Slam Dunk Your Next 16 Bar Cut

Let’s get real about the dreaded 16 bar cut! It’s essential to have in your audition book if you are a musical theatre performer, but it's not as important as everyone makes it out to be.

In fact, once you get comfortable singing songs for auditions and you have a repertoire of favorites that you excel at in your book, getting a 16-bar cut can be simple and fun. Quite often 16 bars is a very natural fit for a phrase within a song. And be careful not to get too mathematical about it either. No one is counting the measures to punish you if you go over; they’re busy listening to your performance. That being said, there are pianists that will do this, which is why it’s essential that you know your time and tempo, and take a few of the below suggestions into consideration.

Practice makes perfect, so here are my top three tips:

1) It’s OK To Show Off.

In fact, it’s the whole point. So, be sure to choose a piece that showcases you, Not just your notes and voice but also your ability to tell a story. It’s important to show casting that you know what they're looking for, and you’re it.

So, if you’re auditioning for a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, don’t sing something from Rent. They're not going to want to work with you because you clearly don't know what it is they are looking for. On the same note, if you go into that same audition and sing Aunt Eller’s song when you're a Laurie, that's almost worse. Be sure you stay on the same page as the casting directors.

When in doubt, play to your strengths, and let compassion be your guide. What would they most want to hear during 8 hours of hearing hundreds of people sing 16 bars? 

2) Clearly Mark Your Music.

If you can, clearly mark the music for The Pianist. Keep some Post-it notes in your book in case you want to make a temporary cut to a pre-existing song. If you need support, find an accompanist to work with you on making sense of your music, a good accompanist can go a long way.

3) Don’t Put The Cart Before the Horse.

Don't go looking for the perfect 16 bars to sing. One idea is to find a song that you resonate with so much that it becomes your personality song and then pull the 16 bars from that. You might even already have the perfect 16 bars in your book.  It helps if the 16 bars you sing is from a song that is familiar to people, or has a complete story within the 16 bar phrase.

I found myself at an audition where they asked for 16 bars, and I didn't have anything ready. So, I just counted the last 16 bars of my favorite song in the book, and it worked out perfectly. Don't get too in your head about your selection, but make sure you’re prepared.

So now that you have my top three tips to conquer your next 16 bar cut, which was the most helpful? Do you have your own favorite tricks? Let me know in the comments below.