You’ve got an audition coming up, but how do you decide what’s likely to work for you and what the judges might enjoy most?
Learn how to pick the best songs for a singing audition, that’ll make you shine. Knowing what is and isn’t likely to work, and checking out examples of the best UK singing auditions, helps fast track emerging artists to success.
Read on to find out what you should – and shouldn’t – be singing, and find out who has nailed it in the past, with auditions we loved.
How to pick the best songs for a singing audition
Auditions can be life-changing, opening the doors to opportunities large and small. They can also be nerve-wracking, but as an aspiring artist, you’ll need to get used to them and learn how to flourish in an audition environment. Choosing the right song can be half of the battle. Even if you’re an amazing singer, the wrong song can do little to show you off – something we’ve often seen happening on TV talent shows. So what should you pick to sing and which singers have nailed it with their choices?
Choosing songs to sing for auditions
Here are some things to think about when choosing your number.
#1 Does it suit your voice?
It may sound obvious, but plenty of people sing a song they like, but that doesn’t work well with their style.
#2 What are you trying to achieve?
For example, if you’re auditioning for a job on a cruise ship, sing something that suits that setting – not a hardcore metal track!
#3 What is your range and voice type?
Audition songs can be searched under alto, mezzo-soprano, soprano, tenor, baritone and bass. Singing something with notes you can comfortably reach will sound much better.
#4 Will you sing a cover?
If you write your own material it might be better to opt for one of your original pieces.
#5 How long is the slot?
If you only have 30 seconds, don’t include an instrumental section or long lead-in. You have to make an impression quickly. Edit your track to best fit.
#6 What backing will you use?
If a song only works with a particular type of accompaniment, make sure you have it recorded. You’ll usually have to bring a pre-recorded track, rather than your full band.
#7 What are the instructions?
The people running the audition will most likely have provided an outline of things you should and shouldn’t do. Follow it exactly.
What songs should you not sing at an audition?
Anything that’s overdone. That track you always hear on the radio? Don’t sing it for an audition? The songs you hear over and again at open mic nights and jams? Don’t sing those.
The more you’re around other singers, the more you’ll develop an understanding of what is ‘hack’. ‘Hack’ or ‘hackneyed’ means unoriginal or trite. These are the songs that’ll make the judges sigh when you announce the title, as they’ve already heard it many times over that day.
Unfortunately, this means that many really good songs become hackneyed, while they’re at the height of their popularity. But equally, it’s not ideal to pick a song just because it’s out of the ordinary. The same rules should still apply. And if you’re going to sing your own stuff, be honest with yourself. Is it really a good song? Because if it’s not, it won’t do you any favours.
Examples of the best UK singing auditions
A good way to identify what works and what doesn’t in the context of auditions is to watch others – good and bad. In this article, we’ve compiled some of the best auditions to help new artists see and hear in practice, what constitutes a good audition. Bear in mind it’s also about how the songs in these videos are portrayed.
So along with considering whether a song suits your voice, think about whether it suits your performance style. If you’re an amazing dancer, it may be good to opt for a number that enables you to move. Or if you have a way of making audiences tear up with emotive performances, go for a love ballad. Use the aspects to enhance your overall performance, rather than detract from your voice.
Pop audition songs
The songs we’re looking at are taking from the world of pop and current music. If you sing opera or musical theatre you’ll also experience a lot of auditions. Many of the principles of picking a good song are the same though. Choose what works for you vocally and stylistically and think outside of the box in terms of originality.
Best Voice UK Auditions
TV Talent shows have always been a great source of talent and this one is great because it really hones into the sound before anything else. Here are some good songs to sing for The Voice UK auditions:
Best X Factor Auditions
X-Factor has shown us some of the best – but also worst and funniest – auditions of all time and we love it for that. What are your favourites from the series over the years?
Best Open Mic UK auditions
Watch the top 12 performances from some of the best singing auditions at Open Mic UK. Here we list the best singing audition performances from previous contestants and winners.
This is a great example of auditioning with your own music. Lola wowed at every stage with her originality. Head judge Chris Grayston said, “Lola Young has been a standout act in every round she has competed throughout this year’s Open Mic UK competition and what’s most pleasing for us is Lola has come back year after year, improving and developing her original songs and emotive performances to make her a winner.” Lola has since been signed to Universal Music.
Molly was only 13 when she competed in the Grand Final at TeenStar 2014. She went on to reach X Factor Bootcamp in 2017, before being crowned the winner of The Voice UK 2019. Her debut single went straight to number one in the iTunes chart. Here she shows how a simple audition song can really show off a beautiful vocal tone.
Singer-songwriter Megan often performs her own tracks but also performs covers with passion. After Open Mic UK, she went on to appear on several ‘reality TV’ shows, winning The X Factor Celebrity 2019 and signing a record deal with Syco.
Here is Birdy’s winning Open Mic UK performance. Chris Grayston, who first discovered the young talent said, “When we first saw Birdy it was obvious that she had a rare talent! For someone so young she had maturity beyond her years and I’m delighted that we were able to give her help to take the first steps towards what I’m sure will be a fantastically successful career.” Birdy has since gone on to achieve fame with an international career touring and recording.
Watch Lauren Platt’s Area Final Open Mic UK performance from 2012 where she sang “One Night Only” by Jennifer Hudson. You may recognise Lauren Platt from The X Factor 2014, where she reached the Semi–Finals of the live shows.
Here is Alejandro Fernandez-Holt’s Open Mic UK Area Final footage from 2011 where he performed “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias. Alejandro went on to perform the same song in The X Factor in 2013, where he just missed out on reaching Judges Houses.
BBC Radio Presenter Annie Nightingale said, “He reminds me of Brett Anderson from Suede.”
“Emily has come a long way in the last 5 years to be a very classy performer. Her original song is very strong and well written. Loved the use of the keyboard too.” Director of Future Music Chris Grayston.
Emily Middlemas has entered Future Music competitions since she was 13 years old. She has taken part in Open Mic UK many times and was crowned TeenStar Champion in 2014. After her success in TeenStar, Emily went on to take part in The X Factor 2014 where she wowed the judges, especially her mentor Cheryl Cole and reached the live shows of the competition.
Here is Luke Friend’s winning TeenStar performance. His original song blew the industry judges away and so he was crowned the first–ever TeenStar Champion at the National Grand Final within The O2 in 2013.
After his success in TeenStar, Luke went on to take part in The X Factor 2013, where he sailed through the singing auditions and live shows taking the title of runner up position. As a versatile performer, Luke has since performed in large scale musical theatre productions too.
Here is Michael Rice’s TeenStar Grand Final footage from 2013 where he performed “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce. After Michael’s success in TeenStar, he went on to take part in The X Factor and reached Boot Camp, before representing the UK in The Eurovision Song Contest.
Lucy is a great example of how how to rock a cover and make it your own. Even if you choose a well-known number, you can make it sound unique. She went on to become a household name on The X Factor, before releasing four fantastic albums and touring.
Before Jaymi found fame with Union J in the 2012 series of The X Factor he competed at Open Mic UK, often reaching the Grand Finals both as a solo artist and in a group. Union J was signed to Sony and despite disbanding since Jaymi’s career is going from strength to strength with roles in major musical theatre productions.
We saw saffron audition in 2012 and since then she’s carved out a varied career in performance. Her YouTube channel has over 1 million subscribers and she recently competed in Strictly Come Dancing. It just goes to prove, if you know how to keep an audience riveted, there are lots of ways you can work in the industry.
Ones to watch
And here are some more acts we’ve seen that are well worth checking out.
Sheena McHugh took part in Open Mic UK in 2011 where she reached the National Grand Final. She’s recently made it through the blind auditions of The Voice 2015, where she chose Will.i.am to be her mentor after all 4 judges turned around to fight for her. We look forward to seeing how she does in the competition her future career.
BBC Radio Presenter Annie Nightingale said, “A seriously good singing style but she needs to sing with her whole body and soul.”
James Graham from Stereo Kicks, who were put together in The X Factor in 2014 took part in Open Mic UK in 2011. Watch his Regional Final performance where James performs “This Is The Moment” from the musical Jekyll And Hyde.
Director of Future Music Chris Grayston said about this performance, “Would have liked to have seen James embrace a character or image to reflect the song. Careful of the vibrato, best to sing it straight.”
Industry judges’ feedback on Olivia Lawson’s Open Mic UK Area Final footage, “Great vocal tone and technique. Haunting vocal and great image, there is definitely something here for the future. Cover choice of Lana del Ray was perfect!”
Olivia Lawson took part in Open Mic UK in 2013. She has recently made it through the blind auditions of The Voice 2015. We look forward to seeing how she does in the competition.
Here are some more examples of great audition songs we’ve seen.
Easy audition songs for auditions
When choosing your song, you’ll also have to decide whether to sing something difficult or easy. There are pros and cons to each.
Difficult songs can sound really impressive when done well, especially in front of professionals who know they’re difficult. But this depends on what you’re auditioning for. If it’s something where being able to nail a hard song is important, and you’re good at it, then it’s worth it. Taking on something challenging can set you up for a fall though. So do be sure you’re up to it.
Easy doesn’t necessarily mean boring. Some of the best pop songs, in particular, are very simple. By not trying to stretch yourself in the audition setting, you can relax and let your voice shine. And if you do choose something with a very straightforward melody, you can add to it with your performance. We recommend that those with less experience in auditions choose something musically easy and manageable.
Have some songs to sing for an audition ready and waiting
Don’t leave it too long to pick. You’ll need to spend a lot of time perfecting your number, so never procrastinate, and always have a few pre-prepared songs up your sleeve – especially in case the judges ask if they can hear something else. It’s good to include some variety in these, such as an up-tempo one and a ballad.
So in summary, find something that suits you and the audition’s purpose. It should be a song that you like, can sing really well, that’s in your range and hasn’t been done to death already by everyone else. Everyone is different so what works for you won’t be the same as what works for your mates. Getting to know your own vocals with the help of a coach is a process and over time you’ll be able to recognise the numbers that can take your musical journey to the next level.
- What are good songs for a talent show?
Talent shows are competitive, so you need the right choice of song to have a chance of success. As this is a big subject, you should read our article on finding and choosing a song that’ll help you do well in a competition setting.
- How do you practice singing auditions?
If you can afford it, hire a singing teacher to coach you. Or use online tutorials to exercise and improve your voice. Then get plenty of practice in by gigging at open mic nights and jams. Recording and watching yourself back is also a good way to critique your act.
- How long should a singing audition be?
This will vary, so it’s really important you check your instructions and follow them exactly. Judges are always short on time, so it will be annoying for them and appear unprofessional if you go over. Make sure you cut your track to fit the allotted time. And if you don’t know what that is – ask.
How do you pick the best songs for a singing audition? Which performances do you think are examples of the best UK singing auditions ever? Let us know in the comments below.