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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.

Most percussion candidates audition at the RCM in London. We do not offer auditions for percussion at our overseas audition venues. However, you are able to audition by video if you are unable to attend in person. 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.

Expand the options below to find out the audition requirements for each principal study. 

Video auditions for 2021 entry

Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, the majority of our in-person auditions will now take place via video audition. No live auditions will take place at our overseas venues. This applies to all Principal Study specialisms.

Further information on deadlines and submission requirements for auditions by video recording can be found here.

All candidates will automatically be considered for scholarships on the basis of their audition, including those who audition by video.

If you already submitted a pre-screening video, this will be used as your video audition. You will not need to submit another video.

Video auditions are assessed on the basis of the video submission and UCAS Conservatoires application. Some applicants may be asked to participate in a short video interview after their audition recording is assessed.

Find out more 

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 Bayer Etude as shown below, or a piece of similar standard 
  • Rolls: pp, ff and pp crescendo to ff and dim back to pp

Bayer Etude

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

Alex Neal, Snare Drum Entrance Audition

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.

Changes to audition availability

We have been closely monitoring the ongoing situation with coronavirus in the UK, as the safety of our applicants is paramount. As a result, the majority of our auditions that would normally take place in November and December 2020 in London will now be conducted via submission of a video recording. This affects applicants auditioning for courses that begin in September 2021.

For the latest information on audition options, please refer to our Choosing where to audition page.

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

Percussion 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.

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. 

Typical questions you may be asked during your interview 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?

In some cases you may also be asked to perform scales, arpeggios or other technical exercises.

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), you are welcome to bring your own accompanist. 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

Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, any applicant will be allowed to submit a video audition for courses due to commence in 2021. This applies to all Principal Study specialisms, excluding second round conducting auditions, which we hope will still take place in person in the spring if government guidance allows. Candidates auditioning by video will automatically be considered for scholarship.

The UCAS Conservatoires application deadline for auditions by recording has now passed for September 2021 entry. Late applications may be accepted where places remain. Contact to check availability before submitting a late application.

More information about auditioning by recording


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: £100

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.

Tips for preparing a good recording

  • Your video constitutes your audition, so make sure that you are satisfied that it showcases you to the best of your ability.
  • You may find it helpful to practice recording yourself and review your performance before filming your final video.
  • Film your video in a well-lit location, with your camera placed on a stable surface.

  • There are no dress requirements, but you should look professional.
  • Make sure the reviewers can see what you are doing! For example, for pianists it is important that your fingers can be seen.
  • Check the quality of your recording carefully before submission.

Video auditions should be submitted via the RCM submission portal below.

Submit your recording


Every student who applies for a place on one of the RCM's performance or composition courses commencing in 2021 will be considered for scholarship, whether you have applied by video or attended an audition or interview in person.

There is no separate application process.

Eligibility for scholarships is based on merit, which is determined by performance at audition (or by submission of video) or the strength of portfolio and interview for composers.

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 and general audition enquiries