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Study options & audition requirements

Timpanist rehearsing
We understand that auditions are a significant milestone on every applicant’s journey towards a career as a conservatoire musician. The guidance below will help you prepare to the best of your abilities and make you aware of what will happen at your Royal College of Music audition.

Typical questions you may be asked during your audition include:

  • Why do you want to study at the RCM?
  • What are your musical interests?
  • What do you think you need most to do to improve your playing?

All percussion candidates audition at the RCM in London. We do not offer auditions for percussion at our overseas audition venues. You are advised to read the information below carefully.

Principal studies

Every student undertakes principal study in their main specialism, which lies at the heart of their RCM experience. You can audition for the following principal studies. Please note that research degrees have their own set of requirements.

Orchestral percussion & timpani


Applicants should prepare all of the following for all listed instruments:


  • Nick Woud Exercises 3, 9, 23 or 25 from Symphonic Studies for Timpani, or a piece of similar standard  
  • Rolls: pp, ff and pp crescendo to ff and dim back to pp

Candidates will be required to tune four timpani as directed after an unrelated chord has been played on the piano

Snare drum

  • Alex Neal Snare Drum Entrance Audition,or a piece of similar standard
  • Rolls: pp, ff and pp crescendo to ff and dim back to pp

Snare Drum Entrance Audition is available to download free from the Sight Reading Central website. You will need to scroll to the bottom of the page for the portal and should then register your name and email address to access the music.

Marimba (xylophone)

  • Either a piece for four mallets on Marimba or a piece of similar standard on Xylophone  
  • Scales in all major and minor (harmonic and melodic) keys, and chromatic scales starting on any note, two octave
  • Arpeggios and dominant sevenths in all major and minor keys, two octaves

The audition will also include a sight-reading test.

Taught postgraduate

Applicants will be expected to play repertoire selected from all the excerpts found in the following books:

  • Saul Goodman standard orchestral excerpts from Modern Method for Timpani
  • Morris Goldenberg Modern School for Snare Drum 
  • Morris Goldenberg Modern School for Xylophone


  • A work of your choice for four mallets

The audition will also include a sight-reading test.

What to expect at audition

Solo marimba

Taught postgraduate only

Applicants should prepare two or three contrasting works selected from the list below or one from the list below and one or two works of their own choice:

  • M Miki Time for marimba
  • Keiko Abe Variations on Japanese Children's Song
  • Keiko Abe Memories of the Seashore 
  • Keiko Abe Michi 
  • Akira Miyoshi Ripple
  • Toshimitsu Tanaka Movements for marimba 
  • Eric Sammut Caméléon 
  • Eric Sammut Spirals (choice of 1-2)
  • Christopher Norton November Evening
  • Igor Lesnik Neenah
  • Gordon Stout Rumble Strips 
  • Gordon Stout Sedimental Structures
  • Markus Halt Marimbasonics 
  • Paul Smadbeck Virginia Tate 
  • Ruud Wiener Capriccio Cristalino 
  • Joseph Schwantner Velocities 
  • Aiko Fukushima Dance of words 
  • E Kopetzki Kaskade for marimba
  • Michael Burrit Scirocco 
  • J Druckman Reflections on the Nature of Water

What to expect at audition

What to expect at audition

What to bring

In most cases you only need to bring your sticks/mallets and music for you, your accompanist (if applicable) and the audition panel.

What not to bring

You cannot bring a page-turner, your teacher or a translator into your audition. The only people in your audition room will be you, your accompanist and the audition panel. As our courses are taught in English we expect you to be able to communicate in English at your audition.


Any student who auditions in person for a place on one of the RCM's performance or composition courses will automatically be considered for a scholarship or study award. Composers who audition by video interview will also be considered.

There is no separate application process.

Scholarships are awarded purely on merit based on performance at audition or the strength of portfolio and interview for composers. Unfortunately, the following applicants cannot be considered for scholarships or study awards:

  • Performers who audition by recording
  • Applicants for the Bachelor of Science in Physics and Music Performance
  • Applicants for the Master of Science in Performance Science
  • Applicants for the Master of Education
  • Applicants for any of our Experience Programmes

If you are offered a scholarship or study award you will receive a letter confirming this and the conditions of your award.

In exceptional circumstances, an applicant may be offered a scholarship on the day of their audition.

Please note that we are unable to audition percussionists at any of our overseas audition venues.

Percussion auditions in London

You should plan to arrive at the RCM at least 30 minutes before your scheduled audition time. We advise allowing plenty of extra time for travelling into or across London. If you are caught in an unavoidable delay, please telephone the Admissions team immediately so that, wherever possible, alternative arrangements can be made.

Admissions team

Admissions and general audition enquiries

When you arrive at the RCM, you should find out from the steward in the entrance hall where your audition will take place.

Percussion auditions last approximately 30 minutes. Candidates will be directed by the panel to perform their audition pieces or particular extracts. We cannot say in advance which extracts you might be asked to perform, so you should prepare all of the materials in full. You may be required to take a sight-reading test and there will be a short interview.

You will have 30 minutes of warm-up time. We are not able to provide practice rooms for you to use before this.

If you are applying for solo marimba (postgraduate level only), we recommend you bring your own accompanist and that you work closely with them in preparation for your audition. The RCM can provide an accompanist for you on the day of your audition, but not beforehand. If you require an RCM accompanist you must email our Admissions team in advance.

You do not need to tell us what you are performing in your audition and please do not send copies of the music in advance.

Audition by recording

Candidates auditioning by recording only will not receive an in-person audition. This option is only available to instrumentalists and vocalists.

The application deadline for entry in 2018 has now passed. Late applications may still be considered for some courses and principal studies. Please contact our Admissions team to check before submitting an application. Applications for entry in 2019 will open in summer 2018.


Auditioning by recording is only available to non-EU candidates.

Candidates for the following principal studies cannot audition by recording:

  • Composition
  • Composition for Screen
  • Conducting
  • Harpsichord
  • Organ
  • Lute
  • Percussion

Candidates for the following courses cannot audition by recording:

  • Masters in Science in Performance Science
  • Artist Diploma in Opera
  • Any course that does not use UCAS Conservatoires for applications, including the Bachelor of Science in Physics and Music Performance

Application fees for auditions by recording

  • Single study instrumentalists or vocalists with or without a second study: £100

Consideration for scholarships when auditioning by recording

You will not be eligible for consideration for scholarships using this application method.

How to audition by recording

Your recorded audition should consist of a video recording lasting approximately 20 minutes. Audio only recordings will not be accepted.

For details of what to prepare, please refer to the audition requirements stipulated by the relevant faculty.

You should submit your recording online via the RCM submission portal. The information you upload to the portal does not constitute your entire application, but does form an integral part of it. You should ensure you have provided everything that is required. Incomplete applications may not be considered.

Submit your recording

After your audition

You will be informed of the result of your audition as soon as possible. The RCM cannot enter into correspondence over the results of auditions. 

Find out more

Audition queries

Please double-check that you are available at the time and date of your audition. If there are any special circumstances the RCM needs to be aware of before your audition, please let us know in advance.

Find out more

If you have any questions about auditions or the application process please contact our Admissions team.

Admissions team

Admissions and general audition enquiries