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Wobbling on High Notes in Auditions

November 5, 2013

Leaving an audition one day, another actor and I were making small talk on the elevator ride to the street. She was frustrated at not having done as well as she had liked. “I can hit that last note at home, no problem, but in the room, well, you know, it just gets wobbly.”

Oh, how I know that problem. I used to struggle with the same thing. But here’s the deal: if you cannot reliably hit that high note squarely, choose a different song. Or a different cutting. Or have it transposed into a different key. Having a song with an amazing high note at the end is awesome – if you can hit it reliably. It will impress exactly no one if you can’t produce in the room.

Sure, we all have bad days; we’re human, after all. But, if you have selected a song for your audition that you are constantly worrying about whether you’ll wobble on your high note, choose a different song. Choose a song that shows off your voice. Choose a song that you can take into an audition room with confidence. Choose a song you can hit every note, every time. Better yet, choose a few. How many times have you auditioned when you had sinus issues, the beginnings (or remnants) of an upper respiratory infection, or just not enough sleep? You need to have a piece you can pull out and sound amazing, no matter what the weather or your body is doing.

Training is a big part of that, of course. Finding a voice teacher that will help you learn your instrument, not just throw songs at you and give you vocal gymnastics to contort to those songs. I’ve had both. Knowing my instrument has completely changed my audition game. But what changed my audition game even more was realizing that having a solid audition without that awesome high note was ten times better than having a weak audition with a wobbly high note.

Rehearsal is another part of having an amazing piece, no matter what. Whether it is your monologue or your song, knowing your piece inside and out will let you walk into the audition room with confidence. Famed midwife Ina May Gaskin has talked about how, in childbirth, women will go into their “monkey minds,” where your body’s innate knowledge on how to give birth takes over at some point during labor. I think auditions work like that, too. Sometimes I walk into the room and my nerves are cool as a cucumber. Other times, for inexplicable reasons, I’m a bundle of nerves. When that happens to me, I know it’s time to tap into my yoga breathing and meditation practices to pull myself together. When that happens to me, I also rely heavily on the preparation that went into my audition pieces. It gives me comfort and, consequently, helps to calm my nerves to know that I can do my audition pieces in my sleep.

I used to have some of the worst audition habits. I would memorize new monologues on the drive to the audition. I would choose songs with those awesome high notes because that’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing, “Don’t all the girls do the high note thing? I mean, high heels and high notes, rights?” Wrong. I look back on those auditions I hobbled through and wish I could grab that person I was by the collar and slap her around, Cher-style, “Snap out of it!”

So, dear actor-reader, heed my warning. You have amazing gifts to contribute to the theatre, just, maybe, among those gifts is not “awesome high note.” What are your gifts? Give those in the audition room, and you’ll never wobble again.


One Comment leave one →
  1. The Growing Artist permalink
    November 12, 2013 4:08 pm

    LOVE! Great advice!

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