Audition songs for actors who ‘can’t sing’

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“I can’t sing but I have to for an audition!”
“I’m an actor not a singer, but I need an audition song”
As an acting and audition coach I get asked these questions a lot! So here is a list of songs which I think would work well for an actor who thinks they cannot sing.
Firstly, my guess is that you can sing a little – you just lack the confidence. You are probably no Idina Menzel or Ramin Karimloo, but there are tonnes of actors out there who are not the greatest singers but who work in musical theatre. They have the acting skills to pull off some of the roles which require more than just a cracking belter and a pair of jazz hands.
If you are an actor and have been asked to sing for a musical theatre audition then the chances are that the director knows you are not the greatest singer in the world but they have asked you in because of your acting skills. The Musical Director will be on your side, they will be understanding and will probably enjoy the task of teaching you how to sing and helping you find the confidence in yourself. Believe me, I have been there – I would consider myself ‘an actor who can’t sing’ but two of my biggest jobs have been in musical theatre both in the West End and on tour.
If you are singing for a drama school audition for an acting course – then know that they are on your side. The panel want you to succeed, they don’t want to humiliate you. They are looking for confidence and the ability to bring character to a song. Don’t pick anything too hard, stick to something simple which will show you off as an actor.
The songs in this list are ‘character songs’ and ‘story songs’ which will help you to showcase your acting skills. Try and work with a singing coach to help you to find the notes and help you with your breathing and phrasing. My advice would be to find a coach who works in musical theatre as they will understand where you are coming from and can help build your confidence in being ‘an actor who sings.’ The worst thing to do is find a pure singing teacher who will knock your confidence back down.
Treat the song like a monologue or a mini play, show off your acting range – don’t try and be a great singer but know that you are a great actor. Your confidence will shine through. Prove you are willing to ‘have a go’. Show you can follow the notes and rhythm of a song but above all show that you are a great actor who can bring truth, understanding and originality to the role … and to the song.
Audition Songs for Actors Who Don’t ‘Sing’
Are you looking for a musical theatre audition song? Take a look at the video and listen to the song. If you like it then read the script or watch the show, and get an understanding of the character. Approach the song as an acting exercise concentrate on character and story.

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  • Joe Iconis is a writer of character songs which really have a story to tell in a modern fashion. He is a cool name in musical theatre and by performing one of his songs you are showing you are on the pulse of whats new.
    Nerd Love comes from ReWrite a trio of mini musicals and it tell of the high school love between a pair of nerds! It is full of hilarious lyrics and pop culture references, my favourite being the differences between Velma and Daphne from Scooby Doo!
    Stick to the character and his or her growing passion throughout the song as he gets more ‘horny’ about the nerd he is wooing! Don’t worry about the song rocking out – stick to your charavter and dont let the music intimidate you. Have fun!
  • Cabaret is a musical based on a book written by Christopher Isherwood, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. It opened on Broadway in 1966 and a famous film was made in 1972, although Meeskite is not in the movie.
    Meeskite is sung by a tipsy Herr Schultz, a jewish green grocer at his engagement party. Meeskite, he explains, is Yiddish for ugly or funny-looking, the story song has a moral “Anyone responsible for loveliness, large or small/Is not a meeskite at all”
    The song is a real ‘story song’ with lots of fun moments where Schultz drops the singing to explain the yiddish words he is singing. He gets carried away and really enjoys the moment. Remember that at this stage in the play Schultz is full of confidence, excitment at getting engaged, and a bit too much schnapps! The song is energetic and fun and the harsh reality of the Nazi’s and act two is yet to hit Herr Schultz so enjoy playing with the song.
  • The wonderful show She Loves Me about shop employees Georg and Amalia who, despite being consistently at odds with each other at work, are unaware that each is the other’s secret pen pal met through lonely-hearts ads.
    Tonight At Eight is sung by Georg on the morning of his first date with his ‘dear friend’.
    The song is a lovely patter song which is full of character and the tune follows the normal vocal pattern of the words which makes it easy for an actor who thinks they can’t sing. The song is fast and your ‘nerves’ will actually add to the nervous energy and character of Georg. A total joy to perform.
  • I Love, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a musical romp about the modern mating game, from dating to marriage, to children, and all that comes after. It’s a collection of funny scenes, punctuated with sometimes hilarious songs. The actors get to jump from one wildly different character to another.
    This is a real treat of a song for a comedy actress, she’s slightly pissed and bitter and sings this country style lament to never being picked to be a bride and the woes of the various weddings she has had to go to.
    “Always a Bridesmaid,” with its limerick lyrics – “For Tabitha, I wore taffeta; You should never, people laugh at ya,” – is a really fun song which is easy enough to sing but difficult enough as a character piece for only an actor to do it justice.
  • Chicago is a musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. It originally played on Broadway in the 1970s and was revived in 1996. In 2002 a movie version was released and won several awards.
    Mister Cellophane is sung by Amos, the shy and quiet husband of murderess showgirl Roxie Hart. Amos is one of life’s losers and no-one takes any notice of him when he claims paternity of Roxie’s fictional pregnancy (a way to get her on the front pages of the papers in her unending quest for fame and notoriety!)
    A lovely song which shows plenty of character and gradually build to a more confident finale which will still be comfortable for even the least confident of singers. Treat Amos as a fully rounded character and really search for that sad emotional truth of being ignored by everyone.
  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a musical telling the story of a fictional spelling bee (US spelling competition for school kids) set in Putnam Valley Middle School. Six quirky adolescents compete in the Bee, run by three equally-quirky grown-ups.
    I’m Not That Smart is sung by one of the kids, Leaf Coneybear, when he has some trouble spelling one of the words he is faced with. He remembers how his family thinks he ‘is not that smart’.
    If you can really find the truth of playing a young kid then this song could be a winner, if you play it for laughs and put in all manner of ticks and thumb sucking ‘kid acting’ then I think you will stand out for all the wrong reasons.
    Look for the truth in the words, look at how you could relate to how the character is feeling. Work on how a kid would be able to express these feelings openly and not suppress them. Work on a few mannerisms which make you slightly kid-like but not over the top, and then go for it. If you take risks it will pay off in the long run.
    A comedy song which can show off your comic skills but also showcase your musicality.
  • The 1967 film Doctor Doolittle is based on the Doolittle books anbd concerns the adventures of eccentric Doctor John Doolittle who lives with a houseful of animals and with the help of his talking parrot Polynesia he has learned the 497 languages which enable him to ‘Talk to the Animals’
    The song was not generally well appreciated, and in some cases was disliked, by those who were working on the film during the time of its production.However it became the film’s signature song and won the Oscar for best original song that year!
    Its a great song full of fun lyrics which will show off your comedy and vocal skills without you ever feeling like you are being stretched out of your comfort zone as a singer. If you look at Rex Harrison in the movie he pretty much talks his way through the whole thing!
  • The Show by australian singer Lenka is a cutesy pop song from 2008 which has been featured on numerous tv commercials as well as in some tv shows like Ugly Betty, and movies like Moneyball and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.
    It is an easy catchy tune and has a real story to tell. The beauty of taking a pop song for an audition is you can really use your imagination to create a character and a story to tell.
    Look at the lyrics as you would a monologue, search for the character of this lost soul who doesn’t know what to do or which way to turn in their life but just decides to live for the moment. I think its a perfect little audition song and will be a breath of air to a panel but only if you do you homework and treat this as an acting project and not as a pop song.
Be bold, daring and creative and you can’t go wrong.