Piano Audition Essentials

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This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com. The question today is, “What are the audition requirements to become accepted at a music conservatory on the piano?” It is pretty standard. You’ll have to look in the catalog online to find for sure exactly their variations on a theme. Most conservatories for undergraduate studies require the following:

A Bach Prelude and Fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book One or Book Two

Often times they will state the exception of the very first Prelude in C major and some may even have other exceptions. For example, Book One the C minor Prelude and Fugue might not be accepted either because they think it is too easy, even though there is nothing easy about any of the Preludes and Fugues of Bach. Regardless, many say you cannot use those compositions. These are kind of the staples. Some schools may allow you to substitute another piece of Bach or Handel. But, for the most part, a Prelude and Fugue of Bach from Book One or Book Two is a standard audition requirement for conservatories. Most conservatories will require you to play your audition from memory. It is important to be able to memorize music on the piano because with some pieces it’s extremely difficult to play from the score. So, memorization is considered to be an essential technique in solo piano playing.

A Classical-Era Sonata by Mozart, Haydn, or Beethoven

Most conservatories will require something from these seminal composers. Again, there are a couple of exceptions. They generally do not accept the famous C Major Mozart Sonata K 545. The idea is that it is too easy, when really to play it well is not easy. But it is usually the first Mozart sonata students learn. They want to hear pianists who are above that level. They also usually say you can’t play either of the Opus 49 Sonatas of Beethoven, Number 1 and Number 2. Any other Beethoven or Haydn sonata is usually permitted for auditions.

One or Two Contrasting Works of the Romantic-Era or Twentieth Century

Sometimes the requirements will be more specific. But usually, you can play any work of Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Bartók as well as many other composers. You have a lot of freedom in this choice. There is a big difference between playing Stravinsky’s Petrushka or playing one of Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words. This is where you can really show what you can do. You might have a piece to present that is much more difficult than anyone else can play. Sometimes an etude will be specified. In the Classical sonatas, there are some late Beethoven sonatas that are massively difficult as well. Even some Mozart sonatas, such as his last sonata in D major K576, are a handful. So, there is a wide range of difficulty among different classical sonatas as well as Romantic and twentieth century piano works.

All Major and Minor Scales and Arpeggios.

This should be at a fast clip like 144, four notes to the beat for scales, and 120, four notes to the beat for arpeggios playing four octaves up and down the keyboard. Both major as well as harmonic and melodic minor scales are expected. These are staples. This is a way to weed out people who have not had good training. Anyone who is properly trained should have all scales and arpeggios in their back pocket. It doesn’t make sense not to learn them because you depend upon mastering them for developing a solid technique on the piano (or any instrument).

Check catalogs

Fortunately, it is very easy these days to check online for audition requirements. There are always exceptions and slight deviations from what I’ve articulated above. This should still give you a pretty good overview of what it is required in a piano audition for undergraduate studies. As far as getting accepted, that is a completely different discussion. There are so many factors beyond your control that you should never feel bad if you don’t get into a school you auditioned for. Sometimes they don’t even have openings! Sometimes teachers at the school have private students they are trying to get in. If you auditioned and you thought you played great but still didn’t get in, don’t give up! That is not necessarily an affront to your abilities. You can never predict auditions no matter how good you are.

Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.