Choosing the Best Music School for You

I don’t think there’s a one size fits all approach to pursuing any type of music education. It depends on where you are in your life right now.

Rice Shepherd School of Music
Shepherd School of Music at Rice University

Throughout my life I have received private music tutoring, I’ve attended classes in person at community college for music, graduated from the certificate program at Berklee Online, and I’ve attended a 4 year university- though not for music.

I’ve also watched a lot of YouTube videos to brush up on skills and to expand my bag of producer tricks.

I can’t really say one method is superior over the other, though studying music at community college was pretty dismal and kind of a waste of time with a few exceptions.

Face it when it comes to music: you will need some type of music education and training, even if it were taking your guitar and a book and going off into the woods for a month and doing serious practice and self-study. Good luck with that.

cliff smith guitar lessons

We are incredibly fortunate to have technology available to us that empowers us to learn when it’s convenient for us. With video and audio on our phones and computer we can easily study in our living room or in a car overlooking a scenic view of the Pacific Ocean.

For this reason my experience attending Berklee Online College of Music was exceptionally valuable. Value is the actual value of something, not the price tag or how much it costs. I got the info I needed and I could do the training modules on my own time (though there was a pace set for unit completion each week).

This is exactly what I’m hoping for with JamPlay. I will focus on getting some basic proficiency locked in for my guitar playing, then look to various rock and blues genres to come up with a sound for my current song.

Because the song I’m making right now features a Memphis rapper and I’ve visited Memphis, enjoyed their smokey barbecue, sights and sounds, I want the song to have some regional flavor as well which I’m hoping to create with the right guitar sound.

julliard school of music
Juilliard School of Music in NY

But again, depending on where you are in life right now, like if you’re about to graduate high school or need a total career change, the going to a physical university for music might be a great idea for you.

The Benefits of Attending a 4 Year University for Music

I’ve been to community college a few times and each time I thought it was a waste of money. So if you’re going to college, you’re best to just go full-on to the big time right away.

Choosing music as a major is a pretty big step. Many people will tell you that music is not a real job. They’re probably right, but then they’re the people who will be stuck in a job for the rest of their lives, by choice.

The best way to choose a career is to forget money for a second. If you want to make music for the rest of your life, then you might as well just commit to it. You can always wait tables anyway if you need money, which from 30 to 33 years of age off and on, with a degree in a non-music discipline.

music jobs
Music is a job. Don’t let these slaves fool you

So don’t make choices based on “jobs”. Jobs are often little deaths along the way. I’ve been fired from so many jobs and I was one of the best workers- the whole paradigm is on its head and ass backwards in my opinion, which is why I became an entrepreneur.

As a musician, you’re also an entrepreneur, unless it is your actual goal to teach. Some people like teaching, I guess I’m teaching right now sort of, but my focus is on making better music, and I think if I make a whole website dedicated to becoming a better musician, then I will have added motivation and focus in determining how to advance my own music career.

There’s nothing wrong with teaching if you want to do it, but that’s not my focus here.

Another benefit of studying music at a 4 year university is just getting to be at the Music College within the University itself and be a part of the environment of musicians there, which will keep you on track and motivated, as well as professional.

I took a music class at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston as a required elective when getting my BA in Poli Sci and the course I took was really a great course and I learned quite a bit, so it’s a good value (even though yes the cost of a college education is extremely overvalued and price inflated right now).

youtube guitar lessons YouTube is a Great Teacher

If nothing else on this page grabs your attention, use YouTube.

This will require you sort of knowing where you want to go with your training. As a guitarist with no music background, learning some simple chord progressions and hand placements on guitar can rapidly transform you into a guitar player.

I know this because of music theory but honestly, most popular and successful songs on the radio use 3 or 4 chords max.

So becoming fairly proficient is possible through free training, but it’s going to mean you’re all over the place and may be ignoring some basic fundamental things that will save you trouble and bad habits down the road.

With YouTube you can study other people’s songs, then watch people play keyboard or guitar and teach you move for move what to do with your hands and fingers to make the same song achievable by everyone.

wizard of ozOn my last track featuring Ne-Yo I used parts of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” throughout the song (but I played the actual parts on keyboard), though I did not use them in original order and I feel like it came out pretty damn magical.

Whatever You Do, Never Stop Learning 

My goal is to never stop learning music. I have plateaued with my guitar playing which is why I’m taking massive action for the last quarter of 2015 and committing myself to stepping up my guitar game.

I know that no matter where I end up, or how my latest song goes, so long as I keep practicing and performing, playing and recording, and never give up- I’ll keep making music that is interesting and sounds good.

I wish you well with your music training choice, whatever your decision may be.

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