Top Tips in Preparing for Your Video Audition

L to R: Debra Lambert, Robert Loewen, Deborah Popham, and John Stewart

CS Music asked a few of our adjudicators to share advice for participants creating a video for their audition. Here are some of their great thoughts broken down into the areas of Presentation and Performance.

Presentation

Audition Location Try to make sure the area is clean, tidy and not too distracting. A neutral background will guarantee the focus to be on you and your voice. Great options are to use a living area in your home, rehearsal space, a performance or church stage.

What to Wear – Wear professional looking attire that is neat, clean, and tidy. Make sure your clothes are free of wrinkles and fit you appropriately so that they don’t become a distraction.  Wearing solid colors (especially if you are in front of a busy background) will bring attention to you rather than whatever else is in the video frame.

Robert Loewen said, “My best advice would be to treat these video auditions the same as you would a genuine, in-person audition. Dress like you really want the job. Not every performance is a formal evening performance, but every performance is our job.”

Faculty Contributors

Debra Lambert
Director & Lecturer
Santa Clara University
San Jose State University

Robert Loewen D.Mus
Royal Conservatory of Music
Voice Faculty

Deborah Popham, DMA
Associate Director,
Sam Houston State University

John Stewart
Director of Voice Studies, Emeritus
University of Washington at St. Louis

Sound & Video – CS Music doesn’t require or expect participants to use professional equipment for their auditions. That said, there are definitely things you can do to make sure your video is of high quality even when using minimal equipment. While it has become accepted that phones are used to record, be sure to check the sound quality of your phone. If your sound quality isn’t good, an external mic linked to your phone might be the answer. Just remember that most judges prefer you do not use a stage mic. Here are a few more tips:

  • Be close enough so we can see your face. Three-quarters to full body seems to be the most common suggestion for how close to put the camera but remember that extra space around the singer is definitely not needed.
  • Use a live accompanist if at all possible. Make sure the piano is in tune.
  • Use a tripod or a way to stabilize your recording equipment (even if you are using your phone) so that the image is still for the entire video.
  • Do not zoom, change angles, or rotate the screen during the video.
  • Any submission longer than 7 or 8 minutes is too long and will probably be skipped through. Judges can learn all they need at that length.
  • Plan to record more than one time. Many recommended at least three times.

“Choose the best version to submit for your audition. You may not need the additional ‘takes’, but you may surprise yourself once you have a good recording and the pressure is off.” Debra Lambert said.


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Performance

Most of the performance recommendations are taken care of by making sure you are prepared for the audition.

Deborah Popham said, “Make sure that you know your piece so well that you do not have to think about what comes next. Particularly with young singers, we know the sound will not be flawless from beginning to end… If you are missing entrances and/or making mistakes with the rhythms or text, that is not your best product. If you are insecure about the memorization of the music itself, you will not be able to make your best sounds. To be competitive, you must know the music like the back of your hand.”

  • Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse with your pianist before recording and make sure they are up to the, sometimes, difficult repertoire.
  • Warm-up thoroughly before you start recording.
  • Select your repertoire carefully. Make sure that it is age and voice appropriate.
  • If you choose to slate (CS does not indicate a preference for introducing yourself before singing), make sure you do so clearly, and practice it beforehand so that you don’t rush and you enunciate properly.
    Lambert suggests, “Something like ‘I am NAME, and I will be singing SONG from XYZSHOW or by XYZCOMPOSER/LYRICIST.’ Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. The way in which you introduce yourself tells us something about you.”
  • Make sure you only move as is appropriate for your audition and the space you are in. Communicating with your face is far more meaningful and effective than big gestures.
    John Stewart said, “Remember that the concert stage is not the operatic stage. Behavior that might work in costume in a staged performance can look exaggerated and even silly. Many of the submissions I’ve reviewed in the last three years have featured behavior that is either “deer in the headlights” stiff, or distinguished by provincial waving of the arms and taking unmotivated steps. Every gesture, change of focus, or movement should come out of that moment’s thought and emotion, and be timed to precede the thought, to motivate the thought. Less is definitely more, especially when it comes to taking unmotivated steps. Otherwise the physical presentation strongly distracts from the voice and the artistry.”
  • If you sing in a foreign language, make sure that you pronounce it correctly and you know what every single word means so that you can express the emotions of the repertoire appropriately. At all levels, know what you are singing.
    Lambert said, “As singers, we work not only with notes and harmony and rhythm, we also work with words, poetry, and stories. Use your words well—they are powerful, and a song or aria is as much as story as a piece of music.”

Ultimately, if you put forth a little effort to prepare your video, you will be ahead of the curve. As Robert Loewen said, “An audition should be about the beauty of voice, excellent preparation, and honest, musical delivery.”

CS Music Staff

CS Music is THE community for singers, teachers, and pianists. CS began in 1986 with the first issue of The New York Opera Newsletter and later to the award-winning magazine Classical Singer. Since 2003 CS has expanded to included articles, audition listings, and events for both classical and musical theatre singers worldwide! Free online articles and listings are available at www.csmusic.net.