Preparing Your Guitar Audition

If you’re a high school junior or senior planning to study guitar in college, preparing your guitar audition is probably in the forefront of your mind. Almost every university or college school of music will require you to audition, for either acceptance or scholarships or both.

by Michael Kozubek –

It’s essential to check the audition requirements for the individual colleges where you’re looking at applying. See if they’ve got a page on and consider communicating directly with their admission folks by filling out the inquiry forms right on their pages. You can then call the music schools for more information.

What guitar style you are going to audition for? Classical? Commercial? Jazz?

Most colleges will expect at least two pieces –– of contrasting style or from contrasting periods. If you are auditioning for a classical guitar program, playing something from the Renaissance or Baroque era contrasted by something from the classical or neo-Romantic era would be looked upon favorably. If auditioning for a commercial guitar program, you’ll probably want to show that you can perform a variety of styles –– for instance, finger style (like classical guitar, country/bluegrass, bossa nova or flamenco) contrasted by a jazz, blues, country or rock piece.

Be prepared to demonstrate technique (an étude) and major and minor scales. Above all, be ready to sight read. Guitarists are notoriously poor sight readers. Your ability to sight read a musical score could tip scales in your favor because it demonstrates some degree of musicianship. Reading tablature is not going to matter on the university level because you will not deal with tablature in any of your classes.

Contact a quality guitar instructor as soon as possible. This teacher should not only know the guitar but know music as well. Too many guitar instructors teach by ear or by tablature. This is perfectly fine for entertainment purposes but not for succeeding in a school of music. If you are not learning to read music in your present guitar lessons, change teachers or get a second teacher who can teach you this skill set.

Remember a music school is looking to develop future musicians. Become familiar with the language of music and you will be far more successful on the university level. Happy hunting!

Classical guitarist Michael Kozubek has been on the faculty of Azusa Pacific University since 1987, where he is director of guitar studies. Kozubek also serves on the board of the American Guitar Society. With degrees from DePaul University and the USC Thornton School of Music, he has been an accompanist for ensembles, performed numerous solo recitals, and has also appeared as a guest soloist with symphonic orchestras.


  1. Stillwater Music

    The advice about reading music is spot-on. Especially at smaller schools, being able to sight-read well will win you a spot in their incoming class and probably a scholarship. Learning to read music on the guitar requires hard work and can be frustrating, but if you are serious about attending music school it is necessary. Good musicianship and knowledge of music theory can also open the door to composing and arranging gigs down the road.

    Another great article, keep up the good work!

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