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Applying for college involves many different steps and a lot of work. It can take months, if not years, from start to finish.

Most incoming students need to worry about making sure their application is in on time, with all the proper forms filled out, and applying for every scholarship possible. When you’re planning on going to university for something musical, however, there is another step that many other young learners don’t need to think about.

Auditions can be some of the most intimidating situations you’ll ever be placed in but they’re part of being an artist and if you want to succeed you’re going to need to learn not just how to do well but how to truly nail them.

If you’re just getting started in your life as an artist and planning on applying to vocal performance programs you’ll need to have a number of songs in your repertoire that fit your style perfectly. This is difficult to do.

I won’t list the best songs for auditions because they’ll differ from person to person and situation to situation but I will give you some pointers to assist you when it comes to choosing the best audition songs.

1. Does It Have Meaning To You?

When choosing a song that will allow you to win over everyone in the audition room you shouldn’t just go for a popular tune or one you like — you should select a piece of music with meaning for you. Perhaps there is a song you remember your mom singing to you when you were young. Maybe there’s a track you associate with someone who broke your heart.

There could be one cut out there that speaks to a cause or a movement near and dear to your soul. There are many reasons why a track might cause you to get emotional and in the end, it doesn’t really matter why you feel so strongly about a single, as long as it stirs up something inside you you’re able to tap into.

When I’m speaking about “emotional,” it’s important to note I don’t just mean something that makes you cry. Sure, tunes that bring the listener (and perhaps the singer) to tears can be powerful but sadness isn’t the only emotion that conveys power. You should also feel free to pick something able to fill you with joy, or perhaps even anger.

Being able to not just nail the notes and keep the pitch steady but to really feel a song is vital and if you’re able to insert real, deep emotion into your performance, those listening and judging your singing will be impressed by what you’ve done.

Keep things short enough to ensure they want to hear more . . . but not so short they don’t get to hear the full breadth of your talent and potential.

2. Is It Overdone?

Unless you’re headed into a situation where the songs have been pre-selected it’s usually not possible to know who will be auditioning and what they will be singing. You won’t know what those before you have belted out or what those coming after you will do their best to impress with, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still put some thought into your choices and hope you don’t sing something which has been done a million times before.

Some songs have been used for vocal auditions so many times they’ve become something of a joke. The tracks vary based on the type of audition (those for vocal programs at colleges might be very different from people looking to make it on Broadway, for example), but the idea remains the same.

Before you make a decision and start preparing for an audition, do some research to make sure you don’t put forth another rendition of a tired tune. This research can be as simple as Googling what songs are overused when it comes to auditions or asking others who have been in the same situation you are about to be in what they showcased.

You don’t want to pick a song that has either been selected many times over or which seems like it will be a favorite among those vying for a spot at a university, as it can be extremely difficult to stand out. It’s already quite the task to be memorable and win a coveted slot so make sure you don’t make it harder for yourself by selecting something everyone else will be putting their spin on!

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3. Does It Showcase What You Need?

Your audition needs to not only showcase your ability to enter a college program with talent and potential but also prove you have something really special. At the same time, it needs to show you’re the right person for what the college is looking for. Think about what makes your voice special and then find the right song to perfectly highlight this.

Some voices are particularly deep, some are very high. Some vocal performances are noted for being ethereal in nature, others for their speed, and still others for being complementary to what is happening on the front of the stage.

Talk to your fellow singers and Vocal Coaches and find out what aspect of your voice you should highlight during your college audition. If you have a very low singing voice, don’t go into a deciding tryout with a piece meant for someone who typically sings in a higher register, even if you really want to sing that certain piece.

The audition is all about winning the audition committee’s favor. Pick a song to showcase your specific talents (and not just show you’re a great singer, which will probably be everyone who takes a turn) and how you’re the best, most interesting candidate. Then you’ll have a real shot at being accepted.

4. Is It The Right Length?

What those running an audition are looking for can differ greatly from one opportunity to the next and you’ll need to stick to their guidelines carefully, otherwise, you might not be considered at all. The college or university you want to be accepted to may have a specific length they want your performance to be, which can both be tricky and make your selection process easier, at least in some ways.

If you are only given a specific length of time you’re allowed to perform, stick to it! Look for tracks which fit in this time frame and don’t go even a little bit over. It’s better to end things slightly before your time is through than to have someone cut you off.

Even if you’re not told how short your performance needs to be, keep in mind those you’re singing for are likely seeing many people, sometimes all in the same day, so you don’t want your time with them to go too long.

The last thing you want is for people deciding your collegiate fate to remember not your wonderful vocal performance but how it went on for forever! Keep things short enough to ensure they want to hear more . . . but not so short they don’t get to hear the full breadth of your talent and potential.

Of course, if there is a specific too-long song you know you’re great at and you believe will truly be perfect for this upcoming audition, you can always shorten it. Use your musical skills to trim it down, rearrange it, or maybe just highlight one specific part of a track. This, like everything you do in an audition, can be risky but it can pay off handsomely.

Everything which helps you stand out can be advantageous and if you go out of your way to rework a track to make it fit perfectly into your timeslot, those listening in may very well be impressed by your hard work and your creativity.

Stick to the rubrics given to you by those institutions looking for specific lengths, kinds of songs, etc., and go wild with the others, selecting interesting, suitable tunes completely unlike anything else those making the final decision will hear.

5. Can You Repeat Your Best?

Not every audition is the same and some schools will ask for specifics while others will allow you to do whatever you think is best. In the interest of time and of making sure whatever you’re going to present truly is your best don’t select different tracks for all the auditions you take part in — because chances are there will be quite a few of them.

Applying to colleges typically involves going after many different options and while it may be exhausting, you’re going to need to try out for at least a handful, if not many schools.

Try and stick to working on just two or three songs and making sure you have them down perfectly. Stick to the rubrics given to you by those institutions looking for specific lengths, kinds of songs, etc., and go wild with the others, selecting interesting, suitable tunes completely unlike anything else those making the final decision will hear.

Keep in mind you’ll need to repeat your performance several times (hopefully not all at the same school, though you never know), so make sure it isn’t something that will completely destroy your vocal cords!

6. Is There A Big Moment?

This might be a little cheesy but you want those listening to your audition to choose you, right? When going through the seemingly endless list of songs which will probably fit the requirements of your performance, try and keep in mind your song should have a big, memorable moment.

Your entire performance needs to be worthy of remembering but is there one specific moment that will really wow them? Perhaps it’s a high note, an especially lengthy note, or maybe a perfectly-placed and timed pause? There are many ways to insert a show-stopping moment into your audition and doing so will help you stand out from the countless others who are vying for the same spot as you.

It might sound a bit gimmicky but a little showmanship never hurt anyone! Having said this, please make sure whatever you want to showcase (that especially high note, for example) is something you know you can land. The only thing worse than not having a spotlight moment in your audition would be attempting one, only to fall completely flat.

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