Song Choice for Auditions

Give yourself time to grow, research, experiment and learn -says Tim Howar

This article comes from The Ultimate Guide to Singing, the most comprehensive book on the market for covering on all aspects of singing. It features the views of Tim Howar of “Mike and the Mechanics,” who has starred in London West End Productions such as “Rock of Ages”

Here’s a secret: a great way to make an impression at any audition is not to choose a song that the panel knows well and hears every day — pick a song by an artist who influenced the song or artist they know so well.

If I was asked to audition for We Will Rock You and Brian May was looking on, I might choose a Sparks or early Bowie tune instead of a Queen standard.

Or, if auditioning for a Sinatra show I might pick a song by Bing Crosby or Tony Bennett — or something in that vein — maybe a wartime song.) Robert DeNiro says, “Art is imitation” (stealing from Plato!) Imitating is often the road to finding our unique voice — not to mention kick starting a career — as Christian Slater did when he imitated Jack Nicholson.

Effective Song Choice

But there is something that singers often miss when they are trying to sound like an artist: understanding that artist’s own musical influences. Do some research; find out Adele’s influences — where she is from? What has she listened to? You might even discover that you don’t want to sing like Adele but like some of the artists that influenced her!

Everyone thought that Amy Winehouse sounded original, but she sounded like Billie Holiday. You can also hear Billie in Adele — there is also some Ella Fitzgerald and Julie London in there as well. Guys sometimes want to sound like Steven Tyler. Find out what his influences are — Beatles, Stones, and blues artists like Robert Johnson or Howlin’ Wolf. Michael Bublé sounds a bit like Mel Tormé and Chet Baker with a dash of Hoagy Carmichael (and was luckily discovered by David Foster when he was singing at a wedding). Go back in time and expose yourself to your favorite artist’s influences. 

If you are imitating a rock diva who screams or makes other extreme sounds, remember that your voice is a muscle. Give it time to grow; learn the right techniques for this music so that you don’t blow out your voice. If you want to climb mountains you have to start by climbing hills, using the proper exercises and allowing yourself time to recover after practicing and performing. 

Listen to yourself. If you think that you sound a bit like Janis Joplin and that turns you on, then go for it! But give yourself time to grow, research, experiment and learn. 

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