Audition Prep: College Audition Season

So, are you fearlessly auditioning for a college music audition, excited for the audition but a little nervous, cautiously optimistic about your audition process, or maybe, just maybe, you’re scared silly about this thing we call college auditions?

Whether you fall into one of these categories, or several of them throughout the day, know that all of these feelings are totally normal.

My own college auditions were basically a blur -- a very nervous, sweaty blur. I vaguely remember walking through strange college buildings, hearing other musicians, and hoping against hope that I had what it took to sound anywhere near as good as them. Luckily, I’ve had time to develop some solid plans now that I’ve done several more auditions and guided some of my own students through the audition process. You, dear reader, can have a much better experience than I did.

Read on for some tips to help you feel the most prepared and confident on your big day.


Make Sure You Know the University Audition Requirements

  • Does your school just want to hear your chosen solo or etude?

  • Are they also expecting to hear scales?

  • Will they ask you to sightread?

  • Is a theory test or other written material part of the process?

Do your research ahead of time; this information should be made available online, but if not these are questions that you can ask the studio professor if the information isn’t provided on the school’s website. You can safely assume that these people want to help you succeed!

Practice Deliberately

If you’re preparing a solo or etude for your audition, make some decisions on how you want it to sound. Do more than just aim to play or sing all the notes correctly and follow the markings on the page. Making decisions about the music and communicating them effectively shows a true maturity in your musicianship, and an audition panel will take notice!

Allyson Kegel shares a few tips in this article if you are looking for some ways to ensure you are practicing efficiently.

Don’t Forget Your Fundamentals

Even though you’re going to be working hard on your solo or other required materials, don’t forget about the basics.

  • Long tones

  • Scales

  • Articulation exercises

  • Sightreading

  • Any other basic fundamentals that pertain to your instrument

Not only will they help your solo to sound the best it possibly can, they will also help you feel the most in control on a day when your nerves are going to be super active!

Plan Your Warm-Up Routine

When you audition, you’ll likely be given some time and a place to warm up before you audition. Don’t get caught in the trap of standing in that room with nothing to do--or worse, the bigger trap of just running through all your repertoire and tiring yourself out before your audition even starts!

Plan out some fundamentals and a few (short!) sections of your repertoire to play through that will help you feel ready and confident, and then stop warming up. You don’t want to feel like you’ve given your best to an empty room.

To keep from over-playing, some mental practice or preparation can be extremely helpful. Emma Lin discusses some exercises she does for her performance anxiety in her article 3 Simple Rules for Managing your Stage Spookies.

Get Feedback Before the Big Day

Once you feel like you have a good grip on your audition materials (ideally AT LEAST 2-3 weeks before the audition day) practice performing for someone--anyone will do! Whether your audience is filled with musicians or not, they will be able to tell you whether your performance was engaging or not, and you’ll have a chance to perform while feeling slightly nervous.

Another valuable tool is recording yourself and listening back to make sure that you really do sound how you want to sound.


Most importantly, trust in yourself and your process. Seek out the advice of your teachers and other musical peers when you need it, and then get to work doing the best that you can.

You’re going to crush it!

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