Top 9 Tips for Music Major Success

by Andrew J. Allen

Want to major in music? These nine tips are vital for any prospective music major!


1. Ask yourself why you want to major in music. 

Music is a wonderful profession. However, you want to go into it for the right reasons. If you love playing in your school band or orchestra, there are lots of opportunities to perform in college whether you are a music major or not. However, if you love music with every fiber of your being, and you can only see yourself teaching it and sharing it with others for the rest of your life, then music may be the right career for you!

2. Explore degree options.

There are lots of different career paths that you can take in the world of music:  Music education, music therapy, music business, performance, etc. Also, a bachelors in any of these can lead into a graduate degree in any other aspect of music. For example, this author has a bachelors degree in music education and graduate degrees in music performance.

3. Focus on one instrument, and be the best you can be at it. 

Instead of learning to play a lot of different instruments at a mediocre level, it is far more advisable for the aspiring music major to be the best they possibly can be at one instrument (or an instrument family). You will learn all you need to of the other instruments in your collegiate studies. Also, if you are a “bass clarinetist” or a “tenor saxophonist,” make sure you branch out and become a competent player of the other members of your instrument’s family.

4. Start studying with a great private teacher as soon as possible. 

As soon as you can, start studying with a great private teacher on your instrument. They can show you the finer points of performance, and can lead you to where you need to be by the start of a music degree. Also, a great private teacher can lead you to fantastic college teachers on your own instrument.

5. Take some piano lessons.

Along with being as good on your instrument as possible, having some piano skills will help greatly as you prepare for studying music in college. You don’t have to be Lang Lang, but every music program in the country will expect you to have some keyboard proficiency by the time you graduate. In addition, familiarity with the piano will help you greatly with understanding music theory.

"The more music you listen to, the better musician you can be." - Andrew J. Allen

6. Listen to as much music as you can. 

No matter what your favorite music is, be sure to expand your horizons. The more music you listen to, the better musician you can be. Ask your band or orchestra director and private teacher for recommendations. You should be listening to great masters of your own instrument, but also great recordings of classical, jazz, and pop masterworks.

7. Invest in great equipment. 

No one can “buy a sound,” but make sure that you’re investing in equipment that will allow you to play your best. A quality instrument is a must, and Vandoren reeds, mouthpieces, and ligatures are widely accepted as the gold standard in university clarinet and saxophone studios throughout the country.

8. Do well in all of your classes, not just music. 

In both high school and college, remember that you need to do well in all of your studies, not just music. A high GPA and good test scores will insure that you can get into the university of your choice, and, hopefully, it will lead to increased academic scholarships. In addition, quality preparation will make sure that you can be successful in harder college classes.

9. Look at a lot of different colleges and universities. 

When looking at collegiate music programs, make sure that you’re shopping around. Don’t decide on one school without exploring their clarinet or saxophone faculty, their large ensembles, their academic reputation, their success of alumni, and the amount of scholarship funds available.  This is a big decision. Take your time and pick the school that is right for you!

Join the conversation