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.

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.

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

Piano accompaniment

Postgraduate only

Principal study in piano accompaniment is designed to explore and develop all aspects of a professional accompanist’s skills as a collaborative artist. Students enjoy regular group classes with internationally renowned pianist Roger Vignoles as well as a generous allocation of time each week with a one-to-one professor. 

In addition students will receive tuition to develop the many skills required of a professional accompanist, including:

  • Duo repertoire and chamber music
  • Sight-reading and quick learning
  • Fortepiano, harpsichord and continuo playing 
  • Techniques for the repetiteur
  • Basic conducting
  • Introduction to vocal coaching
  • Orchestral piano

Students of piano accompaniment enjoy close links with the instrumental faculties as well as with the RCM International Opera School. This involves playing for song classes and projects as well as weekly language classes. There are also opportunities to be a repetiteur for the Masters programme Opera scenes.

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)

There is a two-phase audition process for piano accompaniment. Some candidates will be referred to a second panel. However, candidates who are referred should not assume they are definitely being offered a place. Similarly, if you are not referred, please do not assume you have been unsuccessful.  

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

Postgraduate Only

Principal study in contemporary piano provides you with the opportunity to expand your repertoire interests. As a complement to your principal study, you will take part in workshops on subjects such as minimalism and post minimalism, prepared piano, aleatoric music and improvisation.

You will work alongside staff and student composers in preparing pieces for concert performance. Students of contemporary piano have the chance to develop orchestral piano playing, duo and ensemble playing, as well as solo performance.

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.

There is a two-phase audition process for contemporary piano. Some candidates will be referred to a second panel. However, candidates who are referred should not assume they are definitely being offered a place. Similarly, if you are not referred, please do not assume you have been unsuccessful.  

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 20 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.

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

Undergraduates on the BMus course and postgraduates studying for MPerf, MComp or MMus have the option of undertaking a second study specialism, which is unrelated to their principal study, but assessed with equal weight.

Second study specialisms are subject to succesful audition and the agreement of the relevant Head of Faculty. If you are interested in undertaking a second study please indicate this on your UCAS Conservatoires application. Auditions will be held once you commence your programme in September.

What to expect at audition

What to bring

In most cases you only need to bring your instrument, your music 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.

Scholarships

Any student who auditions in person for a place at the RCM 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 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.

Keyboard 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 Officer immediately so that, wherever possible, alternative arrangements can be made.

Lizzie Norton-Henry

Admissions Officer

+44 (0)20 7591 4362

lizzie.norton-henry@rcm.ac.uk

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

The length of keyboard auditions varies with principal study specialism and level of study (see above). 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.

Warm-up time

Pianists have 20 minutes of warm-up time. Organists have 40 minutes of warm-up time. We are not able to provide practice rooms for you to use before this.

If you are auditioning for piano accompaniment 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.

The length of keyboard auditions varies with principal study specialism and level of study (see above). 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

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

Applications for 2018 will open in mid-July. The deadline for submitting applications through UCAS Conservatoires is 2 October 2017.

Restrictions

Application by recording is only available to non-EU students.

Candidates for the following principal studies cannot apply by recording only:

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

Candidates for the following courses cannot apply be 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 applications by recording

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

Consideration for scholarships when applying by recording

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

How to apply 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 through the DecisionDesk platform. Please do not post your recording to the RCM. Any materials that are not submitted through DecisionDesk will not be accepted.

Submit your supporting materials through DecisionDesk

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

admissions@rcm.ac.uk