The information below will help you plan and prepare for your audition:
Applicants accepted to Berklee will be taking core music classes including harmony, ear training, and arranging classes in addition to private instrumental studies and ensembles, so the audition is formatted to assess students' overall musicianship. In addition, we are also interested in seeing how you function in an ensemble setting.
Please plan to arrive at the audition and interview site* no later than 30 minutes before your warm-up time in order to prepare. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to accommodate any travel delays.
What to Bring
- Your instrument: You must bring your instrument to the audition if you play acoustic or electric bass, brass, guitar, hand percussion, a string instrument (including the harp, mandolin, and banjo), or woodwinds.
- Your accompaniment: If you require accompaniment for your prepared piece, you may bring an accompanist or an iPod/smartphone. Berklee does not provide an accompanist to applicants. See more details.
- Your equipment: Bass players, guitarists, and string players (including mandolin and banjo players) are reminded to bring a tuner, instrument cable(s), and any effects needed for their prepared piece. Drummers should bring their sticks as well as a practice pad to use in the warm-up room as many warm-up rooms will not have a drum set. Vocalists may choose to bring a microphone and cable, but it is not necessary.
Audition rooms are typically equipped with a piano, a drum set, guitar and bass amplifiers, a PA system, and music stands.
A standard drum set with cymbals is provided for drum set players. Double-bass pedals are not provided. Vibraphone and marimba players who are auditioning in Boston do not need to bring their own instruments since Boston audition rooms are equipped with a vibraphone and/or marimba.
What the Audition Entails
Each audition includes a prepared piece, improvisation, blues, sight-reading, and ear training. You will follow the basic outline of each section of the audition below. Please be sure to also view the additional guidelines for your specific instrument department toward the bottom of this page.
We have provided online audition practice materials (play-along exercises) that will help you prepare for the improvisation and blues sections of the audition.
Berklee embraces and values all music styles, so you should prepare a piece that you are comfortable with and that displays your strengths as a musician. It should be approximately three–five minutes in length, in any style that demonstrates your instrumental proficiency and your overall musicianship. Do not choose a piece or a style of music you think the audition team wants to hear. Rather, select a piece that puts your best foot forward and highlights what you feel represents your best playing. Ultimately, the audition is a discovery process, and we want to find out what you do well.
It is recommended that you seek the guidance of your private instructor and/or musical mentor when selecting your prepared piece. Here are some examples and additional guidelines that may help when making your selection:
- A tune from a well-known artist or band (any style)
- A standard or jazz tune (which may include blues and rhythm changes) with your own improvisation
- A composition from the instrumental/voice repertoire or a movement, sonata, concerto, or etude
- A transcription of a well-known artist's solo
If composing or songwriting is your primary focus, you may choose to play an original piece that showcases your individual style. However, the original piece should be no longer than three minutes, and you should also prepare a second piece from the above listing (no longer than three minutes).
If you require accompaniment for your prepared piece, you may bring an accompanist or MP3 player. It is not recommended to use the original tracks of artists or bands as play-alongs. If you are playing to a track, it is preferred that you use standard play-along/music-minus-one or karaoke tracks so that you are not playing your part along with the part on the recording. For example, we would prefer a guitar player use a play-along track that does not have the lead part on the track, rather than playing along with an artist's original recording.
We would like to hear you improvise over a short progression to gauge where you are in your instrumental development. Your prepared piece may include improvisation, but it is not required.
You should be prepared to play over a standard I-IV-V blues progression.
The examples range from basic to complex in order for the audition team to gauge your reading ability. You will have 15 minutes before your audition to warm up on your instrument and review the reading material before being asked to play the examples in the audition.
You will be asked to participate in call-and-response exercises. The audition team will play short rhythms and melodies, which you will either sing back or play back on your instrument. You may also be asked to identify intervals and chord qualities. The audition team will also gain a sense of your ability to match pitch during this section of the audition.
You may be asked to demonstrate your technical facility via typical practice routines and exercises (scales, arpeggios, etc.). You should also be prepared to demonstrate the ability to showcase the unique characteristic of your preferred music style (Floyd Rose technique, slide technique, finger-picking technique, etc.).
Watch current Berklee students discuss their audition piece in this video:
Additional Guidelines by Instrument
Please use the links below to review additional audition requirements related to your specific instrument:
Acoustic Bass, Electric Bass
Baritone Horn, Bass Trombone, French Horn, Trombone, Trumpet, Tuba
- Electronic Digital Instrument (EDI)
A Computing Device, User-Configured Software, and Performance Controllers
Drum Set, Hand Percussion, Marimba, Orchestral Percussion, Vibraphone
Banjo, Cello, Harp, Mandolin, Viola, Violin
Bassoon, Clarinet, Flute, Oboe, Saxophone
*Due to rental limitations, orchestral percussion, marimba, and vibraphone principals are required to audition and interview in Boston. Electronic digital instrument (EDI) principals will be limited to specific locations for their audition and interview.