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As recently as 2000, it was common for major universities and conservatories to invite a prospective student to audition based simply on a letter of recommendation.  Today, a student may be asked to provide a collection of 6 or more recordings, including brief excerpts, but also including major works such as concertos.  All of this may be required just to win an invitation for a real audition. As the technology has become more accessible, it is common for the schools to require this be provided in video format.

The schools might justify this by saying, "You don't need to do anything special.  Just capture your practice on an iPhone video and upload it to us so we can pre-screen your application."

But the reality is that admission to the best schools is very competitive.  Chances are good that you will be up against other applicants who have done something more involved than simply running their IPhone.

Concerns

If some students engage professionals to produce the audition recordings, it is difficult for the university staff to remain completely objective when comparing against ad hoc videos.

As amazing as today's smart phones are, their ability to record high quality audio is very limited.

Some of the audition materials may require a live accompanist.  Or it may be permissible for the applicant to perform with a pre-recorded accompaniment track.  In either case, this complicates the job of providing a submission that will impress the evaluators.

Hiring an accompanist and professional videographer can be expensive.

In the videography world, sound quality is often an afterthought.  Many of the recording formats brutally punish the audio quality, and it is not common for videographers to have a deep understanding of audio recording.  For an audition recording, we must place the audio quality at the top of priorities.

SonoCrafters Solutions

SonoCrafters can help address these concerns.  We are able to produce impressive audition materials on a budget. These can be recorded live in a suitable space, such as a church or hall.  Or we can record in our small mixing studio for a more intimate feel.  All of our recordings begin with attention to the audio, using high quality microphones and carefully planned placement.  When live accompaniments are required, we record the student and accompanist on separate tracks to maximize flexibility in the final mix.

If recorded accompaniments are used, we keep that material on separate tracks.

In the studio, we are able to provide a polished sound while adhering to the requirement to not edit any of the applicant's performance.  We may, however, make "back room" adjustments to the accompaniment that save the time and expense of doing multiple takes in order to correct imprefections in the accompaniment.

In some cases, it can save time, money, and effort to record the accompaniment separately, so the accompanist will be "on the clock" the minimum amount of time.  SonoCrafters can accommodate all of these approaches.

In addition, because of our extensive musical experience, SonoCrafters can often identify flaws in the student's performance and provide coaching to improve that with an additional take.  We will not edit the student performance, but it is certainly allowable to record multiple takes and submit the best one.

Final Production

The final production of the audition material is surprisingly challenging.  Preparation of audio recordings is straightforward.  But when a video is required, there can be many complications.  There are many different video standards.  Each format has its own characteristic of file size, video quality and audio quality.  And to be honest, some of the video formats constrain the audio is a way that makes for a terrible presentation.  The school may identify a small subset of allowable formats. It is up to the engineer to determine which format will present the student in the best light while still meeting the school's technical requirements.  This is what SonoCrafters does.