For More Information & Guidelines About Auditioning
See MajoringInMusic.com’s section, “Applying & Auditioning.”
Digital Audition Upload Companies
A growing number of music schools, summer music programs, and music competitions use an audition upload company to receive pre-screens. These schools and programs provide a link to the company they work with, in the audition section of their websites. The link will take you to guidelines for recording and uploading your material.
Professional Recording Engineer for Pre-Screens & Auditions?
Is a professional recording engineer necessary? The cost may be beyond what’s affordable for you and your family, and certainly no school wants to create financial hardship at this stage in the process. To protect your future plans, however, it’s worth asking the schools high on your list whether using a professional recording engineer for the pre-screen or audition recording will be to your benefit. While some schools encourage applicants to do so, others discourage it.
If you decide to work with a professional recording engineer, it’s important to interview one or more individuals to be certain that whoever you choose will serve you well.
It’s also important that any recording engineer you decide to work with fully understands the recording requirements of each school you’re auditioning for. For instance, Hartt School, University of Hartford in Connecticut specifies, “No editing of any kind. No artificial processing, including but not limited to, reverb, equalization, dynamics (Compressor, Limiter, Expander), and pitch alteration.” It’s essential that your recording engineer knows and works within these guidelines.
Robert Bullington, at Front Row Seat Productions, emphasizes the need to find an engineer who is skilled in recording your repertoire. Classical repertoire has different requirements from jazz, popular, and other genres. “Discuss the requirements of the recording and your expectations candidly, in advance of the session,” says Bullington. ”Get as many technical details about the upload requirements as you can, and share that with the recording engineer.” Recording engineer Max Sverdlove, who also happens to be a classically-trained violinist from Penn State School of Music, reiterates that “recording classical music is a specialty. You use different types of microphones, you use different set ups, and the way you prepare the final product is different. Most recording engineers are not trained, or do not have adequate experience, with classical music.”
What’s It Going to Cost?
Digital uploads: Typically $10 – $15 per audition upload. Some schools will actually cover this cost. Some audition upload companies will work with you if you cannot afford these fees.
Mailing your recording: You’ll save considerably if you mail your recordings a few weeks before the final deadlines. Compare the US Postal Service (USPS) with FedEx Ground and UPS. Spend a dollar or so more and get receipt confirmation if you go with USPS and track your package the way you can with other mailing services.
Recording Engineer: You could easily spend between $200 – $2,000 by hiring a recording engineer for approximately three hours of work on your video or CD audition. The cost varies, depending on whether you’re performing solo, with an accompanist, or with a full ensemble or band (which requires more studio time). Other considerations include your geographic location, whether you’re recording a CD or DVD, how many pieces you need to record, and how much studio time you actually need. Some recording engineers offer a student discount, so be sure to ask. The better prepared you are with your repertoire and accompanist (if needed), and the more time you spend hashing out any details with your recording engineer before your session, the less it will cost.
What if you want to work with a recording engineer but don’t have the funds to do so? Christopher Blood, head of music production at McNally Smith College of Music, suggests contacting a local music school with a good music technology program. At McNally Smith, students will take on recording projects like these for experience, at no charge.
(Note that in some states, such as New Jersey, recordings are considered “digital property,” and are subject to state sales tax.)
Recording Devices: If you decide to produce your own audition recording, first determine whether you need a good audio-only or video recorder. You may be able to borrow the equipment you need from your high school, your private music teacher, or your family. If you can afford to invest in a recording device that may also serve you in music school (for recording performances, classes, etc.), you can easily spend up to $500… and much more, the higher you go in quality and if you add external microphones. Max Sverdlove at Musical Horizon says that “getting the best possible microphones, knowing which types to use, and knowing where to place each microphone are the most important details for the best quality recordings.”
Note that the guidelines also apply to recorded auditions for summer programs and music competitions.