Study options & audition requirements

Student playing marimba
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. 

Orchestral percussion & timpani audition requirements


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 should prepare all of the following for alllisted instruments: 


  • Beethoven 5, 3rd movement letter C into 4th movement until letter A. 
  • Beethoven 7, 1st movement from bar 27 of the Vivace for 22 bars. 
  • Beethoven 9, 1st movement from 18 bars before the letter S until the end of the movement. The final movement, from 'Poco Allegro, stringendo il tempo' until the end of the movement. 

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


  • Stravinsky – Les Noces 
  • Prokofiev - Alexander Nevsky
  • Kabalevsky - Colas Breugnon
  • Gershwin - Porgy and Bess

Snare drum 

  • Suppe - Pique Dame, 4 bars before letter C until letter D, and 8 bars before letter H until the end. 
  • Scheherazade - 3rd movement letter D to I and the whole of the 4th movement. 


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


  • Bizet – Carmen 
  • Dvorak – Carnival Overture


  • Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet. 

The audition will also include a sight-reading test. 

What to expect at audition

Solo marimba audition requirements

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.

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 20-30 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. 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

Applicants who cannot travel may submit a video audition instead. This option is open to all Principal Study specialisms, except Conducting, for which we will hold final round auditions live in London in Spring 2025. Candidates auditioning by video will automatically be considered for scholarship.

The deadline to submit applications for video auditions is 2 October 2024. Videos must be submitted by 28 October 2024. 

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 2025 will be considered for a 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

+44 (0)20 7591 4362

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