1. Make page turns easy. There are several ways to accomplish this. First, if your song is only 2 pages, print them on 2 separate pages, then 3-hole punch them so that they are facing each other, and place in a 3-ring binder. That way, when the binder is open, the pages are both visible at once and no page turning is necessary.
If you have 3 pages, you can do the same thing, but tape the 3rd page to the 2nd page using clear tape, and unfold it as you place it in front of the accompanist. (All 3 pages will be visible at once.)
For 4 or more pages, print on both sides of the page and put them in a 3-ring binder but dog-ear the bottom corners of the pages so they are more easily turned.
Some pianists like page protectors, some don’t. I find they make the music easier to turn, but make sure you use the non-glare type to prevent an annoying glare from the piano light. Also, page protectors can become a pain because if the accompanist wants to make any marks on the page, they must remove the page from the plastic and then put it back.
Don’t use staples when putting two sheets of music together back to back. Use clear tape or print the music on both sides of the paper.
2. Write the song title, show title and composer’s name(s) on the top of the page for the accompanist when you are singing a cut. The accompanist may not recognize the song right away, especially when only given a 16-32 bar cut. Even if they don’t know the particular song, if they know the show or the composer, they will have a better chance of playing the song in the appropriate style right off the bat.
3. Use a highlighter pen to draw attention to the following:
• Accompaniment beginning and ending, and where the vocal line begins. Two measures of intro is usually sufficient. You don’t want to eat up the precious little time they give you with anything longer.
• Tempo markings - The starting tempo (speed) should either be indicated with a tempo term, or for more specificity, a metronomic marking. “MM=60”, for example, indicates 60 beats per minute (1 beat per second). Don’t worry if you don’t have a metronome. There are lots of free metronome apps available for smartphones. Accompanists are very accustomed to following metronomic markings, and most pianists carry their own metronome with them, just to double check tempos. Any changes in tempo should also be indicated at the point in the music where it occurs.
And while we are on the topic of indicating tempo for the accompanist, NEVER snap, clap, or tap the tempo for an accompanist. You are in close proximity when doing so, and it is considered very rude and obtrusive. Instead, simply lightly sing a little bit of the first phrase or two. If more is needed, the accompanist will ask.
• Modulations (changes in key)
• Breath marks and notes you may hold a bit longer than notated – lets the accompanist know where they may need to wait for you if necessary
• Dynamic markings (desired changes in accompaniment volume)
• Directional markings – D.S., Repeats, 1st/2nd endings, CODA, etc.
- If any of these important guideposts occur just before or after a page turn, it’s even MORE important that they be highlighted, and you may also even want to draw attention to them when you first give your music to the accompanist, just to make sure they don’t miss them.
4. Remove any superfluous markings in the music. If you’ve used this copy for your own rehearsal and made notes on the character, subtext, blocking, choreography, etc… the accompanist doesn’t need these and they can get in the way. Provide a clean copy with only the things mentioned above that are necessary.
5. Check to see that all piano notes are visible on the bottom, top and sides of the pages. Sheet music is usually larger than 8x10, so it must be reduced to fit when copying. And make sure all your pages are put together in the correct order!
6. Take a close look at the piano accompaniment on your sheet music, and make sure you know how it will sound. You need to know what to expect from the accompanist so you’ll know when to enter, how to find your first pitch from the accompaniment, how long certain notes will be held, where you’ll have a chance to breathe, etc.. This is one example of why the ability to read music is so important. Even if you don’t play piano yourself, if you can read music notation, you will have an idea of what to expect from the piano. Hopefully, you’ve taken the sheet music to a vocal coach and worked through it prior to your audition. But if you haven’t, at least a cursory knowledge of music notation will serve you well.
7. Be sure your name, email address and cell phone number are printed in or on your 3-ring binder. You’d be surprised how many people leave their music behind in auditions. Nerves have a funny effect on the brain, and sometimes we just forget things.
For more great tips on auditions: