MUSICAL THEATRE AUDITION GUIDELINES
Preparing the music for the piano accompanist:
- It is best to photocopy only the portion of music that is to be sung. Tape the photocopied music onto a file folder (substantial paper quality) that will easily stay open and on the music stand. If the excerpt is more than two pages, make the third page as an attached fold-out to avoid page turns. (Never offer to the pianist loose sheets that can fall off the music stand and are often in the wrong order.)
- Mark the top of the first page with:
-Title of selection
- Mark the following musical indications:
Tempo (metronome marking is useful, ie., quarter note = 120; half note = 60, etc.
Mood indication from the score (moderate, easy swing, allegro, largo, soft-shoe, etc.)
“Belltone = G” (or whatever the first note is) unless using a piano introduction
Any liberties that are to be taken with the tempo (ritards, breaths in the middle of sentences, rubato, moving forward, etc.
The time signature and the key signature must be clearly included at the beginning of the selection.
- Before taping the music onto the folder, cut out anything that is not to be played, such as unnecessary introductions, first endings, long postludes, instrumental cues, second verse words that are not going to be sung, etc. Then adjust what follows so that the pianist follows the score in a logical manner – no sudden jumping from score to score. Do not cross bars out and expect the pianist to jump over unused sections of music.
- Always present the music in the key in which it is to be sung. Never ask a pianist to transpose at sight.
- Never ask a pianist to play from a lead sheet which has only the melody, lyrics and chord symbols.
- Make certain that the music is clearly copied and includes ALL of the top melodic notes and ALL of the piano bass notes. White-out anything that is distracting or unnecessary.
- Ask an experienced pianist to read through the excerpt to see if anything is distracting, confusing or missing.
- Prepare and practice what needs to be said to the pianist (including “hello” and “thank you”), so that valuable audition time isn’t wasted at the piano. Point out anything that may be tricky to the pianist. Lightly tap the tempo and lightly sing the first phrase of music until the pianist nods that s/he understands. Then, go center and prepare to sing.
- Always nod to the pianist for the belltone or the introduction when ready to sing.
- Always thank the pianist when finished.
- Avoid manuscript copies if possible. It is much better to have someone input the music into a software program (Finale, Sibelius). The printing is much easier to read.
- Avoid the very difficult piano reductions of certain composers such as Jason Robert Brown, Michael John LaChiusa, John Bucchino, Stephen Sondheim, etc. A pianist who can’t read this challenging music can destroy an audition. Many of these difficult accompaniments can be simplified by a composer/arranger and printed out in more easily-read version.
- Do not waste valuable audition time asking the pianist to play a lengthy piano introduction. It is usually best to plan for a one-bar introduction or just a belltone. A belltone allows the singer to establish the tempo with pick-up notes. Furthermore, starting with a belltone avoids having the pianist accidentally set a wrong tempo and allow the singer to begin when s/he is ready.
- Avoid selections that have meter, tempo, and key changes. An audition selection that maintains a steady, established tempo and key is most often successfully completed without error.
- It is best for students to practice with a live accompanist.