A Unofficial Guide to Auditions

So you think that you want to audition for an “a cappella” group? Far more people come to this revelation early in the semester at their respective colleges than you think. After all, the college phenomenon is a particularly visible part of the college scene. Those quirkily outgoing individuals crooning your favorite 90’s songs are irrisistible. Before you audition, though, there are some things to know and consider.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

1. I don’t have any singing experience. Can I still audition?

Yes. By most estimates, many if not a majority of acappella singers have little to no music experience. If you have a good voice, love singing, and are willing to learn, you have a chance of getting into a group. Don’t ever be afraid that you don’t have enough training or are not good enough. Have confidence and go sign up to audition!

2. What are Acappella groups looking for?

This is not American Idol, no matter how much it may seem like it. Acappella groups look for solid voices that are both good soloists and good chorus singers (i.e. not sticking out like a sore thumb). However, your first impression is usually a solo song audition so go ahead and show off your voice. Acappella groups then look for other factors: sightreading (the ability to read music), blending (how well your voice fits with the group), musicality or musicianship (how much you know about the technicals of music, if you play the piano, etc.), and spirit (does your personality fit well with the group?). There are several outside factors that can factor in: your grade level (better get auditioning early in your college career!) and demand for your voice part (are you a high voice tenor or a low voice bass).

3. Are auditions scary? Why are there so many people judging me?

Groups try to make the process as un-intimidating as possible. You should be greeted by at least polite but more like friendly faces so there is nothing to worry about. Yes, most of a group’s members do attend auditions because Acappella groups are tight-knit families that usually admit people collectively. It may be scary that there are so many eyes looking at you but if you’re really up to being in an Acappella group, you’ll put that fact behind you because you’ll soon be performing in front of far more people.

4. How do auditions work? When do I find out if I have made it?

The process begins with signing up for a audition time. Prepare a song for your audition (see below). Show up on time for your audition. You will be asked to fill out or bring an information sheet with the basics (like your name, grade, previous experience, etc.). You will be asked to sing a portion from your song (usually a verse and a chorus). You will also go through a series of exercises (breath control, volume, range, scales, technique, etc.). The group may ask you a few questions and then thank you for your time. Don’t get too worked up about how you did. You will usually find out via phone, email, or bulletin posting if you have been “called-back” for a second round of auditions. The call-backs are usually within a few days of the first audition. Some groups ask you to prepare another song but the true purpose of the call-back is to gauge how well you will fit into the group as well as how well you learn music. Most groups will simulate a rehearsal by asking you to learn a song with them. You will receive sheet music and lots of help as group members help you learn a part of a song. Then you will be asked to sing the song you learned with the group and eventually as part of a quartet (just you on the part, no help!). Be prepared to learn the song by heart too and ditch the sheet music as soon as possible. This portion of the audition can cause a lot of anxiety but don’t worry because if you have a good ear, you will pick up the song quickly.

5. What song should I sing for solo auditions?
Song choice can be the deciding factor in determining if you will be called back because it is the one chance to show a group what you’ve got. Choose a song that shows off your vocal capabilities. If you have a large range, choose a song with a variety of high notes and low notes. If you can do melismas (runs) like Mariah Carey then choose a song that you can improvise on. Also, choose songs that don’t have a lot of instrumental sections. You can’t bring a backup tape so try to sing as continuously as possible.

6. Are there any limitations to the amount of groups I can try out for?

No. But consider only auditioning for groups that you like and would consider joining. You’ll tire yourself out auditioning for every one possible because all auditions take place within the span of a few days on campus. Also, don’t think about auditioning for all girls groups as a guy or for an all-guys group if you’re a girl…

7. Is there anything I can do to learn more about a group before auditioning?

Yes. Most Acappella groups have websites. Go listen to a few songs. If you’re up to it, don’t be afraid to meet group members and ask questions. Do remember that Acappella groups try to make auditions as fair as possible so no funny business…

This guide is compiled by Ryan Kellett for Middlebury College. Other colleges are welcome to make use of this gudie so long as they credit the author. Disclaimer: Ryan is a member of Middlebury’s Stuck in the Middle and The Mt. Ayres but auditioned for five Acappella groups in the Spring of 2006. If you have any further questions or comments about the FAQ, please contact Ryan: rkellett [at] middlebury [dot] edu.