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Tech Tips for Recording Your Audition

December 7, 2020

This year the School of Music is pivoting to recorded audition submissions for students applying to our audition-based degree programs. We asked School of Music Music Technology, Media Lab and Studios Specialist, Michael Duffy, to offer some guidance to prospective students on ensuring their recorded auditions are of high quality. In addition to the tips he gives below, he is hosting admissions sessions with Natalie Wilson, Recruitment and Events Coordinator, to answer applicant questions. 

Consult the audition guidelines for your instrument
If you’re looking to get started in recording an audition you should first consult the School of Music website and closely review the undergraduate and graduate application and audition guidelines for your instrument. Any questions you have about repertoire should be directed to the faculty of your instrument, as they will be evaluating the audition you submit. If you need help contacting the faculty, do not hesitate to ask for assistance by emailing music@umn.edu.

Obtaining professional-level equipment
The first step is getting the right equipment. While you may not own your own professional recording equipment, you can still obtain a professional-level quality to your recording. Technology has come a long way! Smart phones and personal devices work surprisingly well at capturing high-quality audio and visual recordings if you are careful about their surroundings. Aim for a steady image, no background noise or distractions. If you don’t have a personal device, check with your school or local library to check out audio-visual resources. 

Focus on high-quality audio
Audio quality is more important than the video quality in the recorded auditions, make sure it gets the most attention. 

  • Eliminate background noises. Listen to how the room sounds; are there fans or other mechanical noises you can turn off? Do you need to ask your brother or sister to stop running around in the next room? 
  • Turn off noise reduction if possible. If you are using your computer microphone to record, disable extra noise reduction. Noise reduction works nicely for your voice on video calls but can make your instrument sound like it’s underwater.
  • Sync with phone/external audio recorder. If you have a microphone or portable recording device, you should use that instead of your phone to record better quality audio. Once you are done recording, sync up the audio and video files in iMovie or MovieMaker, turn off the phone sound and, presto, you made your submission higher quality. 

Frame your video
The video’s visual does make an impression, so even though it is not the most important aspect of your recording, it should still be considered.

  • Make sure to showcase your physical technique. Evaluators will want to see hand positions and posture. As much as you are able, use a camera angle that shows the physicality of your playing. Avoid wearing any distracting jewelry, clothing or nail polish so the faculty focus on your posture, sound, and set-up.  
  • Avoid background distractions. Be aware of what is in the frame of your video and curate the scene. You don’t want the viewer to be paying attention to your messy bed or computer screensaver.
  • Put yourself in the spotlight. The eye is drawn to the brightest part of an image—make sure that is you. Face the light source (window or room lights) so that you are brighter than the background. 

Try it out with test audiences
Run your recording past a teacher or friends to get their feedback. They might notice audio or visual elements that you didn’t. They also will be able to provide objective feedback on the quality of the recording, chances are that you might be too critical of yourself. Whenever possible, consult with a music teacher—this may be someone who gives you one-on-one or small group music lessons, or it could be a band, orchestra, or choir director.

Attend an Admissions Q&A Session
If you would like more advice or tips on recording your audition, join Michael Duffy and Natalie Wilson for the next Admission Q&A session on January 14, 2021, or view a recorded session on YouTube. If you have questions about selecting audition repertoire, please reach out to the faculty of your instrument. To learn more about the School of Music, you can also:

Apply
The School of Music is accepting applications for 2021 admission. There are also programs which do not require a School of Music application or audition, including the World Music Minor and the BA with Academic Emphasis