Studio Guitar

Master of Music (MM) or Graduate Certificate (GCRT)
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Note to Undergraduate Guitarists: The Thornton School offers three different programs for undergraduate guitarists- Jazz studies, popular music performance, and classical guitar performance. Undergraduate jazz guitar applicants, please refer to the Jazz Studies requirements. Undergraduate popular music guitar applicants, please refer to the Popular Music Performance requirements. Undergraduate classical guitar applicants, please refer to Classical Guitar requirements.

Applicants to a graduate program in Studio Guitar must submit an audition recording (in video format- audio only will not be accepted) to be pre-screened by the faculty. The results of this pre-screen will determine whether an applicant will be invited to perform a live audition on the USC campus in Los Angeles.

Recordings will not be accepted via mail or email for this program. Recordings must be submitted online through the “Fall SlideRoom portal” by the December 1st deadline. Any application not complete by December 1 may be removed from consideration.

GRADUATE STUDIO GUITAR APPLICANTS– For instructions on how to access the SlideRoom portal to submit your recording click HERE

Important notes:

  • DMA applicants are required to submit a “Personal Introductory Video” as part of their SlideRoom Portfolio. For detailed instructions click here.
  • Current USC Thornton students applying for a graduate program are not required to submit a prescreen recording, however they must indicate on the application that they are a current Thornton student or they will not automatically be scheduled for a live audition. Current USC students are encouraged to contact Kit Bellamy in the Thornton Admission office with any questions or concerns regarding audition scheduling.

Pre-screen recording requirements

Both the pre-screen recording and the live audition may be performed on electric or acoustic guitar, or both if necessary. In the event of airline travel to the live audition, it is only necessary for you to bring an electric guitar.

The pre-screen video recording performances may be self-accompanied, accompanied by other musician(s), or by a band as long as the applicant is prominently featured. Pre-recorded accompaniment is acceptable.

The pre-screen video recording should best demonstrate the applicant’s performance, artistic and creative abilities. Videos do not need to be highly produced and should accurately represent the candidate’s abilities-avoid using corrective studio effects such as pitch or timing correction.

  • Twenty minutes of solo and/or ensemble pieces, which includes a minimum of two standard songs such as All the Things You Are or jazz classics such as Take the “A” Train, and a minimum of one original composition. Other styles such as contemporary pop/rock, blues, folk rock, R&B/urban, country, fusion, or any style that best showcases your abilities may also be included.
  • All applicants must include a one-minute verbal introduction in the pre-screening video, providing answers to the following questions:
    • What are your goals and aspirations in pursuing a career in music?
    • What do you expect to gain from and contribute to the Popular Music and Guitar programs?

    Live audition requirements

    Based on the result of the pre-screen video recording, the faculty will invite a select group of applicants to the USC campus in Los Angeles for a live audition. If invited, it is REQUIRED that you audition live in person (It is not possible to be admitted to this program by recording).

    Live auditions are typically 15 minutes long. Prepare selections for this audition according to the instructions provided below. The selections performed may be the same as submitted on the pre-screen video recording or entirely different selections. The faculty panel may wish to hear selections in their entirety or excerpts. The faculty reserves the right to modify the audition format at any time to effectively evaluate the potential of each candidate.

    Amplifiers and audio playback equipment (CD and iPod inputs) will be provided at the live auditions. Please bring your own instrument cable and tune your instrument prior to entering the room. You are welcome to bring your own pedals, but keep in mind that any additional setup will cut into your audition.

    Students should be prepared to perform any or all of the following for their live audition:

    • Sight reading of a selection to be provided by a USC Thornton representative at the audition.
    • Solo performance of a standard song or a jazz classic (standard song such as All the Things You Are or jazz classics such as Take the “A” Train) played in chord-melody style ( harmonized in the solo guitar style of Joe Pass or George Van Eps).
    • Performance of a standard song or a jazz classic. Applicants should be prepared to play the melody, play an improvised solo on the form, and then play rhythm accompaniment for another soloist. This selection will be performed either in a duo setting with a faculty member or a trio setting with bass and drums.
    • A bassist and a drummer from the program will be present to assist with your audition.
    • Performance of jazz blues selection with the bassist and drummer.
    • Optional: additional material that demonstrates any other specific areas of expertise and interest. This may include styles such as contemporary jazz, fusion, pop, rock, bluegrass, blues, etc., performed in a duo setting or with pre-recorded accompaniment.
    • Major and minor scales and modes covering the entire fingerboard (at the discretion of the faculty and time permitting).
    • Major and minor triads on four different strings sets, seventh chord voicings and extended harmonies (at the discretion of the faculty and time permitting).