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Episode 16: Help! I Have an Audition in Two Weeks!

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Help! I Have an Audition in Two Weeks!

Auditioning for something often comes with a lot of anxiety, and time pressure only adds stress! Fortunately, it is absolutely possible to polish a song and get yourself into an audition mindset, even on short notice, without dropping everything else in your life. Here is my tried and tested three-step plan that will help you cultivate peace while you learn your piece.

Michèle Voillequé is a singer and a voice teacher living in Berkeley, California. 

You can subscribe to Can’t Wait to Hear You wherever you get podcasts. If you have a question about your voice or how you’re using it, please email

Our music is thanks to Katya and Ada.

The show is edited by K.O. Myers at Particulate Media.


Your voice is unique to you. It grows as you grow. It changes as you change. If you’re curious about the relationship between your voice and your body, your heart and your mind, welcome. My name is Michèle Voillequé and I can’t wait to hear you. 

Today, I want to address the question or request, “I have an audition in two weeks, can you help me prepare for it?”

First I want to say, if there’s an audition, and there is even the remotest chance that if you won the part, you would take the part, right, that you could actually do the thing if you won the audition, you should audition.

Don’t audition for things where you know that your schedule is conflicting with theirs and there’s no way that you could say, “yes.” you’re just wasting their time. Don’t do that. But if there’s a chance, if you could move heaven and earth to take the part, to do the part, if you got the part, uh, you should audition.

Only because auditioning itself is its own skill. And no matter how many times we line our stuffed animals up on our bed and sing for them, or go to karaoke and sing the song and practice feeling nervous, or ask our friends to come over and make us nervous while we sing the song…

No matter how many times we do that, it just does not match the stress of going to an audition in a strange place, in a room that you probably have never sung in before, with an accompanist you do not know, for people you don’t know either.

That set of conditions is really rare, and it has a very different effect on your body and a very different effect on how well you’re able to perform.

So if there’s an audition, take it as an opportunity to practice auditioning. In fact, maybe let the goal of your audition be to practice auditioning, not even to get the part.

Of course, you want to get the part. But maybe let your first goal be to just experience what it’s like to audition and to understand, to give yourself some grace, understand that this is a very different thing than just singing a song. This is singing a song in extraordinary conditions.

So that’s the first thing I have to say about auditions is that you should do them. And you should do as many of them as you can stand, because the more you do of them, the easier they will get.

You’ll be less scared. You’ll feel a different kind of confidence, um, maybe not a confidence that everybody wants you and you’re going to get the part, but just, just even the confidence that you’re gonna to survive the thing, that you can go in and really do the best job you think you can.

There’s nothing better than that, you know? Just give them your best effort and if they like it they like it and if they don’t they don’t, but you know that you gave it your best effort and that you weren’t sidelined by nerves. So there’s the first thing.

Plenty of times I’ve gotten calls from people who have an audition in two weeks and, uh, they really want some help and, it’s actually the case that they’ve known about this audition for a while and it just took them a while to figure out that, yeah, they really wanted to do it.

But they’ve known about the audition for a month or two months or even in some cases a year.

Like they’re, they’re going to audition for a chorus and they know that the auditions are going to be in late August and they know exactly what the chorus director wants to hear and they call me on August 1st wanting help.

And of course I can help you if there are two weeks left. And you would be doing yourself such a bigger favor if you gave yourself more time. If you maybe allowed yourself to admit the possibility that you might want to audition for something so that you could kind of sort of prepare a little bit earlier.

I don’t mean you’re supposed to know things before you can know them, but to acknowledge in yourself that there’s a part of you that wants to audition for things, and that it would be good to be ready to audition for things.

Even if your whole self is not convinced yet that that would be a good idea, there’s a part of you that knows you want to audition for things, and it’s okay to prepare.

Sometimes I think we are self-sabotaging because we’re afraid to get the part. Because then, we might really be good. We might really have to show up. And that’s maybe a whole other conversation.

But in terms of two weeks, you’ve got two weeks. There is the procrastinator’s two weeks that I just mentioned. And there are legitimate, you need to audition in two weeks and you’ve only got two weeks. And that happens in a couple of situations.

One is you’ve gone through general auditions for a show already, and you’ve passed one round and now they want to see you again. They want to hear from you again. And that is so great when that happens. Even if you don’t get the part, just getting called back is so exciting and affirming and validating.

And you probably have less than two weeks, actually, you might only have a few days. So that’s one situation where, you know, you really, don’t have time to prepare, very much time to prepare.

Another situation is, um, you’re in a chorus at school or a community chorus and there’s a solo part and they’re, they’re auditioning soloists from within the chorus.

So, you know, here’s the solo, everybody, anybody who’s interested, sign up to audition. We’re going to do auditions in two weeks and see who’s going to sing that on the concert. So, you know, legitimately, you’ve only got two weeks to learn a thing before you have to audition for it.

In both of those cases, where it’s a callback or it’s an audition for within a group that you’re already a part of. I want you to just take a moment and absorb the fact that they like you already. They’re calling you back because they liked what they heard.

Or in the case of the group you’re in, you probably had to audition to get into that group. And if you didn’t have to audition to get into that group, they’ve had opportunities to ask you to leave, and they didn’t.

You’re in the group because they like you. Because they think you’re good. They wouldn’t ask you to audition if they didn’t think you could do it.

And so just know that you’re not starting from nothing. You already have their good opinion. And your job right now is just to show them more of yourself.

So I hope that thought takes the edge off of any panic that you may be experiencing. Because two weeks isn’t a long time. Time pressure is certainly pressure.

So here’s my advice for what to do when you’ve only got a short amount of time. The three big things: being really clear about the words, being really clear about the melody, and being really clear about your breath, about having enough breath to make it to the end of a long phrase, about managing your breath.

Because when we’re auditioning, our body is under exceptional physiological stress. It’s going to be hard, harder to sing those long phrases than it would be when you’re not stressed.

So, those are the three big things that you, you need to attend to and that you have time to attend to, really, even if you feel like there’s no time, you have enough time for these things.

So, for the words, what I want you to do is to write out the words, longhand, to the song, or to the section, the part of the, whatever you’re being asked to sing. If it’s got words, I want you to write out the words by hand.

Don’t type them into the computer, or don’t put them in your phone. Well, put them in your phone if that’s going to help you memorize them. But first and foremost, write them out longhand. That will do so much to help you memorize them, and to make sure that you don’t have a memory slip during the audition.

And so what that is is you copy the words first, you know, if you don’t know them at all you’re gonna have to copy them. And then you’re going to listen to a recording and write the words down. And then you’re going to write the words down without listening to a recording and without looking at a copy of the words. You’re going to try to do it from memory.

And this may take you 10 or 15 minutes. It may take you 10 or 15 minutes several times, you know, three or four times over a couple of days, before you’re able to write down all of the words without fail. And If you have time, I would suggest that you do that every day. Write the words out by hand every day.

The next thing is being really clear about how the melody goes. And that, that may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised. And the best way to do that is to not sing the words, but to hum or lip trill the melody without the words.

A lot of us, when we’re learning songs, learn what the notes are with the words together. We learn, we learn the song by trying to sing the song with the words.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that when you’re trying to learn something in a short period of time, having that melody in your body, running through your mind without the words attached puts it in a different part of your brain, puts it into your body differently that makes it more reliable.

So even if the song that you have to sing is really speak-y. A lot of contemporary Broadway is more talking than singing. I mean, there are notes, it is singing, but it’s not, they’re not great long, legato lines.

It’s not this big, you know, the, a lot of the time, the notes are never very long and it’s more of a storytelling kind of thing. Even in that song, I want you to hum it or to lip trill it until you can do that with total conviction, without any doubt that you know exactly what those notes are.

And a way to practice that is with a recording. If you can find a recording that’s like for karaoke, so the melody line isn’t being sung, and so you can just hum where the melody line would be, that would be ideal. And those you can find. There’s a website called karaoke-, karaoke hyphen version dot com, has a lot of karaoke versions of songs.

They’re also just, I don’t know, probably millions on YouTube. If you go to YouTube and look for a karaoke version of whatever the song is or whatever part you, you know, whatever you’re looking for, humming the karaoke rather than singing the words to the karaoke.

Or if you cannot find one, humming along to a recording with the sound turned down. And so the idea is that you’re going to hum consistently. You’re not going to indicate where the words are.

So if it’s “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Probably not going to be that, but, don’t hum it like this: mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm. Don’t hum it like that. Hum instead connecting the notes that are repeated. Connecting all of the notes, actually: mmmm.

Approaching it that way will really teach your body how to be calm, how to sing the melody in a deeply calm, connected way. Even if it’s, that’s not how the final version will sound, this kind of preparatory work will serve you so very well.

So you want to do that, again, working in bits, and if you’re working along with a recording, it will probably be easier to start at the beginning. Just try the first couple of phrases.

Try the first couple of phrases again. Try them a third time. Try them a fourth time. And then go on to the third phrase. And then work on the third and the fourth phrase again, and again, and again.

And then start from the beginning and go through the first four phrases. And then look at the fifth and the sixth phrase. And then connect those to the third and the fourth phrase. And then go all the way back to the beginning and go all the way to the sixth phrase.

So you’re working in little bits, humming. And then I would add singing on a single vowel. And you can pick, you can la la, you can li li. I love an e vowel for learning a melody. That really works for me.

So in the end, with this practice, you have a clear, automatic, you know, just right at the tip of your tongue understanding of what the words are going to be, of what the lyrics are. And separate from that, you have a clear, on the tip of your tongue idea of what the melody is.

And then the next step is to pair those two together, hopefully in the same calm, strong, clear, grounded way that you’ve been learning the words and humming the tune.

At that point, you may notice that you can’t sing the phrases as well as you would like, like you’re running out of air. So, the third big thing when you’re going to audition is managing your breath.

Understanding that when we’re singing under stress, we’re not going to have, we’re just not, our breath is just not going to be as efficient. It’s harder to sing long phrases when we’re auditioning because we are freaked out. We’re physiologically freaked out, might even be emotionally freaked out, probably both.

This is why the separating the words from the melody is so important so that you give yourself, you give your body an opportunity to hum the melody without any words, so your body really learns how the melody goes and you have your, give yourself an experience of humming successfully, of making that melody beautiful, even though there aren’t words yet, but it’s beautiful.

And then when you add words and you find that you’re running out of breath, the thing to do is to isolate that phrase. Because you’re not running out of breath for the whole song.

You’re running out of breath in a particular part of a song. So you want to isolate that particular part and you want to sing the end. You want to sing the last two or three notes how you want them to go.

Not in the, “I’m running out of breath and I feel like I’m gonna die,” kind of way, but in the beautifully strong way you want them to go. Sing those last two or three notes like that.

And then, see if you can sing the last four or five notes like that, and then see if you can sing the last six or seven notes like that. So you’re working from the end. So you’re always ending with strength and calm and beauty.

Because if you always start at the beginning of a phrase, the beginning of the phrase is going to sound amazing and the end of the phrase is going to sound less amazing if you’re running out of breath, right?

So you’re building in a habit for your body of the beginning of the phrase is amazing and the end of the phrase is not so good. And you’re, the more you practice is what you’re going to get.

So if you’re finding as you’re working on a piece, especially in a short period of time, and you find yourself making the same mistake or making the same unfortunate collection of sounds – it doesn’t have to be wrong, it could just be like you, you want it to sound different than that, or you want it to sound better than that, or it’s, it’s disappointing you somehow.

When you find yourself disappointing yourself in the same way, at the same spot, stop. And sing that part that has been disappointing to you, sing, even if it’s a note, even if it’s one note, sing that note how you really want it to go.

And then sing the note that comes before it, how you really want those notes to go. Build from the end.

I call it building in an accident, building in a catastrophe. When I’ve practiced something, you know, I’ve, I’ve practiced the disaster. I have, when I’ve made the same mistake or the same unfortunate sound or the same, when I’ve disappointed myself in the same way over and over and over again, even if it’s only like three times, I’m in danger of practicing in a disaster.

So you, instead, want to practice, practice in the miracle, practice in the revelation, whatever is the opposite of disaster for you. Practice in the moment of just extreme beauty.

This all does take focus. It all takes attention. It can all feel really tedious. And, if you’re auditioning for something, they’re probably asking for 16 to 32 bars of music. They’re asking for less than a minute and a half of singing and often closer to a minute. It’s not going to take you very much time to practice that.

Even if you’re going over this phrase that’s bothering you, you know, several times, the phrase itself is probably less than 15 seconds long, right? So, if you go over it 10 times, you’ve spent 3 minutes.

So, especially when you have a short period of time when you’ve, to learn something, when you’ve got 2 weeks to prepare, you want to schedule, or make time, for short, intense practice periods. 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there, where you can really focus on what you’re doing.

You don’t need to write out the words and hum and work on your breath all in one sitting. You can do little bits here and there, and that attention, that effort, spread out over the week, two weeks you have will pay off.

You want to spend some time with the thing you’re you’re auditioning with everyday. If you can spend some time, a couple of times a day, that’s even better.

And it doesn’t have to be again, it doesn’t have to be singing time. It can be humming time. It can be writing time. It can be just breathing time.

Or just even listening to a version of the song or even just thinking through the song in your mind, not singing at all, but breathing in the way that you want to breathe in the song.

That calming, grounded, this is easy. kind of practicing will really serve you at the audition.

So I hope this is helpful if you’ve got an audition in two weeks. And if you’ve got an audition or you think you might kind of want to audition for something that is further out than that, the approach is the same.

Spend time with the words. Spend time with the melody without the words. Spend time with your breathing. Spend time building in calm, confident, excuse the alliteration, but care, into the song you’re working on.

Of course, there are many more details. And many of those details will be specific to whatever song it is that you’re working on. But you really can’t go wrong just stripping it down to the basics of the words, the melody, and your strong sense of self, your core, your breath.

Those three things and you will be great. You will be great.

Thanks so much for listening.

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That’s letters at M as in Mary, V as in Victor, M U S I

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