Monday, April 30, 2012

Singers: What To Put in an Audition Binder

The Young Person's Guide to the Opera Audition has an informative guide on what to put in your audition binder. Included are sections on head shots, resumes, rep sheets, audition instructions, directions, as well as the all-important sheet music:
Audition Music - The preparation of the audition music is a whole other post, but it’s good to remember to make sure it turns well in a three-hole punch binder. The easier it is for the pianist to turn the more a pianist can play and not have to worry about page turns. It’s also a good idea to put the piece you want to sing first as the first selection in the binder. You would think this is assumed, but sometimes, in the rush of getting everything ready, little things are forgotten. 

To which I would add the following:
  • Arias for the current audition need to be at the front of the binder.
  • Each aria needs to have its own flag for easy discovery by the pianist
  • Mark in start points for each aria if it's not at the beginning.
  • Mark in all cuts as obviously as possible. Use tape, blank paper, and highlighter and assume that pianists won't get it unless you're as obvious as possible.
  • Mark in ritardando and accelerando points with arrows, squiggly lines, large letters, or whatever will get a pianist's attention. Rehearsal time is a luxury and you might not even get time to talk about the aria with the pianist.
  • Use double-sided pages and make sure that all pages are securely in the binder.
  • Don't put photocopy paper in laminated sleeve pages - they tend to reflect light in the most unfortunate way possible when the pianist is backlit. You want them to see the music, don't you?
There's an unwritten code among pianists that if a singer shows up to an audition with a completely organized binder (including marked start points, cuts, and tempo indications), it's automatically assumed that the singer will be in contention. In other words, if I see a well-organized binder, I damn well better play at my absolute best for this person.

Pianists: what are your suggestions on what to put in an audition binder? How do you like music presented? Leave a comment with your ideas.

[Update] Thanks for the great comments, everyone. It's also worth checking out the discussion on the CPB Facebook Page.


  1. I think you covered all the bases here. Unfortunately, this level of preparedness isn't as common as it should be. Unless the singer is working with competent, professional pianists/coaches who demand this sort of thing, I suppose it falls on the voice teacher to drill this into their students.

  2. Right, one more thing! Scotch tape only, if necessary. Never staples!

    1. Joanie12:40 PM

      AMEN to that!

    2. I completely agree with you. However, there are many different types of pianist and more over, various taste-types of audience for piano music. Overall, sheet music needs to be read with ease and a piano lamp will definitely help out in an auditorium. I bought a piano light with LED from and it works out great for me. I also found www.conocolighting.cocm has the same products but better prices later. If you are serious about get one of these to play in an auditorium or practice in the evening or in a darker room, you should not go for the non-led ones. Good Luck and great post.

  3. No sleeves! No sleeves! Thank you for writing that. The glare-free sleeves do not work in every lighting situation. Decent quality paper, obviously back to back, is great. If the score lays open pretty well, I don't mind playing from scores either.

  4. This is something I pound into my voice students, even though many of them are at the earliest stages of study and aren't auditioning yet, but I INSIST they prep their semester music, in binders. No staples. Cuts clearly marked. No plastic pages

    One thing that should also be added, I think (since I see this A LOT) is that no matter how tricky it is to get a sheet of music on an 8.5x11 page.... ALL NOTES MUST BE VISIBLE!! I can't etll you the number of students I've had present me (and pianists) with missing lines of piano music, bars chopped in half at the side margins (repeat signs and key changes missing) etc etc.

  5. As an audition pianist, I say it is an absolute MUST to see the music's title & composer. Especially when sight-reading!!
    Also singers, please check carefully that the bottom lines or notes are not cut off. I have had to make up some interesting bass progressions on the spot.

    On another note: singers, if you'd like to give us a tempo at an audition, please do not conduct with your what you do best: speak-sing the opening line of your piece (or from the first page) which demonstrates your tempo most clearly.

  6. Anonymous2:05 PM

    As a professional singer working in europe I have adapted to the common practice here which is to tape single sheets together [with scotch tape!] as individual arias. the advantage for the pianist is that they have control over the page turns or can simply lay the whole thing across the piano, plus no holes no missing notes.

  7. Anonymous8:25 PM

    This is more recommended than requisite but if you are singing a da capo aria which is more than a few pages long, you might copy out the opening again. It is much less harrowing to turn one page forward than many backwards.

  8. Wilson Southerland9:19 PM

    SINGERS: For oversize scores, like most Britten and R. Strauss, copy the music at 93%. That should allow it to fit on one page, and not cut off the bottom or top.

    Wilson Southerland
    pianist/coach, NYC