Audition Book Checklist (From your friends at ACTOR THERAPY)

At Actor Therapy, we find that actors often feel confused about what they need in their book — trying to reconcile the dozens of things they’ve been told over the years, and in a variety of different places (both geographically and emotionally). Once and for all, Lindsay Mendez and I offer you our discoveries on what an actor truly needs to cover all their bases.

Your book should be an “ID card” of who you are.

In a perfect world, only YOU should have this combination of songs, and should someone pick up your book who is familiar with you, they would know immediately it was yours. Generally speaking, no more than 12 songs should be in your book. Edit down & make sure each song you have in there is perfected and can be sung by you at anytime, anywhere. Actors who fulfill an extremely specific or niche type may need fewer songs; actors who find they are able to do an incredibly wide range of genres, etc., may have a few more.

Also, if you have the complete music in your book, you should know the COMPLETE song including the beginning verse and extra endings ... so if you are quizzed or asked to sing the full thing, you can. If you don’t know the sections of music outside of your cut, don’t have those pages in there, you tease.

The binder should not have a cover page or decorations on the front. You don’t need your headshot in the front either; just leave it plain, keeping headshots and resumes in the inside pocket. Always have your music hole punched or in glossy sheets. It looks unprofessional to have loose sheet music for the accompanist even if you’re still learning the material.

So, what should be in your book?

There are many opinions and you have many options on how to construct your book. Lindsay and I have found the following list will cover the most bases.

  • 2 OR MORE contrasting Golden Age (pre-1960). 3 is okay!
  • 2 contrasting Pop/Rock songs.
    • (at least one Top 40)
  • 1–2 contrasting New Musical Theatre songs (post-2000s)
    • (Preferably not sad ballads about being unloved — be careful with this section, and remember to entertain.)
  • a Megamusical song
    • (Les Miz, Secret Garden, Phantom, Ragtime, Wildhorn musicals, etc.)
  • a 50s/60s song
  • a Folk/Country song
    • (You can have 2 if you’re really good in this area.)
  • a Sondheim song
  • A Specialty song that showcases a very niche genre (jazz, operetta, R&B, etc.) that tells them something about your interests
    • (You won’t really use this much but it’s good to have something fun like this in your book.)
  • Your favorite song
    • (Think of this as a “wild card” spot.)

Additionally, in these songs above, you should also fulfill as many of the criteria below:

  • Two songs (one classic, one contemporary) which are go-tos for a general audition and showcase your best skills
  • Something that shows your sense of humor (comic)
  • Something from a show that’s on Broadway right now in a role you are perfect for
    • (but stay away from the singular hits in roles everyone thinks they’re perfect for; as examples: “In My Dreams” and “Waving Through a Window.”)
  • Something that shows your creativity
    • (a re-interpretation, perhaps)
  • Something that shows how well you handle complex text
  • Something that shows how you handle patter (rapid lyrics)
  • Something you could sing first thing in the morning, without warming up / when you are sick
    • (or hungover heheh...)
  • Something you could sing a cappella, if you had to
  • Something every accompanist knows how to play
    • (for those middle of nowhere regional auditions where they brought their own accompanists)
  • Something serious and dramatic — but you don’t need more than one

Some other important things to note:

  • Some songs may do two or more things (a Comedic Golden Age, etc.)
  • The more you specialize in an area, you might have an extra song or further contrasting song.
    • (If you’re hysterical, you might have 3 comedy songs in 3 different styles, instead of 1; if you do the pop-rock thing VERY well, you might have a third, even fourth, in your book.)
  • You don’t need more than 3–4 ballads in your book; no one needs to specialize in “ballad.”
  • “Pop music” is defined as having been heard on the radio, and is sometimes an umbrella term to include rock, country, folk, R&B, hip hop, etc. Contemporary or new musical theatre music written in a pop style doesn’t count.
  • Depending on the effectiveness of a “pastiche” style (songs in a style of a time gone by: for example how Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is written in a classic operetta style), you may be able to get away with using a newer song in an older slot.
  • It’s okay (and sometimes even recommended) if one of your songs is a very “overdone” song, as long as the rest of your book feels fresh.
  • Doing hot-off-the-presses material you’re 99% sure the people behind the table have never ever heard before (because maybe your friend wrote it) isn’t a great idea because they may be distracted by the song itself and not focused on what they should be focused on: YOU.

So there you have it! Plenty of tips and tricks to build, refine, and troubleshoot your New York audition book.

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