Navigating the college audition process can be daunting. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we get:
Q: When do college auditions occur?
A: Like everything in the college audition process, this varies from school to school. Most medium to large music programs hold auditions between January and March. Smaller schools may audition on a per-request basis and may even coordinate an audition with a visit to their campus. As always, communication is key. Reach out to the college admissions office for each institution you’re applying.
Q: How many schools should I audition for (undergraduate)?
A: There’s a delicate balance between auditioning for too many or too few schools. Most high school students I’ve worked with look into 7-8 schools and end up narrowing it down to 5-6 that they actually audition for. Overwhelm and burnout can set in past the 6 school point. Also, since most schools audition between January and March, a massive clump of converging auditions can make for a rough few weeks of travel and differing requirements.
Q: What kind of school should I apply for?
A: Great question! What are you interested in? How clear is your vision of our future?
In general terms, applying for a “safety” school, a few “ballpark” schools, and one or two “reach” schools is a good plan.
Everyone will have a different definition of safety, ballpark, and reach schools depending on their skill level, past grades, financial situation, and area of interest. In general, safety schools will be in-state public school options or those with a high probability of scholarship. Reach schools are your “dream school” based on where you are in your journey on the instrument. Ballpark schools fall somewhere in between.
Q: How many schools should I audition for (graduate)?
A: Most bassists applying to graduate school narrow their choices to 2-3 schools. Graduate school is the time to be very selective about training. Questions like “should I go to graduate school at all?” are extremely valid.
- look for a program that is a 100% perfect teacher match for you at an institution that will set you up professionally
- look for a school with an assistantship/fellowship program that will give you valuable experiences at little to no cost
Each year, graduate school runs unwitting bassists into tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. This is not a decision to make lightly.
Q: Which etudes should I play?
A: Like many things in the bass world, there’s a lot of haziness and inconsistency when it comes to standard etudes. A large percentage of collegiate bass programs require etudes in the audition process.
Here are a few thoughts on etudes:
- find an etude with musical characteristics – grinding on a Gradus ad Parnassum etude is unlikely to show you in the best light
- treat it like a “real” solo piece – forget that the label “etude” is applied to it
Q: What scales should I play?
A: something that takes you in thumb position – don’t try to hide thumb position; no need to “show off” by playing B major or Db major – G, A or G is fine; know the major and melodic minor variants; arpeggios are not as frequently asked but are a great addition
Q: How do I keep from being nervous?
Preparation is the best remedy for nerves. We’ve got an entire article on the subject titled Ten Techniques for Better Auditioning. Hopefully this will help!
Learn More About Bass Colleges
We've got a wealth of resources to guide you.