Thursday, July 23, 2009

Your Music and Audition Time Management

Jamie Johns, a frequent collaborator and I were having a discussion after a coaching session the other day, and the topic of singers' music and how they have it prepared for the pianist came up, so I thought I would touch on this seemingly rudimentary, but important topic. (Jamie, since I know you read this on occasion, feel free to weigh in with other points - others please comment as well).
The below points are important not only as a courtesy to the pianist, who in some instances you may be meeting for the first time as you walk in the room, but also for you, so that you spend the maximum amount of time singing, and the minimum amount of time explaining things to your pianist.
  • Have your music in your binder, so the pages are easily turnable by the pianist.
  • If you're doing an aria that can have several cut versions (i.e. Glitter and be Gay), xerox each of the versions, and tab them - and if you have pages that you will not sing in a particular version, take them out, don't leave them in and cross measures out.
  • When giving a tempo to a pianist who is new to you - DON'T conduct the intro (I can't tell you how many times I've seen this done) - in almost every instance, the singer conducts the intro in a different tempo than he/she actually sings it. Instead, just lightly sing the first few bars - that tempo is in your body, and you're far more apt to give a correct tempo.
  • Always make sure that every piece you are prepared to sing is in the same binder, and that you are consistent with how you have paginated, marked, etc.
  • Be very clear with how you mark cadenzas, alterations, etc, that vary from the printed score.
I know there are more, but these are a few of my favorites. Having these details correct for your audition, will give you a sense of calm and order as you begin your audition, which will of course lead to a better performance by you.


  1. These are certainly some of the biggies. I think the overarching principle is: the easier the music and the road map is to follow, the more likely your pianist, who may be sight reading, will be able to support your interpretation.

    Just like the props question in the last blog, the question of 'plastic sleeves' or 'sheet protectors' often comes up with my colleagues. Some prefer them, as long as they are 'non-glare' which are more expensive and harder to find. I, personally, do not like them. They can make pages easier to turn, and that seems to be the only benefit within the audition.

    I suggest using copies that are back to back, without plastic sleeves, or even using the original copy (score or anthology) is fine, as long as the music easily lies flat on the music stand. Lately, I've taken to having all my scores spiral bound at Kinko's. It's a repetiteur's dream.

    All that said, most accompanists are your friends, and will try to do the best they can for you, if you are respectful and grateful.

    Not all of my colleagues dig this, but I prefer an actual metronome marking to any kind of tempo indication given from the singer. Mr. Florescu is right; by in large, be it because of nerves or what have you, the singer does not give the accompanist the tempo that they really want. It's a very strange phenomenon, but I've seen it happen with absolutely first rate singers.

  2. Hello! I just started following this blog and it's been a wonderful read so far! I just thought I would throw in my two cents here as well. I'm a singer, not a pianist, but I've heard several times that pianists also prefer the photocopied pages to be laid out the same way as they are in the publication, which I believe always have the even numbers on the right and the odd on the left (I think?). If pianists are used to page turns happening in the same places in the arias they play regularly, I can imagine that it would be rather off-putting to find that reversed.