The Music Theater Audition Book


The Music Theater Audition Book

Your audition book. Where it all begins and ends. The music theater audition book is something to behold. It should contain all the things that you need. This blog is about what the actual audition book should be. Soon I’ll get to what should be inside of it. Bare in mind, all the things I’m about to say are my opinion only. I have audition pianist friends that would argue most of what I’m about to say. And I have audition pianist friends that would agree with most of what I’m about to say. Gather all the information you can and make your own decisions.

Type of binder:

Your binder should be a standard 3-ring binder that is conducive to the amount of music you need it to hold. 1-inch. 1.5 inches. 2 inches? It’s up to the amount of music you have in it. I always say the smaller the better.  There is no need to have 300 songs in your binder. Boil it down. Find the songs that work best for you and consolidate. I strongly think that you should have a binder that has a clear pocket on the cover for you to put a headshot in. It makes it very clear that it is your binder and can help you find it if you misplace it. Where is my binder? Oh, here it is, it’s the one with my face on it. Also, please don’t bedazzle your binder. I’m going to cut my hand if you have fake plastic jewels on it. Stickers and stuff, that’s fine. Things with sharp edges, no thanks. Save those for your niece or nephew when they come to visit you in New York City.

Front Pocket:

In the very front pocket of your audition book should be at least one extra headshot/resume. You can store extra in the front cover sleeve if you need to. Putting one here makes it easy to grab one should the casting director ask you for one. You should ALWAYS offer your headshot/resume. The copy they have may be dated and need renewing. Plus it gives you a chance to have an actual interaction with the people in the room. These are hard to come by. Take them when you can get them.

This girl is looking at me awkwardly as I'm trying to play the piano.

This girl is looking at me awkwardly as I'm trying to play the piano.

Now as for that headshot/resume in the front pocket. You should have the resume facing out. In other words, picture facing away from the pianist. I know that you spent a million dollars getting your headshots done and reproduced. But it’s really awkward to have your face starring at me while I’m playing your audition. So just turn it around. No big deal. Easy, done. If you have callback material that you have prepared and for some reason they want you to sing your own piece first, have that material in the front pocket when you walk in. You can either grab it and put it on top of the piano, or have it in the front pocket ready to grab when the time is right.

Table of Contents:

Please have a table of contents for your book. This should be something that is updated as you take songs out, or add songs to your book. Let me tell you why this is a good thing to have. Sometimes in an audition the casting director/director/music director/some other random person in the room says “What else do you have?” Then you come back over to the piano and start flipping through your book randomly saying titles that you see. If you have a table of contents you can simply flip to the front of your book and rattle off the titles of what you can do. Also, as an audition pianist that knows this is coming, I can look at it and tell you which song I think would be best for you to sing, based on the information that I have learned from the room on that particular day. We’re your friend behind the piano, we know what they are looking for.


There are several approaches to how you can organize your book.

  • Alphabetical
  • By category
  • Dealer's choice

I’m always a fan of organizing your book by category. Put your Golden Age songs all together. Your Pop/Rock tunes together. Your contemporary theater songs together. This makes more sense to me than organizing your book alphabetically. You get called in for Waitress, you know which part of your book they want to hear songs from, you can turn right to it and know what songs you have. But, that’s just my opinion.

I would also recommend having tabs for each song in your book. Maybe you number them. Maybe you have some other organization technique that works for you. But tabs make life much easier. You always know where the first page of a song is. So when you are “flipping” through your book you don’t waste time on pages that you don’t need to look at.

Now the age old question that audition pianists have fought about for years.

Sheet protectors?

Personally, I love me a good sheet protector. Granted they are relatively thick stock and NON-GLARE. The non-glare is super important. Fluorescent lights are not forgiving. If you ever get to sit in a room for auditions, watch the audition pianist, if you see them in all sorts of weird positions… They are trying to find an angle where the light isn’t reflecting off your shitty dollar store sheet protecters. Also - double sided on good stock paper works. Not your standard 20lb paper. Get some paper with some weight to it. We love it! It makes turning pages a dream. Plus your music will stay in playable shape longer.

What about the actual songs in your book?

There is an entire blog post and webinar that I am working on that gets into the songs that should be in your book. But for the purpose of this post, I will deal with the actual sheet music. If you have a 16 bar cut and a 32 bar cut of the same song, you should have 2 copies of that song in your book. You throw a lot of information at us in the audition room, and we have played a lot of auditions. Sometimes that “STOP” that you have listed in the middle of your tune is for the 16 bar cut and we need to keep playing for the 32 bar cut. It can get confusing. So why leave it to chance? Have 2 or 3 copies of your song based on the number of cuts you have of it. There is no problem having a 16 bar cut, a 32 bar cut and a full version of the same song in your book.

If you are currently working on stuff in your voice lessons or vocal coachings you can absolutely have that in your book. If you are not ready to perform that stuff in an audition, keep it in the back of your book. Have a section that is marked off as “IN THE WORKS”, that is 100% acceptable. But if we see a song amongst all the other songs in your book, we are going to assume that it’s good to go. The audition pianist will recommend what “next” song to sing a lot. Make sure it’s a song that you know how to sing super well. Keep the stuff you are working on in a separate section. There isn’t a need to have 2 binders. Some people say keep it in a separate binder until it’s ready. Bah to that I say. Keep it all together. Just quarantine it.

Back pocket

The back pocket of your binder is a great place to keep all the extra nonsense stuff that you keep in your book.

  • Casting calls.
  • Letters from your mom
  • Receipts from voice lessons
  • Rental agreements
  • Divorce papers
  • Airline tickets
  • Parking tickets
  • Suggestive photos of someone you love/someone you met last night
  • Bible passages
  • School trip itineraries
  • Passports
  • Internet passwords

Keep all that stuff in the back pocket, I won’t look at it if it’s back there. Side note, everything on the list above I have seen in audition books. But if it’s in the back pocket I won’t look at it. There is something about the back pocket to me that is private. I don’t know what, but it is.

In conclusion

The biggest thing I can say about your audition book is to keep it clean. If it’s starting to fall apart, go buy a new one from Staples. Binders are not expensive. Care for it. It is your job interview.

Next week I’ll delve into songs for your book. I think. I may change my mind. But that’s what I’m thinking. It'll probably be 2 or 3 weeks worth of blogs.

Until then.

Every Audition Counts.


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New York, NY 10003

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Until then, every audition counts.

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