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Study options & audition requirements

Student playing xylophone
We understand that auditions are a significant milestone on every conservatoire applicant’s journey. 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 2022 entry

We are planning to audition in London for 2022 entry but applicants who would prefer not to travel due to coronavirus may submit a video audition instead. This option is open to all Principal Study specialisms, with the exception of Conducting, for which we hope to hold final round auditions live in London in Spring 2022.

We are planning on holding auditions for most principal studies at our New York audition venue but the RCM will not be auditioning at any of our other overseas venues for 2022 entry, due to the current situation. The safety of our audition candidates is paramount and the RCM has made this decision in response to the latest guidance from the UK Government and the authorities in the audition locations. Applicants who would have auditioned at our overseas venues are invited to submit a video audition.

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

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


  • Bayer Etude as shown below and Beethoven 5th Symphony, Last movement, beginning until letter A (bars 374 - 395)
  • Rolls: pp, ff and pp crescendo to ff and dim back to pp

Bayer Etude as shown below and Beethoven 5th Symphony, Last movement, beginning until letter A (bars 374 - 395).

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


  • A piece for 4 mallets lasting no longer than 5 minutes
  • Scales in all major and minor (harmonic and melodic) keys, and chromatic scales starting on any note, two octaves
  • 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:

  • Rihards Dubra Visio Remissionis
  • Eric Ewazen Northern Lights
  • Eric Sammut Variations on Porgy and Bess
  • Robert Oetomo – Over the rainbow (arr)
  • Claude Debussy Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
  • Pius Cheung Etude in E flat minor
  • Pius Cheung Verano Porteno
  • Pius Cheung Poetic Fantasy
  • Gordon Stout Rumble Strips
  • Gordon Stout Sedimental Structures
  • Anna Ignatowicz – Glinska Toccata
  • Tomasz Golinski – Luminosity (1st or 2nd movement)
  • Casey Cangelosi Etude in E minor
  • Toshimitsu Tanaka Two Movements for marimba
  • Joseph Schwantner Velocities
  • Michael Burrit Scirocco

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.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, any applicant will be allowed to submit a video audition for courses due to commence in 2022. All candidates will automatically be considered for scholarships on the basis of their audition, including those who audition by video.

Find out more

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 video

Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, any applicant will be allowed to submit a video audition for courses due to commence in 2022. Candidates auditioning by video will automatically be considered for scholarship. This applies to all Principal Study specialisms, excluding final round conducting auditions, which we hope will still take place in person in the spring if government guidance allows.

Applications for 2022 entry are now open. The UCAS Conservatoires application deadline for video auditions is 1 October 2021 and videos must be submitted to the RCM by 29 October 2021. Late applications may be accepted where places remain. Contact to check availability before submitting a late application.

More information about auditioning by video


Every student who applies for a place on one of the RCM's performance or composition courses commencing in 2022 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