Audition Checklist

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.

Audition rooms are typically equipped with a piano, a drum set, guitar and bass amplifiers, a PA system, a CD player, and music stands. Vocalists may choose to bring a microphone and cable but it is not necessary. A standard drum set with cymbals for drum set players is provided. Double-bass pedals are not provided.

If you require accompaniment for your prepared piece, you may bring an accompanist, a play-along CD, or an iPod. Berklee does not provide an accompanist to applicants.

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.

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.

Due to rental limitations when we travel, orchestral percussion principals are required to audition and interview in Boston.

We have provided online audition practice materials (play-along exercises) that will help you prepare for the Improvisation and Blues sections of the audition.

Prepared Piece

(Percussion Principals see below) Berklee embraces and values all music styles so you should prepare a piece that you are comfortable with and displays your strengths as a musician. It should be approximately 3-5 minutes in length, in any style, which 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 to 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 selecting your prepared piece:

  • 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

Watch current Berklee students discuss their audition piece in this video:

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 (3) minutes, and you should also prepare a second piece from the above listing (no longer than 3 minutes).

If you require accompaniment for your prepared piece you may bring an accompanist, play-a-long CD or MP3 player. It is not recommended to use the original tracks of artists or bands as play-a-longs. If you are playing to a track, it is preferred that you use standard play-a-long/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-a-long track that does not have the lead part on the track rather than playing along with an artist's original recording. 

Note for Percussion Principals

Drumset Principals: You may also be asked to play selected examples from the following list of grooves/techniques:

  • 4/4 Swing
  • 3/4 Swing
  • Rock
  • Funk
  • Shuffle
  • Bossa Nova
  • Samba
  • Trading fours and eights in 4/4 Swing, Shuffle, and Rock grooves
  • Brush technique

Vibraphone/Marimba: You may choose to select a 2 or 4 mallet prepared piece that demonstrates your strengths on the instrument. You may also be asked to demonstrate your technical facility via typical practice routines and exercises (scales, arpeggios, etc.).

Vibraphone and Marimba players are reminded that they need to bring their own instruments to the audition unless they are auditioning in Boston. Our audition rooms in Boston are equipped with a vibraphone and/or marimba.

Orchestral Percussion: You should have prepared pieces on the following:

  • concert snare drum
  • solo marimba
  • solo timpani

You may also be asked to demonstrate your technical facility via typical practice routines and exercises (scales, arpeggios, etc.) on either vibraphone or marimba or rudiments on the snare drum.

Hand Percussion: You should be prepared to demonstrate the following:

  • Demonstrate specific, basic tone on the conga drum (closed tones, open tones, "heel-toe", hand rocking motion, slaps muted and slaps open).
  • Congas: Demonstrate basic "martillo" rhythm at a slow tempo. Include some basic variations and improvisations.
  • Bongos: Demonstrate basic "martillo" rhythm at a slow tempo. Include some basic variations and improvisations.
  • Demonstrate basic performance of timekeeping for Cha-Cha and Mambo. Any knowledge of basic Afro-Cuban and/or Brazilian accessory percussion instruments can be demonstrated. Please identify which instrument(s) you are performing.

Hand percussionists are reminded that they need to bring their own instruments to the audition.


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.

Ear Training

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 also be asked to demonstrate your technical facility via typical practice routines and exercises (scales, arpeggios, etc.). You may also prepare to demonstrate the ability to showcase the unique characteristic of your preferred music style (floyd rose technique, slide technique, finger picking technique, etc.)

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.