BWW Blog: Robert Marks - What Makes a Good Audition Song?
Wouldn't it be nice if there was one song out there that would always get you a callback?
I think some actors really believe that there is one song out there that will get them callbacks. And if they could only find that song, they would achieve the success they desire. Unfortunately, that is not the case. While your choice of audition song is an important consideration, I've never seen anyone get a part solely because they picked the right song. However, much like deciding what clothing to wear, song choice can work for you or against you.
The main goal of your song should be to show you off to your best advantage. Age, type, vocal range, and the musical style of the show you're auditioning for have to be considered. Often, actors want a song "no one else sings," but that's often not the best choice. In my experience, it's a good idea to sing a song that is not overdone, but not a song that is totally unfamiliar. You want the auditors listening to YOU, not just wondering where the song came from. Also, the accompanist may have a lot of trouble playing a song he or she has never seen before. It's best to give a wonderful performance of a song that's not overdone, and let them remember your uniqueness.
Ideally, your song should be able to be cut to 16 and 32 bars while maintaining the integrity of the piece. Have a professional musician help you make cuts that show off the best part of your voice. It's also important to take into account exactly what you want the accompanist to play for your introduction. Many times, singers will make the mistake of not carefully planning the introduction, and then find that they're unsure of where to start singing.
Even if you're asked to sing an entire song, choose songs that are no longer than two minutes in length. Longer is not better, and if you haven't impressed them in the first minute of your song, it's probably not going to happen in the second minute. Auditors make their decisions very quickly, sometimes even before you've had a chance to sing at all.
Unless singing a specific song for a specific show, you can - and should - have the song transposed into your best key. Nowadays, there are ways to have these transpositions done online at a very modest cost. But always have someone play it through for you before bringing it to an audition. Pianists have countless horror stories about impossible-to-play sheet music from various online sources.
Gender changes are sometimes lyrically possible, but do them with care. Although it's theoretically feasible for a male to sing "I Could Have Danced All Night," it probably won't work in his favor. But songs such as "If I Loved You" and "Almost Like Being In Love" are fine for both male and female singers.
No matter what you choose to sing, know what show it's from, and who wrote it. In addition. unless you've made a conscious decision to re-arrange the song, listen to the original cast recording so that you're in a similar tempo and style. Again, it's about selling YOU, not your material. In the words of my late colleague David Craig: "You don't have to be different to be good, because being good is different enough."