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Study options & audition requirements

Timpanist rehearsing
We understand that auditions are a significant milestone on every applicant’s journey towards a career as a conservatoire musician. The guidance below will help you prepare to the best of your abilities and make you aware of what will happen at your Royal College of Music audition.

Typical questions you may be asked during your audition include:

  • Why do you want to study at the RCM?
  • What are your musical interests?
  • What do you think you need most to do to improve your playing?

All percussion candidates audition at the RCM in London. We do not offer auditions for percussion at our overseas audition venues. You are advised to read the information below carefully.

Audition by video recording is only available for candidates applying to study on an exchange.

Principal studies

Every student undertakes principal study in their main specialism, which lies at the heart of their RCM experience. You can audition for the following principal studies. Please note that research degrees have their own set of requirements.

Orchestral percussion & timpani


Applicants should prepare all of the following for all listed instruments:


  • Nick Woud Exercises 3, 9, 23 or 25 from Symphonic Studies for Timpani or Bayer Etude as shown below, or a piece of similar standard 
  • Rolls: pp, ff and pp crescendo to ff and dim back to pp

Bayer Etude

Candidates will be required to tune four timpani as directed after an unrelated chord has been played on the piano

Snare drum

  • Alex Neal Snare Drum Entrance Audition,or a piece of similar standard
  • Rolls: pp, ff and pp crescendo to ff and dim back to pp

Alex Neal, Snare Drum Entrance Audition

Marimba (xylophone)

  • Either a piece for four mallets on Marimba or a piece of similar standard on Xylophone  
  • Scales in all major and minor (harmonic and melodic) keys, and chromatic scales starting on any note, two octave
  • Arpeggios and dominant sevenths in all major and minor keys, two octaves

The audition will also include a sight-reading test.

Taught postgraduate

Applicants will be expected to play repertoire selected from all the excerpts found in the following books:

  • Saul Goodman standard orchestral excerpts from Modern Method for Timpani
  • Morris Goldenberg Modern School for Snare Drum 
  • Morris Goldenberg Modern School for Xylophone


  • A work of your choice for four mallets

The audition will also include a sight-reading test.

What to expect at audition

Solo marimba

Taught postgraduate only

Applicants should prepare two or three contrasting works selected from the list below or one from the list below and one or two works of their own choice:

  • M Miki Time for marimba
  • Keiko Abe Variations on Japanese Children's Song
  • Keiko Abe Memories of the Seashore 
  • Keiko Abe Michi 
  • Akira Miyoshi Ripple
  • Toshimitsu Tanaka Movements for marimba 
  • Eric Sammut Caméléon 
  • Eric Sammut Spirals (choice of 1-2)
  • Christopher Norton November Evening
  • Igor Lesnik Neenah
  • Gordon Stout Rumble Strips 
  • Gordon Stout Sedimental Structures
  • Markus Halt Marimbasonics 
  • Paul Smadbeck Virginia Tate 
  • Ruud Wiener Capriccio Cristalino 
  • Joseph Schwantner Velocities 
  • Aiko Fukushima Dance of words 
  • E Kopetzki Kaskade for marimba
  • Michael Burrit Scirocco 
  • J Druckman Reflections on the Nature of Water

What to expect at audition

What to expect at audition

What to bring

In most cases you only need to bring your sticks/mallets and music for you, your accompanist (if applicable) and the audition panel.

What not to bring

You cannot bring a page-turner, your teacher or a translator into your audition. The only people in your audition room will be you, your accompanist and the audition panel. As our courses are taught in English we expect you to be able to communicate in English at your audition.

Please note that we are unable to audition percussionists at any of our overseas audition venues.

Percussion auditions in London

The time shown on UCAS Conservatoires is your audition time. You should plan to arrive at the RCM at least 30 minutes before this, to allow time to check in and warm up. We advise allowing plenty of extra time for travelling into or across London.

If you are caught in an unavoidable delay, please telephone the Admissions team on +44 (0)20 7591 4362 immediately so that, wherever possible, alternative arrangements can be made.

When you arrive at the RCM, you should find out from the steward in the entrance hall where your audition will take place.

Percussion auditions last approximately 30 minutes. Candidates will be directed by the panel to perform their audition pieces or particular extracts. We cannot say in advance which extracts you might be asked to perform, so you should prepare all of the materials in full. You may be required to take a sight-reading test and there will be a short interview.

You will have 30 minutes of warm-up time. We are not able to provide practice rooms for you to use before this.

If you are applying for solo marimba (postgraduate level only), we recommend you bring your own accompanist and that you work closely with them in preparation for your audition. The RCM can provide an accompanist for you on the day of your audition, but not beforehand. If you require an RCM accompanist you must email our Admissions team in advance.

You do not need to tell us what you are performing in your audition and please do not send copies of the music in advance.


Every student who auditions in person for a place on one of the RCM's performance or composition courses will be considered for a scholarship or study award. Composers who audition by video interview will also be considered.

There is no separate application process.

Eligibility for scholarships is based on merit, which is determined by performance at audition or the strength of portfolio and interview for composers. Unfortunately, the following applicants cannot be considered for scholarships or study awards:

  • Performers who audition by recording
  • Applicants for the Bachelor of Science in Physics and Music Performance
  • Applicants for the Master of Science in Performance Science
  • Applicants for the Master of Education

If you are offered a scholarship or study award you will receive a letter, normally sent by email, confirming this and the conditions of your award.

In exceptional circumstances, an applicant may be offered a scholarship on the day of their audition.

After your audition

You will be informed of the result of your audition as soon as possible. The RCM cannot enter into correspondence over the results of auditions. 

Find out more

Audition queries

Please double-check that you are available at the time and date of your audition. If there are any special circumstances the RCM needs to be aware of before your audition, please let us know in advance.

Find out more

If you have any questions about auditions or the application process please contact our Admissions team.


Admissions and general audition enquiries