Tens of thousands of American Idol hopefuls crammed into stadiums in Seattle, Los Angeles and cities around the country, all waiting for their chance to impress judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.
After hours of waiting, sitting, hand-wringing and running through their lyrics these American Idol wannabes will get one shot to showcase their personality and voice. If nerves get the better of their vocal chords, that brief window of opportunity before the judges is wasted.
Whether you’re preparing your audition for next season’s American Idol or just putting together some music for a school play or talent show, follow these tips to ensure you put your best foot forward and let the judges see your true talent.
1. Don’t pick your favorite song. If you’re planning to sing, make sure to pick a song right for your range and tone. Just because you love Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” doesn’t mean it’s the best song for your voice. Make sure you can hit all the notes comfortably, without shattering glass or straining your throat. Maybe your favorite song is perfect for your audition, but stay objective when you decide.
2. Prepare a back-up song. Many times on American Idol, the contestants are asked to sing another song to help the judges make up their minds. Pick a back-up song to showcase a different style and prove your flexibility.
3. Be prepared for spontaneity. Another regular American Idol request during auditions is for contestants to sing part of a song based on the city or day. The Minneapolis singers were asked to sing a song from the city’s famous child Prince. Singers who named a certain artist as their influence were asked to sing some of that artist’s work. Regardless of where you audition, if you name Billie Holiday as an influence, you better be prepared to back it up with a rendition of “Gloomy Sunday.”
4. Don’t be overconfident. Not matter how talented your friends and family say you are, a little humility goes a long way. When I was in middle school, I went to 4-H camp with a friend who thought she was the next Judy Garland. She had been in community theater since toddler-hood and presented her “monologue” audition as a run-down of all her performances, including the one in which she was “discovered.” The judges were turned off and gave the prize to a spunky little kid with a mediocre monologue. Be fierce! By all means! But know the line between confidence and arrogance.
5. Practice. Duh. It sounds obvious. But you’d be surprised. Also, remember, as my poor piano teacher used to drill into me, practice does not make perfect. Practice make permanent. If you are lazy and apathetic when practicing, your mistakes will become part of your performance. As another wise person once said, “Good practices until they can play it right. Great practices until they cannot play it wrong.”
6. Know your trigger foods. Singer? No milk for 24 hours before your audition. You should do your research and know what foods, drinks, weather conditions may affect your performance. Know which ones are preventable and know how to counteract the ones that are not preventable. If you’re a musician or dancer, keep some energy boosting foods on-hand. A handful of red grapes, a tablespoon of peanut butter (not a good idea for singers, though) or a miniature Snickers bar ten minutes before your performance will give your energy a significant boost and increase smarty-pants rich blood flow to your brain.
7. Be yourself, but be classy. Don’t over perform your audition with a loud outfit or costume. In fact, in most cases, if what you’re wearing can be called costume – leave it at home. No matter how good an idea dressing up like a deranged fairy or Muhammad Ali seems, let your talent and personality grab their attention. A loud outfit will work against you to distract from your skills.
8. Try your best. Filter any critique, whether a Paul Abdul sweet “You can do anything you set your mind to” or a snippy Simon Cowell “You suck.” Consider the source – most judges are chosen because they are experts in their field and have the experience to back it up. Try to make their comments constructive and turn it into a positive affect on your future performances or auditions.