Studio Audition Preparation

Studio auditions

All Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Musical Arts applicants must audition for a primary instrumental or vocal studio. Auditions are scheduled by completing a Music Application form. Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Composition applicants are not required to audition on a studio instrument but may submit a separate music application if they wish to do so.  

Live NSAD Auditions:

Live auditions will take place on designated New Student Admission Days (NSAD). These are online, virtual events. All auditioning students must be able to read music, a skill which must be demonstrated through sight-reading in the live audition. As such, for virtual auditions, make sure that you have a screen large enough to view the score shared with you (or have the ability to quickly print it out). It is also recommended that you use ear buds or a headset and an external microphone. In addition to answering questions from the faculty, you may also be asked to perform scales or some of the repertoire you have prepared and submitted in advance via video. 

Video Submissions:

In addition to a live audition scheduled on one of our New Student Admissions Days, performance studios require pre-made videos from music applicants containing the repertoire specified below. These videos are due one week before your scheduled NSAD. We recommend using a high-quality microphone to record with your phone, tablet, or laptop or use a portable digital recorder, such as a Zoom H1. Ask your teacher, ensemble director, or other person with some recording expertise to record for you so that you can focus on playing your best. Instructions for how to submit these are available at our Music Submissions website. In addition to your files, you will also need to submit a WMU Music Submissions Contents form.

Below are specific repertoire requirements for each studio audition and advice for general preparation:

Brass:

  • Horn: Submit a video with a brief work or movement from the standard repertoire, as well as a contrasting solo or etude, demonstrating both lyrical and technical playing. You may be invited to demonstrate other techniques, such as multiple tonguing and lip trills.
  • Trumpet: Submit a video with one or two solo movements or etudes that demonstrate your current and highest level of technical and musical development. Multiple tonguing and scales to demonstrate range may also be requested at the audition.
  • Trombone: Submit a video with a representative solo demonstrating both lyrical and technical playing or two etudes of contrasting style. Trombonists may also be asked to demonstrate multiple tonguing (both double and triple), as well as one or two scales to demonstrate both high and low range. For more information, see wmich.edu/trombone/auditions/undergraduate.
  • Tuba and Euphonium: Submit a video with a representative solo demonstrating both lyrical and technical playing or two etudes of contrasting style. Examples for tuba might include Hindemith, "Sonate" (first movement); Galliard, "Sonata 1" or "Sonata 6"; Haddad, "Suite for Tuba"; or Gregson "Tuba Concerto" (first movement). Representative solos for euphonium might include Marcello, "Sonatas"; Grafe, "Grand Concerto"; selections from Rochut "Melodious Etudes Book 1" or a technical etude from the Voxman book. Major, minor and chromatic scales to demonstrate both high and low range are required. 

Keyboard:

  • Piano: Students auditioning for the Piano Performance program should submit a video with three memorized pieces: one from the Baroque era, one from the Romantic era or 20th century, and a movement of a Classical sonata (Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven). Students auditioning on piano for other School of Music programs (Music Therapy, Music Education, Jazz Performance, Composition) should submit a video with two memorized pieces, including at least one from the Baroque or Classical era.  At the live NSAD interview, be prepared to sight-read from a score on your screen.

Percussion:

  • Submit a video with two pieces. One should be on a snare drum and the other on timpani or a mallet-keyboard instrument. Requirements for Jazz Drum Set auditions are listed separately below.

String:

  • Submit a video with two works that best represent your technical and musical abilities: a first movement from a major concerto and a contrasting work, such as a movement of a J.S. Bach Solo Sonata-Suite or two stylistically contrasting works from the major solo repertoire. Memorization is highly recommended.

Voice:

  • Voice: Submit a video with two memorized art songs or arias: one in English and one in a foreign language. No music theater pieces are allowed for classical voice auditions. For Jazz Voice (see below). You are welcome to use recorded accompaniments in your videos. Many can be found on YouTube or you might consider purchasing an app call appcompanist.com which has thousands of accompaniments in any key. The live NSAD audition will include sight-reading a score from the screen.

Woodwind: 

  • Flute: Submit a video with a movement of a classical concerto or a piece from "Flute Music by French Composers."
  • Oboe: Submit a video with a Barret or Ferling etude, along with a solo of choice that best demonstrates your playing ability. Be prepared to play scales throughout the practical range of the oboe (i.e. low B-flat to high F.)
  • Clarinet: Video submission should include two solo works of contrasting style and either a representative etude or two standard orchestral excerpts. The material that you select should demonstrate your highest level of proficiency, both technically and musically. You may be asked to play full-range scales—chromatic and all major and minor. Because of the limitations of repertoire, bass clarinet is not allowed as a primary instrument of study. All clarinetists must audition on B-flat soprano clarinet (or A clarinet when appropriate). At the live interview on NSAD, please be prepared to play scales and sight reading. 
  • Bassoon: Submit a video with two contrasting movements of a sonata or concerto of moderate difficulty, plus one slow, melodic etude (preferably by Milde, Orefici, or Weissenborn).
  • Saxophone:  Submit a viceo with one of the following works: Paul Creston, "Sonata" (movements I and II); Pierre Max Dubois, "Concerto" (movement I); Jacques Ibert, "Concertino da Camera" (either movement); Alexander Glazounov, "Concerto"; Bernhard Heiden, "Sonata" (movement I or III); Paule Maurice, "Tableaux de Provence" (movements I and IV); Darius Milhaud, "Scaramouche" (movements I and II, or II and III); or (for tenor) Hector Villa-Lobos, "Fantasia." Other major works of similar scope and difficulty may also be performed. For the live audition prepare from memory all major and harmonic minor scales, each extended to the complete normal range of the instrument.

Jazz auditions

Jazz Studies majors will audition directly for the Jazz faculty. If you have a strong background in jazz, you may audition separately with the jazz area faculty for jazz admission and scholarship consideration. For Music Education and Therapy applicants, your jazz audition may be in addition to your 'classical' studio audition. 

Jazz Bass

Submit a video with the following two selections: 1) A piece of your choice in 12-bar blues form at 100-120bpm (such as Billie’s Bounce, Now’s the Time or Straight, No Chaser) playing the melody followed by two walking choruses and one or two improvised choruses; 2) A jazz standard of your choice 120-140 bpm (such as Stella by Starlight, Autumn Leaves, All the Things You Are, Oleo) playing the melody followed by one or two walking choruses. These should be submitted with a backing track accompaniment (suggested backing track sources include Aebersold, iReal Pro, or Learn Jazz Standard found on YouTube). For the live audition, in addition to an interview, be prepared to play two octave major scales (for sound and range) and demonstrate sight-reading of jazz pieces.  

Jazz Trumpet/Trombone

Submit a video with the following two selections: 1) A piece of your choice in 12-bar blues form (such as Billie’s Bounce or Straight, No Chaser) with two or three improvised choruses to follow. 2) A jazz standard of your choice (such as Autumn Leaves, All the Things You Are, Oleo) with improvised choruses to follow. These should be submitted with a backing track accompaniment (suggested backing track sources include Aebersold, iReal Pro, or Learn Jazz Standard found on YouTube).  For the live audition, in addition to an interview, be prepared to play two octave scales (for sound and range), demonstrate basic ear-training (e.g., imitate single and short phrases, basic chord identification), and sight-read jazz pieces.

Jazz Drums 

Submit a video with the following: 1) Swing time in the 12-bar blues form at 132 bpm (Play 3 choruses of time, Trade 4's for 2 choruses, Solo for 2 choruses, Play 1 chorus of time), 2) Swing time in the 32-bar AABA form between 192-200 bpm ( Play 2 choruses of time, Trade 8's for 1 chorus, Solo for 1 chorus, Play 1 chorus of time), 3) Afro-Caribbean Grooves (Choose 3 from the following: Mambo, African 6/8, Songo, Samba, Bossa Nova, Mozambique, Rumba, or others for 30 seconds each), 4) Brushes (Play Ballad time on the snare for 16 bars at 60 bpm; Medium Sing on the snare at 120 bpm with 16 bars in a 'two-feel' and a transition to a '4-feel' for 16 bars), 5) Funk at 76 bpm and 100 bpm (30 seconds each).  The live audition will include an interview and sight-reading. 

Jazz Guitar

Submit a video with three stylistically contrasting jazz standards (e.g., one up-tempo swing, one ballad, and one bossa nova), one of which should be an unaccompanied chord melody arrangement. The other two pieces will be accompanied by a backing track. (Suggested backing track sources include Aebersold, iReal Pro, or Learn Jazz Standard found on YouTube.) These pieces should include an improvised solo as well as one chorus of comping. The live audition will include sight reading of melody and chord changes; assessment of aural comprehension, including identification of intervals, basic triad, and 7th chord qualities, and common jazz scales. You may also be asked to demonstrate harmonic knowledge such as 7th chord inversions and common chord substitutions (tritone subs, backdoor ii-V’s, etc.)

Jazz Piano 

Submit a video with the following two selections: 1) A piece of your choice in 12-bar blues form (such as Billie’s Bounce or Straight, No Chaser) with two or three improvised choruses to follow. 2) A jazz standard of your choice (such as Autumn Leaves, All the Things You Are, Oleo) with improvised choruses to follow. These should be submitted with a backing track accompaniment (suggested backing track sources include Aebersold, iReal Pro, or Learn Jazz Standard found on YouTube).  For the live audition, in addition to an interview, be prepared to play two octave scales (for sound and range), chord-types (play a voicing representing a given chord symbol), pitch-matching (play what you hear), and sight-read jazz pieces.
 

Jazz Voice
Video submission should include two jazz songs in contrasting style (swing feel, bossa nova, ballad, contemporary), preferably with vocal improvisation (scat) as part of one of the songs. Please avoid a cappella recordings. Your submission may be accompanied by piano, guitar, rhythm section, or pre-recorded 'backing tracks' such as Aebersold, iReal pro, etc. For the live audition, if neither recorded selection includes improvisation, be prepared to improvise over 12-bar blues. You will also be asked to demonstrate sight-reading skills, aural recall (singing back a series of notes played at the piano), harmonic recall (singing the notes you hear when a chord is played at the piano), scales (sing a C major, C minor [of your choosing] and C chromatic scale, ascending and descending), and vocalization to explore your vocal range.  There will also be an interview and an opportunity to ask questions.     

General preparation

Acceptance to an undergraduate program in music is based on many considerations. The suggestions below indicate how you can best prepare during your high school years. This advice addresses both the ideal knowledge-set and skills-goals for college-level applicants and also the competencies needed by musicians as they practice the various aspects of the profession in college and beyond. In brief, you should learn as much as you can as early as you can.

Take responsibility for your own development

Each musician brings a unique set of talents, aspirations, and abilities to the musical scene. Although you are in school and probably studying with a private teacher, it is important to take increasing responsibility for developing your particular abilities toward your specific goals. Ultimately, you are responsible for choices about how you use your time to prepare for your future. For most musicians, that future involves music at the center supported by many other capabilities.

Practice, practice, practice

Whatever you do or intend to do in music, try to practice it as much as possible. This applies not only to your instrument and/or voice but also to other types of musical work. For example, composers should practice composing, prospective teachers should try to observe and gain teaching experiences under appropriate supervision, and those interested in music scholarship or criticism should practice writing and speaking on musical topics.

Perform alone and with others

Performance ability is essential for all musicians. You should be an outstanding performer on at least one instrument or with your voice, whether or not you intend to have a performance career. Keyboard ability is important for the life work of most musicians, and students with keyboard skills have a head start as music majors. Ensemble experiences of all kinds should be sought, as work in large and small ensembles develops different kinds of musical skills. Fine ensemble playing comes primarily through practice.

Master the basics

Be sure that you can read both treble and bass clefs and that you know key signatures, interval qualities, triad qualities, the major and minor scales, and how to write basic notation. Knowledge of musical terms and usage is important.

Develop your ear

Take every opportunity to train your ear by taking courses or studies in musicianship that include sight-singing, ear-training, sight-reading, rhythmic and harmonic dictation and so forth. Developing the ear is a lifelong job. The earlier this work is started, the better.

Hear as much music as you can

You need to be familiar with far more music than you perform. Try to hear as much music from as many historical periods and cultural sources as possible. Ask your teachers to recommend a listening list for you that covers the various solo, small- and large-ensemble repertory in your performance area. Try to make sure that you have heard the major works of all types in the particular area of music that interests you. Listen more to learn the breadth and depth of the repertory than to enjoy what is already familiar to you. Whenever possible, follow the score as you listen.

Learn how music works

Take opportunities to learn the basics of musical structure, including studies in such areas as form, harmony, counterpoint, composition, and improvisation. Like so many other things in music, this knowledge is developed throughout a lifetime. Those who are able to get started early have an advantage. Work with your music teachers, enroll in an AP music course if it is available in your high school, or take classes at your community music school to gain an initial acquaintance with this material.

Become a fluent, effective English speaker and writer

As a musician, you will communicate in music, but you will also rely heavily on your ability to communicate in words. Everything from rehearsals to teaching, to writing grant proposals, to negotiating, to promoting your musical interests relies on fluent English skills. Focus attention on learning to speak and write effectively.

Study one or more foreign languages

Musicians practice their art internationally. You are likely to perform music with texts in foreign languages and to work with musicians from all over the world. Significant musical scholarship and criticism exist in languages other than English. If you seek advanced degrees in music, reading fluency in one or more foreign languages is often required. Since languages are difficult for many people, you should begin acquiring knowledge and skills in at least one foreign language as early as possible. Consult with your music teacher about which languages are best for you.

Get a comprehensive high school education

Music both influences and is influenced by other fields of study: the humanities, mathematics, the sciences, the social sciences, and the other arts—architecture, dance, film, literature, theatre, and the visual arts. For entrance into college-level study, you are encouraged to gain a basic overview of ancient and modern history, the basic thought processes and procedures of math and science, and familiarity with works in as many of the other arts disciplines as possible. Most professionals who work with music develop a particular sensibility about the connections among music, history and the other arts. Understanding the basics of math and the sciences will support future work in music technologies. Social studies are related to understanding the context for various musical endeavors.

Think of everything you study as helping you become a better musician

As we have already said, the best musicians continue to learn throughout their lives. They are always studying and thinking, always connecting what they know about music with their knowledge of other fields. Since you never know the direction your career will take, it is wise to spend your high school years gaining the basic ability to understand and work in a variety of fields beyond music. Keep music at the center of your efforts, but accept and enjoy the challenge of gaining the kind of knowledge and skills in other areas that will support both formal studies at the college level and your music career beyond.

The above has been adapted from an advisory by the National Association of Schools of Music.