How to design an audition cut

After hearing numerous audition cuts recently, a few thoughts:

  1. Ask for a bell tone.  Anything else may well confuse you.
  2. Unless your piece really truly requires a bar or two of introduction, breathe and jump right your first phrase.  Here’s the deal: you get to set the tempo if you start right in, but the accompanist sets the tempo and tone if you ask for an intro bar or two.  And if you start right in, you have no questions about when to join the piano!
  3. Know that the B idea or bridge of the song is rarely going to be the best audition cut, since it’s explanatory and serves to drive us back to the return of the A idea. Without that A idea, the audition cut just sound incomplete and even inadequate. And the bridge is almost always not in the home key, which means that we don’t gain closure.
  4. Consider asking a music professional to help you devise an appropriate 16- or 32-bar cut, especially of more contemporary music.  So much newer music is not built in standard 4- or 8-bar phrases, and needs a well-considered cutting to make it work!
  5. The cut should have a clear start.  Rarely, for instance, is the last phrase of the first A idea going to be a clean starting point, since you are already in the midst of a longer textual idea.
  6. Likewise, the cut should have a cadential ending.  Don’t leave us hanging on a V chord, or a transitional moment. A do chord is your best ending, unless the song is supposed end in a nebulous way.
  7. The text of the cut should tell a very short story, or give us insight into you or your state of mind.  Text and music must work together to make a satisfying cut.

And a few other notes:

  • Unless you are in NYC, or know that you have a demi-god at the piano at the audition, please consider not singing pieces that feature highly rhythmic, detailed accompaniments. Or pointillistic accompaniments (Adam Guettel, Pasek & Paul). Many contemporary pieces are not necessarily conceived for piano, and even those that are (think Jason Robert Brown!) are challenging for the mere-mortal collaborative pianist.  That pianist wants to make you look good, but can’t collaborate as well if lost in the notes.
  • Be certain you can sing all of the notes in the song all of the time.  If you’ve cracked in rehearsal, you will indeed crack at the audition.
  • Unless you truly understand belting, consider not belting.  We are happy to hear lyrical sounds, and we are delighted to hear a healthy mix.
  • Deliver the text.  We just want some honesty, and that starts with words, not notes.
  • And remember that you have about 20 seconds at the start to land the impression.  The beginning of the cut really matters!
  • https://musicchair.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/what-not-to-sing/, and
  • https://jeffreycarter.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/audition-tips-appearance-matters/
  • The plastic-sleeves-or-not debate depends on the collaborative pianist’s desires, but at the least, put your music in a three-ring binder.  Or better yet, get your cut down to two pages, and paste or tape it onto a file folder.  Single sheets and a piano music rack don’t mix!
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About Jeffrey Carter

University administrator, voice teacher, choral director, professor, singer, professional theatre music director, brother, son, uncle, Anglican, Scotch drinker, chef of moderate talent, NPR fanatic, gin aficionado, proponent of the music of Herbert Howells and Elgar and Vaughan Williams, pianist, composer, theatre geek, dog love & cat hater, author & blogger, world traveler, church organist, Anglophile.

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