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Study options & audition requirements

Cellist in Royal Festival Hall
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. 

Most candidates audition at the RCM in London. We also offer auditions at a number of venues overseas. The audition process differs between venues. If you are unable to attend in person, you have the option to audition by video. 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. 

Availability of video auditions for those unable to audition in person

Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, any applicant who is unable to travel to an audition venue will be allowed to submit a video audition for courses due to commence in 2021. This applies to all Principal Study specialisms. Candidates auditioning by video will automatically be considered for scholarship.

For those who are able to attend an audition in person, please note that arrangements may be subject to alteration. The safety of our audition candidates is paramount and the RCM is closely monitoring the latest guidance from the UK Government and the authorities in our overseas audition locations.

Check this page for updates

Violin

Undergraduate

Applicants should prepare all of the following:

  • First movement of a concerto
  • A contrasting piece of your own choice

Taught postgraduate

Applicants should prepare all of the following:

  • First (or significant) movement from a major concerto from the 19th or 20th century
  • A contrasting piece of your own choice

What to expect at audition

Viola

Undergraduate

Applicants should prepare all of the following:

  • First movement of a concerto
  • A contrasting piece of your own choice

Taught postgraduate

Applicants should prepare all of the following:

  • First (or significant) movement from a major concerto from the 19th or 20th century
  • A contrasting piece of your own choice

What to expect at audition

Cello

Undergraduate

Applicants should prepare all of the following:

  • First movement of a concerto
  • A contrasting piece of your own choice

Taught postgraduate

Applicants should prepare all of the following:

  • First (or significant) movement from a major concerto from the 19th or 20th century
  • A contrasting piece of your own choice

What to expect at audition

Double bass

Undergraduate & taught postgraduate

Applicants should prepare:

  • Two contrasting pieces

What to expect at audition

Harp

Undergraduate

Applicants should prepare all of the following:

  • Nadermann Sonatine no 6 (first movement, Leduc Edition) or Zabel Concert Study no 1 in E flat
  • A contrasting piece of your own choice

Taught postgraduate

Applicants should prepare:

  • Two contrasting pieces

What to expect at audition

Guitar

Undergraduate

Applicants should prepare two contrasting pieces, at least one of which must come from the list below:

  • John Dowland Fantasia no 7 in E
  • JS Bach Lute Suite no 4 BWV 1006a (Gavotte en rondeau)
  • JS Bach Cello Suite no 1 BWV 1007 (Prelude) 
  • Girolamo Frescobaldi Aria con Variazioni 
  • Domenico Scarlatti Sonata in A major L 483 
  • Sylvius Leopold Weiss Passacaglia 
  • Fernando Sor Andante Largo op 5 no 5 
  • Manuel Ponce Campo from Sonatina Meridional
  • Joaquin Rodrigo En los Trigales
  • Leo Brouwer Elogio de la Danza

Taught postgraduate

Applicants should prepare two contrasting pieces, at least one of which must come from the list below:

  • Manuel Ponce Campo from Sonatina Meridional  
  • JS Bach Fugue BWV 1000 
  • William Walton Five Bagatelles nos 2 and 3  
  • Richard Rodney Bennett Five Impromptus  
  • Lennox Berkeley Sonatina (first movement) or Theme and Variations

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, a violinist can choose viola.

The following instruments are also available as related study options:

  • Jazz violin
  • Jazz viola
  • Jazz guitar

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 strings

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

  • Historical violin
  • Historical viola
  • Viola d'amore
  • Historical cello
  • Cello continuo
  • Historical bass
  • Violone
  • Viola da gamba
  • Historical harp
  • Lute
  • Archlute
  • Theorbo
  • Baroque quitar

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 your instrument and music for you and your accompanist. Please remember to bring anything you need for your instrument (eg spike grip for your cello).

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.

Strings 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.

Strings 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. Typical interview questions may include: 

  • Why do you want to study at the RCM?
  • What are your musical interests?
  • What do you think you need to do most to improve your playing?

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

Due to the volume of applicants, there is a two-phase audition process for violin, viola and cello candidates auditioning in London during the main November–December audition period. Some candidates will be referred to a second panel, which is held later the same day. 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.

Harpists who are unable to bring their own instrument will be able to use an RCM harp. There is no need to notify us in advance if you require this; just inform the steward for your audition panel on arrival.

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

You are welcome to bring your own accompanist. Alternatively, the RCM will have accompanists available on the day of your audition. We usually have several accompanists working on each audition day. We are unable to provide the name or contact details of our accompanists in advance.

If you require an RCM accompanist you do not need to tell us in advance; just inform the steward for your audition panel when you arrive.  

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.  Our accompanists are very experienced and are familiar with most standard repertoire.

Strings 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 may be a front desk ran by an RCM steward, but some venues have a public reception desk manned by their own staff.

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

If you are auditioning at any audition venue other than London or New York, you must bring your own accompanist if required. You will have 20 minutes of warm-up time before your audition. We are not able to provide practice rooms for you to use before this. 

Please note that we are only able to provide RCM accompanists in London and New York.

Where the RCM can provide an accompanist for you, this will only be on the day of your audition, not beforehand. If you require an RCM accompanist please remember to bring copies of the music for them.

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 performance candidates attend a live audition. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, any applicant who is unable to travel to an audition venue will be allowed to submit a video audition for courses due to commence in 2021. This applies to all Principal Study specialisms. Candidates auditioning by video will automatically be considered for scholarship.

Applications for entry in September 2021 will open on 16 July 2020.  The application deadline is 1 October 2020. 

Late applications for September 2020 entry may still be considered for a limited range of principal studies.  Please contact us to check before submitting an application. 

Restrictions

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 the first stage of your assessment, 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. 


You should complete your UCAS Conservatoires application form and submit your recording online via the RCM submission portal below by the application deadline. 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 will not be considered.

Submit your recording

Scholarships

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

Admissions and general audition enquiries

admissions@rcm.ac.uk