Preparing For A Musical Degree

There is learning music, then there is learning music in college. People assume that since their band is the hit-show around town, that they have a guarantee spot in a college music school. They would be wrong. Here's what I myself am doing, and what some peers of mine are doing as well.

0
Last summer, my cousin auditioned for a spot at the University of Colorado Music School. He unfortunately didn't make it. I was talking it over with him, and he was telling me what he did wrong and what I should do if I chose to study music in college. My guitar teacher, a graduate of the University of Tennessee at the Clemson Music Program once gave me a list of the things that were on his first semester year syllabus. While I can't find it now, talking with my cousin, my teacher, and friends who are considering music as a profession, I have developed a list of key and critical things that will increase your chance at a spot on the musical program of your college of choice. Ideally, you, the reader, are a 14 year old child entering high school. You have 4 years of solid guitar under your belt and you can maintain a band and have a basic knowledge of music. Many high schools offer a multitude of music classes, ranging from performance to technical to perhaps business. Your best bet is to see about joining the marching band or concert band while also taking another class (if its possible) such as choir or steel drums. When it is available (if it is), see about trying to get into a music theory class/music history class and take advantage of your school's jazz band. If your school offers things like teaching to younger kids at the middle school, or sponsors extra-curricular activities relating to music/summer camps/(summer) clinics/workshops, whatever. Drop by your band teacher's office one day to chit-chat with him about opportunities such as the ones I listed. Meet, talk, meet, talk, meet, and talk with as many people who play music professionally as you can. The more experience you have around these people the more you will be prepared for not only music in college, but as a profession. Now, as far as the technical side of things, this is based off of a syllabus my guitar teacher gave me. This is the stuff that you may or may not be auditioning for, depending on the school.) Be able to know and.. Play all your major scales. (All 5 positions of them in the CAGED format) Play all your minor scales. (All 5 positions in the CAGED format) Play all your modes of major. (All 5 positions in the CAGED format) Play all your modes of minor. (All 5 positions in the CAGED format) Play all your diatonic majors, minors, half-diminished, and diminished chords. (And by that, I mean your 7s) Play a wide number of scales such as: chromatic, whole tone, pentatonic, blues, altered diatonics, diminished scale and be able to play them in all CAGED forms (if applicable). Be able to quickly make and extend chords (i.e: adding 9s, 11s, 13s etc.) Be fluent in your theory (harmonization, triads, diatonics, rhythm, scales, etc.) Know how to sing (not beautifully, but able to hold a melody) Learn How To Play The Piano (and by play, I mean be able to sit down and sight-read any moderately challenging piece of music) Be able to sight-read: a jazz lead sheet, a classical piece, and anything else you can think of. (Know the terms, i.e: head, lead, melody, solo, outro) Be well versed in your jazz (as in, know dozens of songs and be able to throw a chord-by-chord improvisation solo on the spot) Be well versed in classical music (including the history, types of classical music (Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-classical, what have you.) and be able to play a variety of styles of classical. ------ Now every school is different, so you may or may not be playing that. Especially if your going into something along the lines of music business or recording. But as far as performance goes, that is what you need. Realize, that rock and roll isn't really catered to that much in college. Jazz and classical are primary focuses. This means that you need to be able to expand your musical horizons and find some classical and jazz you like. Keep in mind that this is a rough guide and each school has something that I haven't included. Contact the school your considering and see if they can give you some advice on what you need to prepare for. Studying music in college is something that takes extreme practice and patience. You can't pull it out of your ass, it has to come from years of study, and even then your not guaranteed. Take this guide for what it is, a guide. Good luck.

38 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    12212012
    I think im gonna cry :*( This is very hard for a self-taught guitarist! Well, at least I'm in Marching/Concert band
    Windwaker
    12212012 wrote: I think im gonna cry :*( This is very hard for a self-taught guitarist! Well, at least I'm in Marching/Concert band
    It is hard. If you honestly plan on trying to become a professional musician, it is in your best interest to take advantage of local professional players who offer lessons, or any learning opprotunities. You CAN make it on your own, but it is a lot easier if you have some help. Taking lessons from a seasoned jazz player was the best decision I made in high school, more so than joining the schools concert and jazz bands. While I knew my theory going into both lessons and school, school concentrated almost entirely on my proficiency, whereas my lessons incorporated applications of what I knew and enhanced my ability in a much larger number of aspects. (Gotta get this out of the way now) I'm attending Berklee starting this fall as a result of my work. If anyone has any further questions on auditioning (regardless of school) I'll do my best to help you out if you give me a PM.
    countrychris01
    If you're playing over a C major chord and not resolving to C then you're not playing modally.
    I'm playing over a C major progression if you read correctly. Chords in that progression that i selected are D min, G maj and C maj. Thats the second degree, the fifth degree and the fourth degree. A C major scale will work fine over all these chords. However, if I start changing the scale per chord change. I would go..D Dorian, C Lydian, G Mixolydian. However, I can play all of these using a C major scale, just resolving to the individual chord tones. C major resolved to D over the D chord, which is a D Dorian mode. Same with the rest. To say that modes are not positional is just misinformation.
    Colohue
    countrychris01 wrote: and Colohue> modes are positional. Just like any other scale on the guitar, you can play them from anywhere. Most of my modal work usually works off the major scale in the given key im playing. for instance if im looking at a 2-5-1 progression in C. thats Dminor, Gmaj, Cmaj. Im gonna use a C major scale, but on the D minor, im gonna resolve the C major scale to the D. Whether im in first position or seventh, im still using a D Lydian mode. Look at a piano, ur still playing the same major scale if your on a piano, ur just starting and ending at a different note.
    If you're playing over a C major chord and not resolving to C then you're not playing modally.
    jamsea
    I'm at the university of windsor at the moment and strongly looked into their music program before I decided to go into computer science (to get a job). The ONLY REASON you need a degree in music is if you want to get a job teaching high school/grade school. Every other career (writing music for television/film, session player) is found by having a portfolio or having previous experience. At the U of W you could either get a bacholor in music or a bachelor of fine arts in music. The bacholor in music requirements included an audition and pretty much everything else this guy wrote in his article. A bacholor of fine arts in music required that you have a pulse. As you could guess, the second degree won't even get you a job teaching high school.
    Guitarfreak777
    StonaLemons wrote: Not a bad article, but you should have said this is only for the really prestigious music colleges. And another thing i think is that to go to uni/college and do music, you shouldnt just love listening to music, you should love the understanding behind it, all the theory application and whatnot and obviously performing it. Honestly its not worth getting a music degree if you wouldn't want to teach music because its one of the only viable jobs to go into after your degree.
    Why can't I just go to further the knowledge of music and my instrument?
    Gottlos
    Guitarfreak777 wrote: Why can't I just go to further the knowledge of music and my instrument?
    Why pay for a 4 year music related degree if you're not going to go into music? That's an easy way to go through 100 grand fast. And if all you want to do with music is write, I can almost guarantee (unless you're writing classical music) that you won't find any applications for over half of what you learn in college. I've taken Jazz Band and two music theory classes (scored a 4 on my AP music theory exam) and I don't think I've used anything I learned in those classes since school ended.
    Elrafa
    I don't get the the CAGED format thing, can anyone explain please??? I know my scales quite well... but wtf is the CAGED format????
    Paul Tauterouff
    Elrafa wrote: I don't get the the CAGED format thing, can anyone explain please??? I know my scales quite well... but wtf is the CAGED format????
    CAGED is a system of 5 fretboard boxes based off of the 5 open chords (C, A, G, E, D). When you play a chord as the 5 moveable (barre) chords, they follow each other in order on the fretboard which spells out CAGED. This pattern repeats just as all scale patterns do. Sorry if this doesn't help much, but this is too complicated to explain thoroughly in a comment. I searched here on UG and here are some lessons on this. http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/search.ph...
    miskatsu
    (BNDR) wrote: i agree. although i think that if music is your passion you can make it. the reason its so tough is that it weeds out people who aren't serrious and will hold everyone back. give it your all.
    And I say that you have to be one freaking nutcase perfectionist if you want to learn this much music theory before you even go to damn college! I want to be an pro guitarist, but not to learn every bloody little detail of music theory, dammit!
    miskatsu
    Windwaker wrote: 12212012 wrote: I think im gonna cry :*( This is very hard for a self-taught guitarist! Well, at least I'm in Marching/Concert band It is hard. If you honestly plan on trying to become a professional musician, it is in your best interest to take advantage of local professional players who offer lessons, or any learning opprotunities. You CAN make it on your own, but it is a lot easier if you have some help. Taking lessons from a seasoned jazz player was the best decision I made in high school, more so than joining the schools concert and jazz bands. While I knew my theory going into both lessons and school, school concentrated almost entirely on my proficiency, whereas my lessons incorporated applications of what I knew and enhanced my ability in a much larger number of aspects. (Gotta get this out of the way now) I'm attending Berklee starting this fall as a result of my work. If anyone has any further questions on auditioning (regardless of school) I'll do my best to help you out if you give me a PM.
    dammit I live in Finland, in a town of 50 000 ppl, we have the only bloody conservatorie in 200 km range, which is freaking corrupted! One my friend has tried to go there for something 4 years (to play drums!) but one little looser in my class gets the place, and the dude is so shit in music an everything else, he is an social looser and he has AD/HD, gets the place! I think his dad has something to do with music, but how the heck I can get teaching in music, when my music teacher wants to play on music lessons Finnish pop songs from the 70's and 60's, dammit! I have trained for nearly one year on my own, and I can play 12 bar blues, little lead, shit solos, know all the chords (majors and minors!), can barr and know the basic amount of guitar theory, and only thing I think I have to learn is to sweep pick, learn more scales, and maeby more scales and music teory... But I have learned bloody fast!
    miskatsu
    And my school has maeby only one band, it plays metal. Not every place has bloody jazz bands and seasoned players. And I don't dammit need them!
    miskatsu
    Radical Bob wrote: This would be true for high-end well recognized music programs.. the average college/university music programs, however, won't have this kind of minimum requirements. Of course, it helps to know as much as possible because the school is going to take the most qualified applicant.
    If Mozart, Beethoven, Edward Grieg etc. would revive and start an music academy, an royal one, with only private lessons, this could be the knowlegde you need. I don't think such guitarists as Slash or Eddie Van Halen went to an music college, or even to an music school with such high requirements. Like c'mon! I can solo on pentatonic scale, but who the hell needs about 125 scales to fu**ing improvise one f**king solo?!
    (BNDR)
    i agree. although i think that if music is your passion you can make it. the reason its so tough is that it weeds out people who aren't serrious and will hold everyone back. give it your all.
    Paul Tauterouff
    Sorry for the double post - just wanted to add that this is a good list of things to prepare for music university.
    Icarus Lives
    Oh no!! I really want to go to music college but it looks like I have SO much learning to do. This is a real bubble-burster, ball-breaker and general reality check. FFFFFUUUUU!!
    goldenslumbers
    Dr. Guitar wrote: This can't be correct. If you know all this stuff before you go to school, what the hell do you need to go to school for?
    I agree, I plan on going on into music and I know a good deal of music theory already and multiple instruments but, I don't plan on learning EVERYTHING before I even go into college. That is why I go, to learn.
    StonaLemons
    Not a bad article, but you should have said this is only for the really prestigious music colleges. And another thing i think is that to go to uni/college and do music, you shouldnt just love listening to music, you should love the understanding behind it, all the theory application and whatnot and obviously performing it. Honestly its not worth getting a music degree if you wouldn't want to teach music because its one of the only viable jobs to go into after your degree.
    rhoadsfan92
    srry for the double post, but i have a question. isnt the CAGED sequence mostly for chords? and maybe arpeggios?
    Dr. Guitar
    This can't be correct. If you know all this stuff before you go to school, what the hell do you need to go to school for?
    Radical Bob
    This would be true for high-end well recognized music programs.. the average college/university music programs, however, won't have this kind of minimum requirements. Of course, it helps to know as much as possible because the school is going to take the most qualified applicant.
    rhoadsfan92
    how bout contemporary music schools (berklee, new school of music, musicians institute, etc)???
    Pepefloydean
    This is the ideal perspective of a someone preparing for a musical degree, but in the reality you just need to be able to sight read and have a small concept of theory. A few months ago I thought that an aspiring music student needed to be as great as this article explains plus a great technical ability, but talking to people that are already studying music this isnt always true. Of course it is recommended to know all of this stuff but it isnt necessary.
    Talon_Leader
    Colohue m : Play all your modes of minor. (All 5 positions in the CAGED format) I disagree entirely. Modes are not just scales. You can't play G Mixolydian just by starting C Major on G. Modes are not positional.
    He's right, if you're going to do that you'll have to know more than just the modes, like the order they're in.
    Weeping_Demon7
    I meant that as a guide scale. CAGED are the five basic scales based on the C A G E and D chords.
    Guitarfreak777
    Radical Bob wrote: This would be true for high-end well recognized music programs.. the average college/university music programs, however, won't have this kind of minimum requirements. Of course, it helps to know as much as possible because the school is going to take the most qualified applicant.
    I agree. This is far far far greater than what my guitar teacher told me to know and practice before going to just a general college. If I was going for one of the schools geared toward music then perhaps, but not normal schools.
    TheGreifer
    Some of the more selective music programs in the country do have tough requirements. The point of going to such schools isn't necessarily to learn all the basic theory (yes all the scales he mentioned are fairly basic theory on any instrument) but how to apply it most effectively. Don't expect to get into a "good" music program on any instrument knowing only a few scales.
    countrychris01
    Id like to debate this one too. The big thing that was missing, is the key to all chords, modes and thats scale harmonization. The chord scale. That is they key to remember it right there. Colohue> why cant you play G mixolydian starting off the G in the C major scale? If you resolve what your playing to and from G, using the C major position, your still playing the mixolydian mode. Its the exact same arrangement of notes, which is what a scale is.
    countrychris01
    and Colohue> modes are positional. Just like any other scale on the guitar, you can play them from anywhere. Most of my modal work usually works off the major scale in the given key im playing. for instance if im looking at a 2-5-1 progression in C. thats Dminor, Gmaj, Cmaj. Im gonna use a C major scale, but on the D minor, im gonna resolve the C major scale to the D. Whether im in first position or seventh, im still using a D Lydian mode. Look at a piano, ur still playing the same major scale if your on a piano, ur just starting and ending at a different note.
    CG138
    Pepefloydean wrote: This is the ideal perspective of a someone preparing for a musical degree, but in the reality you just need to be able to sight read and have a small concept of theory. A few months ago I thought that an aspiring music student needed to be as great as this article explains plus a great technical ability, but talking to people that are already studying music this isnt always true. Of course it is recommended to know all of this stuff but it isnt necessary.
    This is the reality. Also, though jazz is essentially the accepted format when it comes to college level music, most places are becoming more lenient. To be frank, if you can show some range in your style and a basic ability to read music and grasp theory, You'll probably be fine. Unless, as someone said, you're going to Berklee or something.
    BSM123456789
    Dr. Guitar wrote: This can't be correct. If you know all this stuff before you go to school, what the hell do you need to go to school for?
    yea really are you going to learn more? or is it simply to get a certificate?
    mdwallin
    this sounds about right to me. I've spoken to a few teachers at the school I hope to get in to, and they've mentioned everything on here (and as you said) more. The only thing not mentioned was knowledge of music periods (baroque etc.)
    Colohue
    Play all your modes of minor. (All 5 positions in the CAGED format) I disagree entirely. Modes are not just scales. You can't play G Mixolydian just by starting C Major on G. Modes are not positional.