musical theater, bring your lead sheet. You can copy your lead sheet from a fake book or you can ask your coach to help you prepare yours if you want the arrangement of the song to vary from your fake book.

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