How to Audition – 7 Winning Strategies

Auditioning is at the center of music school admissions.

If you are applying to music school, chances are you have to audition.

What do schools expect to see in a great audition?

They’ll tell you “excellence of technique” and “interpretation.”

These are true, but also very broad.

In my experience, my most successful students tend to do specific things winning them admission into music school.

photo via pxhere

Here are seven strategies, numbered in no particular order, that could help you, or the musician in your family, with an audition to music school.

7. Mock Auditions

Getting into the mindset of an audition – for practice – before your actual audition is the idea behind this.

It’s powerful.

From personal experience, a student of mine who does even one mock audition with me becomes significantly more prepared in this process.

You don’t have to do it with me – you can stage your own mock audition.

Any method of practice and simulation dramatically boosts chances.

6. Intentional Body Language

Confident body language is at the core of any audition.

You can play well, but if your body language is tentative, you will be giving away your nervousness.

It’s okay to be somewhat nervous in your audition for music school.

That said, too much nervousness and the admissions committee will look down on it.

How can you combat this?

Be intentional and confident in your body language.

When you come onto the stage, don’t be afraid to tell them your name and what you will be playing.

I don’t recommend looking at the judging panel during your audition.

That said, looking at them as you introduce yourself is important.

5. Understand the Requirements of Your Genre

If you are a classical musician, your audition is mostly classical repertoire, possibly with some sight-reading.

Depending on your instrument/voice type, some repertoire will fit you better than others.

Choosing repertoire that makes you stand out here is the key.

If you are a jazz musician, you will have to perform “standards” (think Autumn Leaves or All the Things You Are).

Additionally, ear-training, sight-reading, and rhythmic playing will be a part of it.

If you are applying a composer, some schools will have you do an exam of theory.

If musical theatre, you’ll have to cut your song choices appropriately and choose contrasting monologues.

If you are applying as a pop music performer, you will have yet a whole different set of requirements.

See what I am saying?

An audition is not simply playing music for someone well.

It’s choosing the right music specifically fitting you well, as well as secondary musical and/or other skills assessments.

4. Begin Repertoire 6 Months Minimum Before Your Audition

This is mostly important for classical musicians than in any other genre.

It’s exceptionally difficult to learn a Beethoven sonata with less than 6 months preparation.

Same for the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Bach Cello Suites, Hummel Trumpet Concerto or really any other major piece of music.

It’s true some etudes on some instruments can be learned in just a month or two.

But will it be mastered in that time?

Long-term planning is key here.

3. Trial Lessons With College Faculty

If you can work with college faculty before your actual college auditions, do it.

I’ve setup some of my students with a dozen trial lessons.


Two reasons.

One, it helps my student get to know a school/faculty better.

Two, they are exposed to the top experts in their field, giving them a leg up on the competition applying to college.

2. Summer Programs

Surrounding yourself with high-level talent does something interesting.

Your brain learns quickly how other people are playing so well…

And you adapt.

I see it all the time.

In fact, it’s one reason I encourage students to attend a college where they won’t be the best student at the school.

They need to feel challenged in order to progress in their ability.

It’s the same with a summer program.

A good summer program helps a student get to the next level in their playing.

It can be a huge benefit for the auditions.

1. Take Multiple Auditions

If you have 10 auditions, the first one or two will be the hardest.

After that, you’ll feel like you are a seasoned professional.

Between mock auditions and real auditions, if you do it enough times, you’ll begin to form your audition habits in your mind.

Each successive audition becomes less and less nerve-wracking.

If you only have one audition, you can succeed, but the pressure is very high.

Whereas if you have multiple auditions, you can learn from each experience.

These 7 strategies can skyrocket your chances of a successful audition.

However, is it enough?

When applying to college, auditions are simply one part of the process.

Interviews, essays, portfolios, pre-screen videos, applications, and more are other equally important elements.

Have excellent audition strategies? Let us know in the comments.

One Response

  1. Robin Jameson August 29, 2019

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