So I love guitar, more than anything in the world. It is my dream to somehow turn that into a career for myself. This probably sounds very familiar, but what should I do about college? I have been mostly self taught aside from lessons for about a year and feel that without a doubt I need something else. I found the college MIT out in California and was curious on anyone's take of it. I just need some help, I just know guitar is the thing I love most and I would regret not trying to take a shot at somehow doing something with it. Would appreciate anyone's input on what they think I should do or what they did with stories. Thanks a ton guys, I'm really in a hole here.
in my opinion, there is two things you can do.
you can go to college for a music degree that will get you a good job, or you can go to college to get a music degree.
i am going to be majoring in music education, because i love music more than anything, but i also want a good job. (and i LOVE teaching music to people, so why not be a music teacher?)
OR you can just go for a music degree that will make you satisfied on the side (not as a profession) as like a hobby thing.
because theres not any job openings for people who major in "music performance", you know what i mean? kinda of a useless degree in my opinion.
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A degree in music is usually a bad idea. In the actual industry (session musician, producer, composer, whatever) the actual piece of paper saying you have a degree isn't that important, having contacts and actual talent is what will get you a job (unlike in most other professions where it's the other way around). This is especially true when a lot of the stuff they teach you in these courses is stuff you can learn on the Internet, even complicated concepts like modular synthesis and voiceleading.

If you want to continue with music, you'll need to study or practise music on the side of another course. This is the best way.

I'm not sure how hard "college" is for you Americans. All the way over here, I found doing an engineering degree was easier than my last 2 years of high school. I have more time for music during uni (I guess that's our equivalent of college) than I did back in high school.

What subjects are you good at in high school, OP? Do something that you're good at, even if you think it's boring at this moment (you'll think differently two months into your course).
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There are other options besides a music degree. But it would depend on what direction you want to go. What I am trying to do is get a degree in order to make some money as well as play music on the side. I probably put about 75% time in music and the rest in school. By learning several different styles...i will be able to get more gigs. I could see making enough money between a part-time job and gigging. It's not the money im after. It is the experience. At the college i'm going to now, there are some outstanding teachers. They are also very good on their instruments. But that is not the approach I want to take.
MARTY FRIEDMAN--"It’s a lot easier to be technical than it is stylized; it really is... But I think it’s a lot more rare to have someone who’s really got their own sound because that’s something you can’t practice."
(If you do pursue a music degree) I've been asking experienced musicians about good schools for jazz. Two important things to remember: 1. Don't go to a school that's just music. Your interests could very easily change in the time you're there. 2. Some school's degrees are not necessarily as respected as others. If you live in the northeastern US, ask around your local Guitar Center and see how many of them went to Berklee. Degrees from schools like Temple are apparently seen as more meaningful/legit. And I've talked to a few jazz performance majors and graduates, none of which are homeless. Jobs do exist, but it is good to keep something in the back of your mind about how to make ends meet if you run into hard times.
If I have advice for anyone considering any sort of further education degree it is "keep your options open". You may love guitar now, but you may not like studying it. I really enjoyed maths in high school, but couldn't stand it in university. I hated law when I started, but now I really love it.

Guitars will always be there for you mate, just because you don't choose to study it doesn't mean you can't still gig around.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
My advice would be to take a course in a field you can make at least living expenses with and dont mind too much doing.

Music might be your dream, but it's the same for thousands of other people.. hardly anyone ever makes it anywhere, and even then it's not quite stable money for the few not getting million dollar contracts.

You want to have a backup that doesnt involve low wage menial work for the rest of your life.

You dream and have this passion now, but what about 5 years later? 10 years? Maybe once you get a bit older, you want to settle down and have a family?

Also, think of it this way.. there are only a few 'breakthrough' musicians actualy being able to support themselves and being a musician from the money they make that way.. most, even the more succesfull ones have to put in money from other jobs. Those guitars, vintage tube amps and gas for the tour arent cheap. Being able to support your music & living expenses and not having to flip burgers all day sure is a bonus, dont you think?
Last edited by ShadesOfGray at Aug 30, 2010,
Every one of you is talking bollocks.

In the UK the vast majority of employers don't even look at what your degree is in, they look at the grade you get and the fact that you have a degree in the first place.

I know people who studied astrology, yet have gone into very well paid jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with that field at all.

Do a degree in what you love and are passionate about.
Quote by GilbertsPinky
In the UK the vast majority of employers don't even look at what your degree is in,
I don't think OP wants a job at Aldi or Wallmart...
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Quote by demonofthenight
I don't think OP wants a job at Aldi or Wallmart...

You ever heard of graduate employment opportunities?!

They don't care what your degree is in. Just as long as you have one.

And even so, unless you do something specific like Law most degrees are pretty much gonna leave you in the same boat anyway, so why not do a subject you like?!

You really think someone studying History is gonna have any more of an opportunity than someone studying music?

Plus, some uni's are better than others when it comes to subject-related post-graduate employment.

And you're also forgetting the fact that you don't have to stop at a degree, you can then go on to do a Masters which will let you study something specifically aimed towards a certain job sector...
I have been thinking about this a lot, regarding going into a different career to give myself financial stability. I do very well in other subjects at school and can pretty much choose whatever I feel like doing. My father has is stuck in his head that I want to become a lawyer and my mom thinks I should be a doctor. I just have to find the right thing to get into while playing guitar on the side I suppose. I'll have to look into setting up a lesson plan similar to music colleges for myself to do at home. Even if it isn't as extensive and detailed.
Get a music degree because you want to, not so that you get a job. I have no formal education in music but I make a living in it. I'm self taught all the way.

That said, I have helped many get into music schools and they seem to have a pretty good time of it. Would I go to music school if I had the opportunity - probably so, it never hurts to quit learning, and theres always so many new things to explore. Like today for example I'm studying some Pat Martino, and appreciating his approach to playing over chords.


unless you want to be an engineer or a doctor or a professor of any hard sciencew or something, doing your undergraduate work in music will not really hurt your career (yes, even with a bachelors of music degree, you can also still work in an office). That being said, the training (notsomuch the piece of paper) you get in four years of undergrad music training can be the difference between making it as a freelancing professional or not. If you don't succeed in music, or simply want more financial stability, you can return and do graduate work in something else (Law schools take music majors and music is actually one of the ) or simply get a job in an unrelated field and work your way up. don't spend your undergrad pursuing a degree to make money, you'll hate the work and the more important degrees come after anyway, spend it on something you love, get a good GPA and make sure to broaden your horizons intellectually and worry about the next step when it comes.
Quote by GilbertsPinky
I know people who studied astrology, yet have gone into very well paid jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with that field at all.

Do a degree in what you love and are passionate about.

No place in the UK would offer a degree in astrology.. xD. You must mean astronomy (two very different subjects). If you study astronomy you have to learn lots of physics, maths and computing. You gain lots of transferable skills like problem solving, computing and maths skills, which will help you get a job anywhere.

But yeah. If you're not applying for something directly related to your subject then the employer will see you've got a degree and your grade, and look for transferable skills that may be useful. All degrees have them, you'd just gain a different set by studying music instead of astronomy.

Do you enjoy studying music academically or is it just the guitar playing side of it? If you do as well in school as you say, then I'd recommend you either do a music degree or perhaps look into short 1 or 2 year guitar-based foundation degrees, before a degree in a different subject? I don't know if they offer that over there though (or if you could finance it..) *shrugs*

But you've really got to enjoy what you choose to study, you don't wanna be sitting in a maths lecture not paying attention and just dreaming about the guitar and end up underachieving..
Astronomy then =P my bad.

My point was jobs don't always have to be specific to which degree you did.

And on your point of transferrable skills:

I'm about to start a degree in Music and Technology - basically music production, the basics of sound engineering, history of musical production, all down to the finer details like recording onto vinyl.

These also include heavy usage of computers, acoustics (setting up live sound), live recording etc etc and also heavy researching skills are needed.

80%+ of people graduating from my Uni's music department get jobs in related industries.

There's not only music, there's writing for the musical media, online media, teaching privately, teaching in schools etc etc.

I agree that in the UK at the moment jobs in anything are hard to come by, but why settle for second best. I say go for whatever it is you wanna do and see what happens.
Last edited by GilbertsPinky at Aug 31, 2010,
Quote by GilbertsPinky
80%+ of people graduating from my Uni's music department get jobs in related industries.

I'd be very interested what "related industries" would include.

When it comes to practical life, most people I know with music degrees teach. Sure they make some money gigging on the side, but it's not enough to live on at all.

So this begs the question, are you ok with teaching full time? If not, you can still get a different day job and gig at night, which would go hand in hand with any degree.

On the other hand, doing a music degree is possibly the best way to network in the industry. If you become friends with a guy who's dad hires session guitarists (extreme example), it'll be an excellent foot in the door.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
It's not enough to live on at all? Howcomes they're not all homeless then?

Scraping by is a sorry reality most younger people are going to have to face with the economical climate, you might as well scrape by doing something you love.

Everyone here is making out like if you do a degree in something else you'll earn a fantastic living when 90% of courses do not guarantee a good job same as music doesn't.
Quote by GilbertsPinky
It's not enough to live on at all? Howcomes they're not all homeless then?

Day jobs, such as teaching. I noted it above.

It will always be hard to earn a decent living as a musician because it's an extremely competitive market, as all the arts markets are. If you were really good at painting, would you then aim to work as a painter, selling your pieces? It's the same chances with the music industry.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
I think I've found what I might do but please correct me if I'm wrong and this won't work. I would first go to college for undergrad work in some sort of music degree. See where I am after that job and moneywise and if I require more head back to do grad work in law to possibly become a music agent or lawyer in the industry. Is that even reasonable or possible?
I would recommend Berklee over Musicians Institute if you are sure you want to do music full time because Berklee has contacts with the best of the best in the music industry, and it attracts some of the best minds in music from all over the world so you can start a great band playing a style of music you've never even dreamed of previously. I had a friend who lived in LA and worked as a singer and she told me that MIT's price is almost the same as Berklee's, but it just doesn't offer nearly as much as Berklee can offer, plus Boston is an amazing city full of creative and talented people. You can jam along with some of the best unknown musicians out there. But you have to be SERIOUS about the fact that you want to be a musician full time.

I agree with whoever said that just the fact that you have a degree will get you a better job than someone without a degree, even if it's in an unrelated field. That should ease your mind about some doubts you may have.
I disagree with whoever said that you should just put your dreams on the back-burner and pursue something more "practical." There are lots of opportunities in the music world to make money. There are lots of bands who eek out a comfortable living, even if they only have like 2000 fans in the whole world, and you've never heard of them. They are at least doing what they love for a living, and getting paid somewhat well. That's a lot more than lots of people can say.
I also disagree with whoever said just go and study classical guitar, unless you really do love classical music, and can see yourself as a concert classical guitarist.

Whatever you do, don't make you're decision out of fear, but out of love and joy (i.e. don't become a music teacher unless you really do love teaching, not just because you want a paycheck in a somewhat related field, don't plan on becoming a performer if you just want to get famous quickly, but only if you genuinely love playing on stage, etc.), and realize that even if you decide that you don't want to do music professionally, you can always go back to school and change your career later on down the line. I'd say do what you love, while you love it, and make the most out of it. Life is short.
You don't want to live with the nagging doubt of "if I only just gave it a shot, I might have made something of myself." Imagine yourself at 40 watching some new music group on MTV, or something like that, and thinking "man I could've have done that easily if I just followed my heart back when I was younger."

You are right to be anxious and a little fearful of this decision, being a a musician isn't like being a doctor or lawyer or teacher where you know you'll have a guaranteed paycheck every week. But it's also a lot more exciting than any of those professions as well!

Good luck fellow musician!
Last edited by Four-Sticks at Aug 31, 2010,
Thanks so much for all the help guys, helped me narrow my decision down somewhat. I know that being a performer would be the most amazing job though, it just gives me a natural high up on stage. A feeling that can't be matched by anything else. I know I can make it to a professional level as a performer, I just have to push myself. Really the only other thing that can hold me back thats not as much in my control is finding the other guys to form a band with, but they're out there somewhere. I think what I'm going to do is study something such as audio engineering while taking classes with music on the side. From there I'll see where I go and if I'm not lucky I'll do what I need to in order to get by. Just like Four Sticks above me said, I don't want to have the regret of never taking the chance. I know it's possible and it's what I want more than anything. I sit at home and play my guitar for up to 8 hours a day sometimes because of it... If there is anyway to turn this into a career I know I will love it, even if it isn't all fun and games. So thanks again everyone, I think I'm one step closer to getting where I need to be mentally for this all to work.
^You could look into moving to a city that is known for the music scene.
New York, LA, Boston, Austin, Nashville, San Fransisco, and Seattle are the ones I can think of right off the top of my head.
It's hard finding the "perfect" musicians to make a band with, but a band sucks ass when all the members have different goals musically, so it's worth looking into.
Go to school for what you want to do. Don't go for audio engineer because that stuff is pretty hilariously not useful anyway.

Go to school to refine your craft and meet others doing the same.

You say you want this to be your life, yet already you say "I'll take some classes on the side" ? Perhaps this really isn't for you. I take it back, go to school for law or something.
You raise a good point and who knows you may be right, but does going to school solely for music increase my chances? Part of the reason I said on the side is because I would be taking audio engineering classes at the same time although apparently that's useless. I just figured I'd be learning about the recording and EQing of everything which I presume would be extremely helpful in making a band sound great. While also learning about the music from classes and continuing with ongoing self study at home. I've still got a few months to figure it all out though.
Sorry, hypocritical me. "but does going to school solely for music increase my chances?" I guess that's what I'm trying to figure out from all of this and I'm very aware that I'm ignorant about it.
If you work with sound people don't realise you don't just have to do music. You can work in the media/tv etc etc etc doing sound.
Quote by Dubbolubogous
You raise a good point and who knows you may be right, but does going to school solely for music increase my chances?


Surrounding yourself with those who are aiming to achieve the same thing is in general the most basic way to learn and groom yourself to be what you want to be.

You don't seem like this is something you really want to do, which is fine! There is no shame in not wanting to have a more risky lifestyle over something a bit more solid, just be honest with yourself.
Many people that say its a bad idea, know this... they haven't managed to make it themselves.

Simply put, knowing music isn't going to get you anywhere. If you want to be in a great and famous band, then write great and famous songs that people will share over and over the world over till no one can ignore you.

Submit a CD that someone with the power to sign you likes and feels they can make money back on if they invest in you, and that enough radio stations and promoters world wide will love, as they are the ones that get your audience of people that will love you.

Be the best player at hitting vibes, moods and the perfect everything for music directors and you'll get return calls on recording gigs.

The people that are most likely to enable you a living in music are also those who are least likely to understand music. If you want to make a living you have to hit either a small niche better than anyone else, with enough of an audience to sustain it, or become a massive success with a product that helps radio sell advertising, and a promoter to promote you to venues which sell tickets that make those big venues big profits.

Most people cannot do that, even with music schools. Because all the knowledge in the world wont help you know how to write and sell a good song. They write things few people care about and are interested in. Their songs aren't good enough. Their lyrics aren't good enough and their appeal isn't good enough, and thats the truth.

If someone thinks they can make a profit off you then they'll buy it.


You could do a double major, or a music minor. If you decide to do a non-music related degree, you can always take music courses at a university later on.
Nightwind I want to thank you for noticing the doubt or hesitance that I have in this. Reading your comments made me angry, and it's something that I liked. I know that this is what I WANT to do, but people like you playing devil's advocate to me helps push me more towards what I NEED to do.