One of the most important services I provide is personalized computerized music preparation. Auditions invariably go more smoothly when the pianist is given the music prepared in such a way that there is no question about what the singer expects to hear. The publication-quality sheet music that I provide will have all repeats, introductions, modulations and endings clearly indicated. The following information and examples should explain some basics of preparing music for auditions. There are several sample pages available to download. To view or print these sample pages, you will need Adobe Acrobat reader. If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat, click here to download it.

Notes on Sheet Music Preparation

All the time you spent learning and rehearsing a song with your teacher, coach, or pianist-live or on tape-may lull you into thinking that the accompaniment will always be exactly what you're used to. When you hear your music played for the first time by a new pianist, it might sound like a completely different song! There are things you can do to minimize this problem, and to have a more successful audition or performance, even when you haven't rehearsed with the pianist beforehand.

  • Avoid songs with overly complex piano parts which are difficult to sight-read. If you must sing a piece which requires an extraordinary pianist, you're usually better off bringing your own accompanist with you.
  • Make sure that your music clearly indicates introduction, ending, cuts, tempo changes, repeats, and transpositions.
  • Take a few moments to explain to the pianist any changes you've made in the music, even if they're marked. Set a tempo by softly singing a couple of bars of the song.
  • Be a leader-let the accompanist accompany! If you try to follow the piano, but the pianist tries to follow you, you'll get nowhere.
  • Have your music prepared in such a way that it stands up firmly on the piano. Loose pages falling all over will certainly hinder your performance. Remember, the easier you make it on the pianist, the better the accompaniment will sound, and the better your performance will be.

Transposing Your Music

If you need to sing your song in a key other than written, it must be transposed into the new key. Changing the key of a song should not be considered any sort of failure on the part of the singer; just as you wear clothing in your correct size, your songs must be in a key that's correct for your voice. For the accompanist, transposition of music into a different key is a special talent and ability, which not every pianist can do to the same degree.

There are several ways of making your transposed music "pianist-ready" to be sight-read. Here are some methods, and pros and cons about each:

1. Write the name of the new key on the music.

PRO: Cheap, fast, easily changed.

CON: Many accompanists cannot transpose at sight; looks amateurish, like you don't care about your performance.

2. Have the transposed chord symbols written above the original chords in the music

PRO: Cheap, relatively quick, many times readable by pianists.

CON: Some pianists can't read chord symbols. Certain songs are dependent upon a specific accompaniment which isn't translated by simple chord symbols. Many times the musical introduction has no chord symbols.

3. Have a lead sheet (melody, lyrics, chord symbols) made of your audition song in the correct key.

PRO: Gives pianist a "skeletal" picture of the song, as long as the lead sheet is clearly written, and includes introductions and important musical cues. More inexpensive than writing out the complete piano part. Shows you've taken the time to prepare your song to be played at sight. If prepared by computer, can be printed out in several different keys.

CON: Some pianists can't read chord symbols. Certain songs are dependent upon a specific accompaniment which isn't translated without writing out the complete piano part.

4. Have a fully transposed piano-vocal arrangement prepared, including vocal line, lyrics, chord symbols, and piano part.

PRO: This is the most complete way to present your music to a pianist. If properly prepared, the pianist knows exactly what you want played, and what you're going to sing. Shows you've taken the time to prepare your song to be played at sight. If prepared by computer, can be printed out in several different keys.

CON: More expensive than the above methods.

Before having a piano part transposed, be sure that the musical arrangement is really what you want the pianist to play. It's certainly not a guarantee that your music will be played properly, only that you've done everything possible to make it clear to the pianist. Accompanists are only human, and certainly some are more competent than others. A good attitude and a smile will go a long way towards inspiring pianists to do their best. No accompanist sets out to destroy your audition or performance, but remember that a bad pianist wasn't just bad for you — every other singer that day will have had the same problem to contend with. How you deal with it is what will make the difference. But remember: "Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail!"

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Bob Marks

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