The Misconception About Etude and Solo Auditions

Many collegiate auditions require both solo and etude performances. When a college requests both etudes and solos, you can be confident that it’s a top-tier music department. First, let’s understand the difference between these two musical formats:

  • An etude is a short composition, typically for one instrument, designed as an exercise to improve the technique or demonstrate the skill of the performer. Etudes are always unaccompanied.
  • solo is an extended composition that is more melodic in character and can incorporate numerous styles and forms throughout the composition. The majority of solos are accompanied. Accompaniment can be by choir, orchestra, band, small ensemble, or piano.

If you interpret those definitions to the letter, you might conclude that the etude is all about demonstrating technique and the solo is about showing strong musical interpretation.

Wrong! When you have come this far, the people evaluating your audition expect stellar technique. While you play your etude, demonstrate a strong sense of musicality along with your technique. When it comes to the solo, they’re looking to see:

  • A piece that demonstrates multiple difficult technical passages throughout the composition
  • You perform each passage seamlessly and musically in the total stylistic interpretation of the work.

So, students, please be aware that both musicality and technique are critical in all aspects of the audition process.

Keep Practicing,
Dr. Randall Bayne, CEO