You're probably one of the better guitarist in your area, and you may have even played in the high school jazz band. You know you love music, and think getting a degree in guitar would be fantastic, but your only options are Jazz or Classical - unless you go to a useless school either in Boston (which everyone always confuses with a university in California) or some "Institute" for guitarists that is in California. You've never really studied either, and you're panicking a little bit, but you think you could probably do one or the other. The audition requirements are something along the lines of: Play "Donna Lee" and be able to solo over the changes, or play a five minute solo classical guitar piece from memory, and know these scales. Following the audition requirements is important, but not the only thing you have to worry about. Don't worry so much about that because many auditions are really a judge of potential, especially for classical guitar because, let's face it: very few people have really studied classical guitar before college. That doesn't mean you can get away with sucking though, so I've boiled the audition prep process down to six steps that can apply to either a jazz or classical audition.
Step 1: Get a Lesson
Contact the guitar teacher at the school and ask if you can set up AT LEAST one lesson (Try to do more) from him/her. If s/he cannot or will not offer you a lesson, ask for a recommendation (if not offered) of a teacher, and I assure you: you will get one. The benefits of doing this are endless! First, this allows you to get to know the teacher's pedagogical styles to see if you are compatible. More importantly, the teacher will tell you EXACTLY what to work on. (*note: Work on those things!!! If you don't, then skip the audition). The importance of this step should be stressed, and is the reason it is number one. Many people fail to do this, and it often hurts them. In fact, I did not do this when I was auditioning for undergrad, and guess what? I failed my audition at Rowan.....TWICE. I passed finally after taking a summer of lessons with Brian Betz - the Jazz Guitar teacher at Rowan.
Step 2: Scales
It doesn't matter what kind of guitar you want to study in guitar, if you don't know how to play your scales, you are wasting your time.The bare minimum should include your two-octave major scales in all 12 keys (Yes, even E and F). I recommend learning at least two fingerings for each scale. People auditioning for Jazz guitar should also learn their mixolydian and dorian scales at minimum. It wouldn't hurt either to learn natural minor (Wait....there are different kinds of minor scales? - Yes). Learning scales on guitar is relatively easy - you learn one fingering for G major, move it up one fret, and Hey! You're already playing G# major. The instrument offers other complications, but these, at least, are kind of easy. A guitarist who hasn't taken the time to learn his scales displays a lack of interest and work ethic, and no teacher wants to take that one.
Step 2 (a): Chords
Jazz guitar majors should also learn to play multiple voicings of the Big Five basic seventh
chords: Major, Dominant, Minor, Minor7b5 (half diminished), and Diminished.
Step 3: Reading
Now, reading does not include tablature. I mean modern music notation (if you can read older notation systems already, perhaps you should consider a career in musicology). Reading music is foundational to any worth-while music study. Every college audition will include a sight-reading portion. You may shred like EVH, but if you can't read no music department in the world will accept you. There is too much ground to cover in an undergraduate degree to also have to learn to read music. I suggest you grab the nearest method book and start to familiarize yourself with reading music on guitar. If you can look at a treble clef staff and say: "That's a 'C'," it's useless if you can't play it on your instrument. Start to practice sight reading every day. You might also consider reading my blog post on practicing sight reading HERE.
Step 4: Required Material
Before you show up to the audition, or even the lesson, you should find out what the audition requirements are. Every college I have encountered posts these online now, and they are very easy to access. Some of them require a little searching on the website, but they are always there. If you cannot find them, contact the school. I have heard of people passing an audition without the requirements prepared, but only in very rare cases of extreme talent or preparation. Many (though not all) schools will overlap in their requirements...and that's great for you! It allows you time to focus on a common set of requirements instead of 50 different things. Knowing these requirements may also help you make a decision on a school. If the requirements are "play mary had a little lamb at a tempo of 40 beats per minute," you might consider a different school. If the requirements are too hard, but you love the school, maybe you need some more time in lessons and should wait a semester or even a year before applying.
Step 5: Take a Sample Lesson
Yes, I realize I am repeating myself, but only because there is nothing more important than this step. Call up the teacher at the school and get a lesson or two...or three... I was recently on a panel during auditions in which another teacher turned to me and said "I was going to say no, but when he said he started taking lessons with (so and so) I changed my mind because that shows that he cares and has taken the initiative to work. That I can work with." Now, after that snaffoo with my Rowan auditions, I didn't make that mistake again when I was applying to graduate school. In my penultimate semester at Rowan, I took maybe a dozen road trips just to take lessons with each of the teachers whose studios I was interested in. This led me to some great information; I learned from the teachers everything they wanted me to work on. I even decided against some schools because I didn't think I would work well with the teacher. In some cases, teachers gave me completely contrasting advise; in turn, I worked on both and auditioned on the same pieces in different ways to show the teacher that I was willing to work. By the time I began working at Radford, I had already developed a rapport with Dr. Trent, and at my audition - which was not perfect - I was offered a teaching fellowship in part because I worked on the things he told me needed work.
Step 6: Research
Do some research into the schools and the teachers in the departments. This will help you make a decision that will affect the rest of your life. Unlike other majors, you will spend more time with these teachers than perhaps you even care to. It's important to know their philosophies before getting into that.
So there you have it. Six easy steps to prepare for your college guitar audition. I wish you the best of luck. You might also check out JOHN DEMKO's blogs on scales and auditioning for some extra info.