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University or Bass playing?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Patrick Spence-Lewis, Apr 25, 2018.

University or bass playing?

Poll closed May 9, 2018.
  1. University

  2. Bass playing

  3. Other (Reply to this thread)

  1. Hi,

    Moderators - feel free to move this into the correct category.

    I need some advice from fellow bassists on where to take the next steps in music.

    I'm 18 live in London and about to finish school in June. I have been playing musical instruments since I was 6 years old (bass since I was 12), and I have been producing music on the computer since I was 10.

    The debate is whether I go to university to study music technology (I have an unconditional offer which I have accepted, but I may not take it up), or find contacts for production bits and pieces, as well as bass playing. I can sight read so one of my options is to work on cruise ships. I like the idea of independence and travelling so this may be a good pathway but it might be hard to maintain work when not on cruise ships, as I assume many people working on them will not be UK-based, and will mainly know people in the cruise ship industry.

    My parents are keen for me to go to university as they like the idea of a degree (of course) and they think the university will provide contacts. However, many past students have gone on to be freelance workers in composition, and therefore the university careers people won't have provided them with work.

    Another issue is that music studios won't be that interested in a degree, as they want to know if you are actually good at recording and mixing etc. In that respect, going to university and taking on so much debt may not be worth it.

    The university being unlikely to provide work and giving me a degree certificate that employers are not interested in, means my main reason for going to university would be to get smashed most days. Although that's fun, it won't help me in the long term.

    The idea of adventure and travelling does appeal to me instead of studying for the next 3 to 4 years. What do you think? Bass playing (using my current contacts over this summer to get into theatres, cruise ships, live gigs and studio sessions), or going to university to study music technology? Am I over thinking this process?

  2. University. It will open doors you are not even aware of now.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2018
  3. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Get the degree and then do whatever else with music, or maybe something else. Seems like it’s the less fun and adventurous option but maybe prudent. The good times might be great at 18 but they’ll be great at 22 also. Plus you can’t drink in ‘Murica for another three years, if your travels bring you here.
  4. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    In general, I'd say the more reliable bet is education. However, it is a big investment (I don't know too much about the UK system but I gather that it's not publicly funded and you say you'd be taking on a lot of debt), and since you seem ambivalent about it, I would suggest that a "gap year" might be a good solution for you. In other words, don't rule out higher ed, but take a year off from school to work and experience the professional world. I would suggest completing your applications (if you haven't already done so), and then maybe asking for a deferral once accepted. Go ahead and look for work, cruise ships or whatever, in the meantime.

    By the end of the year, likely one of two things will happen. Either you'll find that the realities of trying to be a professional musician are harder than you thought and you'll discover that you really could use the university degree to advance your career after all; or you'll find you are able to be perfectly successful without taking on all the debt and can do just fine as you are. If the latter proves the case, carry on; universities aren't going anywhere and you can always go back to school later.

    Speaking as a college professor, I'll add a perspective from the faculty side; it's often the non-trads - the ones who came back to school after experiencing other things - who make the best students. A lot of kids who come directly to college from high school are still in the mind frame that they are "kids" jumping through hoops that the "grown-ups" give them to do. They're often undermotivated, trying to get by on the minimum effort until they can get out to party. The older students are much more likely to have a clear idea WHY they are in school and are much more motivated to get the most out of their investment and make the best success of it.
  5. Oddly

    Oddly Unofficial TalkBass Cartographer! Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    If your main reason for going to college is getting smashed, clearly you're not ready for it.
    As @hrodbert696 suggests, take a year or two deferral, get some maturity into you, and some experience of life and then think about it.
    If you use some of that time developing contacts, working on your chops, playing with others, you've lost nothing but some time, and gained a whole lot that will stand to you.
    Best of luck!
  6. When you fall down, and we all do, what jobs will be open to you with out a degree, or the contacts you made in college?

    I know you do not understand this now, so all I have to say is, good luck.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
    Christine likes this.
  7. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Most people that I know that opted to do music to the exclusion of some other useful career skill seem to regret it. There are those rare individuals, like Willie Nelson, who don't want to do anything but music. My father nixxed my music school career and I think he was right. I play music because I want to, not because I have to.
    Badwater likes this.
  8. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Go to school. You are unlikely to make a decent career from solely performing music. The degree will make it easier to get a career job, and you can still try to make it as a performer while in University.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  9. I think you’re trying to build a case for not going to University. Don’t. Go while you’re young and get it out of the way. You have lots of time left to play bass.
    Joedog and Quantized Harmonic like this.
  10. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    There is no money in the arts.
    Good luck.
    Badwater, HypersoulRocks and scuzzy like this.
  11. catcauphonic

    catcauphonic High Freak of the Low Frequencies Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Seattle WA
    hrodbert696 likes this.
  12. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    I spent two years working in the "real world" (whatever that means) before going off to study music in college, and I couldn't agree more with the above post. I entered college a much more appreciative and (in some ways) mature student than I would have been had I gone straight from high school.

    Plus, going to college "just 'cuz" doesn't cut it anymore. It doesn't sound like you're that motivated for it right now, and it takes motivation to succeed at it. As far as making contacts, chances are you'll make far more actual professional contacts out working. That is, if you're out working in the field you want to make your career in. You might want to make sure you have a cruise gig lined up before you start putting eggs in that basket.

    If that works, take a year or two, and revisit the thought of higher education then.
    Badwater, Oddly and hrodbert696 like this.
  13. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    When I was teaching and a student would ask these questions, my response was always: If you couldn't do music, what would you do? If they came up with any answer at all, I would suggest they explore that option. The point being that to build a life supporting career in music is so demanding, time consuming, and difficult that other options are better. The reality is that you'll always be looking for a gig (always). So, unless you are so sold on prospect of a life in music that you can see no other option, you'll be better off having music as a support for your life, rather that having your life support your music.
    Spin Doctor, Badwater and Oddly like this.
  14. In 1971 I had an opportunity to tour with a top 25 band. I was in my third year of college and decided to not do it and finish school. Absolutely no regrets.
    Lownote38, Badwater and Groove Doctor like this.
  15. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    4 years? I hope that 'degree certificate' includes something like a BA or BSc equivalent. I dropped out of University (including an awesome gig with the Uvic jazz ensemble) to go away and tour with a rockandroll band, and if I could go back and do it all again, this time I would definitely stay the course for that University degree. In retrospect, SO VALUABLE in many, many ways...
    Badwater likes this.
  16. funkymonk13


    Aug 22, 2014
    Going to university isnt what it was 30 years ago. Going to school for the arts can be really beneficial if you're studying under the right people at the right school; other than that, an arts degree is pretty worthless imo. You can also go back later, people often act like thats not an option.

    Theres benefits of going to University. It can widen your mind, the way you think, etc. You also have more time to perfect your craft. IF you dont have to work while going, and you're not gonna be in huge debt, you can just take 4 years to pretty much dedicate yourself to your art.

    IMO you'd be much better off moving to a big city and start working, building connections, getting better, etc.

    Also, dont let anyone tell you theres no money in the arts. You can make wayy more money as a musician than you ever would as most careers. Theres no ceiling with the arts. Its not an easy path but its BS that you cant be successful at it; thats usually people projecting
    Badwater and Oddly like this.
  17. OldFunBass


    Nov 5, 2016
    University, now while you have the opportunity and are young with no obligations. Music will be there when you get out and you can pick up where you left off. But once you have earned that University degree, no one can take it away. At any point in your life that you get tired of the tough, uncertain life of a musician and decide you want steady pay and normal hours, you pull out your degree, dust it off, and go job hunting. And keep playing music on the side just for fun.
    mikewalker and Badwater like this.
  18. RHFusillo

    RHFusillo Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Phoenix, AZ
    Upon graduating from high school, I pursued music for a few years until I felt I had hit a dead end. Then I went to college to pursue a technical degree - the money I had made playing helped to pay for school. By the time I was back in school, I was older and better able to focus than I would have been when I was 18. I ended up getting a doctorate in engineering.
    mikewalker and Badwater like this.
  19. Oddly

    Oddly Unofficial TalkBass Cartographer! Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    The OP is living in London. I don't see how he can do much better.:)
    mikewalker likes this.
  20. Josh Kneisel

    Josh Kneisel

    Jun 17, 2016
    I stopped bothering with going to school when I was about 21 because I had decent opportunities to go play music and decent paying work.... now I am 32 and am needing to go finish a degree.
    mikewalker and Badwater like this.

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