Nail Your Auditions! 6 Tips from Carnegie Mellon Faculty Member, Gary Kline

Published January 16th, 2015

‘Nail Your Auditions’ is a new blog series from Acceptd and Stagelighter. Each week coaches from Acceptd’s new online coaching service will give advice on how to put your best foot forward in the audition room.

This week’s post is from Gary Kline, Assistant Head of Acting/Musical Theater at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama.

As you prepare for your auditions, here are some important things to keep in mind.

Range: Make sure your songs' highs and lows fit easily into your range. No one wants to see you work hard or strain to hit the notes.

Accents: Use of accents in songs are tricky. Singing with a voice or accent that is not your own makes it difficult to judge your true vocal timbre. (Example: “Just you Wait” in cockney, or “Cain’t Say No” in a wide southwestern accent are difficult to judge).

Cuts: Try to find a beginning (exposition), a middle and an ending to your song, no matter how short. Look for a great beginning line that builds to a wonderful climatic ending. Above all, make sure the song ends on the tonic chord and resolves harmonically.

Selection: Do find a song that echoes your heart and your thoughts. The lyrics should have some personal connection, be it a heartfelt ballad or a funny character piece.

Age-appropriate: Finding a song that is looking forward is usually best. Singing about old memories or loves long ago is difficult to believe when the person auditioning is perhaps 16 or 17. Think of the lyric as a monologue and ask if it stands alone without the music?

Acting Choices:  Simple concrete acting choices should be thought out. Perhaps the two easiest and most important questions to answer for a young singer are: 'What do I want?' and 'Who am I singing to?'.

Here are some tips if you have yet to film your prescreen video.

Distance:  Test your video for distance, meaning how far or close you are standing from the camera. Too far makes it difficult to see your facial expressions and too close can cut off too much of the upper body. 3/4 shots usually work well.

Vocal Quality:  Be aware of your acoustic when taping. If the room has a huge echo, it can sound like you’re in a barrel, and distort your sound. Rooms that have no reverb often sound dead. Choose a space that sounds good “live”, as it will no doubt also sound good on the tape.

Ease of Slating:  Talk to the camera like your friend when slating. You don’t need to memorize a script - just speak naturally and easily as though you were speaking to someone you love.

Vocal/Instrumental Balance:  Be aware that the piano (or accompaniment) can sound much louder than the voice. It’s also important that the voice does not overwhelm the piano. Tape a few trial runs and listen for the balance - the piano should support the voice but not overwhelm it.

Movement:  Be careful not to move too much when singing on tape. You can appear awkward or worse, nervous if you pace too much, or use arms unnecessarily. When filming, a little physicality often goes a long way.

Focus:  It’s good to focus your eyes towards the camera - but avoid staring into the camera’s eye.  It’s completely organic to change your focus/gaze when your thoughts change. Avoid the “zombie stare” if at all possible.

I wish you all the best! See you in the audition room!

Gary Kline
Assistant Head of Acting/Musical Theater at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama

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