The current landscape of virtual education and training has made auditioning for young artist programmes, opera companies and courses more challenging than ever. Artists not only need to master their instruments, but also conquer the technology.

At the National Opera Studio we have seen first-hand the impact these challenging times are having on musicians and stand in admiration as they have responded and adapted so successfully to the pressures and demands posed by the technology on their learning and careers.

One thing is becoming very clear, musicians – more than ever - are having to audition remotely.  Not only through the submission of high-quality videos, but also live in front of a panel staring back at you through a computer screen. Having the right settings, microphone, and room conditions can help to make you stand out from the crowd and go a long way to you landing that dream role or course place. 

Getting ready for an online audition can be daunting and the technology intimidating, so to make the experience as easy and stress-free as possible, we’ve gathered together what we’ve learned working with our Young Artists and scoured the net to compile our list of top tips to help you master the art of online auditioning.    

1. Make sure you have the right setup

The first thing to do is ensure you have the right set up and that all the technical aspects are in place so you don’t have to worry about them after the audition begins. Please don’t get bogged down with ensuring you have the right equipment or technology.  The most important thing is to remember that we’re going to hear you so keep it simple, and do everything you can to ensure you feel as confident and comfortable as possible.

Here’s a checklist of some key things to focus on:

  • Use the most up to date device – If this is your phone or tablet, please use this as the camera will be much better. Whatever you’re using, make sure you have the latest Zoom update, as it allows for maximum flexibility for you – e.g you can adjust your exposure and cut out background noise.
  • Make sure the device is in landscape - this is much better for the end-user.
  • Ensure the device is safely positioned – As you may be moving around, ensure the device is secure. We’ve found that a phone tripod could be useful or you could place the laptop on a tripod music stand so you can raise or lower your computer should you need to during the audition.
  • Set the laptop camera to 1080p – It’s important to ensure your picture is as sharp as possible.
  • Lighting is key – This is one of the most important things to get right and is very often an issue on Zoom. Make sure you are in a room that allows as much natural lighting in as possible. Ensure the light is behind the camera is possible. If lighting is an issue, a little ring light would be a great affordable addition to your set-up.
  • Check the picture frame, your background, and surroundings – To ensure the panel are focused on you and not your impressive Harry Potter collection on shelves behind you, work out what’s going to be in your background. It isn’t essential, but if you can perform in front of a plain backdrop, that always works well. Avoid virtual backdrops.
  • Adjust your audio settings – Make sure to adjust your audio settings so they are optimised for music. If you’re on a laptop, make these changes to your settings. You can also test whether putting Zoom in “Music Mode” helps. This step-by-step guide is very useful and is worth looking at - https://www.musicrepo.com/zoom-music-mode/. Note that “Music Mode” makes the audio very sensitive so make sure you’re in a quiet environment and all the doors/windows are closed. Alternatively, we have found cleanfeed.net to be a great way to hear sound across the internet which can be used alongside Zoom. It isn’t essential, but a cost-effective way to improve your audio is to invest in an external USB microphone.
  • Check your sound – Make sure you use some kind of earbud with a microphone. We find good quality Bluetooth headphones work better as they have excellent mics. Make sure to ‘Test your audio and video’ before the audition to ensure they sound ok. We always recommend doing a test call with someone to make sure they can hear and see you well.
  • Test your internet connection – Make sure you’re positioned in the best area possible for the strongest internet connection. A good idea is to test the connection before your join the audition. Lots of ways you can do this but a good starting point is - https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/broadband-test. If you’re concerned about your connection, a backup option could be to plug your laptop (if the laptop permits) directly into your wifi router via a LAN cable.
  • We know…it’s obvious but….make sure your laptop/smartphone is fully charged and charging during the audition. There’s nothing worse than the fear of dropping out mid-audition

2. Check your eyeline

Try to recreate, as best as possible, the experience of performing in a live audition. Don’t worry about having to look down the lens of the computer camera while you’re performing.

We would recommend you look just left or right of the camera. Quite often, we have seen some musicians place tape either side of the camera to give them something to focus on during their performance.

Alternatively, positioning the camera on your device directly in line with your eyeline resolves most issues.

If you’re concerned about this, a good tip is to ask the panel what a good eyeline is for them before you start performing. More often than not, they won’t mind.

3. Be audition ready

We know how much time and thought goes into giving a good first impression when you’re auditioning live, and it shouldn’t be any different when auditioning online.  The moment you’re connected, you need to be ready to go.

After you have tested and checked your setup and equipment, it’s time for the audition. Get into the waiting room at least 5 minutes ahead of your allotted time. This time can be used to:

  • Carry out any last-minute checks and ensure you have everything you need. (Do you have a glass of water to hand?!)
  • Get into the moment and emotionally invested in what you’re about to perform. Auditioning from home over Zoom means that you have to work harder to get into the emotional mindset required to carry engage with the music you’re performing. You no longer have the travel time and change of scene you get when auditioning live to help with this. We have found some excellent articles here written for actors, but may also apply in this context:

4. You’re in control. Enjoy it!

The beauty of auditioning from home is that you’re in the comfort of your home – therefore a more familiar environment. You’re welcoming the panel into ‘your world’ so enjoy the experience sharing this with them. 

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So there you go! Lots to think about and consider ahead of your Zoom audition, but hopefully, this short summary of tips will help to go some way to carrying out a successful online audition.  We’re sure there are so many other useful tips that you have found out during your online audition adventures that haven’t been included here. If so, please do feel free to share these with us below.

Good luck!

Other useful articles you may find useful:

And finally...if you’re looking to invest in equipment, please find some useful tips below:

  • If you want to do the audition on your laptop, but it’s a little old, we’ve been recommended EpocCam which allows you to use your smartphone as a web camera. It gives good picture quality and works seamlessly with Zoom.
  • If you’re having trouble finding a good backdrop, nice backdrop screens that can be folded away are available.
  • To improve audio quality, investigate audio interface and mics.
  • Explore software to help improve audio and remove the delay when playing with other musicians over Zoom e.g Soundjack