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How to write an audition exercise

An audition is primarily an exercise in attentive listening and concentration on details. The purpose of that listening is to try to establish the time and style of the music heard. Fortunately, times and styles are often so different that it is relatively easy to guess the time.

Every audition exercise has three parts: initial listening, analysis of what was heard and relationship with the time in which the piece was composed.




The initial listening is the part of the exercise where you should take note of the most important features of the piece of music. It is advisable to use a sheet to take quick notes, because music can not be stopped. In those quick notes you can write whatever the listener wants to comment on the piece of music. It should work from the most obvious to the most complex. The points to try here are usually:

  • Instruments : the instruments should be listed, but if you do not know what instrument is, at least you must say what family it belongs to. If there are many instruments, it can be named with a generic name (orchestra, band ...)

  • Voices: Like the instruments, you must say the types of voices that appear in the piece of music, whether they are masculine, feminine or mixed. If they are high or low, and if you can, characterize the voice: tenor, bass, soprano …

  • Lyrics: If you understand the lyrics, you must explain the content of them. If not, try to guess the language they sing, and perhaps the emotion behind the lyrics.

  • Melody: The melody is usually the most obvious characteristics of a piece of music. But it can happen that a piece of music has no melody, or that the melody is only, with and without accompaniment, or the most complex option, that has several melodies playing at the same time. You can also comment if the melody is complex, or if it is simple.

  • Rhythm: The rhythm is surely the most important musical characteristic. It somehow determines what the composer wanted to express. In our analysis, we should indicate the most representative and repetitive rhythmic patterns of the piece of music, if long or short rhythms are used.

  • Tempo: It’s simply how fast or slow a piece can be. But be careful, because this can change through the music piece.

  • Form: It’s the structure of the music piece. How musical sections are distributed through the whole piece.

  • Genre: Basically, there are three genres: vocal, instrumental and mixed. But inside these three, we can talk about very peculiar genres, like jazz, rock, opera o sacred music.




Once the musical piece has been heard twice, we can begin to highlight the characteristics that we consider most important to determine the time of the piece of music. For this we must put in relation the different characteristics. To put these characteristics together we must answer five questions:

  • WHAT style is this music piece?

  • WHERE was this style developed?

  • WHEN was it created?

  • WHO can be the composer?

  • WHY do you think is this style?




At the end of the audition, you must describe the time when this music was composed. Name some composers and different styles of music for that time, or something curious related with the music piece. You can express even your opinion.

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