Let's get vocal!
This week is all about the vocal audition itself.
Around here, we talk a lot about your audition prep process, your audition book, your daily routines, your goals, and your mindset but today I want to share with you my tips on nailing your actual audition.
Real quick, before I share these tips, let's get a little business out of the way.
Hi! I'm so glad you're here!
I'm Kelly Gabel and I help all performers perfect their audition strategy but my passion is to help career women confidently pursue their musical theater passion without sacrificing balance in their life.
I am so glad you are here and taking the first steps towards taking control of your auditions and more importantly, your audition mindset!
I'm not sure if we've met before or not but just in case this is the first time, I want to make sure you know that I also have the following blogs to help you prepare to NAIL your future auditions:
The Secret Sauce
Don't forget to grab my FREE Confident Audition Cheat Sheet where you will find tips and strategies for preparing for the practical and mindset aspects of auditions while you're here!
Ok, so let's get back to these tips already!
1. Assume you are the first person to ever sing your song
No matter how well known your song is...or even if the worst has happened and the auditioner just before you sang your song 😱 - walk into the room and sing it as though no one has ever sung it before. Don't assume that the panel is comparing you to anyone else. Don't assume that they have any previous context. It is your job to introduce them to this amazing story and amazing character.
This builds on tip #1. This is the first time that the panel is ever hearing this song. They need to understand your words or the story will be completely lost on them. Always remember that your primary goal in the room is to tell a story.
3. Be intentional with your eyes
Have you ever gotten so involved with the emotion of your song that you closed your eyes during your audition? Oh man...I am soooo guilty of this! I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to connect so deeply that you take a quick moment of introspection...but you MUST be aware of it and it has to be an intentional choice. Most importantly, you need to have a way out. Closing your eyes during your performance is similar in many ways to raising your arms. There may be a completely legitimate reason to do either of these things, but you need to know how you are going to get "back to one". Don't get stuck singing the rest of the song with your eyes closed because you hadn't figured out the right moment or motivation to open them again.
4. Know who you are singing to
Have you ever noticed that you change the way you speak depending on who you are talking to? Sometimes it's your tone, sometimes the words you choose, or even your body language. Imagine how powerful that can be if you use it in your audition? **This one you can play around with a bit. Pick a song from your book. Choose 3 different people who could be singing to (you may have to go way out of context on this depending on the song you choose). Video yourself singing it three different times, with very clear, very contrasting audiences in mind. Without actively making different choices, you will naturally give quite different performances.
5. Choose a song you connect to
This is super important! Having a strong emotional connection to your song (positive or negative) is vital if you want to stand out at auditions. Anyone can sing a song well, but if that is your only goal, you will blend in with the crowd. Singing your song well vocally while connecting with the material is what will grab the attention of the creative team.
6. It's ok to speak certain lyrics
This kind of goes hand in hand with the last two. Sometimes the best vocal choice is not to sing. Speaking specific lyrics intentionally can be incredibly effective.
7. Stay optimistic in your character
Ok...so, spoiler alert, sometimes people die in musicals. There, I said it! 😂
Actually, in the BEST musicals, sometimes a LOT of people die! Most likely, though, you won't be singing the song in WHICH they die for your audition (I mean, I guess it's POSSIBLE, but it's unlikely). That being said, be aware that you don't treat the song or your character with negativity based on what you "know" will happen to them later in the show. Remember, you are assuming that you are the first person to ever sing your song, and that means that the creative team doesn't know that your character is going to die. Stay in the moment of the song and tap into the hope and optimism, even when you know it's in vain.
8. Be intentional with your dynamics
This applies musically as well as with your character choices. You want to allow for growth during the performance. If you start your song too loud or too "big" emotionally, then you will have nowhere to go and it will be a stagnant performance. Of course, there are always exceptions where you are singing a cut that starts later in the piece. In that case, you could also start big and "grow" smaller for a more intimate ending. I would use that option sparingly though. While it would make for an appropriately dynamic performance, you typically want to end your audition big rather than small.
9. Sing any song you want if you can sing it best, but if you bring a really well-known song, make sure you have a backup
So I am not someone who is ever going to tell you that there is any song you can't bring to an audition (so long as it's appropriate and showcases your voice well). HOWEVER, if you bring a song that is really well known or was made famous by someone with a very distinct voice *cough, Patti Lupone, Idina Menzel, Barbra Streisand cough*, then I highly suggest you make sure to do two things. 1. Sing the CRAP out of it. 2. Bring a backup song. Number one is obvious. If you are going to set yourself up to be compared to women in that category, then you better show UP and show the panel that you belong in the same category. As for bringing a backup song, you really should have your whole rep book with you anyway, but I would recommend having a backup song in a similar vein as the song you originally presented. Just in case the panel wants to hear you on something that they aren't comparing to someone else.
10. Give yourself time to be alone and focus before your audition
Often at auditions, the waiting area or holding room is full of people chatting and catching up (even in big cities like LA and NY, musical theater is still a small world ;) ) and if it helps you to pass the time and manage your nerves, it's a great idea to join in, meet some new people, and network a bit! However, I highly recommend that you take a few minutes before you actually go in the room and focus on your own. If you have an audition appointment, it will be easier for you to step away without missing your moment. In those cases, I suggest you bring earbuds or headphones so that you can block out the rest of the room for a bit. I personally find that using a Guided Meditation is SUPER helpful. It will help you to focus your mind on the positive, boost your confidence (which, TBH, might have been taking a bit of a hit as you sit in the holding room), and, most importantly, it's timed. The worst thing you can do is try to step away and focus but have to constantly check the time on your phone to make sure you get back in time. When you use a Guided Meditation, you know exactly how long it will take and you can time it perfectly. If you don't have one that you like, I would LOVE to share mine with you! Simply provide me with a little bit of information about you here and I will send it straight to your inbox! **within 24 hours If you are at an open call and you only know you are about to go in when the monitor tells you that you are on deck, then I recommended using the Guided Meditation periodically throughout the waiting period to help you stay focused. When you stand up to get in line after your name is called, simply close your eyes, or focus on the floor, and tap back into the focus and calm that the meditation helps you to achieve.
11. If you don't nail a certain note, or you flub your lyrics, don't "telegraph" that on your face
You will make mistakes. No matter how much you practice or how long you have been auditioning, the wrong lyric will come out of your mouth, or you will hit a dry patch in your voice and you might even crack. Here's the thing, though...99.9% of the time, the panel won't even notice!!! Unless, of course, you point it out to them by acknowledging the mistake with a look on your face. Performing is ALL about perception! Take it from Broadway Legend Leslie Uggams...if you plaster a smile on your face and keep going...no one will notice!!!
12. Be kind and respectful to everyone
I mean, this should just be Life Rule #1, but it's especially important at auditions!! Every director/music director/choreographer I've ever worked with (or interviewed) has stressed how important the auditioner's energy is...they want to cast someone that will be good to work with. This doesn't just start in the room, though. It starts the moment you arrive...even in the parking lot!! You NEVER know who you might have just stolen that parking spot from, after all (or who might have just stolen it from you!)!
13. Find new moments each time
You want to rehearse and be prepared but leave room to be authentic and organic. If you take the time to get in touch with your character as you prep the song, then this should be easy! Plan out the framework of your performance but don't plan every single move. Allow yourself to authentically feel the song each time so that it always feels fresh and genuine.
14. Don't let anyone tell you what you can and cannot sing
This kinda goes hand in hand with an earlier tip, but it bears repeating from a slightly different perspective. Look, I've been coaching singers for a looooong time. Deep down, when you come to me, you already know if you should be singing your song or not. I can help you make the song the best it can be, I can make suggestions for other songs you might want to consider...but ultimately, you need to own your song choice. No song is the "perfect" song to sing...but I can promise you that if you second guess your song or look to someone else to make that decision for you, you are doing yourself a disservice. Absolutely get professional feedback, but don't expect your coach to do all of the work for you. Do your research, come with options, listen to your coach's opinions, but in the end...it's up to you alone.
15. Have a plan to release your tension
My private vocal clients have done some weird things in my home studio at my request to help them release tension! Some are small and barely noticeable like turning your head slowly side to side and some are large and demonstrative. My favorite is what I like to call the "dippy bird". The essential ingredient in all of it, though, is a distraction technique. While you work to trust yourself and your instrument more, it's important to have a plan to help you get out of your own way.
It's time to get ready for your next audition!
'Til next time,