How to Prepare Sheet Music for an Audition
3 Steps to Musical Audition Success
You’ve just scheduled an audition where you must sing. Maybe it’s for a musical theatre program, perhaps it’s for a full-fledged production – and you’re wondering, “how do I prepare my sheet music?” It’s a great question. There are many ways you can prepare sheet music for an audition, but some methods make the accompanist’s job strenuous. Following these best practices will help set the accompanist – and you up for success.
Before we begin, I want to emphasize how challenging the accompanist’s job is. These pianists are sight-reading the sheet music of (in many cases) hundreds of performers a day. They may be used to playing your song in a different key or with a different cut - or they may have never seen, heard, or played your song before. Imagine walking into an audition, the panel handing you sheet music and expecting you to sing it perfectly with no practice. That is the job of the accompanist.
To ensure a high probability of success in your musical audition, follow these steps!
Step 1: Use a three-ring binder
I suggest using a binder that has a 1-inch thickness. Larger binders can be more difficult for the accompanist to flip pages as they play and lead to errors. If you want bonus points, use dividers to organize your sheet music into categories like Golden Age Ballad or Contemporary Up-Tempo. Only keep your best repertoire in your audition binder since the panel could ask to see your book and choose another piece for you to sing.
Step 2: No music books
Store-bought music books like The Singers Musical Theatre Anthology don’t stay open on a piano and make it very difficult for the accompanist. That does not mean you can’t use the sheet music inside them. Scan or photocopy that music and put it in your binder. If photocopying, ensure you have scaled-down your output size to 8.5 by 11 since music books tend to be larger than standard paper. Double-check your scans to ensure they are clear – every note should be easy to read. Faded sheet music is your worst enemy.
Step 3: Preparing Printed Sheet Music
You want to prepare your sheet music in a way that allows for the fewest possible page flips. The way we do this is by arranging our printed sheet music like a book. There are 2 different ways to accomplish this:
A) Printing Double-Sided
Use this method if you have access to a double-sided printer and want to save yourself some time.
To begin, print the 1st page individually. Then print from page 2 until the end of the sheet music double sided. Place page 1 face down on page 2, then hole punch it and put it in your binder.
Your 1st page should now be blank. Make this page a title page. Write the song title, what it’s from, who wrote it, and the character. Title pages will keep your book organized, professional, and looking great!
B) Taped Single-Sided
Use this method if you do not have access to a double-sided printer or have some extra time
on your hands.
Print all your sheet music single-sided. Arrange the pages so that it reads like a book (as if it were double-sided). For example, page 1 face down on page 2, pages 2 and 3 back-to-back, page 3 face down on page 4, etcetera. Now take invisible tape (not the shiny type) and tape the back-to-back pages together at the corners. You should now have double-sided sheet music.
Like in option A, turn your blank 1st page into a title page.
Many accompanists prefer the Taped Single-Sided technique because the pages are thicker, making them easier to flip.
Things to Avoid
A common mistake is placing your pages in plastic sheet protectors. The problem with these pesky paper sleeves is that they are slippery and can cast a glare, making the sheet music harder to read for the accompanist.
On a related note, evaluate your music choice to determine whether it is the best choice for an audition. Obscure or overly complicated songs may be too tricky for an accompanist to sight-read accurately. Save those songs for your cabaret!
You and the accompanist are working toward a common goal: delivering the best performance possible. The accompanist wants you to do well, and by prioritizing their needs by effectively preparing your sheet music, you set yourself up for success.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need any clarification!