Ep. 59 “Musical Theatre Audition Songs” – Voice Lessons To The World

Ep. 59 “Musical Theatre Audition Songs” – Voice Lessons To The World

Hi everybody! My name is Justin Stoney
and I’m the founder of New York Vocal Coaching
here in New York City. Welcome to episode 59 of
Voice Lessons To The World. The show where we want
to help you guys as singers by answering your
questions from all over. And I’ll give you a chance to
ask questions later but our question for
this week comes from Hannah M. in Hayden Idaho. And Hannah writes, “Dear Justin,
can you help me find some great musical theatre
audition songs? Yes Hannah. Yes yes yes,
I think I can. Because so many of our
singers and actors here in New York are Broadway performers or
aspiring Broadway musical theatre actors,
singers, and dancers. So we know the importance
of having great audition material. Actually sometimes how
you present yourself can be even more important
than talent itself. You need to have the right
audition songs to present yourself well at
musical theater auditions. It’s one of the keys to being
a successful Broadway performer. So first, I see this
mistake a lot. People having books
that look something like this for their
Broadway auditions. Instead of something that looks
like this for their Broadway auditions. Now if you’re an actor and
you go to an audition and you see another actor
that has this kind of songbook, don’t let that
intimidate you. This is actually not
such a great idea. Even though you
might think, oh boy I don’t have
that many songs. Maybe I don’t
have what it takes. No, actually this is
not a wise strategy. You don’t want to
have hundreds of songs that you’re singing
for auditions. That’s not sustainable
nor can those songs actually be all
at audition level. Really it’s about having
quality and not quantity. So a smaller, more warhorse,
ferocious kind of book, this is what we’re
looking for, for auditions. So now, what should
be in this book? Today’s Broadway
world is extremely diverse. You’ve got basically
three categories. Traditional musical theatre,
contemporary musical theater, and pop & rock musicals. Traditional would be more
of the older stuff. Contemporary musical
theater is the newer. And pop & rock is musicals
that are using pop & rock songs to drive the story. So for your audition
book we want to represent those
categories well. You are going to need
a ballad and an up-tempo in each of those
three categories. A ballad is a slower
song that’s usually more sung, more emotional
and perhaps more intimate. Whereas an up-tempo
is faster it has more personality more life and sometimes
more comedy to it. So if you have a
ballad and an up-tempo in all three of
those categories, traditional, contemporary,
and pop rock, that’s six songs. It’s not that many. But if these
are great songs that’s going to cover you
for probably about 90% of auditions. Then from there if you
want to throw in a jazz or country song,
maybe a song from another style that
you’re very good at. That can be a good idea. You might want
a comedy song that is particularly funny
or quirky or different just to spice things up
on the comedy side. You might want to find a song
that is a perfect role for you. If there’s a dream role or
a part that you just think you’re perfect for, maybe have
a song from that show just in case. Another thing is,
if there’s a song that means a lot to you,
that’s very personal to you, that’s another thing that
you might want to include in your
audition book. But then we’re talking about
six to perhaps twelve songs. Again that’s not
that many songs. But if all of them
are excellent songs. You’re going to be covered for
every one of your auditions. The Broadway singers
that I have who are having a lot of success always
are doing it that way. They’re bringing in the same
material every single time because they know it works. It’s a mistake even
though it seems wise to try to suit your audition
song to the audition that you’re doing. In other words,
I see actors all the time scrambling, scrambling
to find the right audition song for their upcoming audition. This is not a good idea. Even if you do find
the perfect song, you haven’t worked
on it for that long, it’s not in your body,
it’s not in your voice, and you’ve got this
energy of scrambling to get the right thing versus saying
these are the songs that I do. Let the casting team
bend to you a little bit. Bring in what you do. Do it very well. And then let them say
let’s try this other song on for size. Let them call you back. Put a little bit more of the
pressure on them so that it’s not always
on you to be trying to suit the needs of everybody
that you’re performing for. It’s a much more confident
energy and it tends to help people get
many more parts and a lot more success
taking that approach. Finding what you do
and sticking to it. So now how do we
find the exact right songs that are going to suit those
categories that I talked about? Let’s come up with
some ideas. First of all we want to be
aware of your age and your type. You don’t want the songs in your
book to be too old or too young. You also want to be
aware of what’s your type. Are you a leading man? Are you an ingénue? You don’t need to
stick to strictly to them. You might be, for example,
a character leading man. That’s an acceptable type. So, you can bend it a
little bit but you don’t want to be way
off as far as the type of character that you’re portraying
in the songs that you do. The other thing is don’t do
songs that are too overdone. We might love songs that
are from shows like Wicked or Les Mis or
Phantom of the Opera. But these songs have
been played out so many times they’re not really
good audition songs. It looks a little amateurish
to bring in something that is so well known. On the other hand you don’t want
to pick something too obscure. A lot of times actors think that
they found some rare and obscure gem of a
song that nobody has and nobody’s
heard of it before. Actually if nobody’s heard
it before and it’s very obscure there might actually
be a reason for that. It might actually
not be so great. Alright, so actually if you
bring in a song that’s too weird the casting team is thinking
what the heck is this song? And they’re not thinking about
you and about your performance. So try to pick something
that’s not too overdone but also not too
off the beaten path. Also your pop & rock songs
that you pick for your book they need to really
be pop & rock songs. Broadway world doesn’t love it
when they say bring a pop song and you bring something
from a poppy musical. No you want to bring something
from the radio. A pop or rock song that
you might hear on the radio from a real pop & rock artist. Broadway is doing a lot of
real rock artists these days. So you don’t want to sing a
Broadway sound with a little rock. You want to sing something
that’s actually a rock song. Next you want to make
sure that you’re not trying to impress anybody with
the things that are in this book, right? It seems like an audition is the
time to shine, the time to impress, this is another huge mistake
that actors make in their auditions. I promise you they’re not
going to be impressed. Casting directors make it
their job to not be impressed. They’ve seen it all from
the worst to the best. And they’re just trying
to cast the show. They’re not trying to
be impressed with you. So don’t try to impress them. That means don’t sing
too high for no reason. Don’t sing too loud
for no reason. You don’t need to
be belting it out. And you don’t need
to prove anything to anybody. You’re not trying
to impress. You are enough. If you come in with
material that you love that says something about
you and if you say it truthfully and it shows off your
voice pretty well, that is a great audition. Because now we
get to know you, and we can decide are you
right for this show or not? So don’t try to impress
with your material. Find stuff that really
reflects who you are and also what you
have to say. One more note on
this material… Know that the Broadway
world will sometimes say we would like
a head voice. We would like a mix,
or we would like a belt. Now we’ve talked about
these things on the show right? About different registers
of your voice. So when you’re a
female especially, you’re going to need songs
that are in your head voice and then also songs
that are in your belt and mix. Make sure that you’ve got all
your registers covered in the songs
that you choose. So one more thing is
what is a 16-bar? Because many auditions will
call for a 16-bar. Well, a 16-bar cut
means 16 measures, right? So for the songs that you
choose for your book you’re going to
need the full song but you’re also going
to need a 16-bar cut. Now 16-bars is
really not that long. It’s usually about
30 seconds. And most of the time you do
want it to be exactly 16 measures long. But let’s say it’s a
double-time song, it’s doubly fast,
then it could be 32-bars. But we want it to
be around 30 seconds. It’s more of a feel,
but it’s real this is how long you have in auditions
many times sometimes 30 seconds. And actually these days
they’re even doing 8-bar cuts which means you
might have 15 or 20 seconds in the audition room
to show what you do. So how do you find
the 16-bar? Usually it’s going to be
the last 16 of the song. But it could also be
any 16-bar within the song. Just as long as it has
a clear start and end and tells a little bit of
a message and has a note that
you want to display. Perhaps one of
your high notes. That’s what a 16-bar
is all about. Is getting you in and out showing
something clear, very quickly. So identify the best
16-bars of your song. The best 16 measures. And make sure you have that
marked for your audition book. And then one last note,
you guys know me. I love the voice,
I love to help you guys as singers. But really, I want you to
know your Broadway auditions are not all
about the singing. I wish that they were. As a voice teacher
I wish that we could all just sit back and say wow
that was the best voice we heard all day
let’s cast that person. But it’s really not
about the voice. You need to know with
what music that you pick and then also the
auditions that you do that you need to
act first, sing second. Make sure that
the acting value what you’re saying,
why you’re saying it, and are you very clear on
the story that you’re telling? Make sure that that’s the
first priority and let the voice follow. I promise that it will
but if you’re worried about how you sound or picking
songs where you try to sound great that’s really not the right focus
for your auditions. So, Hannah and everybody,
I hope that that gives you a good path for
developing a fierce warhorse Broadway
audition book and I hope that all of this has
been helpful for you guys today as singers. If you’ve got questions
that you’d like to see us answer on the show,
you can send an email to [email protected] And we just encourage you
don’t lose the joy, don’t lose the passion,
don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t sing. You and I both
know it’s not true. Don’t let them tell you
that you can’t audition for Broadway or
for musical theatre. Go after it and find the
greatest material for your book. So that you can really
shine in auditions. If you guys are in
New York City and you’d like to study with
one of our staff you can visit us at
www.NewYorkVocalCoaching.com. And if you like these videos
I do encourage you to download our free app. It’s for iPhone, iPad, and
hopefully more in the future. And if you like these videos
you can also visit www.VoiceLessonsToTheWorld.com. I’m Justin Stoney. We’ll see you next time.

63 thoughts on “Ep. 59 “Musical Theatre Audition Songs” – Voice Lessons To The World”

  • Hi man, love your videos, please go watch my video of me singing in the link below, (the song is in Afrikaans language), I would really appreciate it.
    Ons trotse Suid-Afrika – Kyle Snyman

  • Hey Justin! Can you do a video on Whistle Register? Is it something that only Women can do, can males do it too? Thanks in advance!

  • This was amazing! It helps a lot. I hope to take a voice lesson with you or your staff in the near future!

  • AvalonMorley says:

    I recognized myself in your description of the person "scrambling around," looking for something different, less widely known, and that seems a good fit with the show or character the audition is for.  Fortunately, I haven't ended up auditioning with any of the ('ever so brilliant') options I come up with, for the reasons you give (not prepared enough to feel really comfortable and confident with it, among others), as well as the fact I often either can't find the sheet music at all (sometimes because it's not published, as with the songs from AMOUR, which I love), or can't find it in the key I need (as with "Cry Like the Wind," from DO RE MI–I learned it from the Encores recording with Heather Headly, which was just about perfect for me, but found that in the original score, Nancy Dussault had sung it enough higher that I couldn't do well by it, not having the capability to transpose it).  In any case, I really need to put serious thought and research into finding songs that fit your criteria, and then work hard with a coach until they're completely part of me, and me of them.  I especially like what you said about NOT aiming to "impress"; that, I think, can really help, fostering a good attitude for these brief encounters.  Thanks so much for your prodigious help and instruction here!  (Wish I could come study with you or an associate, but I'm far away from NYC.)

  • Justin!!! Ive finally narrowed my audition material to six songs, as you suggested, but my binder is still blue! WHAT DO I DO?

  • Nathanael Mägli says:

    What songs would you recommend for a male baritone/tenor performer? I'm having trouble finding non-overdone songs :S

  • I'm going to an audition and i am going to sing one song glory from rent ( its is 8 pages long ). should i keep that one song in a binder for the pianist to play or should i just have loose sheet music?


  • Thank you for the tips teacher! While listening to you, and noting your advise, I can't help but think you resemble a little with the likes of Leonardo D.! Haha

  • I just have a vocal question Justin; Lately my voice has been doing weird stuff and I'm getting very concerned. I've been having to clear my throat often, Ive had to belt a lot more to get notes out such as the louder one in defying gravity (emphasis one the ing because that's where ive had to belt). Is this jus my voice being weird or should I see a doctor? I'm 15 and in theatre at my school, not singing too often and this has been going on since about December. Help please??!?

  • I will audition for musical threate at NYFA and i'm so nervous because i have a lot of songs in my mind and i don't know what to chose.. I wanted to chose from Wicked but you are right, everybody chose that….Ughhh

  • Hello I am just a regular guy singing but I sing a lot of opera and musical songs and wanted to start auditioning but before that I wanted to get training in operatic singing as that's what I've found my voice in but money is an issue and my question is do you know where I can pursue this dream?

  • Pammella Sant'Ana says:

    Sir, you are amazing!
    I keep looking for songs to sing on auditions, and I find a bunch of suggestion of musics, that normaly don't fit my voice and, even though you didn't actually suggested any song, this has been the most helpful answer I've found since I've started looking, so thank you very very much!

  • Anna Elizabeth says:

    i'm auditioning for Peter Pan in a few days at my school. Any suggestions for songs i can sing? i'm 13 and a soprano. 🙂

  • Are "Wonderful, Wonderful Day"(Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), "The Heart is Slow to Learn" (Dracula), "It Might as Well Be Spring" (State Fair), or "The Oldest Orphan in the John Grier Home" (Daddy Long Legs) considered overused (overplayed) songs?

  • Any suggestions for a base contemporary upbeat piece for me to sing at my High School Musical audition. I'm really hoping to get Troy the lead. Need some directing to songs here.


    Auditioning for Guys and Dolls in a few months. 2 songs of conflicting styles.
    I really want to be either Sky or Nathan, so I was thinking The MusicMan. So either Marian the Librarian, or The Sadder but Wiser Girl.

    But I would like a ballad. Close Every Door from Joseph? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  • Would the Sister song for the Rogers and Hammerstein Cinderella be considered a Contemporary piece for a Broadway audition? I'm looking for a good uptempo contemporary song for a musical theater audition.

  • So inspirational and informative video! I am not a professionally trained musical performer or singer but I do tv commercial modelling and acting work in Australia. I'got an email from my agent that there will be a musical audition and was asked if I'm interested in trying. I love love singing and music but feel very sad that I know almost nothing about musical singing and performing. Hope I live in NY and have a chance to have a lesson with you in person. When I think about music and singing, there is always indescribable feeling in my heart ( kind of butterfly feeling?). You are so lucky Justin! please keep inspiring us! From Olivia in Australia ( just subscribed your channel today 🙂 )

  • What about Funny girl? Im Sorry, i havent even graduated from high school yet , But Im willing to Enter to the NYU, musical théâtre major And Im thinking of "Don't rain on my parade" for my audition but maybe Thats too… Safe and obvious…

  • What do you think about My Man from Funny Girl. I have been singing that song for like 6 years and I think I am pretty good at it and I have audition for next week.

  • Christie Ann - Music Production Hyphenate says:

    I don't want to be a theater singer, but my life has so much drama in it, I thought this video might still be helpful.

  • Every word that Justin said in this advice is worth a million dollar!!

    It comes from someone who cares about the world! sometimes I think what if Justin was the President?😊, The world will be more harmonious and a way better place!

  • Does this also apply to drama school auditions too, because i keep on hearing contradicting opinions on drama school audition songs .

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