How To Make An Audition BookOct 02, 2023
Written By: Chelsea & Cynthia
Whether you're just starting out auditioning for your high school musical or you're regularly going in for Broadway auditions, you need an audition book.
The reason creating an audition book can feel overwhelming is because it's always in flux - as we get older we evolve, so our books need to keep evolving with us. You might have a perfect audition book and it's going to last you for a while, and then it's going to start to feel like the seams are starting to tug a little bit and you need to change that outfit and try something new.
But let's start with the basics, what is an audition book?
We should start by sharing what it is not. It is not a binder full of sheet music of every song you've ever sung and every song that you know. For Cynthia, as an audition pianist who has had those giant binders of rep fall onto her lap and they can't stay on the piano, we beg you to please not let your binder be a book of all your repertoire.
So, what is an audition book? It is a collection of songs in a physical binder,(yes, non-digital) that represent you best and are helpful for auditions. These shouldn't be songs that you can do on a really good day or maybe what you could do really well in a year's worth of voice lessons or what you did great 10 years ago.
It is not the book of potential, and it's not the book of nostalgia. It's the book of right now.
How should you go about creating the perfect audition book? Below is the three-step process that we use with our BVC Studio members.
Number one, identify what roles and shows you want to go in for.
This is a step that people can either forget to do or feel a little bit weird about doing, but you have to be willing to admit what roles you're interested in or think you'd be right for. And to some extent, there needs to be a little bit of gutsy courage to say, "I think I deserve to be seen for that".
It's like working the problem backward, which is a great problem-solving strategy - to begin with the end in mind. If you don't know what kinds of things you want to be seen for, roles, shows, etc., then how can you begin to build a book that is going to be useful for those auditions?
And be creative! Don't limit yourself based on the visual appearance of the actor who played this for the first time, or even in some cases, the vocal quality. Find an energy match, a vibe match, or find what feels like a fit within your current skill set. There is no limit to how many things you can put on this list.
Number two, categorize your list of roles and shows.
There's a lot of different ways to categorize them. You can organize the shows by character energy, musical genre, musical era, or vocal style. We've seen categories from our studio members every which way - recently we had someone categorize "tenors with emotional baggage".
However you want to categorize this is up to you, and you may find that there are some categories that are more useful than others. The point though is that you want to start lumping these roles and shows into categories so that you can pick audition material for a handful of categories instead of for all 50 roles and shows that you are interested in.
Try and limit yourself to six categories, which may feel restraining, but it's a great opportunity to yet again be creative. You'll be surprised at how many shows or roles can kind of fit into these energy vibes or genres that you create yourself. So long as your categories make sense to and for you, then you're on the right track!
Number three, sort your existing rep into your six categories and identify where you have holes in your book.
This is a great way to take all the rep that you have, list where they fit into those six categories, and you're going to start to see what areas are lacking. That's when you can now start to find new songs to fit what you need.
Some songs in your existing repertoire or your preexisting audition book might be great for more than one category, which is great because then you can have songs that have a dual purpose. This is also a great opportunity for you to get creative again. Think about which songs you could sing at a slightly different tempo, and then fit into more than one category. Get creative so that you're not having to reinvent the wheel and come up with a million new songs.
You may find that while outlining your six fresh boxes of categories, and then you look over your existing rep, you might start to notice which songs you don't enjoy performing anymore, or no longer best fit your current set of skills. It's kind of like your closet of clothes, where you keep adding to it, not realizing what else you have hanging up in the back, and things start to get cluttered. When you go through those clothes, you'll start to realize what you don't like wearing anymore, and what things you want to keep.
Making those blank categories for the perfect shows and roles that you can go in for, and then sorting your rep into those categories can really help you figure out which songs are in your book you love, and where it's time to find something new.
Sometimes we get asked if the point is to only have six songs in their book and our answer is honestly, yeah, kind of. If you're being honest with yourself, you're already likely only using the same two or three songs over and over again. Sometimes you may need a specialty "something", but the point of your book is to keep only what is useful to you and what you can keep at performance level readiness.
If you haven't sung a song for a year and it's just collecting dust in the back of your book, are you really going to be ready to bring that in if a music director is flipping through your book behind the table and selects it?
You really do want to be physically weeding out what you're not singing in your book, so that in the off chance that you might be asked to sing something else, you're not going to be caught off guard with a song you're not prepared to do.
Remember, your audition book can be fluid. It doesn't have to stay perfectly intact forever and ever. Think of it as seasons, if right now these six songs are working so beautifully for you, great. If in six months, a couple of them aren't feeling great, maybe take them out for a while, and replace them with something else. You might come back to them later, but like your book can stay fluid.
Quick logistical question about putting together your audition book:
"What am I supposed to put this thing in?"
A binder, always. Loose sheets of music can be a hazard if there is any kind of breeze from an air conditioner or someone walks past the piano - it's amazing how fast that music can blow over or simply fall right off the rack of the piano.
We're not a fan of page protectors for a couple of reasons, as they make your book really heavy and can cause a glare. It can be really hard for the pianist to read music through a page protector.
Also, try to create as few page turns as possible, if you just open it like a book, with page one of sheet music on the left, and page two on the right, your pianist will be very appreciative. If you have a third page, you can evevn tape that page to the second page on the right and make it a little flip out.
And of course, make sure that when you're copying pages or receiving a scan from someone, that all of the music goes on the page. So often that bass line gets cut off from the final line of the music!
And if you’re ready to get expert mentorship and ongoing training, then you’re invited to join us inside the BVC membership. Book a free consult with us - we can’t wait to hear your story and help you take the next step in your career.
Wondering what your next step should be?
Let's Keep in Touch!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from BVC.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.