If you plan on applying to music schools this fall, you must be quite busy filling out admission forms, writing essays, brushing up on your interview skills, and of course practicing for the auditions. There is one hugely important step, however, that could pretty much make it or break it for any applicant—the prescreening video.
Your prescreening video is your business card; it is the first chance (and hopefully not the last chance) you will have to grab the faculty’s attention at any given school—and first impressions, as you know, are lasting impressions.
Most importantly, this first impression will determine whether or not you will be invited to a live audition at your desired school
During my tenure as dean of the Colburn Music Academy, I reviewed literally hundreds of pre-screening videos and would routinely encounter common fundamental mistakes many applicants would make when recording their video. Though these applicants might be gifted and capable pianists, they may get overlooked due to a poorly produced video recording. Over the years, I have seen it all—from videos in which the picture and sound were out of sync, to videos that don’t show the keyboard at all, and more recently a video in which the keyboard view was obstructed by a music stand!
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the dos and don’ts of creating the perfect prescreening video:
Do Not Use Several Cameras
Use only one camera. Using multiple cameras means your video is edited, which isn’t permitted. (Also see No. 7)
The video recording quality should be 1080p or above. I would recommend using a 1080p HD camcorder that can record in stereo. Here is an example of one that’s affordable: https://www.
You MUST make certain that the camera position captures the entire keyboard from the right side (audience side). Not too far or too close. Rule of thumb: Imagine the best seat in the house at a piano recital—that’s where the camera should be. It should be positioned at 6:30 or 7 o’clock (if the keyboard runs between 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock). Position the camera higher than the keyboard but not too high – just enough to get a good view of the entire keyboard. I have seen many prescreening videos shot at a bird’s-eye view angle—this is not a preferable angle to shoot from as it doesn’t provide a good view of the fingers, wrists, and arm movement.
Make sure nothing is blocking the camera (poles, chairs, music stands, etc.)
This one is self-explanatory. Make sure the keyboard and overall space around the piano are well lit so the faculty can view your playing clearly. A test run of the lighting (and sound) is recommended prior to your actual recording.
Do not dress down for the prescreening video. While you don’t have to dress formally, e.g., tuxedos and gowns, you should not play in jeans and flip-flops either—just something comfortable yet elegant. Try and avoid clothes that restrict your body movements.
In a perfect world, we would all be recording our prescreening videos at Carnegie Hall. Since that’s probably not an option, you should strive for a professional-like environment as much as possible, while remaining within your budget. I would not recommend shooting your video at home but in a more professional setting such as an auditorium, a recording studio, or even a piano showroom.
Choice of Piano
It is also important to record your playing on a piano that brings out your best and makes you feel comfortable. I would recommend recording on a piano not smaller than a Bosendorfer 225, Yamaha C7 or CF6, Steinway B or similar. Make sure the piano has been recently tuned and is well regulated so it provides a clear representation of your ability. A poorly regulated and piano will make your playing seem uneven.
In order for your video to realistically portray your playing, editing is not permitted. However, you may record each piece or even each movement separately if you’d like.
So there you have it. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to creating a stand-out prescreening video that gets you invited to the live audition at your dream music school.
Here’s a question for you…
Are you planning to submit a prescreening video in the near future? If yes, what are the challenges you’re facing?
Leave me a comment or question. I’d love to hear from you and read all your comments!