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Just signed up as a music major, what should I expect?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by thebbconspiracy, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. So, I just signed up as a music major at my local community college, with intentions on going on and getting a masters at a 4 year university. I was wondering what should I expect being a music major? I taught myself how to read notation and can read pretty well, and know quite a bit about theory, but I did learn this on my own.

    Thank you for any input!
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Good for you!

    My advice is to practice lots of piano and singing. Not only are these important skills for your theory, composition, and ear training classes, but it will also increase your musical opportunities. For example you can join the chorus, which is a great low-stress way to network with other musicians.
  3. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    You should expect to pass a test to see if you meet their basic requirement.

    I stopped at the college level but I think it must be the same just way harder. History class, principal instrument and secondary instrument, solfege, music analyse, group class (choir, jazz choir, orchestra, jazz big band, string quartet etc), composition ( following established rules ).
  4. Thank you! Piano classes and sight singing are a requirement for an AA here.

    And I did pass the test to get into their intermediate theory, rather than starting off on their basic elementary theory class. I know a history class and a group class are required as well. As well as theory and comp.

    Thank you for the responses!
  5. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    After you get in the program, expect to be in music classes that will train you for a life of music. This means much more than just playing your chosen instrument. Piano, singing, and ear training as mentioned above are all a part of it. Also learning music styles and history, being able to play all kinds of styles in many different performance ensembles. Consider strongly the extra time and effort to get certified to teach, even if you don't think you'll want to, it could come in handy in the future.

    One mistake many people make entering a college program is thinking that the degree program will give you an education in that subject. Actually, if the program is worth anything at all what you'll really get is the foundation and knowledge to prepare yourself for a lifetime of learning in that field. All things change and the more information and knowledge you have about your field, the better equiped you are for the long haul.
  6. Will Kelly

    Will Kelly

    Mar 3, 2010
    GREAT advice. Also, sit in a practice room and do some meaningful practice, and play out as often as possible. Some things you cant learn in class, and some things will become more apparent and useful this way.
  7. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    Make an effort to connect and play with others.
    Those who manage to make music their livelihood are those that can work well with others, sometimes even others that are hard to work with.
    With teachers I would try and find the ones that have some passion for their subject and get as much one on one time with them as possible.
    A certain percentage of people going into music are sensitive and introverted and a bit withdrawn and find expression in music. If that's that case, you have to make effort to overcome that bias to take advantage of the opportunities provided.
    Basically, go for it.
  8. goldenglory18


    Nov 30, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Amateur. Take my advice for its resale value.
    What can you expect? To be unemployed after college.

    If it's no too late, I would switch to a more common major (Business Admin), and then minor in Music Theory. That way you can have a more useful degree, and still enjoy the music classes.

    I work with a lot of Cops that did the whole "Criminal Justice" thing and once their 20 years on the street is over, or worse case they get injured OTJ, they are screwed. A better idea would have been a more common degree with a wider potential for stable employment...

    My .02 anyway...
  9. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Expect to put in a lot of time.
  10. bander68


    Jan 29, 2013
    If I had a chance to go back and get my degree again, there are a few things I would do better the second time.

    1. Play in ANY AND EVERY ensemble you can. Especially the ones that go outside your comfort zone.
    2. Never turn down a gig because it doesn't pay/doesn't pay enough.
    3. Ask your professors for more playing opportunities if you can handle more.
    4. Learn more about unrelated instruments than is required.
    5. Play music not written for your instrument any chance you can.
  11. Unfortunately, I tend to agree with this.

    Unless you're one of the rare exceptions, odds are good you're not going to wind up making a full time living in music. This is not taking anything away from you. From my observations the people who do find success have little to do with talent or ability, and a lot to do with sheer luck.

    I recently had a conversation with a young kid pursuing a music degree. I was encouraging him to also get some more broadly marketable skills in addition to his music education. He responded by saying, "I don't understand why anyone would spend their life doing something they're not passionate about."

    My response was, "If you get hungry enough you'll discover the thing you're most passionate about is eating."

    Not trying to be cynical here or "stomp on your dreams", just give you some realistic perspective. By all means, study music. Learn theory. Increase your playing skills. But also don't rely on those things to put food on the table.
  12. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I have been teaching for 23 years. I believe the average for recent graduates (teaching in general, not just music) is 4-5 years.

    You just said music major so I don't know what that means - teaching, performance, music therapy, etc.

    You may want a backup plan, or be really sure that this is what you want and you are willing to really work hard.
  13. I need to know some particulars:

    1. What Community college?
    2. What do you mean by “Music Major”?
    3. What degree would you receive?
    4. Did you actually audition?
    5. Did you apply anywhere else?
    6. Did you take the SATs or ACTs?
    7. Who teaches, I assume bass in your case?
    8. What degrees does this teacher hold? Watch out for the slippery “studied at, or studied with, or studied with at.” DEGREES!
    9. If you’re aiming for an associate’s degree, forget graduate school for now. You’ll need a Bachelors first.
  14. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Lots of people who didn't have the drive to try it themselves doing thier best to squash your dream.

    It's not easy, but it's not impossible ... Unless you don't try. If you really want to succeed, and you are not afraid of hard work, talk to people that are making a living from music and ask them how they do it and how they got to where they are. Don't ask an "arm chair quarterback" that never even tried.
  15. Things from my experience...

    1. Take lessons in voice, piano, and your primary instrument--all the time.

    2. Learn to sight read music not written in the "normal" key for your primary instrument. Be ready to have to play any part in any key--seriously.

    3. Solfege. Learn to sing any written part in solfege.

    4. Study piano harder than you think you will need to.

    5. Remember that music is a tough career choice--when the chance arrives for the next level you'll wish you had put in more woodshed time.

    6. Practice piano some more.

    It took me 10 years to finish college the first time, with an AA in music. The reason I don't have a BA in music is because I didn't get proficient at the piano.

    It only took me another 12 years to get a BS degree in a different field. It's nice to have the music knowledge, but I haven't tried to make money at it for many years, and I don't even play my primary instrument (trumpet) anymore.

    If I had it to do over, I'd do what you're doing and get the low down on the demands of the degree first--then decide accordingly.

    Good luck!

  16. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    B.A. in music here, theory emphasis (so I didn't have to give a recital at the end, heh, heh). Man, do I wish I had majored in something else I coulda made more money at (didn't want to teach in public schools). Sure, I played for a living for a few years, but didn't make much at it. I did learn a lot about music, though, and so it helps me in my semi-pro career nowadays. But, my main job has been building museum exhibits for the past 27 years. Before that it was theater sets. That was the first job I had that required a B.A. in anything, and it led to the museum after four years.

    Think hard, pal.
  17. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    New York, NY
    Man, if you're going to do music, you should move to a scene. I don't know what Bakersfield is like, but are there names there?

    If you commit to doing music, here's something I recommend: get your skills together, go do cruise ships for a little while to save up money for about a year's worth of cheap living in a scene like LA, NY, or Nashville. Then HUSSLE. It's ridiculously hard to get enough work to live in music, and once you get enough work (doesn't happen for many of us, but after a year in NYC I'm just about there), it's really tough work. Unless you're a big-name artist or one of those guys that's on retainer for big-name artists, music is as blue-collar as it gets.
  18. goldenglory18


    Nov 30, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Amateur. Take my advice for its resale value.
    All this (great) advice is equally applicable if the kid studies something else as well as music.

    It never hurts to have a backup plan. I sure wish I did at the time....
  19. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Remember that training in marketing and business management are important to have alongside your music training.
  20. A large part of getting a music education is connections. My opinion is that the education part of it is half of the package, so you should make a point of impressing your professors. They can help you get plugged in. And find the best players at school, and play with them. Again, my opinion, you want be ahead of class before you go in. Make a point of staying ahead of the courses, of getting the highest marks you can. That way, you will be noticed as a promising musician, and this can lead to grants and scholarships to better music schools, and opened doors.

    Start NOW on your piano and voice work, on your reading (knowing how to read both clefs and transpose to and from Eb and Bb is a big help, if you plan to work with horns), and your improv skills.

    If you are going into jazz studies, start NOW learning the standards - get the real books, start with the first edition, and be able to play the standards, know the Bop tunes, and be able to play the heads to them. If you can walk in, play the head to Joy Spring and solo on it, then, lay down a solid swing groove, you will be noticed. And learn how to swing - I can't tell you how critical this is for jazz studies. Guys that come out of a rock background go into jazz studies and are rudely awakened to the fact that jazz is not played like rock. Sit down with Basie, Ellington, Modern Jazz Quartet, Parker, Coltrane, Clifford Brown, Mulligan, etc., and play their stuff until you can swing like them.

    A Music Major is too broad of a term, but don't worry about it. After your first year, you will get a better idea of what you want to focus on. It's just the first step - you could go into Performance, Teaching, music therapy, Jazz studies, Composition, Production and Engineering, Computer based music production, just to name a few. Maybe even prepare yourself for a career in the armed services bands.

    Your plus is you are in CA, so you should try to work yourself into the LA music scene. Bakersfield is not musical Siberia, but you won't have the opportunities there that you would have in LA or SF or NYC, or New Orleans ( I am an alumni of Loyola New Orleans Jazz dept., and was a mostly Pro musician in Los Angeles for 13 years), for that matter. Not to diss BF, and don't close your eyes to local opportunities, but I think it would be wise to use BF to expand into LA. Maybe finish your education in LA.