The Short Audition Book List

short and sweet

You can be prepared for almost any audition with just six songs. Sure, you will probably end up with more than that in your book, but six will do the trick for the vast majority of audition requirements. Ideally each of these would have a great 16-bar and 32-bar cut, with both cuts feeling like the complete idea of the song without repetition. So what are these magical song types?

1. Traditional Ballad: Pick a song in the style of the Golden Age of musical theatre that shows a legato line with smooth, connected, long phrases. This category includes romantic love songs, sweeping waltzes, dramatic “torch songs” and show-stopping “11 o’clock numbers.” Present this at any audition that asks to “show your voice” or for the role of a leading woman or man in a musical that was written during the Golden age or in the style of that era. Generally women should try to showcase their head voice and men should use a full, warm “legit” sound.

SONG TITLE:                SHOW:                    COMPOSER:                                                                                                                                                                       


2. Traditional Uptempo: This selection should have a faster tempo and a lighter, or perhaps even comedic tone. Patter songs, dance numbers and “character” songs could all fit this category. Present this song at any audition for a traditional show that asks to “show your personality” or for secondary characters and song-and-dance women/men. Women might want to use this song to show off their brassy belt voice and men should sing with a more speech-like tone.

SONG TITLE:                SHOW:                    COMPOSER:


3. Contemporary Ballad: Similar to the “Traditional Ballad” category, these songs include love (and unrequited love) themes with a slower tempo, but that have more of a “pop music” sensibility. Musical theatre songs written after 1970 can generally be considered “contemporary” if they were meant to be performed in an amplified style. Women should be prepared to showcase a contemporary mix or mix belt sound, and both women and men may show their facility with pop mannerisms such as straight tone and forward, bright production.

SONG TITLE:                SHOW:                    COMPOSER:


4. Contemporary Uptempo: V.P. Boyle calls these “Driving Dramatic” songs, because they don’t necessarily have to be light and danceable or comedic. Although funny songs with a pop sound do fit here, you also can use this category for any modern musical theatre selection with a driving pop or rock pulse. This is a chance to prove your ability to handle syncopated rhythms or “feel the groove.” Women will usually belt or mix/belt these selections and men will use more of a bright, pop edge to their sound.

SONG TITLE:                SHOW:                    COMPOSER:


5. Pop/Rock: When an audition asks for this kind of song, it must be material that was NOT written for the musical theatre. They specifically want a song that would have been heard on the radio in the last few decades. It’s usually best to choose songs by artists that have a similar range and timbre to your own voice, and don’t pick something so obscure that nobody has ever heard it before. Be careful of songs that rely heavily on guitar and drums, as they rarely translate to piano accompaniment well. For high school and young-looking college-age performers, it’s a good idea to find a song from the 50s or 60s to fill this slot, because several musicals appropriate for that age range are set during this era (such as Hairspray, Grease and Bye Bye Birdie). If you have a hip or edgy look and are comfortable with rock styles, you will probably want to have several songs from different eras in this category.

SONG TITLE:                SHOW:                    COMPOSER:


6. Wild Card: Use this category to show off your sense of humor! Find a comedy song with a great surprise at the end, sing a favorite TV theme song or commercial jingle, or even give a unique or unexpected twist to a well-known song by “playing the opposite.” Get creative and pick something that nobody else would sing because it’s weird or quirky and one-of-a-kind. Most of all, choose a song that you really connect to and that just singing it makes you happy. 

SONG TITLE:                SHOW:                    COMPOSER:


There are other considerations, of course, like your personal qualities, the essence of the character and the appropriateness of the story told in your audition song for the story of the show for which you’re auditioning.  You’ll get better at matching songs to auditions as you go along.