The Learning Curve (Or… There Is No Perfect Audition Song)

By the time you leave high school choir and drama and enter into your college program, ideally, there’s a list of songs (and monologues) you should have already covered: “On My Own,” “Corner of the Sky,” “Where Is Love,” just to name a few. But then at the same time, due to your age and vocal maturity (or lack there of), there is also a list of songs you’ve been steered away from.

However, the time has arrived for you to step up and put yourself out there. Banned lists, be gone!

Each of those “not right for you” songs has lessons to learn even though you may be too old, too young, wrong body type, whatever. These compositions, as challenging as they may be, should now be your equivalent of American Ninja Warrior.

Do yourself a favor and start learning these pieces. These songs can build your range, help your story-telling, increase breathing capacity, etc. But above all else, these works can be a litmus test. After you’ve spent some time with them, put them away – then, at some point in the future, go back and revisit them to see where you are now, how you’ve grown, and what’s next on the trail. These “level-up” works might never be audition pieces, but not every song has to be.

And while we’re here, can we just talk about this for a minute, this concept of “the perfect audition song”? Here we go: There isn’t a perfect audition song. Period. Not available. If there was, then let’s think about all the requirements this one song would need to have. The world’s most perfect 32 measures would include:

  • Range of emotion
  • Your lowest note AND your highest note (within reason)
  • An opportunity to belt, or use your head voice/falsetto
  • A story arc
  • Ways to show off your comedy and drama chops
  • The style of the show for which you’re auditioning
  • Ways to show off your individual personality and talent
  • Moments to impress the adjudicators and get you attention because no one has done it before
  • Technically challenging riffs, leaps, etc.

That about covers it, right?!

So what do you do? Start learning these songs you’ve been told to not work on! That’s what you do! And maybe by doing so, they will lead you to the songs that are right for you.

When you dig into these pieces, you sometimes don’t realize just how high your higher-order thinking is reaching. You may have played these songs a hundred times, but once you start to deconstruct it within your own vocal abilities, they begin to offer fresh insight to what is actually going on – both in the song and with yourself.

If you are a 25-year-old male looking at “I, Don Quixote” for the first time, you’ve got 30 more years until you play the part, and several decades of body and vocal range changes in order to figure it all out. Don’t ignore this song until you’re over 50, or you’ve denied yourself an expansive learning experience.

Determination to properly train your muscles and to learn these notable works creates habits that can also change how you approach future music. So don’t go off and be a hero. These are the kinds of songs that are not impressive if learned quickly. These are the kinds of songs that need to be learned accurately, over time, and with a voice coach who can help you healthily achieve the hurdles they entail. Being able to sing through them, by no means allows you to check it off your list.

Magic performers such as Raul Esparza, Brian d’Arcy James, Kate Baldwin, Norm Lewis, Heidi Blickenstaff, Rob McClure, Malcom Gets, and Lindsay Mendez make songs look and sound easy. You feel like riffs and leaps are obtainable when you sing along. But when you actually sit and woodshed this music, this stuff is hard!

Try a few of these on for size, and enjoy the ride.


  • The Lonely Goatherd – The Sound of Music
  • Falling In Love With Love – The Boys from Syracuse
  • Daddy’s Son – Ragtime
  • Move On – Sunday In The Park With George
  • The Beauty Is – The Light In The Piazza
  • Fifty Percent – Ballroom


  • Barrett’s Song – Titanic
  • I Am The Starlight – Starlight Express
  • Jonas’ Soliloquy – Leap of Faith
  • And The Money Kept Rolling In – Evita
  • Fortune Favors The Brave – Aida
  • Mrs. Remington – The Story of My Life

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