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Berklee College of Music

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by melodiaopus, Mar 19, 2012.

  1. melodiaopus

    melodiaopus Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I have been thinking about attending Berklee for the past few years and have come to the conclusion that I want to at least audition. I was just curious if there are any students or alumni that can give me some insight on the school. I have read reviews and more than all of them have been terrible reviews with horrific tales of bad teachers and very little support.

    I think any information would be greatly appreciated.


  2. funkybass


    Oct 19, 2006
    I never went there but Boston is a awesome city and they have some very good players who teach, but don't know if they can teach well.
  3. melodiaopus

    melodiaopus Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Thanks "funkybass" I have heard that there are some real dudds for instructors at the college. I don't really know how it compares to other Conservatories that focus primarily on jazz. I was also considering The Players School of Music in Florida which is run by Jeff Berlin. I have read a review from a TBer that seems to be pretty awesome, I just don't know how accredited the school is and if there are enough connections to be made in comparison to Berklee.

    Thanks for you input. Please any other comments or suggestions on Berklee would be great.


  4. With music, I think it all comes down to this.

    Can you play?

    If you attend either school, you'll receive the skills and education to play.
  5. melodiaopus

    melodiaopus Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Bagelbruin, thanks for your comment.

    I have been playing for about 15 years now and have been trying to find a skype instructor who will help me with any issues that I have been having before making the plundge into auditioning with Berklee. I know my weaknesses and my strengths, but would like a professional to help me with the kinks in my playing. Have you attended this school before? Do you know of someone who has? Let me know.

    All other comments and suggetions are greatly appreciated.

  6. I graduated from there in 2008. It was a pretty terrifying experience at first because there just SO MUCH going on and the pool of people doing what you do is so large. Its true that there are some duds on the faculty, but there are also some phenomenal teachers there. The best advice I can give you if you decide to attend is this:

    Decide what you want to do with yourself before you go. I tried to get as diverse an experience as I could there and came out pretty happy with everything I was exposed to and surprised at just how much I grew. There's just as much hype and ******** going around as anything else there, so if you know what you want and what you need as a student then you have ample opportunity to find the right teacher for you and the right materials to progress. It can be a weird environment sometimes but as long as you don't let it get to you, it can be a really wonderful experience.
  7. melodiaopus

    melodiaopus Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Thenumberten, thanks for your insight. You know I have been thinking about what is it that I want to accomplish at Berklee. The same uncertain feelings come about. I think if I were exposed to music in that sort of city, since I am from a small city in California, I would excel in ways I can only imagine. If I were exposed to a bigger city, say Los Angelas; which is about 12 hours south of where I am maybe I could have found a better instructor or an instructor at all. I have been self taught for the most part, if you consider DVD instructional videos as lessons.

    What kind of advice would you give me to prepare for the audition? I am not from any well off family that will pay for any of my schooling. I hope to get a partial scholarship; very unlikely a full scholarship.

    Thanks, all other comments and suggestions greatly appreciated and needed.

  8. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    for whatever reason Berklee has become a desireable place to go.
    In my experience (not directly with Berklee) in such situations those who do well in that enviroment are motivated (somewhat driven) know what they want and know how to get it.
    Those who hang back in a more passive state of mind (wondering why they're there and hoping to figure it out on the fly) get marginalized.
    There are a lot of great schools with good music departments that cost less and where one might get more personal less competitive attention, so I wouldn't put all hopes on one destination.
  9. Curmei


    Dec 29, 2008
    This advice is pretty on point. I have a number of friends who graduated from Berklee. All of them work teaching, or in the industry doing film work and the like. They all graduated from there long ago, so this may not hold true at this point, but they all said that you knew the kids who wouldn't make four years - they would be the ones with rock stickers all over their guitar cases.

    Also, I grew up just a little way from the school, and be prepared to deal with the anti-Berklee folks if you want to play off campus. Lots of ads will say things like 'No Berklee!'

    I always found limiting yourself in that way to be, well, limiting, but a lot of rock bands around there can be snobbish when it comes to Berklee - and it does seem to be specific to Berklee for some reason. The Conservatory is just a couple blocks away, for example, but doesn't seem to upset the rockers in the same way.

    Good luck, however you decide.
  10. melodiaopus

    melodiaopus Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Thanks for your responses.

    I have already recieved my B.A. in Music from Chico State. The music program wasn't at all focused on bass guitar at all. I got shuned for several gigs and several ensembles because I played the electric bass. Most of the other students who made these gigs with the jazz instructors played upright, which he thought was the only true instrument in jazz besides the trumpet and piano (which he played). So, I know what it's like to go through a State University and end up with very little education and debt.

    I think with such specialized focus on both upright and electric bass I could utilize my skills and hopefully grow as a musician as well as network with other serious musicians.

    Thanks again for the responses. Please keep them coming, these really affect my decisions on going and motivate me to start working now to prepare for a Conservatory.

  11. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    I attended Juilliard, although I really wanted to go to Berklee. At the time I was in school (mid-'60s to 1970) Berklee was THE jazz place to go and Juilliard was a more conservative, classically based school. I have no real-time knowledge of how either school functions today, but some things will always hold true ....

    You already have a BA, so I assume you are looking more towards a performance based series of studies? I would recommend locating a personal instructor who has industry connections and is a working bassist, if that's the case. I got a lot more career advancement from my personal instructor (a bassist with the NY Philharmonic) than I ever received from the school.

    If you are looking to go for a Masters, my suggestion would be to pursue this at somewhere other than one of the Big 2. Unless things have changed drastically (which I seriously doubt), both Juilliard & Berklee are best known for being "well known" .... If you were playing a higher stringed instrument you might have a different experience, but in my case I was given the most inexperienced teachers and worst practice room conditions simply by virtue of my chosen instrument.

    Again, IMO, YMMV, etc .... I was in there a LONG time ago ;)
  12. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Aug 22, 2011
    I graduated from Berklee 30 years ago, so I'm not sure if any of the specifics I could mention are still relevant (although I notice that all four of the bass instructors I studied with are still on the faculty!)

    But as an overall generalization, I'll say this: Going to Berklee definitely made me a better musician...but it did not necessarily make me a better bass player.
  13. melodiaopus

    melodiaopus Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I think my primary goal is to become the best musician I can. I have been serious about playing music for the past 15 years, but have lived in a rather stagnant town with little resources as far as instruction goes. I just want to break free from all the musical routine of not playing gigs that I would like to play and to learn new things and concepts on my instruments that aren't out of a book. Every book I have ever bought has helped me very little since I am only to assimilate the message of what the author is saying by just reading text placed in a book. I think specilized instruction either Skype or face to face would help me a lot.

    As far as Berklee, it's been a dream of mine to go to this school ever since I heard about it. I heard about Esperanza Spalding and Tony Grey before they were huge because I was looking through their current student profiles. I fell in love with what is expected from the students and the type of environment I'll be in. I know with most arts there are some very conceded and full of themself personalities, but from what I have read those people don't last. So, I'm going there for myself and my experience. If I don't like it then at least I can say I went and tried it out, gained the experience of a new climate and new city (or world for that matter since I am from a small town in Northern Cali.). I just want to be the best I can be on my instrument and be focused, have a direction, not just noodle around through slap riffs and finger-funk lines, I want to be a professional musician even if that means playing gigs as if it's a hobby.

    I love music and I love playing my Warwick Thumb Bolt-on 4 string. I'm considering buying an upright to get in touch with the roots of bass, plus having that ability to play both would be a plus and hopefully sought after (I'm sure I'll suck just as bad as I did when I picked up an electric bass).

    Please keep coming with all the comments and suggestions they have really helped me out so far. It's inspiring me and more to work towards my goal.

  14. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I went to Berklee and then North Texas many, many years ago. Since you already have your B.A. in music, I would suggest going to Jeff Berlin's school. Get your playing up to a very high level at The Players School and then if you still want to go to Berklee, you'll have a much better chance at scholarship money.

    Berklee can be a great place if you're one of the top players.

    Skype lessons: Todd Johnson and Gary Willis do them.
  15. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    Berklee is what you make of it, like others said. I'm a recent graduate ('09), and generally really enjoyed my tenure there, as did most of the people who went there I now work and play with in New York. The trick is to be very self-driven and not expect anything to be easy or spoon fed to you (important tip when dealing with the very unorganized beauracracy there!) Those who made it were very keen on working hard and staying in top shape. Needless to say, there are many people who don't take it seriously enough and drop out. For those who do care, however, there are some very serious benefits and opportunities.

    Speaking for the program that I graduated from, Jazz Composition, I'm probably not exaggerating that its the most advanced and articulate curriculum in the world of its kind. I'm currently pursuing a Masters in Jazz Composition at MSM, and the graduate jazz comp curriculum doesn't hold a candle to some of the undergraduate electives at Berklee. You can thank Jazz gurus Herb Pomeroy and Joseph Schillinger for that.

    So if you like jazz comp, Berklee all the way.
  16. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    and i have noticed among my peers who went to berklee, the more talented you are the sooner you drop out and do your own thing. it's not as if a degree is any prerequisite for being a pro rock/pop/jazz musician. i can only speak from observation but it just seems like a different scene now than in past generations.
  17. WoundFlat


    Mar 11, 2012
    Seattle, WA
    My younger sister graduated from Berklee in '10, and as earlier posters said, your success and growth there really comes down to how motivated you are. The biggest boon to attending Berklee is the connections you'll make while you're there which, again, comes down to motivation. My sister is not a particularly motivated person, and as such she has a very expensive piece of paper sitting on her wall.

    Also, the list of Berklee dropouts does seem to be more prestigious than the list of graduates.
  18. melodiaopus

    melodiaopus Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Awesome input guys/gals. I think my only question to this post would be " what do you mean be the top player at Berklee?" How is this measured? you ability to play 32 -64 note sweeps over "Oleo" how does one measure another's talent at Berklee? Here is what I come up with when thinking about it:

    Sight reading anything and everything that is placed in front of you, time/feel (are you able to play amongst others in time), improvisation (how well you solo and play walking lines over changes), technique (this could include, slap, finger funk, tapping, whatever type noodle business you do), ear (how well can you repeat melodic phrases after hearing them only once). This is what I gather from my perspective of how well a player is, but it could be different for others. Some might say how fast you play, other might say what you bring to the tune that is specific to the style of the genre, etc...

    I just want to get a sense of what other mean by "you have to be the top player to get anywhere" also what do you mean you have to be motivated? Motivated to sell yourself as musician or motivated to become a better player?

    I'm not beginner to the bass, I have chops and technique I'm just trying to fill in the other caps that haven't come naturally to me. Such as jazz, and the cognitive realm you need to be in as a jazz monster.

    Thanks, like aforementioned (many times) keep all the suggestions and comments a'comin.

  19. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Top player at Berklee? Are you the best player in your city? Get calls for all types of gigs?

    Sight reading and ability to play will get you some cred. You will be given a placement exam for theory and also one for playing. When I was there the playing ratings were in 3 areas. IIRC, it was sight reading, improv, and walking over chord changes. You needed to have 5's across the board to get into the ensembles. Most of the top players had 8's and 9's (think Ed Friedland). I don't think the tapping, slapping, parlor tricks really impress the teachers there.

    Not sure how it is now but I'll assume it's pretty much the same way.

    If you score high on this placement exam, word gets around quickly and everyone wants to play with you. The faculty calls you for gigs, etc. You network like crazy with all the other top players.

    If you score low, then you don't get known, have to take some remedial playing classes, don't get into all the cool ensembles, etc.

    See if Ed Friedland does Skype lessons or Gary Willis. Have him rate your reading skills and not blow smoke up your back side. Then work on whatever needs it.
  20. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    You don't want to "sell" yourself. That's more of an LA rock band thing. The most important thing is meeting lots of great players, playing on their sessions, and organizing some of your own sessions. If you're a good enough player, you don't have to "sell" yourself, just be a good hang and a great player and just keep up your network of friends and acquaintances.

    Sight reading is pretty important. Chart reading is REALLY important. Time, tone, and feel are critical. Lots of chops and soloing ability are useful and will help you stand out, but it's not the focus, and really is secondary, as far as playing with others goes. And tapping/slapping . . . . just not a big thing up at Berklee, nor in the world of actually working.

    The ratings system is 1 to 8. 1 is barely able to hold your instrument, or a singer. 8 is "why are you here, the teachers should be studying from YOU." Each level has ensembles, but 1-2 are totally remedial ensembles, 3 is awful but has different style bands to pick from, and 4 is the same way but the musicianship starts to get halfway decent.

    5 is the point where the players are pretty competent, and would be very good players in smaller scenes. 6 is actually where things start getting serious (actual professional level) and there are some really good players. 7-8 is world-class. I know the rating system pretty well, used to accompany for auditions as part of the requirements for my scholarship.

    One thing about the lower levels, though, is that they don't take into account anyone that may be a fantastic songwriter, or a very specialized yet extremely talented blues guitarist or someone who just might not have a lot of academic study, but is a great stage entertainer. So while I think the ratings system is a valuable tool for jazz players that want to play jazz or reading gigs, there are some very talented people that get the short end of the stick. Those people usually fit into the categories I mentioned above, and are almost NEVER bass players. I think the ratings system is very good for ALL bassists because it's a pretty specialized instrument. Plus, the higher rating your ensemble, the more likely those guys are going to have careers, and may be in a position to call a bassist for a gig.

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