How to Audition as a Backup Singer

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Know the lyrics flawlessly before going to an audition.
Know the lyrics flawlessly before going to an audition. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Pop artist Sheryl Crow began her career as a backup singer for Michael Jackson. Latino singing artist John Secada sang backup for Gloria Estefan. When music directors hold auditions for backup singing talent they are searching for artists who can blend their voices with other backup singers, provide supporting vocals to the lead singer and not get distracted by other singers' parts or the melody. Becoming a backup singer requires talent and the persistence to keep going on auditions. Success can bring you exposure or, better yet, your big break in the industry.

Things You'll Need

  • Sheet music
  • Industry magazines
  • Red pen
  • Tape
  • Demo
  • Press kit

To prepare for auditions, study vocal technique with a music teacher and polish your vocal skills. Take music theory courses to brush up on reading sheet music. Practice singing everyday to keep your voice strong.

Search trade publications for notices of upcoming auditions for backup singers. Subscribe to "Back Stage," a weekly entertainment magazine for people in the music business, as well as other industry magazines. Apply for auditions.

Familiarize yourself with the artist you may be working with once you are called for an audition. Listen to the artist's most recent music online. Study the songs on his upcoming or current album.

Pay attention to what will be asked of you at your audition: the length of the song, the type of song you will sing and anything else the director mentions. Prepare a variety of material that suits your voice. Limit your song to 2 to 3 minutes if the director does not specify a time frame. Learn the lyrics so you can sing them flawlessly.

Rehearse with a pianist. Rewrite the sheet music in the key that works for your range. Mark tempo changes, repeats, codas or cadences and other adjustments in red ink on the sheet music. Photocopy your song and tape the edges together in accordion style to hand to the pianist at the audition.

Stand and sing at the audition without dancing or walking around. After the audition, leave a demo and a press kit with the producer so he can blend your voice with other backup singers when making a decision.

Audition as often as you can just for the practice.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have a strong voice, consider a ballad to show off your range. An uptempo song can enhance your voice if it is on the gentle side. Dress for the audition as though you were going on a classy date -- no jeans or sweatshirts. Remain friendly and composed without talking too much or being antisocial. The director is looking for someone with talent who is also easy to work with.
  • For your audition, avoid singing a song from one of the albums the lead artist will be performing, unless the director asks for it. Instead, choose a song similar to the style of the artist or the show. Do not audition without sheet music. Otherwise, the pianist may play a different version of the song you are performing.

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