Please raise your hand if you’ve ever booked an audition, looked at your book, and panicked.
It’s like flipping through your closet right before a date: there’s never anything appropriate to wear. But like building a capsule wardrobe, there are ways to construct a rock-solid audition book so you’ll have a stress-free lewk ready for any occasion.
Maybe it’s your first time getting an audition book together, and you’re not sure where to begin. Or maybe you already have a book, but after your hundredth time singing “All I Need Is the Girl,” you sense it’s time for a revamp. Either way, we’ve got you covered with a simple process for building an audition book that’s as versatile and unique as you are.
How do you start putting your audition book together?
Think of your book like a puzzle.
Wait! Before you close this article and rage quit acting forever, we promise the metaphor holds up. When you build a puzzle, you have to find the corner pieces first. These give your puzzle a shape, making it easier to fill in the rest of the pieces.
Your book is the same way! Well, sort of. Starting with your foundational songs will give your book some shape. Once you’ve found those, the middle pieces are just about adding some color.
- Find your best 16.
Your best 16 is like your business card. This song instantly tells the casting director what you’re all about, what you do best, and what kinds of roles you can play right now.
As you know, it’s a competitive field out there. Your best 16 has got to be vocally impressive. Keep in mind that vocally impressive doesn’t always mean screlt as high as you possibly can.
Think about the vocal performances that you listen to on repeat. It’s not always about the money note. Adept musicianship, masterful breath control, or simply a gorgeous tone can all be vocally exciting. Whatever you do best, now’s the time to show it off.
Beyond singing ability, you’ll want this song to communicate your essence as an actor. Which is really just a less upsetting way of saying it needs to show your type. While we could write a whole article (or novel) on typing yourself, we’ll give you the basics.
Think about the roles you’ve gotten so far. Are there any common threads? Consider more established actors with a similar vibe as you— what were the roles that put them on the map? What kinds of roles inspire you, while still making sense with your look?
Finding your best 16 is tricky, and requires a bit of sacrifice. You can’t represent the full scope of your artistry in 16 little bars. Make a strong choice that puts your best foot forward. Then, you’ll start building the rest of your book around it.
- Find a contrasting piece.
Congrats! The hard part’s over. You found your signature. Now it’s time to show them what else you can do.
Enter, stage left: your contrasting piece. This piece acts as a foil to your best 16. Many casting breakdowns will specifically request a contrasting piece, but you should always keep one in your back pocket anyway.
Note that contrasting is not the same as polar opposite. Just because your first song is a sweeping Golden Age ballad doesn’t mean your next one has to be from Mean Girls. There are so many ways to reveal a different side of yourself. Think about genre, style, tone, emotional content, parts of your range…the list goes on!
- Find a song you love to sing more than anything else.
When asked what makes an audition stand out, many casting directors mention “the glow.” Some call it “a twinkle in the eyes,” or “that special something.” The “it factor.” You get it. Whatever you call it, the simplest way to achieve “the glow” is by singing a song that you genuinely adore singing.
This is also your chance to sing a song that goes slightly against your type. Maybe you crush “I Believe,” but really you’re more of a Cunningham than a Price. That’s cool! Let your passion be the star here.
- Check off the essentials.
Once you’ve got your big three, expand your repertoire from there. Remember, actors have to be ready for anything. And we mean anything. Your book should reflect your knowledge of the canon and your versatility as a performer.
A jazz standard and a classic Golden Age piece are must-haves. On the other hand, make sure you have something contemporary too. You’ll definitely need a Pop/Rock song not from the MT canon.
Cover all your bases. If you have a ballad, make sure you have something up-tempo too. Complement a comedic piece with something more intimate. Many of your songs will check more than one of these boxes, which is a good thing. You probably don’t need ten tear-jerking power ballads, as tempting as that sounds.
- Finish your puzzle!
You didn’t think we forgot about this metaphor, did you? Now that you have the edges set, you can have some fun filling in the rest of the pieces. What else haven’t you shown yet? Do you rap or beatbox? Can you cry on cue? Do you whistle? Whistle notes?
Feel free to throw in some wild cards. This could be a song from a workshop that nobody’s ever heard of, or even a folk song that’s culturally significant to you. Make it yours!
A solid book helps you book.
Putting together your audition book is no easy feat. In fact, keeping your book fresh throughout your career will be a lifelong journey. By starting with the essentials and filling in the gaps, you’re sure to build a foolproof book that shows off all your best skills and qualities.
Real talk? Even when you’ve perfected your book, auditioning in NYC can be a tough racket. Having a flexible side-hustle that lets you put your career first is key. Worthwhile Events Services has your back. Apply today and never miss an audition again!