How to Prepare Orchestral Excerpts for Auditions

Every musician will go through it eventually. Auditions can involve a lot of emotions and a lot of music, including orchestral excerpts.

How to Prepare Orchestral Excerpts for Auditions | Hannah B Flute

If you have an upcoming audition, you may need to study some orchestral music. Even if you don’t plan on joining an orchestra, knowing some popular excerpts can help you with your overall audition.

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What Are Orchestral Excerpts?

Orchestral excerpts are short snippets of pieces for orchestra. They can be a solo that your instrument (such as the flute) has for a few bars, but it won’t be for an entire piece.

Sometimes, an excerpt might be a duet, such as the flute and English horn duet in the William Tell Overture. Either way, these excerpts are some of the most important parts to know.

Why Are Orchestral Excerpts Part of Auditions?

Orchestral excerpts are part of auditions because they’re standard, and they’re not too long. You don’t have to worry about learning a full concerto or even the full orchestral part.

Using excerpts is a great way for the audition panel to compare players of the same instrument. It can be hard to compare someone playing a Bach sonata to someone playing music by Debussy.

So, by including excerpts as part of an audition, it gives all of the participants the same thing to work on.

How to Prepare Orchestral Excerpts for Auditions

If you have an upcoming audition for a professional, university, or community group, don’t be surprised if you have to play at least one orchestral excerpt.

As you prepare for the audition, keep a few things in mind so that you can prepare the music as best as you can.

Start early

As soon as you know what excerpt or excerpts you’ll have to prepare, start working on them. Make sure you find the music, either on IMSLP or elsewhere.

You can also buy an orchestral excerpt book specifically for your instrument, like flute or piccolo.

Then, you shouldn’t have to worry about not having the music. Many ensembles use very popular excerpts, and you can find most of them in a compilation book.

Listen to the whole piece

Next, listen to the whole piece of the excerpt you have to learn. Even though an excerpt isn’t very long, listening to the other parts of the piece can tell you a lot.

You can figure out the overall style and mood of the piece. And if you know what’s before the solo, you will know how to enter for it. If you know what happens after, you can set the mood as you end the excerpt.

Study the score

While orchestral excerpt books can be fantastic tools, they don’t usually include the full score. Try to find the score for the excerpts you have to prepare so that you can see what other instruments are doing.

Score study is a great way to see how your part fits in with the rest. It can be especially helpful if the excerpt is a part you have with other instruments.

If the music is in the public domain, you can use IMSLP to find the score. But if it’s not, you may have to rely more on listening to get the full effect.

Start practicing

Next, start practicing the excerpt for your audition. Follow your usual practice routine with your warmups and other exercises.

Then, focus on the audition music. Figure out what the hard parts are and how you can improve them. Eventually, you will be able to play the excerpts with ease.

Get feedback

Next, get some feedback on your playing and the specific orchestral excerpts. If possible, find someone who won’t have a bias for or against your playing.

While you might want to ask members of your section for input, they might be inclined to give different feedback. If they don’t want you to win that first chair, they might tell you that you’re doing fine when there’s something you could improve.

Do you want to get feedback on your playing? I offer performance checks, which are recordings that you submit for my feedback. I’ll give you unbiased thoughts on how you can improve so that you can feel good about your audition.

Keep improving

Once you get feedback, consider that feedback, and use it to improve. You can get feedback a couple of times to make sure you’re on the right track.

The more you get better, the more confident you’ll feel during the audition. And that alone can do wonders for your overall performance.

Do your best

Once the audition day arrives, you should focus on doing your best. You can’t make swooping changes to your playing now, so you need to work with what you have.

Make sure you focus your practice on the hard parts, and give yourself time to relax before your audition. You’ve got this!


Do you have any auditions coming up? Would you like help with your orchestral excerpts? Comment below, and I’d love to set up a lesson with you!


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