14 Oct Is it Worth Studying Guitar at a University or College?
Is It Worth Studying Guitar at a University?
Studying guitar at a university or college depends on your point of view of playing music as a career.
You can certainly be a professional musician without going to college for music, so it is not a requirement to do so. However, students typically study guitar formally so that they have the required skills and they believe it will help them personally in uncovering some blind spots they may have.
For example, many people don’t realize the importance of being a pro-level rhythm guitar player, competing in a jazz setting, taking the time to learn Latin guitar, or learning classical guitar on their own. Getting a degree in guitar performance ensures that you touch on diverse subjects.
Some students will ultimately go out and be versatile on their own, but others will need things shown to them to be able to experience a wide array of training. Simply put, it’s easy to miss out on a ton of information and even opportunities without formal training.
Practicing guitar requires a ton of practice – you can expect to practice guitar about 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week. If you want to do anything in life full-time, you will most likely have to put in a full-time schedule.
Watch Rob Chapman’s candid testimony of his experience at a guitar college (in the UK at least), and then continue to read our advice below about studying guitar in college.
Overview of a Guitar Degree in College
A typical guitar degree will require you to be in an ensemble (a band) and you will have to audition.
You will have proficiencies and will get tested every semester on your ability to sight-read, improvise, cope, and your general technique so they will place you in an ensemble that fits what you’re trying to do all while challenging you.
As far as guitar lessons, you’ll take them every single semester and they’re usually an hour. The lessons are based on proficiency requirements. At Berkeley in the first semester, Korey Hicks recalls having to learn 588 major scales and their modes.
Most schools have a “guitar lab” or electives where you’re diving deeper into how to play in different genres and you will have to test in those areas as well. You may even study a person’s music and try to mimic them as closely as possible.
Core Guitar Requirements
Core music requirements could be classes in:
- music theory
- composition and arranging
- conducting courses
- higher-level theory courses
General Education Requirements
You will also have general education courses like:
- World History
- Western Music History
The core requirement looks different at each program, and the Modern Music Program (Music Performance) at Visible Music College offers its own coursework.
Other practical courses that you may take would be courses in equipment and tone recording skills, auditioning tips, money management and how to teach others – anything to holistically develop a musician and pave the way for a sustainable career.
Do You Need A Guitar Degree To Become Pro?
This is a good question. The fact is that you do not have to have a degree to become a professional guitar player.
The Motivation To Be A Self-Starter
However, musicians who received degrees and became professional use the skills they learned in their degree all the time. Then there are always those certain individuals who are self-starters. They simply love learning and happen to have strong mentors to be on their way to become a professional guitar player.
This isn’t to say you don’t need the same skills that can be learned in school – all professionals wind up with them. You may be okay If you can find a private instructor outside of college, but if you think you may struggle with a subject like music theory then a college education offers immense benefits.
What About Self-Taught Route?
If you’re being self-taught you’ll have to understand your own bias.
Diversify Genre Skill-Set
For example, some want to be professionals but only want to learn one genre of music. That’s fine until the genre dies or becomes unpopular! You’d be left with all the skills of a single genre and as a result may not be able to land gigs with monetary opportunities.
Not having the ability to transfer to another style of music can hinder you and make you sound like a fish out of water. It will be obvious when performing. But if you’re a self-starter who loves all kinds of music, chances are you can be successful.
Most people suggest YouTube but it is because some videos out there have a high production value, but they are not necessarily good teachers. Just because the video is good or they’re holding a brand new guitar doesn’t mean they’re a good teacher and it also doesn’t mean they understand all the nuances of what a beginner needs.
The best teachers are the ones that know how to be versatile. You want someone who’s studied all kinds of genres, does worship, has written their own songs and can improvise.
Find an instructor without flash and who is giving you completely ridiculous things like “Four Notes Scales Your Guitar Teacher Doesn’t Want You to Know” or someone who doesn’t think you need theory at all.
How do you know you have a good instructor and good Youtube content?
When it seems difficult or it requires a lot of work. If it sounds too good to be true or sounds super easy then it’s probably not correct.
Guitar Teaching Material
There are a lot of good guitar instructional materials available.
Tip: avoid simply buying song tablature folios.
The main problem with beginners is all they want to do is learn songs, but if you take time to learn scales, chords, triads, guitar necks, etc. you’ll be able to learn that and songs.
So for instance, if you want to learn how to play Hotel California by the Eagles, it could take years to learn it. Yet if that same beginner learned the skills prior to learning the actual mechanics of the song, then it would only take an afternoon.
Create A Game Plan To Start Studying Guitar Today
Finally, we want to encourage everyone that the best way to learn is to start playing now. But it always helps to have some short-term and long-term goals to reach.
Cover Basic Techniques
Take it very easy starting out.
Split your time up with basic chords, basic scales, and then note recognition and learning songs that use those things. You may want to use an instructor to show you the right direction in what songs would be good to learn.
Worship music is great for this because you can play worship songs on an acoustic guitar and use a capo. A lot of guitar players get their start from the church, and there’s a lot less emphasis on insane musicality.
You need a plan and it is important to use a journal to jot everything down. Maybe start off with 5 mins of note recognition, then 10 or 15 minutes of beginning sets of scales, and then the next 15 or 20 minutes to focus on a song that would use each of those lessons.
Private Lessons or Instruction in School
Private lessons and Instruction in school is really important because you are studying with someone who’s been in your shoes before.
It may feel more comfortable asking them a question that you might not in a large theory class. They are also important because they allow you to ask anything and get into a close mentor relationship with somebody who is already doing what you’re dreaming of doing.
Guitar lessons are there to make sure you’re on track and up to date for all of your skills. It allows you to explore some things that you wouldn’t in a classroom.
Should you decide to choose a private instructor, know how to discern between good and bad instructors. This really applies to instructors anywhere including college.
Volunteer and Find Opportunities To Play
The self-starter mentality is again so important for success. Start playing at home by yourself, with friends, but also actively seek opportunities. Here are some examples.
Getting gigs is about knowing a lot of songs and repertoire, and the art of creating good first impressions.
If you audition for a band, you’re getting in for two reasons:
- The former guitar player got let go or,
- They quit.
These things happen with a very short notice and a new member won’t have much time to learn an entire set.
No one will ever say, “Here’s a guitar spot open, you’ve got 9 months to learn 50 songs.”
There is always a sense of urgency for a new player. You will need to have all your theory and skills down so that you can seamlessly fit into the band.
Volunteer in Church
It’s completely different in churches.
Church leadership usually would like you to become members of the church before they let you start playing in the worship band. You must also have your heart in the right place and in line with God before you’re able to perform during a service. If you’re being called to play at your church, you’ll be able to play.
Expectation After Studying and Training
What can you expect to make as a guitarist?
Playing in cover bands in big cities pays a lot more than being an original musician. For instance, you can make almost $50,000 a year playing in a cover band.
However, you would probably make a fraction of that if you’re playing original music.
So much of life is about helping and serving others. We hope your goal is not how to make a career out of guitar performance, though it is part of the larger picture. Rather, think of all the opportunities to best use your God given talents for others in the music industry and in the Church.
Get started and learn more about Visible Music College if you’re already beginning to think about a game plan. It’s not just about studying guitar in college or an institution. Guitar instructors, spiritual formation and a vibrant community of faith are found here.
Earn your degree in the field of Music Performance from Visible Music College
Music Performance tracks in guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, vocal, songwriting commercial strings, brass and woodwinds. Request more information about Modern Music and Performance at Visible.