The Audition

Admission to Music study is based, in part, on an audition to assess your potential and capacity to succeed in our programs. In addition to a prepared performance, prospective students will be tested in sight-reading, music theory rudiments, keyboard skills, and aural skills.

Getting ready

The key to a successful music audition is to start early. By the time you reach high school, you should be working on the various areas of your musical knowledge and skills in anticipation of university music study. Depending on your musical education and experiences to date, you may find that some of your skills are very well developed, while you are only starting to learn the basics in other areas. There are four main areas of your audition for which you can start preparing now:

Performance skills

Your instrumental/vocal performance is the most important part of your audition. You must have a strong background of formal instruction/vocal training. If you are not currently studying with a private teacher, it is strongly recommended that you take some private lessons well in advance of your audition.

The selection of your audition repertoire must be made in accordance with the requirements for your instrument. Learn the music thoroughly and consult your teacher for advice on details such as technique, tempo, or musical interpretation.

You should also work on technical aspects of the audition such as scales and arpeggios. Finally, you should spend regular time reading through unfamiliar repertoire in order to develop your sight-reading skills. The more time you spend preparing, the more confident you will be during your audition.

Music theory skills

You will be required to write a rudiments survey as part of your audition. Download information about the rudiments survey here. The purpose of the survey is to assess basic readiness to do college-level work in music theory.

One good way to prepare for this survey is to study for and write the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Grade 2 rudiments examination. If your high school does not provide formal instruction in music theory, your music teacher or band director may be able to provide some study materials to help you. Your local music supply store can assist you with possible textbooks, such as Keys to Music Rudiments by Berlin, Sclater, Sinclair.

You may also want to consider the option of a private tutor to help you become familiar with basic theoretical concepts and common musical terminology. If you would like some help in finding a tutor, please contact the Fountain School of Performing Arts

You may also wish to check out some of the following online resources:; Gary Ewer's Easy Music Theory;

Aural skills

An aural skills survey and diagnostic skills testing are also part of the audition process. Download information about the aural skills survey and the individual sight reading test.  The development of these skills will allow you to “hear” music from the printed page.

By practicing singing pitches and clapping rhythms, you will be able to learn music faster and more accurately. By writing out music that you hear played (dictation), you exercise your ear and your aural imagination, making the act of reading music so much easier.

To develop these skills, you should practice identifying by ear various intervals and triads, singing a short melody that has been played or sung to you, and repeating a short rhythm that someone else has clapped first. This will require working with a partner such as a friend, parent, or music teacher, or you can prepare an audio tape to work with on your own.  You may also want to consider finding a private tutor.

Also check out the following online resources:;

Keyboard skills

A 10-minute keyboard skills test is part of the audition process. Download information about the keyboard test.

Good musicianship involves learning a little bit about the piano keyboard, not necessarily in "performing", but in learning basic technique, how to harmonize melodies and accompany them in different styles. You might consider taking introductory piano lessons for a year to help you with these skills.

Students stating that they have no keyboard training will be automatically placed into the proficiency level keyboard skills class.

Setting the date

Students must audition for entry to music degree programs or for applied skills elective classes (instrument or voice). (Review the list of audition dates). The audition includes performance of audition pieces, diagnostic skills testing, and writing of common entrance surveys. Audition dates and schedules are subject to change, so don't make any travel plans until you have confirmation of your schedule.

Students auditioning for applied skills elective classes only are not required to complete entrance surveys or keyboard tests. Elective students are accepted only if space permits.

Transfer students should note that we do not accept automatic transfers of theory, aural skills, or applied skills classes. You must complete an audition, followed by equivalency testing, in order to determine your level of study and appropriate transfer credits.

On the audition day

Students should be prepared to spend most of their audition day at Dalhousie.  We begin fairly early (8:30 am) with the common entrance surveys, followed by lunch and diagnostic skills testing. 

Individual auditions are scheduled in the afternoon. Your audition will be about 20 minutes, including time for a brief interview with the audition panel to discuss your background, academic plans and career goals. 

Within your day here, you may have an opportunity to tour the campus, attend a noon-hour recital, and/or sit in on a music class. Parents are welcome to attend the lunch and any tours/other activities.