If you’ve ever wondered if you should audition for a musical when you can’t sing, the answer is, unequivocally: Yes!
Musicals need all types of people: dancers, actors, singers, and people to fill the stage in big crowd numbers. Some roles are cameo/walk-on types — think about the opening number of Guys and Dolls, which is packed with fun, non-singing characters. Other musicals have major characters who don’t sing a note: think Officer Krupke and Doc in West Side Story or Zach in A Chorus Line.
Auditioning for a musical when you’re not a confident singer can be terrifying, but don’t stress! With these tips, you can walk into the room feeling comfortable and confident.
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1. Identify Your Other Skills
When you don’t sing, your other performing skills become extremely important in a musical. Can you dance? Are you a great actor? Do you have killer facial expressions or a talent for physical comedy? Can you transform yourself into another person simply by changing the way you move? These skills make you a great addition to a cast.
If you’re not sure, find other actors or directors who have worked with you, and ask what your strongest talents are as a performer. This process helps you get clear on what you bring to the table in a musical — that way, you know what to highlight during your audition.
2. Reach Out to the Director
If you’re like many performers, the unknown is the scariest part of a musical audition. Don’t spend the weeks leading up to the date wondering if the director will even agree to see you — just ask! Remember, directors are just people (usually, pretty friendly ones at that) and they’ll probably be happy to answer your question. Simply explain that you’re not a strong singer and ask if you can audition for a non-singing role.
Use a direct email address if you have one; if not, just reach out to the theater group on Facebook or using a general email (available on the website), and they can get you in touch with the director.
3. Prepare a Song Anyway
Even if you are auditioning for a non-singing role in the musical, come to auditions with a song. Stick to something that you can get through without panicking — even if it’s something as simple as “Happy Birthday”. (One of our Theater Love directors once had an auditioner sing a hymn from church, and it was just fine.)
Need some easy audition songs for non singers? Check out our recommendations for Easy Audition Songs for Beginners!
The reason is simple: the director needs to assess your singing for herself. There’s a broad spectrum of people who “can’t sing” — this ranges from “can carry a tune” to “completely tone-deaf”. She simply needs to see where you fall. And if you’re thinking, I’m definitely tone-deaf, research shows that only 5% of the population falls into that category. Chances are, you’re somewhere else on the spectrum!
4. Practice in Front of People
Once you have a song, find a friend or a family member and sing your song in front of them. We get it — this is scary! But as uncomfortable as you might feel now, we can practically guarantee it will help come audition day. Many musical auditions (especially in community theater) take place in groups, so there’s a good chance you might need to sing in front of strangers.
Here’s the thing: this is terrifying for everyone, but doubly so when you’re uncertain about your singing abilities. By getting the first “performance” out of the way in front of someone you love, you won’t be caught off guard during the audition.
5. Read the Script
Nearly every musical audition form asks you to list the roles you’re auditioning for. When you fill in the name of a character (or four), it helps shape the way the director watches your audition. Writing “any role” probably won’t hurt your chances of getting cast, but why waste the opportunity to put yourself up for the part you want?
To get this information, read the script in advance. Identify characters that don’t sing. Then, get a feel for the time period, location, and the general arc of the story. If you can’t get ahold of the script, look up the musical on a licensing website such as MTI or Tams Witmark (google the name of the show + “licensing” to find the right site), or read the breakdown on Stage Agent.
6. Work on Your Non-Singing Skills
When you can’t sing, you may need to work twice as hard to stand out in an audition. The acting portion, in particular, is your chance to blow the director away.
Remember the skills you identified in Step 1? It’s time to work on them! Using what you learned in your script research, start creating a character for each role you want. If the person has an accent, start practicing it; this is a surefire way to stand out at an audition, particularly in community theater. Come up with a physicality for your character — a gangster moves and stands differently than a wealthy gentleman, for example.
7. Be Confident and Have Fun
When you can’t sing, it’s easy to feel small or insignificant at a musical audition. If you fall into that trap, you automatically fade into the background — and out of the director’s mind. Instead, walk into the room and smile at the director. Introduce yourself to other auditioners as you wait. Have fun with the scenes you read, and if you have to sing, do it in a loud, clear voice. Another tip? Choose an audition outfit that makes you feel comfortable and confident.
Think about this situation: the director has to choose between two people with similar talents. Person A smiles at everyone and sings loudly. They’re visibly nervous, but they’re also clearly having fun. Person B is obviously uncomfortable, sings in a small, terrified voice, doesn’t make eye contact, and leaves without interacting with anyone. When forced to choose, the director will almost always pick the person who will be more interesting to watch onstage and bring good energy to the cast.
No matter what musical you’re auditioning for, always remember the biggest theater audition secret: directors are rooting for you more than anyone else in the room! They want you to be awesome. Highlight your strongest abilities, have fun, and don’t assume that a director won’t cast you simply because you can’t sing.
Want more help with musical theatre auditions, even when you can’t sing? We love this book: The Enraged Accompanist’s Guide to the Perfect Audition.