A Brief Guide for choosing Pop Songs for Musical Theatre Auditions

January 10, 2018
June 17, 2022
A Brief Guide for choosing Pop Songs for Musical Theatre Auditions

-You are choosing a Pop song for a MUSICAL THEATRE AUDITION and NOT for a Gig with a Mic or a Gig with a band or a recording studio session. Bearing this in mind is absolutely crucial. Please do NOT choose Pop songs which rely on a drum kit/studio production/band to make them sound good. Please do not choose Pop songs which rely on microphone technique to work (very breathy mic sounds etc). Look for songs which work acoustically, work with a piano and have a reasonable melody. If you can sing your song a capella and make it sound good then that is a good indication that it might work in a Musical Theatre Audition.

-Bear in mind that you are expected to have a healthy and well functioning, technically able voice in an MT audition. There are many Pop singers we all love listening to ( Nick Cave, Anthony & The Johnsons etc) who would probably fail an MT Pop audition as their voices are not strong/healthy enough to sustain 8 shows a week.

-Please be brutally honest with yourself about which Pop styles you can sing extremely well and which you cannot. If you have a folksy sound and tend to interpret music very ‘literally’, singing exactly what is written on the page without bending notes or enhancing riffs, then steer clear of styles which demand great ‘R&B/Soul’ phrasing and riff agility. This does not mean it might not be something you want to work and improve on. However the ability to take a ‘Soul’ song and make it sound authentic is simply in some people’s blood and not in others. You may love it. That does not mean you can sing it.

-The music in Pop songs is mostly sung before it is notated. Some of the vocal notated riffs are a GUIDE and do not need to be learned as written. Experienced singers make these their own. There are some exceptions. Know the performance history of your song.

-Choosing repertoire which suits you and lies well in your voice takes time! However it is well worth the investment. Pour yourself a glass of wine and listen to Spotify and You Tube. Sing along and see whether the song lies well in your voice and whether you match the required technical demands at THIS stage. Choose songs you can sing NOW. Choose songs which suit your casting and which have lyrics which mean something to you. Choose songs you WANT to sing again and again as you love them.

-Know the performance history of your chosen song. For example if you choose ‘Both Sides Now’, it might not be the best idea to suddenly turn it into a ‘Soul Ballad’, unless you know that you are completely changing the ‘folk’ character of it.

-Beware of singing opposite gender songs. It is allowable. However if you do so you will probably have to change the key as it will sit in a very different place in your voice. For instance; if a boy sings a female Pop song, then the high, exciting female passages are likely to sit in a very easy place in the middle of your voice. The song is written for females so that the tessitura of an emotionally heightened passage sits high in the female voice, making it more ‘exciting’. In the same key in a male voice, it will not be as exciting as it will lie in an easy place in your voice.

-Cut the song if it is too long. Go to an MD or a singing teacher who is a good musician for help with this. 3mins max.

-Prepare songs suitable for your casting. If you are white and blue eyed, it is unlikely you will audition for Lion King. If you are black and have a great Soul voice, it is unlikely you would audition for Jersey Boys. Make sure you have Pop songs suitable for YOUR specific casting.

-Prepare a 60’s/70’s Pop/a contemporary Pop/ a Rock song and a Pop song from a contemporary Pop (eg. Pasek & Paul/ Kerrigan Lowdermilk/Sarah Bareilles) & any JukeBox Musical Theatre show you might be cast for. That should hopefully cover most auditions.

-The best way to practice your Pop Audition Rep songs is to rock up at the many London Open Mic events. Plan at least 3 Open Mics you will attend over the next 3 months. Look out for the Open Mic night we run at 100 Wardour Street.

-Remember that the panel in an MT audition will want to hear what you are vocally capable of. They do not want to hear what you are NOT vocally capable of. Sing what you sing brilliantly. If many singers will sing it better than you, don’t sing it. And show off a bit of range and a few different voice qualities so that the panel knows what you can do.

-Don’t be afraid to move in a relaxed and cool fashion in a Pop MT audition. That does not mean swing your arms about or move erratically. It simply means the way you move when you sing a Pop song is a little looser than the way you move when you sing ‘Think of me’.

Good luck!

Leontine Hass
Vocal Coach