Audition requirements for undergraduate and postgraduate jazz applicants
Candidates are given the opportunity to rehearse with the rhythm section for half an hour before the audition. The candidate is expected to lead the rehearsal but the rhythm section will provide guidance and advice.
- All candidates are required to perform two contrasting pieces with the rhythm section.
- All candidates (except drummers and vocalists) are also required to play a short unaccompanied transcribed solo.
- Drummers and vocalists are required to prepare some piano keyboard work instead of presenting a transcription. They should be prepared to play through the chord changes of one of the listed standards at the piano, and may be asked to voice other chord progressions as the panel sees fit.
If the audition panel requires further evidence of appropriate skills, they may give further tests such as sight reading, keyboard, aural or interactive tests.
The first piece should be chosen from the list below:
- Any 12 bar Blues head in any key. Typical examples include Blue Monk, Now’s the Time, Sandu, Tenor Madness, Straight No Chaser, Relaxin at Camarillo
- Any Rhythm Changes in Bb concert. Typical examples include Anthropology, Oleo, I’ve Got Rhythm
- Tune Up
- Green Dolphin Street
- I’ll Remember April
- Body and Soul
- What Is This thing Called Love
- All The Things You Are
- Yardbird Suite
The second piece is a free choice. It may again be chosen from the list above but could be any jazz standard or an original composition. If the piece is not from the given list then candidates are asked to bring good rhythm section parts with them to the audition.
If the second piece is deemed stylistically inappropriate for audition to a jazz programme or the presentation of the parts is too poor to prepare a performance in the allotted time, then the candidate will be advised to perform another piece from the list above.
After the audition there will be an informal interview. The panel will be interested to hear the candidate talk about their knowledge of the music, their artistic influences, what inspires them to be a jazz musician and to discuss their career objectives.
This is also an opportunity for the candidate to ask the panel any questions about the jazz department and what life will be like as a jazz musician in Birmingham.
Notes, guidelines and FAQs
- Pianists, bass players and drummers will audition by taking the place of their respective instrument in the rhythm trio. Guitarists replace the piano forming a trio of guitar, bass and drums.
- Drummers do not have to provide their own instrument but can bring their own cymbals and snare if they so wish. A drum kit is also provided for the rehearsal prior to the audition. In order to demonstrate a basic level of harmonic literacy, drum applicants are required to present some prepared work at the piano keyboard. The panel are not expecting piano skills to any performance level but need to know that the applicant can find satisfactory voicings for common chords in jazz language. Therefore drummers are asked to choose one of the pieces from the list above and play through the chord progression at the piano. Because of this extra requirement, drummers and vocalists do not have to prepare a transcription.
- Basic amplification will be provided for bass players and guitarists.
- Bass players need only play the head in the first section of the audition and can choose whether or not to do so for the “free choice” section.
- Candidates are asked to perform a short transcription of an improvised solo for their instrument. A copy of the transcription should be provided for the audition panel. The transcription can be one that the candidate has done themselves or from any published source and should be performed unaccompanied.
- What is a transcription?: Transcriptions are notated versions of improvisations. The panel would prefer to hear a transcription of an established improviser who is significant to the history of jazz. It is not appropriate to present arrangements in a jazz style or composed melodies for this section.
- The panel will only consider offering places on the course to candidates who improvise for the majority of their performance.
- Candidates are encouraged to research their chosen pieces from original recordings but will also find some lead sheet versions in the "New Real Book" published by Sher Music. Another good source is the Charlie Parker Omnibook. Both publications can be ordered from Jazzwise Publications on +44 (0)2087695430 or Jazzwise.com.
- Drummers and vocalists will be asked to play through the chord changes of any of the listed standards at the piano.