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Music majors

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Taxxorrak, Mar 16, 2009.

  1. Taxxorrak


    Feb 7, 2009

    I was just accepted as a music major, and I was wondering what sort of skills I should focus on to "prepare" for it? I must be doing something right to be accepted, but then again I'm sure there's alot to work on. I know that. And I know it will probably be very hard with intense work .. but it'll be worth it.

    Anyone share their experiences with conservatories, etc?
  2. basstubaguy


    Jun 18, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    I have a couple of degrees in music performance, on tuba, not bass. I went to the University of Michigan and Manhattan School of Music. You are asking the right questions, but I think you should speak with someone who plays your instrument at the school you plan to attend. The requirements, the structure, everything, will vary by instrument and school. Generally speaking, you will be subjected to music history and music theory without a doubt. If you're a bass player, obviously jazz theory will be very important. But to get a real feel for what you're in for, you need to contact a student.

    Good luck.
  3. DeLucha


    Dec 11, 2007
    Hey there,Taxxorrak! Congratulations on your acceptance. Hopefully you enjoy the years to come.

    I'm currently enrolled in a music college myself (Humber College) and I can say from my own experience that I didn't feel I was as prepared as I could have been. Of course, "prepared" all has to do with your own level of skill as well as how critical you are of your own abilities.
    However, in the long run, good things to work on to prepare yourself are sight-reading music, improvisation, knowing your bass inside-out, developing your inner-metronome, and expanding your repertoire and being able to change the key on the fly is also a plus.
    Aside from all of this, one of the best things to help you prepare is dealing with any sort of ego you might have. While you may be a damn good player, there is always someone better than you and being able to recognize this superior ability in others and not get extremely down on yourself for not being able to play like them is a skill in itself. Music college/university can give a serious beating to how you view yourself as a player, if you're not prepared.
    Again, congratulations on your acceptance, and I hope all goes well for you in the next years. Study hard!
  4. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Get in touch with the school and find out what texts are used for Music Theory and Music History. Buy them and start reading. Also, be in touch with the applied music staff and private lesson teacher that you will have and ask what books he likes to teach from, and what solos they expect first year students to be performing. Get them. Get to work.

    You will probably not feel like you are totally prepared... and that's OK. The goal is to know what you're going to have to do. If you find that you really ARE the best incoming student and you play better than and know more than the rest of the incoming class... get your ducks in line to transfer to a better school.
  5. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Tips from a former college theory teacher:

    Every day practice recognizing intervals using one of the online programs. Stumbo has links in his sig.

    If you have not studied piano, get a piano teacher for the summer and REALLY do it.

    Practice sight-reading on your instrument.

    Listen to a lot of music, Jazz and classical. Concentrate on the major figures like Palestrina, King Oliver, Bach, Armstrong, Haydn, Ellington, Mozart, Basie, Beethoven, Hawkins, Schubert, Goodman, Schuman, Miller, Brahms, Parker, Wagner, Miles Davis, Schoenberg, Coltrane, Bartok, Jaco, Varese, Zawinul, Stravinsky, etc.
  6. JWClark(ABD)


    Dec 17, 2008
    Kent, Ohio
    Yes, congratulations. I'm finishing a Ph.D. as we speak, and I teach the freshmen first semester theory course. In addition to buying and reading your theory text in advance, begin developing your practical skills: transcription (also called dictation or ear-training) and sight-singing or solfege. Depending where you are and where you're going, there are a variety of systems in use. Find out which one and begin practicing it. Check out Sam Adler's textbook on sight-singing (the title escapes me at the early hour).
    Also, other skills that are unrelated to music, but rather to the college experience in general: responsibilty, moderation, waking up to an alarm clock. Many students regularly confuse college with thirteenth grade, and the ones who succeed are the ones who do not do this. While your music classes may be the first time you experience music as an academic field, and while this can be boring to begin with, resist the temptation to skip class and to be habitually late.
    Sorry for the small novel here, but this is something more people going into music should ask, and since you did, here's my take on it. Hope it helps.
  7. Taxxorrak


    Feb 7, 2009
    No problem JWClark(ABD), as I see where you are coming from. As it is now, I am studying another music-related bachelor, and I get up at 630AM everyday and get to practice (mainly technique) from around 8-10AM every day of the week. Then over the course of the day I either play in ensembles or by myself. I've never been the one to be late, really. :) The studies where I have been accepted to focuses on a very allaround approach to music; from jazz to popular music.

    I don't feel cocky because I got accepted either. I think they see I have potential, and that's why they're taking me in. My goal is also to become a great teacher. I think that's a bonus that shows atleast some maturity.

    Thanks for every input. And please feel free to come with more suggestions. Reading theory in advance I will definatily be doing in summer, when my current semester is over with.

    I play electric bass, but I will probably buy a decent double bass during the course of the summer because I have always wanted to be able to play both. When it comes to electric bass, what sort of skills should be worked on in preparation? Mainly I've been focusing on technique lately, playing even and with good time. If anyone teaches anyone at this academic level, what sort of things do you tell your students right off the bat? The sort of "you really shoud know this" stuff.

    Any input is appreaciated, thanks alot!
  8. Representing Musical Composition:

    Learn to sing.
    Learn solfeggio.
    Learn to play piano.
    Dust up on theory(Hit the Bach HARD).
    Learn to sight read both treble and bass clef.

    I think that should be more then enough to get you started. :smug:
  9. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    Hey man!
    I goto Humber, too!
    What year are you in?
  10. DeLucha


    Dec 11, 2007
    Hey Mark. I was a year ahead of you, but I took this year off for various reasons, so we'll be in the same year when I get back this September. Pumped for third year? I've heard it's a blast and like being in a completely different school.

    Hope everything's going well for you so far!
  11. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    I hope it's better!
    This year's been hell... haha

    Hope everything is well with you too! See you next year!
  12. AlphaMale


    Oct 30, 2006
    Ventura County
    Ear training, and reading
  13. Audiophage


    Jan 9, 2005
    I would suggest looking into things like ear training, music theory, and keyboard skills now to make learning those easier when you actually get into school. I was already quite familiar with the first two of those when I started as a music major at my school, but there was a definite learning curve to get over with the keyboard which is why I took an extra year.
  14. PDK


    Nov 14, 2008
    Cleveland TN
    The best thing you can do is learn to sightread and have a firm concept of music theory. This is a skill many bassist's lack. You should also focus on your role in a rythem section. Don't focus on one style. Focus on many. At the end of the day the chameleon bass player/sightreader gets the most gigs.
  15. manutabora


    Aug 14, 2007
    Iowa City, IA
    I think one thing that many of us students find frustrating is that, for certain teachers, one is never "done" studying or preparing a piece. What this means is that, no matter how much and/or well (smart) you practice, you may come out of the next lessons with as many or more things to work on as the last time. Some people start thinking that they are just never going to be good enough, etc... The reality is that music is such a deep language that the more prepared you are, the more your instructor can work with you to take the music to yet another level.
    I am a violin major but I also play electric bass in the jazz department. Oh, and I play the viola in an honors quartet (going to a national competition pretty soon). I may be the exception more than the norm but I will tell you that if you're looking for an easy time in college, this is not it. You may have to give up many things (including a social life and at times sleep) to do well on everything you're involved in. Sometimes my life gets so busy that I really can't do well on everything, and I have to pick and choose the things that I'm really going to focus on for the time being. You have to be a very driven individual and be willing to learn how to juggle around with many responsibilities.
  16. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    I entered college as a music major on bass performance. In the music program at UT (at least in the late '80s), all music majors were expected to maintain a baseline set of skills in sight singing, piano, and pedagogy.

    This was a real stomach punch for me - I had essentially no piano training, I can sing but had never trained on sight singing before, and I was not targeting teaching as a profession. In essence, the required skills in that program were going to be trouble for me. I felt like I would be GPA challenged because I would be graded on a curve in my piano courses against people who had played piano informally for perhaps years. I also felt like the teaching-related course load was of questionable value given my objectives.

    After a year, I became a business major. It worked well for me, because the UT jazz program was fledgling at that time and I was still able to play in all of the same ensembles available to majors. I even held the chair in the Jazz Orchestra, the top big band at UT, briefly. And I was spending my non-performance time on classes that have benefitted me tremendously since.

    This post is not intended to deter you from majoring in music. I only mean to express my own experience as a guy who entered college as a music major expecting one experience and perhaps receiving another. Had I asked the question you are asking now, I may have been able to prepare myself to be more competitive than I was and may have gone through with it. No regrets, though.
  17. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Here are a few TB links that may apply to your situation:
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=479377 So you want to be a music major in college?
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=484028 Solfege
    http://www.miles.be Solfege training. Free downloadable program
    http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/ Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Theory Dictionary
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=507075 Auditioning for college jazz band
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=480154 College audition dilemma
    http://imslp.org/wiki/Main_Page Classical sheet music (free)

    P.S. Listen to Dr. Jim and all the other TB members giving you this great information.
  18. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Thanks, Stumbo!

    I have seen many music majors founder on 3 main areas: Keyboard skills, dictation, sight reading. Some get it together, often spending an extra year or two to finish. Others go on to other majors. Music study, even in Canada at Humber, can be challenging.

    If I had to pick one thing, it would be: get a real piano teacher right now.

  19. LowKee


    Jan 18, 2009
    Bourbonnais, IL
    What he said.

    Also, be sure you know your scales and modes inside out. This is invaluable, especially if you play jazz at all.
  20. DeLucha


    Dec 11, 2007
    I've got to second all of the suggestions given here so far. Especially things like sight-reading, sight-singing, and aural (ear) training. An ear training class in particular was something I had never been exposed to before and I had a very tough time with it. (Maybe so tough I wiped it from memory and forgot to mention it? haha) I've always been fairly good at transcription, but without a bass in my hands, I was easily lost. So, being able to hear a note/interval/chord and know it without an instrument in your hand is definitely a precious tool, since it will make knowing the note(s) easier without having to go through extra in-between steps, such as comparing the note(s) to others played on your instrument.

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