The Perfect Audition Book


Start by reading this chapter from Excavating the Song.

Creating an Audition Book.pdf

A Video with Michael Dewar - The Perfect Audition Book

Please watch this short video to get an overview of what an audition book should look like.

Notes for Presenting the Perfect Audition Book

When preparing your Audition Book, follow the guidelines in The Complete Profession Audition (below) with one important exception: Do NOT highlight anything on your music. In certain light, the highlighting actually obscures the indication you’re highlighting.

Please read this short chapter: The Condition of Your Music (from The Complete Professional Audition)

The Master list of Song Categories is here. Please note that there are a few updates from earlier versions: Audition Book Song Categories 2012

In addition to his words, I will also ask you to observe these guidelines.

  1. Make all marks in dark pencil or black pen. Write legibly and do not use cursive as it can be difficult to read.

  2. Audition books should be three-ring binders, no bigger than 2 inches wide. The super-large binders make turning pages difficult.

  3. Write indications such as ritards and fermatas in the piano part, not the vocal part.

  4. Nothing should be cut off the page! This includes chords symbols at the top of the page and the left hand piano staff at the bottom of the page.

  5. Reduce music, when copying from music books, to 90% to 92%. Most sheet music folios are larger that 8 1/2 X 11.

  6. All music should be double-sided. If your cutting is only 2 pages, present the music without a page turn.

  7. When making cuts in a song, present the music so the pianist sees only what she will be playing. In other words, don’t just make X’s through the music or draw arrows where the pianist needs to go.

  8. Be sure that the title, show, tempo, style (such as Swing) and composer/lyricist are at the top of the page. This is especially important if you’ve made cuts where this information is left off.

  9. When purchasing music from or a similar website, make several copies so you will have a clean copy as a back up.

  10. Use handwritten scores only when they are the only resource available.

  11. You may be fortunate to have access to Piano/Conductor scores. Please use these only if they are not heavily marked up or if it is the only resources you can find.

  12. The best way to double-side music is to place single-sided music, blank sides facing each other, taping the sides at the top and bottom and three-hole punching the music.

  13. Please do not use staples. They make turning pages difficult.


Include different copies of each song you sing marked clearly with each cutting. Songs you sing frequently sing should have a 16-bar, a 32-bar and the full song as separate copies.

Audition Book Song Categories

The following song types should appear in your well-organized audition book.

1. Operatic aria or classical art song. The piece should be something that shows technique and range.

2. Operetta. The Merry Widow, The Desert Song, The Student Prince and others by Romberg, Friml and Victor Herbert.

3. Gilbert and Sullivan. These songs show diction, vocal technique and a sense of humor. Women, select a song that fits your vocal range and color. Men, choose a patter song and a ballad. Young mezzos can skip this category as all the mezzo arias are for the older, character actor.

4. Early Musical Comedy/Tin Pan Alley or a Vaudeville Novelty Song. Choose an up-tempo song that is catchy and straightforward that shows your charm, personality and sense of humor. This is especially important for character men and women.

5. Standard Ballad and Up-tempo, pre-1943.  George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin are the places to start. You want to find something that you can both act and sing well…something that shows your voice and your “essence.” Up tempos should be something that allows your body to respond to the rhythm of the song.

6. Golden Age ballad and up tempo. Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Loesser, late Porter, late Irving Berlin and many, many others. Choose something from a book musical between 1943 and the late-1960s that fits your type. Depending on your type, it’s not a bad idea to have several in each category.

  1. 7. Top 40 songs from these eras not from musicals:

A) Early Rock and Roll Uptempo. Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Early Beatles, Girl Groups

B) 1960s/1970s pop/rock. Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder,

mid- to late-Beatles and others. This category is not absolutely essential to your book but is a helpful addition.

C) Country. From any period, by keep it faithful to the original. Don't make fun of the style.

Choose something that's “real” Country and not pop/rock Country of the last few years.

That style should go into one of the next categories.

D) 1980s Pop hit Uptempo and Ballad. Some suggestions include Elton John,

Billy Joel,Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Bonny Raitt, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Rick Springfield, Melissa Ethridge, Phil Collins, Queen, Carly Simon, Donna Summer, Sheena Easton, Janis Joplin, Beach Boys, Kelly Clarkson, Diane Warwick, Tina Turner, Styx, Christopher Cross, Bon Jovi, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Kenny Loggins and Michael Jackson.

E) Contemporary Pop/Rock, two contrasting songs from the last 15 years or so. Perhaps one song is a Pop song from the radio and the other is from a less-popular Rock band. There are many, many modern shows that require a wide variety of different styles. Try to find songs that are suitable for shows such as Spring Awakening, Rent, High Fidelity, and American Idiot.

  1. 8. Sondheim. Choose a song or two that show intelligence, maturity and strong musicianship. N.B. Funny Thing...Forum doesn't qualify for this category as it is so different from the style of the rest of his shows.

9. Rock Musical (Ballad and up-tempo)from the late 60s to the mid-80s. Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin, Godspell, Hair, Dreamgirls, Chess, etc. This is about the combination of singing style and acting skills. This category is becoming less important as most Pop/Rock show auditions would prefer you to sing an actual Pop/Rock song.

10. 1960s/1970s Show tunes (Ballad and up-tempo, not pop/rock) Kander and Ebb, Cy Coleman, Jule Styne, Jerry Hermann.

11. Contemporary musical theatre  (Ballad and up-tempo). Jason Robert Brown, William Finn, Ahrens & Flaherty, Andrew Lippa,  Michael John LaChiusa and others. Choose songs that reveal something true about you.

12. Disney or film tune. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz songs are often over-sung. It’s better to choose an earlier Disney song like the Sherman Brothers or any great song from a movie (especially 1960s to 1980s). These songs are often very straightforward and well known. The point is to sing a well-known song well so that they can really hear the strength your voice. Avoid songs from Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas. Look for songs from earlier Disney shows. Really well know Film tunes, like “Moon River” or “It Might Be You” can also be great for this category.

13. Contemporary Art Song. Ricky Ian Gordon, Adam Guettel, Georgia Stitt, John Bucchino, Jeff Blumenkrantz etc. Choose something that shows acting skills, singing skills and strong musicianship.

14. Post-millennium (since 2000). Please be aware that not everything since 2000 qualifies for this category. The Post-millennium style is best represented by folks like Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, Joe Iconis, Peter Mills, Seth Bisen-Hersh, Chris Miller, Scott Alan and many others. See Appendix 3 in Excavating the Song.

  1. 15. Specialty number. This could be anything that shows something unique and special about your abilities. Yodel, high soprano, comedy, patter, super high belt are some possibilities. Be creative and outside the box.

  2. 16. African-Americans should have a Gospel song in their book.

17. The Money Cutting. Regardless of style or period, this short cutting (you need a 32-bar version, a 16-bar version and an 8-bar version) shows you at your very best vocally and matches your personality and strengths as a performer.

Some final thoughts and instructions

•Depending on your vocal and character type, it may not be necessary to have absolutely every one of these categories. Some exceptions can be made for having Gilbert and Sullivan and/or Operetta. However, everyone should have something that allows your singing technique to shine.

•Prepare each song in its complete form (90 to 120 seconds. You don't need to do repeats), a 32-bar cutting and a 16-bar cutting.

•Music should be copied double-sided. If the music is on just two pages, present it in your book such that the pianist doesn't need to turn pages.

•To avoid confusion, eliminate extraneous markings on your music. Clearly indicate introductions and endings.

•None of the music should be cut off the page. Check the tops and bottoms of the pages carefully. Reduce the copy ratio as needed. 90% generally works.