Robert Estrin - piano expert

Piano Audition Requirements

Learn the essential requirements for a piano audition

In this video, Robert tells you what the basic requirements for a successful piano audition are, whether it be for applying to a music conservatory or anything else.

Released on July 24, 2019

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi. This is Robert Estrin at The question today are what are the requirements to become accepted at a music conservatory on the piano? That is the audition requirements. Well, you know what? It's pretty standard. Of course, you will have to look in the catalog online to find for sure exactly. There are variations on a theme, if you will, of what I'm about to tell you. Most conservatories, for undergraduate studies that is, require the following, one, a Well-Tempered Clavier book one or book two, Prelude and Fugue.

Oftentimes they'll say with the exception of the very first one in C major and some of them might even have other exceptions like the book one, the C minor, because they think those are too easy. Well, there's nothing easy about any of the Prelude's and Fugue's by the way, but many of them say you can't use those. That's kind of a staple. Now, some schools might allow you to substitute another piece of Bach or Handel, but pretty much a Prelude and Fugue of Bach from book one or book two is a staple of audition requirements for conservatories. Now, why do you supposed this is?

Well, just to be able to learn one of these and when I say learn, I mean from memory because most conservatories are going to require you to play your audition from memory because it's important to be able to memorize in the piano because there are some pieces that you just can't see everything that you need to see and there's leaps. Looking up here when you're trying to look down here is really tough to do. What else after that? Well, usually they want a classical era sonata by Mozart, Haydn or Beethoven. They'll usually specify those three composers because after all, they're seminal composers with a massive output. Again, there's a couple of exceptions.

They say not the famous C major Mozart K.545. Not this one. Again, the idea that it's too easy, even though to play that well is not easy, but I understand because that's usually the first Mozart sonata anybody studies, so they want to see somebody who's beyond that. They also usually say, "You can't play either the Opus 49 No.1 and No.2 of Beethoven," which... The other one which I actually have never studied. Anyway, they say not Opus 49 No.1 and No.2, but any other Beethoven. There's 32 of them, so you got 30 to choose form. Then they say usually one work of the romantic or 20th century.

Sometimes they'll be more specific, but usually you could play any work of Chopin or Liszt or Debussy or Bartok. A myriad composers come to mind. That's where you have a lot of freedom because there's a big difference between like playing Stravinsky Petrushka or playing Mendelssohn's A Song Without Words. This is where you can really show what you can do where you might have a piece that's much more difficult than somebody else can do. Indeed in the classical sonatas, there are some late Beethoven sonatas that are massively difficult. Even so, Mozart sonatas, his last sonata in D major is a handful. There's a wide range within there, but this is the requirements.

Are there any other requirements? Oftentimes they expect you to have all your major and minor scales and arpeggios at a fast clip, 144 four notes to the beat for scales and 120 four notes to the beat for arpeggios both major and minor, harmonic and melodic minor as well as your major. These are staples. This is a way to weed out people who really have not had the training because anybody who's properly trained should have the scales and arpeggios in their back pocket. It's kind of a prerequisite. It doesn't make sense not to learn them because you're going to encounter them in your music all the time. Check catalogs though. Fortunately, it's very easy these days.

Just check online because of course there's always exceptions and slight deviations for what I've told you, but this gives you a pretty good overview of what it takes to audition. Now, as far as getting accepted, that's a whole other discussion and there's so many factors beyond your control that you should never feel bad if you don't get into a school you audition for. Sometimes they don't even have openings. Sometimes teachers at the school have private students that they're trying to get into the school. If you have auditioned and you thought you played great and didn't get in, don't give up. That's not a front to you personally. You can never predict auditions no matter how good you are. All right?

Thanks so much for joining. Again, Robert Estrin here at, your online piano store.
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