Three Soapboxes

When I crafted the outline for this set of audition posts, I threw in a day called “Musical Preparation.” Well, duh. That’s sort of what you do most days every day. I know that, but I just want to call attention to a few specific vocal/musical issues, to make sure they are never overlooked or given short shrift.

First, and foremost:


I know that this is a difficult topic, and that it’s never something that is scientifically conquerable. It’s not as if we need everyone to sound as if they’ve been put through auto-tune. But get some really honest and reliable feedback from coaches, teachers, colleagues as to whether you are approaching your singing in a way that 1) allows you to center on a pitch and 2) allows that center to be in the right place.

I don’t like haranguing, but this is a big deal. A teacher or a school can hear a developing voice with pitch issues, hear the many positives surrounding the problem, and put themselves behind that singer. Pitch problems are not a death sentence, just another challenging component of a technique. But we and many other YAPs and companies are listening to you for the purpose of putting you on a stage. That’s what you want after all, right? And we can’t put you there if you are a quarter tone flat all the time. Or sharp. Or a little of both. Or with a vibrato with amplitude so large that we don’t know where the bullseye is.

Developing a technique is a process, and occasionally you may be in transition, or working through something that wreaks temporary havoc with tuning. But singers must realize that even if we appreciate everything else about your artistry – dramatic depth, musical instincts, exquisite phrasing, impeccable language – if you can’t sing on pitch, we can’t hire you. Frustrating for both of us.



Your coaches and teachers have told you. It has to mean something. It must be motivated, have intention, color, detail. We know that you know this. But we very rarely see it put into practice. It’s astonishing how easy it is to see the eyes glaze over, the face go blank, the arms and hands begin to clench. Don’t disappear on us. Trust me, I know how difficult it is. But most of these composers knew what they were doing. We’re not asking you to treat these challenging passages as if they were easy. They exist for musical and dramatic reasons. 1) Figure out exactly what those reasons are, 2) Merge the composer’s intentions with your technique and approach to the coloratura, and (this is the hardest one) 3) Make it more than an intellectual exercise. It must, as they say, “read” all the way to the back row.

This isn’t an irrelevant task that your coach is giving you; it’s for real.

As is the next one:


Please be sure we can understand you, and even more importantly, know what you’re singing about. Translate, paraphrase, reinvent, improvise – singers are given the tool of words for a reason. They need to seem as if they come from the very center of your being – from the same place the music lives. While you’re singing them, they are yours and only yours. Own them.

We are in the claws of the database this week, with the goal of 60-80 applications and resumes a day. We’re working through all of the paperwork for LA, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Houston. If you intend to apply for an audition in one of the remaining cities (New York, Philadelphia, Vienna) the deadline is this Friday, October 9 at midnight.

I’ll see you tomorrow with a brief discussion on what your audition arias look like from the other end of the room.

One Comment


If you can't tell if you're in tune or not, please consider the following exercise that most of my clients find useful in short order.

Rather than check your intonation by doubling your pitches in the octave you are singing in, play your notes one octave lower with your left hand and one octave higher with your right hand. Voila – your ears will hear quickly if you're where you ought to be.

Remember, if you are STILL not in tune – there are probably technical issues to contend with, but at least this can put the goal in clear relief so that you can really know if you're hitting the bulls-eye or not.

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