Jazz

Audition requirements for undergraduate and postgraduate jazz applicants

Auditions for entry in September 2022

We intend to hold live in-person auditions in Birmingham where possible, keeping in line with government guidance.

If you live in the United Kingdom and intend to audition in person, please submit an audition recording no later than two weeks from receipt of acknowledgement communication. Please follow our audition requirements below.

We will hold your audition recording on file and refer to it if there are changes to government guidance which impact our ability to hold live auditions.

Once your application has been submitted we will contact you via e-mail on how our to upload your audition recording to the MySRS portal.

UK Applicants will also have the option of attending a Virtual Audition instead of a live audition.

International Applicants who are resident outside of the United Kingdom should submit an audition recording within two weeks of applying or attend one of our International Audition Centres.

Audition

  • All candidates are required to perform two contrasting pieces
  • All candidates (except drummers and vocalists) are also required to play a short transcription along with the recording or as a solo performance. Please submit this as part of your audition video.
  • Drummers and vocalists are required to prepare some piano keyboard work instead of presenting a transcription. Candidates should be prepared to play through the chord changes of one of the listed standards at a piano or keyboard. Please submit your keyboard work as part of your audition video.

If the audition panel requires further evidence of appropriate skills, they may give further tests such as sight reading, keyboard, aural or interactive tests during the virtual interview.

We strongly encourage audition videos to feature candidates playing as part of a small band. This will enable us to hear your interaction with other players. Where this is not possible, you may use backing tracks to replace the small band, but please follow the same guidelines above. (iReal Pro or Jamey Abersold would be good places to source appropriate accompaniment). If this is not possible for any reason, please contact us via email: conservatoire.admissions@bcu.ac.uk.

Audition pieces

The first piece should be chosen from the list below:

  1. 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
  2. Any Rhythm Changes in Bb concert. Typical examples include Anthropology, Oleo, I’ve Got Rhythm
  3. Ladybird
  4. Tune Up
  5. Green Dolphin Street
  6. I’ll Remember April
  7. Body and Soul
  8. Cherokee
  9. What Is This thing Called Love
  10. All The Things You Are
  11. Confirmation
  12. 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 email through PDFs of a leadsheet along with their video link.

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.

Virtual Interview

As part of your audition you will be invited to a virtual interview. During the 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 during the virtual interview.

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. During the virtual interview the panel may ask candidates to play some additional performance tasks (i.e. scales, arpeggios, grooves for drummers etc), so please have your instrument available for this video call.

Notes, guidelines and FAQs

  1. Please visit our Audition Advice page to help you prepare for your audition and interview.
  2. Candidates are strongly encouraged to send audition videos where they are playing their audition repertoire as part of a small band. This will enable us to hear your interaction with other players. Where this is not possible, backing tracks can be used as an alternative. If this is not possible, please contact us via email: conservatoire.admissions@bcu.ac.uk.
  3. In order to demonstrate a basic level of harmonic literacy, drum and vocal 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 and vocalists are asked to choose one of the pieces from the list above and play through the chord progression at the piano or keyboard. Because of this extra requirement, drummers and vocalists do not have to prepare a transcription.
  4. 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.
  5. Candidates are asked to perform a short transcription of an improvised solo for their instrument. A PDF 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 either unaccompanied or along with the recording (if applicable).
  6. 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.
  7. The panel will only consider offering places on the course to candidates who improvise for the majority of their performance.
  8. 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.

Audition Advice