How Long Are 32 and 16-Bar Cuts Really?

Oct 26, 2023 | Acting, Auditions, Voice

How long are 32 and 16-bar cuts, really? (hint: it’s about time, not measures!) 

Whether you are auditioning for Broadway, school admissions, or your school show, the two most common audition requirements you will come across are singing 32 and 16 bar cuts. 

It’s all in the timing. 

The common mistake most people make when creating cuts is taking the required measurements literally. They choose a song and count out 16 or 32 bars. They fail to consider that all time is relative to tempo. In other words, a legit uptempo cut would get through 16 bards faster than a legit ballad. 

Measure Time Not Bars

Here is a modern way to think about cuts: measure your cut in seconds rather than bars. A 32-bar cut should last 1:15-1:30, and a 16-bar cut should last 30-45 seconds. A general rule of thumb you should live by is less is more. Try to get closer to 30 seconds for a 16-bar cut and 1:15 for a 32-bar cut. 

It’s about how you use the time.

Don’t get caught up in counting bars; get caught up in telling a story. 

Make sure when you craft a cut, you put the story first. Your audition should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Give yourself room for an arc and dynamics. The people behind the table won’t be counting the measures in your sheet music. They will be watching to see what you bring into the room, if you have a deeply involved experience, and how you put the song across. 

Now that you’ve gone over what really counts, get to work! Go to your rep-book and check if you put story and time before measures. 

Break a Leg! 

Contributed by Danny Greenberg, director of The Danny Greenberg Studio.

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