Hey ya’ll, in this post, I’m going to break down how to audition for Spring Awakening. I’ll address the different genres of rock music used in the score, give you list of artists to look at for audition material, talk about different stylistic elements of the voice, and give you some thoughts on appropriate movement and physicality. Let’s get into it!
ROCK MUSIC STYLES IN SPRING AWAKENING
When you listen to the score of Spring Awakening, you’re going to hear two different worlds of music. The first is the intimate, poetic world of songs like “Touch Me,” “The Word of Your Body,” “The Guilty Ones,” and “The Song of Purple Summer.” The second is the angsty, raging world of songs like “The Bitch of Living,” “Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise),” “Don’t Do Sadness,” and “The Dark I Know Well.” And there are, of course, songs that live somewhere on the spectrum between.
So your first job is to decide which type of song you want to audition with - intimate and poetic or angsty and raging?
Angsty & Raging
For the angsty and raging song, you’re going to look at Rock artists from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the time period in which Duncan Sheik (the composer) was at his height as a songwriter and performer.
Though Sheik’s own music doesn’t sound like this, the angsty/raging bands that were on the radio and in his ear during the time that he was writing Spring Awakening definitely come through in the score.
Rock genres to explore include: Emo, Screamo, Hard Rock, Alternative Rock, Gothic Rock, Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Power Pop, and Alternative Metal.
For guys, you’re going to look at bands like All American Rejects, Jimmy Eat World, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Blink 182, Green Day, Saves the Day, Brand New, Weezer, and Yellowcard.
You’ll immediately hear the whiny belt/scream, the straight tone, and the tortured spirit that we’ve come to associate with Spring Awakening.
For girls, you’re going to look at artists like Paramore, Evanescence, Tracy Bonham, Liz Phair, Joan Osborne, No Doubt, Alanis Morrisette, Meredith Brooks, The Donnas, Hole, Garbage, PJ Harvey, Elastica, Veruca Salt, and Tegan and Sara.
Again, you’ll hear high, intense belt/screaming as well as the tortured spirit of the singer. You’ll hear a combination of straight tone and vibrato. Which one you use more will depend on the song you choose. With Joan Osborne in particular, you’ll get a little of the bluesy-soul thing that is sprinkled in the SA score (e.g. “Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise)”).
DISCLAIMER 1: When I say “scream,” I don’t mean that they are actually screaming or that you should scream. I use that word to convey the sense of despair, angst, and rage that comes across in their belt sound.
DISCLAIMER 2: Some of these singers DO scream. I do not recommend you try this. It can easily damage your voice, and it’s not worth it.
You may find songs and artists that are outside the early 1990’s-early 2000’s time frame that seem to work as audition songs. That’s great. Use them! (Demi Lovato for every rock audition, I swear). I’m just giving you a jumping off point.
Intimate & Poetic
For the intimate and poetic song, you’re going to look more at singer/songwriters and “faeries”, Sheri Sanders’ word for the strange, introspective, painterly songwriters. These artists are much closer to Duncan Sheik’s own style. Listen to his album Phantom Moon, and you’ll hear all the beginnings of the Spring Awakening score.
Again, if you focus in on the late 1990’s and early 2000’s you’ll find some artists that parallel SA. BUT, you can also look beyond that timeline and find plenty of singer/songwriters from many decades that have songs you can pull from. The following lists have a wider range of decades to look at, with the first several focused on the 90’s/00’s.
Rock genres to explore include: Singer/songwriter, folk, folk rock, alternative folk, indie folk, indie rock, indie pop, pop, and alternative rock.
For guys, you’re going to look at artists like Elliot Smith, Death Cab for Cutie, Duncan Sheik, Damien Rice, Bright Eyes, Jose Gonzalez, Iron and Wine, Bon Iver, Nick Drake, Greg Laswell.
These guys live in the land of soft, breathy vocals. All the better to communicate their heartbreak. Diction is often a little softer, as if the pain of life is too much to bear and their lips can’t possibly completely open and close.
For girls, you’re going to look at artists like Sara McLachlan, Lisa Loeb, Tori Amos, Evanescence, Shawn Colvin, Frente, The Weepies, A Fine Frenzy, Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michelson, Birdy, Sia, Gabrielle Aplin, Cat Power.
These ladies explore a range of low, breathy vocals, belt “cries,” and breathy head voice. It’s as if they’re telling a secret or sharing their most private yearnings. On the one hand, they can sound super sad and broken, and on the other they can be playful with a “little girl” quality of innocence and inquisitiveness. How to do all that vocally? Disconnected phrases, not long legato (e.g. spoken quality). Head tone even in mid range. Lazy diction with mouth not opening very much on vowels (careful with this for auditioning - we still need to understand your lyrics).
Here are just a few thoughts on how to move when you’re singing rock music.
Sheri Sanders said in a Playbill interview,
“Be the you that’s in the 1970’s folk-rock era, for example. When you go back to that time period you go, ‘How would this music make me move? What would I be like?’”
#1 BE YOU - Whatever movement you utilize should feel authentic to you. Yes, it should be inspired by the music of that specific genre and time period, but the movements should always be filtered through your own personality.
#2 FEEL THE MUSIC
When singing rock music, you are allowed to “hear” the music and feel it in your body. This is in contrast to musical theatre, where the music is not “heard” by the character. They are singing their thoughts without knowing that they are in a musical. For your rock audition, you’ll want to let the music affect your posture and how you keep the beat in your body.
#3 THINK LIKE A MUSICIAN
Imagine you’re a musician in one of the bands mentioned above. Actually, imagine you’re the lead singer of the band who also plays an instrument. What parts of your body are you able to move without affecting how you play the instrument?
If you’re wearing a guitar or bass or standing at a keyboard, you can bop your head, head bang, pulse your shoulders, bend at the waist, lift a knee, stomp a foot, turn your head sharply to the side (when not singing), pulse your shoulders, jump (either straight leg or with bended knees). Your hands are mostly off limits except for dramatic “windmill” arm sweeps on the guitar when you’re playing long notes. (Look up Pete Townsend of THE WHO for examples.)
If you’re singing sans instrument, then you have your hands and arms available. You can fist pump in the air (one or both hands), put both hands straight out like the crucifixion, grab your face, rub your hair, pat your leg, reach out to audience with one or both hands, touch your stomach (not my favorite, don’t overuse), grab your clothes, completely crouch down, grab the mic stand, twirl the mic stand, shove mic stand out to side, lean forward while holding mic stand, kneel down and lean back with mic in hand, etc.
Start watching some rock singers and take note of their movements. Try them out and create a vocabulary of movements that work for you.
In Spring Awakening specifically, YOU GET TO USE HANDHELD MICS! You should start practicing holding a microphone, like, yesterday.
Basic mic technique: the mic should be about 2-4 inches from your mouth, and you have to sing directly into it (not across the top it). That means holding the mic at about a 45 degree angle, not straight up and down. You can tweak the angle for dramatic effect or tilt your head back and bring the mic up even farther (a la “The Bitch of Living”). Whatever, just sing into it and not over it. When you sing louder, slightly pull the mic away from your mouth. When you’re super quiet and breathy, hold the mic closer to your mouth.
Remember, holding a mic means one arm is always being used. This will affect your movement choices. There will be lots of one-handed fist pumps, reaches to the audience, and arm melts to the side. Also, be aware of when to switch hands so that you’re upstage hand is holding the mic on stage. (Not an issue in audition situation.)
RELIGION & MYSTERY
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something about religion when talking about Spring Awakening. The musical is full of references to God, sin, Hell, damnation, salvation, and other religious themes. And the music itself is full of mystery and other-worldly soundscapes.
Extra points for you if you find an audition song that touches on these topics and features music that is mysterious and magical.
Extra extra points if you find a song that ALSO has mommy and daddy issues wrapped up in it. Tori Amos, anyone???? (But also, Alanis.)
Okay, that’s the quick and dirty on auditioning for Spring Awakening. If you have any questions, leave a comment below or message me on my contact page. I’d love to hear from you!