Audition Music Preparation

As a pianist I have played for many auditions and masterclasses.  Unfortunately, the music is often not professionally presented and cuts are not clearly indicated.  I wanted to present some of my observations to help you prepare your audition music in a more concise way.

Missing Notes in Songs

 Make a clean copy with no missing notes

Prepare your music

The accompanist is there to support you and help make you shine. Your job prior to the audition is to prepare your music so it is presented in a professional and organized way.  So take the time before your audition to get your folder and music in order.

Have one clean, well photocopied version of the song, and make sure there are no missing notes, staff or information. Keep this original clean and make copies from it to edit.

In a binder not in a bind

Present your music in a ring binder. (3-ring binders are ideal, as the music does not droop or sag.)

Have your go-to songs in front and write or print a table of contents for ease of finding.

Use tabs/dividers to label the music in your binder, so it is easy for you to find the cut you need.  

Always have a full un-cut version of the song in your binder.

Double check your binder has no rings that are loose and do not sync up, or when the pianist turns the page it will slip through and fall down.

Using non-glare sleeves will keep your music clean and stop punched holes on the page ripping, or tape your pages together accordion style.

Don’t bring stapled music or loose papers that can fall off the piano.

Ideally you want your pianist to do as little page-turning as possible, so place music in the folder with this in mind.

You do not need every song you have ever sung in the binder. Keep it current.

If you decide to present music outside of your binder, to avoid page turns, be sure to line up the edge of the paper to the next page when taping.  Don’t overlap pages when taping, or they will not stand up correctly.


Have the song title and musical it is from at the top of the page, and be sure to include any directions that were on the original, like tempo, swing feel etc.  

Each song should have an introduction, 2-bar or 4-bar, and this should be marked clearly in the music.  

The introduction helps set the scene and should make sense with what you are about to sing about. 

Introduction measures do not count in the 16-bars you will be singing.  

Make the cut

It is inevitable that for a 16/32 bar cut there will be a lot of jumping around in the music.  It is harder to read a score first time when there are measures half penciled out with arrows pointing “go here” and “turn two pages forward”.  If you do cross out sections, do it in black sharpie, so there is no doubt that those measures are out.  

Ideally create a new piece of music by cutting out the sections you want, arrange and paste on a new sheet, then photocopy.  This ensures you have a clean copy of your cut that is easy to read and most likely without page turns.  

If you do decide to cut and paste, please please please remember some music theory basics.

Missing clefs and Key signatures

Music with no clefs or key signature

CLEFS: Make sure you have clefs at the start of each line. 𝄞𝄢 Sometimes clefs will change within the song too. They are important as they dictate which note should be played.

KEY SIGNATURE: The key signature indicates which notes are sharps () or flats () in the song.   It is located at the start of each line, after the clef.  

TIME SIGNATURE: This should be at the start (after the key signature) and anywhere in the song where the time changes. It consists of two numbers balanced on top of each other and indicates how many beats are in each measure. 

Make sure when pasting measures that the lines of the staff connect correctly to the next measure. 

Mark any ritardandos (rit.) where the music slows down.

Any notes you are going to hold longer than written, add a fermata above (𝄐).

Mark any dynamics (louds, softs, crescendos, etc.). 

If you have a place in the song where you wish the vocal/accompaniment to make a complete break before continuing, mark a caesura (//), commonly known as railroad tracks.  Place two slashes just above the staff.  If it is more of a breath you can mark a comma above the staff (❜).

Make sure you take the appropriate chord symbol with the notes when cutting the music.  These are the letters and numbers notated above the vocal line in some scores.

Mark endings clearly. 


Once you have prepared your cuts, ask someone who plays piano to look at it or have a professional play through them. Listen to any advice or changes they suggest.


Talking with your accompanist

The accompanist is on your side.  Greet them with a smile, they’re there to help make your audition the best it can be. 

Be sure to open your binder at the correct page and quietly sing a few phrases or gently tap to indicate the tempo.

The panel in the room know if you spend a lot of time talking to the pianist about pauses and cuts, that your music must not be correctly notated, take the time to do this beforehand.

Happy singing!

Copyright © 2018 Angela Dwyer