“Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation.”¹ Reverse engineering is most useful when trying to figure out missing knowledge, ideas, or design. Have you ever felt like there was a “secret” to auditioning that you just didn’t know about? There aren’t any secrets. It is most likely true that you have missing knowledge or a blind spot in your auditioning skills. Think about your grandfather who loved to take gadgets apart to see their inner-workings. He never assumed he understood how it worked or how it was designed until he dissected the parts and put them back together. That’s what we can do with auditions.
Your Day 18 challenge is to Reverse Engineer Your Upcoming Audition
I hate to bring it up; but, think about those American Idol auditions that crash and burn. There is some serious missing knowledge there. Perhaps it is a missing sense of self-awareness . Although, sometimes the hopeful singer’s blind spot is under-preparation or nerves. I bet that you can spot a successful audition, on that show, when she walks in the door. Why? Because you know the elements of a good audition. That’s what reverse engineering the audition is all about. You must figure out your specific desired outcome and work backwards to achieve it.
Reverse Engineering Tools
Read the Room
A memorable audition is one in which the singer connects with the entire room. To go back to our TV show example, watch one of those stellar auditions and identify how the singer connects with each individual. When you see a singer that lights up a room, reverse engineer what it is that draws you to them. Is it their genuine smile? Is it their confidence and ease? Now, apply that to your upcoming audition. Will you be open and charismatic or forced and disconnected?
Identify some techniques that will help you be present and relatable in front of the audition panel. Engage the adjudicators, pianist, and don’t forget about the video camera if there is one in the room. That is another set of eyes that you shouldn’t shun. Imagine watching the playback later. A singer that jumps off the screen and stands out in the room has the advantage.
Prepare for the Audition You Have
If an audition is like a job interview, use traditional interview prep to help you prepare for the audition. It is true that you should sing the repertoire that you sing best. However, you have done enough research to know what the audition panel needs. Reverse engineer the audition: know your specific desired outcome. If they are auditioning for Violetta, you better damn well show them that you are a Violetta.
More than that, show them (and yourself) that you are capable, responsible, and ready for this gig.
Know where your audition is, what time, the audition panel’s names (if possible), and how to pronounce them.
While I mention it, practice the correct pronunciation of your aria titles, operas, and composer names.
Know the style of the audition and dress appropriately.
Plan for delays. There will always be delays. You will be late because of traffic. They will be late because of traffic. An audition rarely goes as scheduled. Plan ahead on both sides of your audition time.
Watch your body language – ooze charisma. Smile, don’t fidget, and breathe.
Do your research on the company, school, or program. What kinds of voices have they accepted in the past? What are they looking for now? When you do your research the audition will not feel like a surprise.
Keep spare copies of your materials with you – headshot, resume, bio, repertoire list, etc.
Before you audition think, “what could they possibly ask me?” and be prepared to speak with expertise and excellent delivery.
Read the adjudicators’ body language to determine whether or not you should approach the table, shake hands, start or wait.
Debug Your Audition Style
The debugging tool isn’t about the external aspects of the audition; but rather, the internal aspects of how you personal approach and complete an audition.
Singers find auditions uncomfortable. Divas operate within that tension and use the energy to support their character and charisma. There is an overall ‘fight or flight’ feeling when we get nervous in an audition setting. There’s a little voice in our brain that starts to yell, “Let’s just finish this and get out of this room!!” That voice encourages you to rush through your audition and be entirely forgettable.
Be so good they can’t ignore you. – Steve Martin
As you become more confident with your technique, auditioning style, and repertoire, that little voice will begin to calm down. You can silence that voice by getting some decent, caring feedback from your singing team about your blind spots or missing information. Take your time when you audition so you can bring all your creative power to bear on those few minutes.
A huge component of reverse engineering your audition is accurately judging how much time you need to prepare. How much time will you need to learn and memorize an aria that you are adding for this specific audition? Be honest with yourself if you do not have the time in your schedule. Do not throw money away on application fees if you are not able (or willing) to put in the requisite time to ace the audition. That money could be better spent, my dear.
Reverse engineering makes you a better competitor in your market. It should also relieve you. It is comforting because you know what to prepare, how to complete the tasks set before you, and how to measure your success. By completing this challenge, you will begin to realize that there aren’t any secrets to auditioning and you won’t feel like each audition is a surprise. You will feel prepared, engaged with the room, and connected to your specific desired outcome.
Have an awesome audition success story? Tell us all how you absolutely “owned the room” in the comments below. I love to hear about all of your accomplishments as well as your questions or concerns. Have a specific question about or situation in your diva life? Tweet me at @mezzoihnen and let’s do some brainstorming!