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Study options & audition requirements

A pianists fingers on the keys of the instrument
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.

Your experience will depend on your specialism and your chosen audition location. 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?

Most candidates audition at the RCM in London. We also offer auditions at a number of venues overseas. The audition process differs between 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.

Piano

Undergraduate

Applicants should prepare from memory a programme of three works of their own choice. This should last at least 15 minutes and show a variety of style, period and character.

The audition panel reserves the right to hear only two pieces overall.

Applicants should show proof of recent public performances in festivals, school concerts, etc.

Taught postgraduate

Applicants should prepare from memory a varied programme of 50 minutes which includes an advanced étude.

The audition panel will choose up to 20 minutes for performance in audition.

Applicants should also provide a list of the repertoire studied in depth in recent years and show proof of recent public performances.

What to expect at audition

Collaborative piano

Taught postgraduate only

We are looking for a very high level of pianistic skill and ability to collaborate with both singers and instrumentalists. It is essential to be a fluent sight-reader.

All applicants should prepare:

  • A programme of three works of their own choice, to include a contrast in instrumental and vocal repertoire, for which you need to bring your own soloist(s).

If you wish the RCM to provide soloists, then you need to prepare the following programme:

  • Beethoven 7 Variations for Cello and Piano on Mozart's 'Bei Männern' WoO 46
  • R Strauss Allerseelen op 10 no 8 (in E flat) 
  • Britten Let the florid music praise! (On this Island) (in D/G minor)

The audition will include a sight reading test.

All applicants should provide a list of repertoire studied in depth in recent years and show proof of recent public performances.

What to expect at audition

  

Please note, we are not able to provide RCM soloists at our overseas audition venues. If you are auditioning for piano accompaniment overseas please ensure you arrange your own soloist.

Contemporary piano

Taught postgraduate Only

Applicants should prepare from memory a varied programme of 50 minutes which includes an advanced étude.

The audition panel will choose up to 20 minutes for performance in audition.

Applicants should also provide a list of the repertoire studied in depth in recent years and show proof of recent public performances.

What to expect at audition

Organ

Details of the organ the RCM uses for auditions can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register website. You will be given 30 minutes of practice time on this instrument before your audition.

Undergraduate

Applicants should prepare one of the following pieces:

  • JS Bach Prelude and Fugue in C major BWV 545
  • Buxtehude Praeludium in D major BuxWV 139

Plus:

  • One other contrasting piece lasting not more than five minutes.

Taught postgraduate

Applicants should prepare a varied programme of 15 minutes, to include a fast movement from JS Bach Trio Sonata no 2, 5 or 6 BWV 526, 529, 530.

What to expect at audition

Related studies

Related study allows instrumentalists to receive tuition on an instrument closely associated with their principal study. Students can take one of our principal options as their related study, as long as a clear relationship exists. For example, piano and organ.

Related studies are approved by the relevant Head of Faculty once a student has started their course. No audition is required and you do not need to let us know about your interest in related study before you arrive at the RCM.

Historical keyboards

It is possible to undertake studies in the following specialisms through our Historical Performance Faculty:

  • Harpsichord
  • Fortepiano
  • Clavichord

Visit Historical Performance

Second study

Most undergraduates on the BMus course and postgraduates studying for MPerf, MComp or MMus have the option of undertaking a second study specialism. Second study allows students to receive tuition in a second specialism, taught and assessed at a lower intensity than their principal study, in an area that does not qualify for related study.

Second study specialisms are subject to successful audition and the agreement of the relevant Head of Faculty. Auditions take place during the first few weeks of the course, and students will have the opportunity to register for these auditions shortly before the start of the academic year. There is no need to inform the RCM at the point of application.

What to expect at audition

What to bring

In most cases you only need to bring music for yourself and, if you are applying for piano accompaniment, music for your soloist.

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 soloist (if applicable) and the audition panel. As our courses are taught in English we expect you to be able to communicate in English at your audition.

Keyboard auditions in London

The time shown on UCAS Conservatoires is your audition time. You should plan to arrive at the RCM at least 30 minutes before this, to allow time to check in and warm up. 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 on +44 (0)20 7591 4362 immediately so that, wherever possible, alternative arrangements can be made.

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

Keyboard auditions last approximately 20 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 will be required to take a sight-reading test and there will be a short interview.

Due to the volume of applicants, there is a two-phase process for piano and contemporary piano candidates auditioning in London during the main November–December audition period. The panel will inform you whether you need to perform again for a second panel. Candidates who are referred to the second panel should not assume they are definitely being offered a place. Similarly, if you are not referred, please do not assume you have been unsuccessful.

Second panel auditions take place on the same day, normally within an hour or two of the first audition, although you may have to wait a little longer if there is a high number of referrals.

Auditions for collaborative piano and organ consist of a single panel.

Warm-up time

Pianists have 20 minutes of warm-up time. We are not able to provide practice rooms for you to use before this.

Organists have 40 minutes of warm-up time and will be notified of their warm-up timeslot via UCAS Conservatoires.  An RCM steward will be available to page turn and assist with regisistration for organists.

If you are auditioning for collaborative piano we recommend bringing your own soloist and that you work closely with them in preparation for your audition. The RCM can provide a soloist for you on the day of your audition, but not beforehand. If you require an RCM soloist you must ensure you prepare the specified repertoire (see above).

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.

Keyboard auditions overseas

You should plan to arrive at the audition venue at least 30 minutes before your scheduled audition time.

We advise allowing plenty of extra time for travelling into or across the city where your audition is being held.

You will be sent detailed instructions about what to do at your chosen venue in your invitation email. When you arrive at the audition venue check for signage. Please note that there will not be a front desk run by an RCM steward, although some venues have a public reception desk manned by their own staff.

Keyboard auditions last approximately 20 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 will be required to take a sight-reading test and there will be a short interview.

  

Please note, we are not able to provide RCM soloists at our overseas audition venues. If you are auditioning for piano accompaniment overseas please ensure you arrange your own soloist.

Warm-up time

You will have 20 minutes of warm-up time. We are not able to provide practice rooms for you to use before this.

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.

Overseas audition venues

Audition by recording

Wherever possible, we recommend that candidates attend a live audition. However, candidates who are resident outside Europe and who are unable to attend one of our live venues may choose to audition by video recording. This option is only available to instrumentalists and vocalists.

The deadline for applications for entry in September 2019 has now passed.  

Late applications may be considered for some courses and principal studies. Please contact our Admissions team to check before submitting a late application. 

Restrictions

Auditioning by recording is only available to candidates resident outside Europe.

Candidates for the following principal studies cannot audition by recording:

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

Candidates for the following performance courses cannot audition by recording:

  • Bachelor of Science in Physics and Music Performance
  • Artist Diploma in Opera

Different application processes apply for the following courses (please see the relevant course information page for details):

  • Master of Science in Performance Science
  • Master of Education
  • Doctoral of Music
  • Doctor of Philosophy

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.

Candidates should prepare the same repertoire as candidates auditioning in person. Please refer to the audition requirements stipulated by the relevant faculty.

You should submit your recording online via the RCM submission portal by the application deadline for your course. 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

Scholarships

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

There is no separate application process.

Eligibility for scholarships is based on merit, which is determined by 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

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

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

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

Admissions and general audition enquiries

admissions@rcm.ac.uk