Prepare to be a College Music Major

Guitar students and music teacher

As you prepare to be a college music major, make the most of musical opportunities during high school. Here are some basic pieces of advice to give prospective music majors the best chance for success in college and beyond.

by Tom Hynes

Study Privately

Your private instructor should be qualified to teach a serious young musician. An ideal pre-college teacher has:

  • A degree in music (at least a Bachelor’s)
  • Experience in preparing college-bound musicians
  • Experience as an outstanding/professional performer

An instructor who doesn’t possess at least one of these qualities is almost certainly not a good choice to prepare you for a college music program!

Play with Other People

Students who attend high schools with strong band, orchestra, choir, musical theater or jazz ensembles enjoy tremendous learning opportunities.  Those who do not –– students at high schools without strong music programs, or home-schooled students –– should actively pursue music options at junior colleges, community music schools, private music schools, or religious-affiliated centers.

Popular music groups such as rock, contemporary worship or pep bands, while valid and fun, seldom challenge young musicians with regards to traditional ensemble skills such as music reading, blending, tuning and balancing, and following a conductor.  Participate and enjoy –– but don’t expect these groups to substitute for literature-based ensembles.


Singing is the most basic form of musical expression. All music majors are required to sing extensively. Take advantage of every chance to vocalize: high school, junior college and faith-based choirs all offer opportunities to work on your voice, and more importantly, your ear.  Particularly beneficial are those choirs that don’t rely entirely on “ear learning”, but emphasize music reading as well.

Play Piano

Like singing, piano playing is required of all college music majors.  If you started on piano but switched to a different instrument, pull out your old books and brush up.  If you have never played before, start as soon as you can; junior college Beginning Piano classes are a cost-effective alternative to private lessons.

Study Theory

Students who don’t start music theory until college often struggle, particularly those musicians whose backgrounds are primarily or exclusively aural (i.e., vocalists, drummers, and guitarists). Any pre-college theory background is helpful.  High school Advanced Placement (AP) Music Theory classes are a tremendous opportunity; so are community college courses.  Numerous self-study methods are available online.

Learn Technology

Familiarity with computer notation programs is beneficial.

The most common are Finale and Sibelius, which are stand-alone notation programs, and Logic, which includes notation as part of a larger platform with MIDI and digital audio. Some companies offer less-expensive starter versions or educational discounts.

PC-based music technology is not limited to notation; MIDI, digital audio recording and editing programs are other powerful tools. Familiarity with technology is extremely valuable to anyone aspiring to a career in music.

Listen to Music

Serious young musicians often do everything to advance themselves except actually listen to music! Even well-trained students often have a poor aural grasp of basic musical styles and concepts, especially those that fall outside their specialty or preference.

The following are typical ways to introduce oneself to a wide range of music:

  • Recordings (audio files or CDs)
  • Internet sources (web radio, YouTube, websites, Facebook pages, etc.)
  • Attending concerts and recitals

Attending live music events not only exposes you to a variety of music, it also gets you in the habit of supporting your fellow musicians—just as you hope they will support you.

Tom Hynes is an assistant professor of music at Azusa Pacific University (Azusa, CA), where he teaches Commercial Guitar, Music Theory, and Jazz Combos.  He also teaches at the Idyllwild Arts Academy and Northwoods Jazz Camps.  He received his BM in Studio Guitar Performance from University of Southern California and MA in Music/Composition from California State University—Los Angeles.  His book Modern Harmonic and Melodic Practice (Hynesight Music) is in use as a theory text at APU. Professional credits include the Grammy-nominated recording, Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra Precious Promises. He can be contacted at


  1. Michael

    Hi! Im a rising sophomore in high school. Ive been in my schools choir since the 5th grade, I know some basic Music Theory and plan to take the class later in my high school years, and I do not play any instrument. Now im thinking of minoring in Performance rather than majoring in music. Could I still minor in music, considering I match all the qualifications except the instruments?

    • Please do think of your voice as your instrument! College-level music schools offer auditions and programs specifically for voice majors.

      In addition to performing in your school choirs, consider taking some private voice lessons as well as attending summer music programs to focus on vocal skills. This will prepare you for any serious pursuit of music in college. And yes, many schools do offer a music minor if music is not something you want to immerse yourself in. Many also offer the less music-intensive Bachelor of Arts degree in music. You’ll need to check whether that’s possible and what it entails at schools you might consider applying to.

  2. Juan

    Hello. I’m a junior in high school currently, who is interested in possibly double majoring in music and biology. I’ve played the flute in band since the sixth grade, however, my main instrument has become the piano. I’ve only played for three years, however, I’ve become quite proficient. I’m currently learning pieces like Rach Prelude in C# Minor, Chopin Etude Op. 10 no 1, and Mozart Fantasy in D minor. I take a piano class at my high school, and my teacher says she’s never seen talent like mine. I’m just nervous that I’m not good enough to push forward with it as a major. Any advice? I love music and piano performance, however, I know this field is extremely competitive. With my music abilities, I’m also a Honor Society student, as well as other leadership organizations. I make A’s for the most part and I’m not enrolled in AP classes with a GPA of a little higher than 4.0. If I don’t make a good applicant for a music major as of now, what can I do to prepare? Thanks!

    • We have a few suggestions for you.

      1. Take a look at the application and audition requirements at schools you’re considering attending. This will give you good insight into what they are looking for in applicants and what you’ll have to do to be ready for those auditions. Note that liberal arts universities and colleges may not require an audition.

      2. To strengthen your piano proficiency and sight reading if you do want to prepare to audition (both will be very important), seriously consider taking a summer music program. You’ll find lots of options by clicking here: Summer Music Camps & Programs.

      3. Music majors need to study music theory. Learning some basic music theory will be really helpful BEFORE you go to a school to major in music. Look for summer music programs that offer music theory.

      4. As you move forward into your senior year, think about your goal in double majoring and whether you’ll be up for all the work that will require. These articles will be helpful: Double Majoring with Music: Questions You Need to Ask and Dual Degrees, Double Majors, and Music Minors

      We wish you all the best!

  3. Haly

    Hello. I’m a senior in high school graduating in June of 2022. I’ve always had a major interest in music and would like to study it but I’m not sure I know enough. I have taken choir every year of high school, I’ll be in three school choirs this coming trimester. But my school doesn’t have any music theory classes. And even though I have always wanted to play piano, there aren’t any instructors in my small town and it’d be a lot for my parents to drive me to another city and back. So without really any knowledge of the piano, could I still study for music education? Teach choir or piano? Thank you for your attention.

    • Take a look at the application and audition requirements at schools you’d consider applying to. We urge you to do this ASAP! If it seems you won’t be able to meet the requirements, another option would be to take classes at a community college that would give you transfer credits to a four-year school. No matter what degree you get, you can always take music electives and music lessons when you get to college. You can also sing with choirs, a cappella groups, and other ensembles even if you don’t major in music.

      In the meantime, you can start taking music lessons now, online. No reason to wait. There are many good options to choose from. One that appears to be quite legitimate is Virtu.Academy. Let them know we referred you if you choose to contact them to inquire.

  4. Eric

    I’m a Sophomore in high school and have been playing the clarinet since I began middle school, I joined my high school’s Jazz Band my Freshman year, and I just joined Choir this year with no prior singing experience. I’m looking into taking private lessons very soon, and enjoy studying theory in my free time, until I can take the AP Theory course my Junior year. What else can I do to prepare and am I even on the right path?

    • Between now and this time next year, figure out what your primary instrument will be if you want the option of applying to schools that require an audition. You’ll want to take lessons, have a daily practice schedule, and find opportunities to perform alone and with others. You’ll also want to work on your sight-reading. Summer music programs are a great way to bump up your learning, so start thinking about those as well. By January, our 2022 Summer Music Camps & Programs will be up – in the meantime, you can start looking at what was offered in 2021 since many of these will be offered again next summer.

      There are other paths for studying music on the college level – liberal arts colleges with strong music programs, for instance. Or double majoring minoring, or taking music electives and joining choirs, ensembles, etc.

  5. red

    I’m 15 and about to enter my sophomore year. I don’t know anything about piano but I have interests in music since I was kid. I play ukulele and that’s it. Is it possible to enter a music school in college if I start learning piano now or is it too late? I’ll probably enter college in about 3 years. Is 3 years enough?

    • There’s still time to become proficient enough to audition for a music school if you can start taking lessons on an instrument you’re passionate about and create a really strong practice schedule for yourself. Summer music programs are also a great way to improve your proficiency, meet music mentors, learn music theory, and find out if focusing an enormous amount of time on music is the best way to proceed in college. Check out the summer music programs on – some are offered virtually, others in person.

  6. chloe

    What if I’m in grade 10 and can’t play any instrument. I love songwriting and music listening, but what else do I need to enter a music major. I have average grades but that’s it.

    • We encourage you to do the following: read articles about studying popular music; sign up for a summer program in songwriting; start learning to play keyboards or piano. And visit the websites of schools with songwriting programs to find out what they require from applicants including their audition requirements.

  7. Andrew

    I am a rising junior in high school, and I’m very interested in the technical side of music production and I want to go to school to learn about audio engineering. I have some musical skill; I’ve played the trumpet for about 5 years now. However I’m worried that won’t be enough musical knowledge. What steps should I take to ensure that I am ready to study what I want to?

    • Some schools require an audition as well as a portfolio demonstrating work you’ve done in the past; some only require the portfolio. It depends on the school. Then there are community college programs and some for-profits that you could actually apply to without having much of any background. Regardless of the programs you apply for, the fact that you have some musical background will be helpful.

      You can learn more about the programs at the participating schools on by going to the “Find Schools That Fit Your Interests” section (homepage) and clicking on “Recording/Production/Technology. You’ll be able to learn what these schools require in order to apply and audition. Also read the articles on music production on A new article is in process – should be up within a few weeks. These should help answer your questions.

  8. Jocelyn

    What online music theory and history courses do you recommend for a student about to be a vocal performance major.

  9. Hi, I am a sophomore in highschool and I would like to pursue singing. I have been singing since i was a little girl and took voice lessons for about 3 years. I stopped due to an injury and lack of motivation. I have never stopped singing though. I am just looking for a few tops to increase my chances of getting into a good music program in college. Also I am planning on going back to voice lessons and attending a School of Rock.

    • You’re doing the right thing by going back to voice lessons. Be sure to find a teacher who can help you learn healthy vocal techniques especially if it’s your voice that was injured. You’ll want to set a healthy practice schedule for yourself as well. And any vocal music classes you can take during the summer will serve you even if you have to take them online this summer.

  10. Jayden

    Hi, I’m currently a sophomore in high school. I want to go be a music major in college but would like to know what classes I should take in high school. The minimum requirement for foreign language is two years, which I will have completed by the end of this year. If I were to only take the minimum required years for foreign language, would that affect my eligibility for getting into the colleges I apply to?

    • Every college or university is different. But start by taking a look at some schools you could see yourself applying to. See what their academic requirements are for applicants. At many schools, you will probably be fine with just the two years. But don’t close any doors of possibility until you’ve checked further. You can also use the forms on the school pages on to ask questions of any of these schools. And – do read this article: Prepare to be a College Music Major.

  11. Esteban

    I’m currently in sophomore year and I just recently started practicing piano. I only know half of the notes for both treble and bass clef. I plan to learn how to read music sheets by the end of sophomore year and play songs that I like by searching up the music sheet for that song. I have a huge passion for music and love all genres of music, but I’m worried that I might not be good enough to major in music. What should I do? Should I keep practicing, and if so what? Can I still be good enough in 2 1/2 years? Please help

    • Yes! By all means, keep practicing! We also encourage you to take lessons. And find a summer music program to attend – you can start by looking at the Summer Music Camps and Programs linked on the website.

      Will you be ready to audition for a college-level music program by the time you’re a senior? No one will be able to predict that now! But if you love music, stick with it. There are lots of programs and jobs in music business, music industry, and music retail as well as in arts management, entertainment law, and music technology that a background in music is helpful for, and the level of musical proficiency required may not be as high, depending on the schools you apply to and the area of music you want to go in to.

  12. Nolan

    I am a high school sophomore at a small rural school in the US. We do not have a ton to offer since all of our bands are directed by one person, but I actively engage in our 100 person marching band, concert band, pep band, drumline, and rock band. I play more than one instrument, including quads, euphonium, trombone and other brass, as well as bass guitar and drum kit. I love to surround myself by music. I started drumming when i was 7, but in 6th grade i started trombone and euphonium. I have played both for marching and concert band since, so i keep up with bettering myself. If i am looking at a major in music education to become a music teacher or band director, which instrument should i use as my main?

    • Since you will want to audition on the instrument you are strongest on by the time you are a senior, you will want to to get more and more proficient on that instrument between now and the fall of your senior year. Private lessons are a great way to do that.

      Also look for summer music programs to help you improve, gain music theory background, meet musical mentors and new friends – our Summer 2020 section on will start being posted by the end of the week and new programs will be added through the spring. Many of the programs offer need-based scholarships (a few may offer merit scholarships as well) but you need to apply early for consideration.

  13. Andrew

    I am a sophomore in High School at the moment and I wanna be a music major, At the moment I’m in Choir, Orchestra, and I’m about to do music theory. I only play the Cello and can’t really play the piano and would still like to be a music major. Would I be able to do so without being able to play the piano

    • It helps to have some keyboard training before you major in music because it’ll make it easier when you get to music school, where you’ll be using a keyboard in music theory as well as other classes. But it’s not required until you get to college. At that time, you’ll be required to take some keyboard musicianship classes. In fact, you’ll take a proficiency test when you start college for placement purposes (students who are already highly proficient on piano tend to pass out of the first level or more of keyboard classes).

  14. Rap

    I am a senior in highschool and would really love to major in music production and engineering. Do I really have to audition in that case? I play the violin and can sing by ear a bit. I also play basic guitar only. Can I have advice if I really have to audition and what schools are the best choices for that specific course here in Texas.

    • Every school is different. Some do require an audition, others don’t. Many require examples of your efforts in recording in addition to or instead of an audition, and many require an interview. Best to check the audition and admission requirements at each school you are considering attending. You can also check the schools on by checking the “Technology – Recording/Production “ box in the “Search by Majors Offered” section on the homepage.

  15. Mary

    Hi! I’m going to be a junior in High School this year and am interested in majoring in Voice Performance. I have been taking lessons for 5 years under a well known vocal coach in the community. My struggle is that I am not taking Music Theory this year, and will have to fight to be enrolled in the class my senior year. If I do not complete this course will I have a hard time with the audition process/is it required?

    • Music theory taken in high school will help prepare you for the more intense music theory you’ll be taking as a music major in college. By taking it in your senior year, you should be fine. You’ll take a music theory placement test at some point in the process to see which level of theory you’ll be best suited for when you begin college, but it should not be a factor in your audition process. Make sure you brush up on your sight-reading, however, because that will be part of your audition.

  16. Odelia

    What’s the best course of action for majoring in music history? I’m a junior in San Antonio Texas, and I’m trying to graduate early and start community college at Palo Alto by fall. The only thing is, how do I prepare for majoring in music history? Are there certain classes I should be taking after my basics?

    • Some music schools on the college level offer music history or musicology as an undergraduate major. Others only offer it on the graduate level.
      Read our article on Musicology to learn more about what you’d study in this major. Look at schools you might want to transfer to after community college to see what their application and audition requirements are. Find out which classes you should take at community college so that you are more likely to get transfer credit and be able to graduate with your bachelor’s degree in four years if that is an important consideration for you.

  17. Chloe

    Hi, so I am a rising high school junior with a passion for music. I currently sing, can accompany myself with piano, guitar, and ukulele and am in two ensembles and involved in musical theatre. I want to perform when I’m older as a solo contemporary artist. I do want to go to college though, and most likely pursue a BM. I’m also considering a dual-degree program (possibly in business administration) because I have always excelled in academics and I don’t want to put that to waste. Does this sound like a good plan? I know to get signed to a record and eventually tour is a big goal and that it doesn’t necessarily need a degree, but is a BM what I should do to gain more music and performance experience?

    • A dual degree or double major program is great if you’re passionate about both majors and are really good at managing your time. Read our article about Double Majoring with Music for ideas. A double major with business or a business minor will definitely provide you with skills you’ll want to have for the career you describe below.

      Look carefully at what a BM will offer you if you are sure you want to pursue the path you’ve indicated below. The BM is more time-consuming than the BA with music-related classes, so if you do want to be a double major, look carefully at what you’ll gain from the BM vs BA.

  18. Max

    I am a senior in high school and I think I would like to do the music theory and composition major at the college I am attending next year. I’ve been accepted into the music program already but I have little experience with how to write music but this is something I really would like to do. Would it be reasonable to take this route if I’m pretty new to composition? And what could I do to prepare before I start? Thanks.

    • We suggest you talk with the music department at the school you’ll be going to. Let them know about your interest in composition and ask for guidance in selecting courses that will provide you with what you want to learn. Know that you’ll need music theory and keyboard skills for composition, so if you haven’t started in on those, we suggest you look for a summer music program that will introduce you to both. You can find great programs right on the website for summer.

  19. Rose

    My daughter is in 10th in highschool. She has been homeschooled the whole way. She always has a passion in music since she was a little girl. So she decided to be major in music composition. She is planning to graduate early next year and start to go to Fullerton Community College then will transfer to another 4 years institution. We do not have a lot of money to put her in expensive private lessons, so she has only 1/2 hr private lesson a week. Can she just takes classes at community college?

    • We suggest that your daughter and you read this article about community college – we think it will answer some of your questions. We also highly recommend that your daughter take summer music programs until she graduates. Many programs offer scholarships to those students who apply early (like now!). See our Summer Music Camps & Programs section to learn about some of these programs.

      Community college can be a great preparation for a 4-year school if done carefully and with eyes open. Since you mention some of the California schools – our understanding is that the Cal State system now has an agreement with the California community colleges where students with good GPAs are assured of getting into a Cal State school. Schools like CSULB and Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton are known for good music programs. With lessons and lots of practice plus good sight reading skills as well as taking music theory at the community college level, your daughter should be able to apply to any of the schools you mention.

      It’s always a good idea to check the websites of the schools she would most want to go to, in order to see what their policies are around transfer students. There’s also a website called where students can find out what classes will/won’t transfer at many schools.

  20. Kari

    We have been told by many people that having a trial lesson with a potential teacher is a very important part of choosing the right music program. My daughter is a soprano who spent last summer at Tanglewood and came home very determined to pursue vocal performance. On three different occasions we happened to be traveling to a city with a college she is very interested in but in all three cases I emailed the faculty to request a trial lesson and none of them answered. The college websites all stated that was how to set up a trial lesson but the faculty does not answer those emails. Any suggestions ????? Is this a common problem???

    • Every school handles these lessons differently. If you don’t hear back from a specific professor within 2-3 days, you can simply try emailing again. They don’t have a problem with that as long as emails are courteous and respectful, so keep trying. Note that faculty are often overwhelmed with email in addition to all their other responsibilities. Alternatively, we suggest you contact the admissions office directly at the schools and ask for their assistance. It’s part of their job to help facilitate these kinds of requests.

  21. Zay

    I am sophomore in high school and I am almost positive that I want to go into music education as a career. I play clarinet but I’m probably a little below average and I don’t have a private teacher right now although I could probably muster up enough money and time for private lessons. Also, music education is the degree I would need to be a middle school/high school director right?

    • Take a look at the admission information on websites of schools you might consider applying to. Check out the audition requirements as well. You’ll find out what you need to do in order to be accepted as a Music Education major. Also read all of the articles on about becoming a music educator so you’re well aware of what this field requires.

  22. Mike

    Hello, I’m a junior in high school. I’ve been studying theory for a while and I joined choir and AP theory this year but my passion is piano and I self taught the basics well. I started private lessons with a college professor a couple months ago and I am progressing really fast. I want to major in piano performance and go to a good school but I haven’t really had lots of performance experience. What should I do? Should I take an extra year to study then apply to college or go to a small college and then transfer? Do I have a chance?

    • Look at the application and audition requirements at schools you think you might want to attend. Talk with your current teacher to get their input on what you can do to be ready for auditions next year. We highly recommend that you take a summer music performance program to get as much practice and performance experience as possible. Early in your senior year, contact the admission office at one or more of the schools you are interested in applying to, and ask for a lesson from the piano faculty. Be sure to ask for feedback from the professor about whether you have what it takes to audition successfully.

  23. Malloy

    Hi, I’m a sophmore in highschool and am very serious about learning cello and being in an orchestra as a career. The problem is, I don’t know how to play cello. They are too expensive to buy one or get lessons for it because my family is poor. What do I do? How can I learn cello or join a musical college to play?

    • We suggest you contact your high school or a local community music school and see if they have an instrument loaning program. You can also find out whether there’s a scholarship program for student lessons.

  24. Laura

    Hi! I’m finishing my sophomore year in high school and have recently decided I want to major in music. I’ve been playing piano for over 10 years and love music, but now I’m realizing it’s what I want to continue doing with my life. I also play oboe, and have been taking private lessons for a few months. What I’m wondering about is what I should major in if I’m not sure what area of music I want to go into. I’m considering education but I’m not sure… should my default be a performance major? Thank you so much, your website has been amazingly helpful!

    • We suggest you spend time over the course of the next year exploring areas of music you’re interested in learning more about. Read about different music careers, talk with college students and professionals in areas of music you’re curious about, talk with your teachers, see if you can shadow a music teacher or two who are teaching at local schools. If becoming a music educator is something you’re passionate about, know that many teachers also perform. In fact, you’ll have to audition to be accepted into a music education program and as a music ed major, you will continue to take applied lessons and be in ensembles throughout college.

  25. Feleshia

    What is music theory? I’ve been thinking about majoring in music but I never played an instrument before. I’m worried that I might fall behind.

    • That’s a good question! And an important one. Music theory provides an understanding of how music comes together. Studying music theory teaches you about how rhythms and sounds are used to create emotion in your listeners. It also includes learning about melody, harmony, pitch, intervals and chords, and reading and writing musical notation. At most schools, music majors are required to take several increasingly advanced levels of music theory before they graduate. For anyone considering composing, music theory provides the necessary tools.

      If you are thinking of majoring in music, most schools will require you to audition before they consider whether to accept you. At some schools, the audition will be for placement in ensembles and lessons. So you will need to figure out whether you would audition on voice or learn to be proficient enough on an instrument in order to be ready for whatever kind of audition required by the schools you apply to.

      Even if none of this works for you, if you love music, consider taking lessons and learning as much about music as possible so you can enjoy it throughout your life.

  26. Maya

    I am a sophomore in high school and am very interested in majoring in either piano pedagogy or piano performance. I’ve been playing piano for over 10 years, have participated in local, state, and national competitions since I was 12, gone to two summer piano camps, and am taking AP Music Theory this year. So, I think I have a pretty good chance of getting into at least some college piano program. But I also love to sing, especially in choir. I did choir in middle school, but I haven’t had time for it since. My question is if colleges offer a way for non-voice majors to still sing in choir? I would love to do some voice in college.

    • Most colleges have choirs that are open to any student. They’re typically by audition, but not limited to those who are voice majors. Many schools also have a cappella groups, often student-run, as well as other opportunities to sing. You should have no problem finding a place to sing wherever you go!

  27. Kaden

    I am currently a freshman in high school and I am interested in a music major in college. I currently play violin and bass. Would I need to learn how to play more instruments besides piano to get accepted in these programs? I am also debating on what to exactly major in. Maybe Music Therapy, Music Compisition, Music Technology, etc. Are the prerequisites for those majors the same or at least similar?

    • Read articles on to learn more about these areas of music. You’ll see some schools linked on each article – check out their audition requirements so you can see what’s required in order to pursue each of these areas of music. Note that piano skills are valuable and pretty much expected in any area of music, although the level of proficiency is clearly different for piano performance majors.

      We encourage you to sign up for a summer music program to learn more about areas of music you may be interested in pursuing. It’s also a great way to strengthen your performance skills, learn some music theory (which you’ll need for majoring in most areas of music), get to know other students with a strong interest in music, and meet great musical mentors. Check out our Summer Music Camps & Programs section to get started.

  28. I’m a sophomore, and I want to go to a music college and want to become a producer. I love everything about music. I play many instruments including guitar, bass, and piano. I am taking AP music theory next year. But i do not have a great gpa. Will I be able to get into music college?

    • Your audition or portfolio will be a stronger representation of you than your GPA unless you are planning to go to a liberal arts college. However, most schools will look at the GPA to get a sense of how serious a student you are and some say it helps predict success in college. It’s not too late to bring your GPA up – doing so may open more options for you when it’s time to apply to schools. Read this article: Academics for Prospective Music Majors to learn more.

  29. NANA

    I am currently a sophomore in high school. I passed the ABRSM grade 5 exam for piano and i also play the flute and violin. I always wanted to learn the violin since a very young age but was not able to until 2 years ago. If i want to major in music in university do i have to take the SAT and ACT? does my gpa matter?

    • As for standardized tests, it depends on which schools you apply to. Every school is different – some require SATs or ACTs, some do not. As for GPAs – Liberal arts colleges are more likely to focus on GPAs but other schools will definitely look at GPAs as an indication of college readiness.

  30. NiNi

    My daughter is interested in majoring in singing/vocal/ theater and is a Freshman in HS right now. She is a member of a vocal touring group and takes private singing lessons and does theater, She is enrolled in choir right now but she is bored. She is bummed but she feels like she is wasting her time. Does she have to take 4 years of choir to get into a music program for college?

    • We think your daughter would be best served by continuing to find opportunities that stretch her and facilitate her musical growth. Keeping up with lessons with a really good teacher who has successfully seen their students accepted into college programs they applied for is also important. If her schedule allows, an extracurricular youth choir may be more compelling than what she’s finding at school.

      Another idea is for her to find some fellow students to create their own singing group and perhaps a teacher at their school who would be willing and able to facilitate. And certainly summer music programs are vital – check out reasons why and many good options on our 2017 Summer Music Camps & Programs page.

  31. Kay

    I am currently a sophomore in high school and I have been surrounded by music all of my life. I have played the piano since I was about seven years old. I have always had a passion for singing and started singing in my church choir when I was about twelve years old.

    I want to become a high school music teacher, a forensic biologist, and or graphic design (probably on the side). Yah, I know lots of options… I am doing a career research project on it. I am thinking of possibly doing a double major of Biology and Music Ed or Major in Biology and minor in music ed. I was thinking if Cal Baptist University, Azusa Pacific University, or Biola.

    Any advice? Thanks a bunch!
    This article was really helpful 🙂

    • Look at the application and audition requirements for music majors at the schools you mention, as well as whether they allow double majors in the fields you mention. Also see whether minoring in music is an option. Note that music schools we’ve spoken with have said that it’s best to start out as a music major and change that later if it’s not the right fit in order to stay on track with classes like music theory – if you want to graduate in 4 years. Some schools, however, do require 5 years for a double degree, so check that out too. Call admission offices after looking for the information online first.

      Note that it may be easier to double major at liberal arts colleges, so if your academics are strong, check some of those out as well.

  32. Humayra

    I wanted to do a double major in music vocal performance and pre medicine. However, I cannot play the piano or any other instruments. Is piano proficiency required for a vocal major? If yes, then to what extent is it required?

    • As a voice major, you would not be expected to be at the level of proficiency you would be if you were auditioning to be a piano major. But as this article states, basic keyboard skills are important and useful for any music major especially for learning music theory, for composing, and in your case, for helping with sight-singing. Most music schools will expect you to come in with basic keyboard skills and it would help to start learning them before you get to college.

  33. Allan

    I am a junior in high school and I want to know if I need to take the regular english, math and science classes to attend a music college.

    • Each school is different. So check the requirements at each one you’re interested in. As a general rule, however, you’ll find that music programs that are a part of universities or liberal arts colleges have specific general education course requirements for all students. Conservatories typically have less of these. And some students are able to have a limited number of credit hours waived by getting credit for high grades on AP tests (4 or 5 at many schools) and/or IB tests (5 at many schools).

  34. Zelaida

    I’ve been singing since I was 9 and I’m currently 13. I’m in my school magnet band which I had to audition for and I’m going to 9th grade next year. I want to major in music but I also was thinking about majoring in something that covers teaching music and conducting and stuff in case I need a backup. I know how to read music and I know advanced notes. What can I major in?

    • It’s great that you are starting to think about your future and what you’d like to do in school and as a career. Since you have lots of time before you have to make decisions, we suggest you explore lots of different areas of music – and non-music areas as well. Sing in choirs, take lessons, practice, sign up for summer music programs, talk with college students and people who are in careers you might be interested in. And learn some basic music theory – you’ll need it if you become a music major.

  35. lily

    I want to major in vocals and songwriting but at the same time major in pharmacy, so in case when I do get my degrees and music fails I may have something to fall back to. I have been singing since the age of six. I play the guitar and I am currently learning the piano. I started writing my own original lyrics at the age of 12. So I was wondering if there is any university recommendation that will best suit me with the double major?

    • You would likely need to be a science and music major – many schools including liberal arts colleges will allow you to do this. Realize that to become a licensed pharmacist, you’ll need a Pharm.D. (doctoral) degree. Note that you can take a pharmacy technician certificate program to become a pharmacy aide or a business degree to go into pharmaceutical sales.

  36. Tatyana

    Hello, I want to major in vocal and creative writing but I have no idea how to read music. I’ve never taken theory in high school. I’m taking exploring music but I’m not sure what its gonna teach me. Will I still be able to major in music if I can’t even read music?

    • It sounds like you don’t have the background to audition successfully. But you can always take music as an elective; minor in music at some schools; check out liberal arts schools with good music departments where you don’t have to audition; or consider starting at a community college with a good music program where you can get some of your basic music classes to get you started and help you see whether majoring in music is really the right fit.

  37. Maya

    I’m going to be a junior in high school and I’m interested in becoming a clarinet performance major which sounds so intimidating to me! I am talented and I play quite well, but I want to always have other options. I’m considering a double major in political science or pre-law. Would you recommend any schools to look into or do you have advice? Thank you. P.S. I have been taking private lessons for 2 years and I have been playing for 6 years

  38. Noah

    I am currently going into my sophomore year of high school. I have marching and symphonic band experience as a trumpet player (how I learned to read proficiently), and jazz experience as a guitarist (where I am truly passionate). I focus primarily on jazz guitar and have participated in all-state jazz ensembles, as well as multiple jazz camps. I am looking into majoring in music education in college but have a few worries. Will I get too caught up in learning how to teach and learning all these other things that I will begin to lose a sense of focus on guitar? I really want to get the best out of college and learn all that I can about my instrument, but also for career sake, want to go into education, and play it ¨safe¨. Any recommendations or help on what things I could do get a degree in education as well as constantly learn new things specifically about different styles and types of guitar skills along the way. Maybe Major in Music Education and Minor in jazz studies? Thanks 🙂

    P.S. Yes, I have a private jazz guitar teacher.

    • As a music education major, you will need to take applied lessons as well as audition on your primary instrument. Many music teachers perform on the side, so improving your performance chops is important. And yes, you will get pedagogical training as part of a music ed degree. Take a look at this article on finding your first first music teaching job and then decide whether teaching music can really be a “fallback” career for you.

  39. Noah

    I am currently going into my sophomore year of Highschool and am very passionate about becoming a music education major. I have played trumpet for 5 years in classical/symphonic settings and guitar in the jazz setting (combo as well as big band) for also, 5 years. I am curious to know what a common Minor would be for a music education major for I would really like to further studies in jazz and performance but I am not sure if that would actually help me get further in education. So to wrap this up, here is my question. What are some common/useful minors (if a I or is even recommended) for a music education major? P.S. I plan on teaching music from grades 6-12 as a band director.

  40. Carlos

    I have discovered a talent in music. Aural skills comes very natural to me. I am 20 years old now. While I was young and living at home, it was frowned upon to be artistic. I would love to be a music professor for course such as music theory. I am into technology. MIDI controller and mixing. Not so much into sampling as I like doing things from scratch. I am learning to play the keyboard and would like to play the piano. I feel I am ready to go to college and I want to teach. Will this be possible considering I am a late bloomer? I am not looking to being a professional musician per se as I feel that I can perfect my craft while doing other things. But I love to teach. I am teaching my step children and I know I want to teach music at a higher level (because children aren’t necessarily my strong suit!!) I plan to go to college next semester. I finally came at peace with who I am. I was never allowed to study music at all while young. I thought that I was just someone who highly enjoyed listening to music. I don’t want to become a record producer. I want to discover it all! And teach it all.

    • For most majors, like music theory, you will need to audition to be considered for acceptance in music school. Teaching theory may require at least a master’s degree. For music production, the audition may be a presentation of prior work plus an interview. You don’t say whether you’ve had music lessons but we suggest you consider a community college for getting started – for music lessons, introductory music theory and for exploring your music interests.

  41. Ky

    I am a sophomore in high school and I am looking into majoring in music education. I have played saxophone for 5 years and am currently learning flute. I’ve made honor and all-state bands for saxophone and talked to multiple colleges. Some problems are that my singing is questionable and I’m not offered music theory classes. I’ve been in some form choir since a very young age, but I’m not sure it’s helped. And as for theory, my school is very small and has limited classes so we don’t have that luxury. Any advice for either helps! Thanks!

    • You will audition on your primary instrument, the one you’re strongest on and, once accepted, you will take lessons and play in ensembles on that instrument. Check the required classes for music education majors. You’ll likely find that you’ll have a choice of whether to focus on instrumental OR vocal music education. With a focus on instrumental music education, you’ll probably have to take some kind of basic voice class and some basic conducting; lessons on your primary instrument; classes in instruments other than your primary one; classes in music theory, aural skills, music history, keyboards, technology, and numerous methods classes. If you can get some basic music theory before you go to college, you’ll find it easier to get through the college-level theory classes. You can find some basic theory online as well as classes offered through community colleges.

  42. Ben

    I am going into Junior year of high school and am interested in becoming a composition major. What kind of a profile should I prepare, and could you provide an example of how advanced the music should be? Additionally, I am reasonably proficient at piano (Prokofiev 3, Gershwin piano concertos). How much will this influence my chances of my application being accepted? Thanks!

    • For starters, take a look at the audition requirements for composition majors at participating schools on You’ll see that composition majors are typically asked to submit a portfolio of manuscripts of original compositions instead of auditioning instrumentally. Pay attention to the details of what each school expects, since every school is different. Many schools also require an interview with faculty. And some require a pre-screen, where you’ll need to submit a portfolio (details of which are spelled out by each school) to be considered for an interview, along with an audio recording of a live performance of your compositions. Also, make sure to use the request forms on each school’s page to ask specific questions of programs you are interested in.

  43. Hannah

    I am going to be a senior in high school after this summer and am interested in pursuing music in college. I want to be a vocalist and I want to play guitar. I have been in school choirs since middle school but as far as training comes, I don’t have much. My family has never had the money to afford any sort of private lessons, so I have self taught myself how to play piano, ukulele, and guitar. I know that self teaching isn’t always the best, considering there are many places for things to go wrong, but I was wondering if I still stand any sort of a chance trying to get into a music department in college. I wanted to minor in music at least in order to understand music and take music theory classes while I am there, but I know most colleges require an audition to get accepted into it. I know music is what I want to do, but I can’t help but feel stuck.

    • First question: what area of music would you want to major in? Once you know that, we suggest you read our article about pre-screens. You’ll see that many schools now require a recorded audition before they’ll ever offer you an actual audition spot. So you need to be prepared to “wow” them early on. Will you be ready to do this in just a few months?

      We suggest you get some honest feedback from your school music teacher as to whether they think you would have a shot at being accepted as a music major. If at all possible, ask for a lesson with a faculty member who teaches in the area you’d want to major in at a nearby college or university you’d consider applying to. Hopefully that individual would also be willing to provide feedback about your chances of getting accepted at his or her school. Some schools do offer a minor in music, but if not, you may be able to use some elective credits to take music theory and other music classes even as a non-music major. You are also likely to be able to audition for ensembles and choruses as a non-music major, so even if you don’t major in music, look for ways of feeding your passion.

  44. Paige

    I’m going to be a sophomore in high school. I am interested in becoming a vocalist. What steps should I take, and what classes would be best for me to take?

    • Read the articles on vocal music on for starters! and then find a private teacher to to take lessons from in addition to joining school choirs. Listen and watch singers performing live, on recordings, and on YouTube. Take summer music programs where you can really dive into lessons and performing without the weight of school on your shoulders. Learn what it takes to be a working vocal musician by talking with teachers and musicians and reading our articles about entrepreneurship. And have fun!

  45. Molly

    I am a sophmore in high school. I took piano lessons for 6 years but quit about 4 years ago. At a camp I go to, one of my friends influenced me to become a music major. What all will I need to know to be able to do well as one?

    • We encourage you to first ask yourself why you would want to major in music. And what you’d want to do when you graduate. Music majors do gain excellent transferable skills that can be applied to most fields, but are also expected to work extremely hard in school. We encourage you to re-read this article as well as auditioning articles on this website to understand what it really takes to get accepted as a music major especially at schools that require an audition. For schools that don’t require an audition, you may need to have a minimum GPA and test scores to get accepted, so check with schools you’re curious about or interested in attending.

  46. Nicholas

    Hello. I am not exactly a very strong music person in terms of instruments, but I’m interested in majoring in music. I’m 19 years of age, and haven’t participated with anything music related in high school. I want to know if it is still a viable option to major in music and perform with higher talent than mine. ( I have won a talent show with beatboxing, if that counts towards anything whatsoever.)

    • We encourage you to re-read this article as well as auditioning articles on this website to understand what it really takes to get accepted as a music major. Cross-reference that by looking at music school requirements to learn more about the classes you’d be required to take. You’ll see that without a strong background in music, this would all be extremely difficult to pull off. HOWEVER, most schools offer music electives as well as opportunities for private lessons and participation in vocal groups (many schools have a cappella groups that would welcome a strong beat boxer!) so that you and any other student who is passionate about music can continue to enjoy and learn and improve your proficiency.

  47. William

    In the 2016-2017 school year, I will be a high school senior. I have my resume and repertoire well developed and established, but I have one slight problem. I play flute and I sing, and would like to get a degree(s) that would allow me to do both. I am equally proficient in both, and have private teachers for both. I am also very passionate about both, and would love to pursue both a performance and educational career. What are my options?

    • You will need to choose one primary instrument to audition on – and you should choose your strongest one. Many music programs will allow you to take lessons in a second instrument, and if you have time, there will be all kinds of performance opportunities on both your primary and secondary. As for a college major, it sounds like you may want to check out music education along with a performance degree.

  48. Anna

    I’m a sophomore in high school and I’ve played piano for 10 years, oboe for 5, and saxophone for 3 years. I would love to major in music performance for oboe but my main concern is finding a job in this field. I know this is a concern for many people in similar situations. Any thoughts?

  49. Gebish

    I am a high school graduate from Nepal. Its been quite a while since in graduated. I have been playing bass for 5 years now and have basic level of sight reading. Do you think that i can get into a music college.

    • It all depends on how proficient you are. All of the schools you see on MajoringInMusic require you to audition to be considered for acceptance. That’s true of most music schools in the US and reputable schools outside the US. You may want to look into getting some lessons from a really good teacher before considering applying and auditioning, and bump up your practice schedule as well. Increasing your sight-reading skills and getting some background in music theory if you don’t already have that would also be very helpful.

  50. luke

    I am currently a freshman in high school. I’ve been playing/taking private lessons for piano for about 9 years and I really would like to major in music. What are some things I could do to prepare for auditions that would help me get into a music school? Like should I go to music summer camp or take AP music theory etc. I know I still have a couple years left but I want to do everything I can to increase my chances of being accepted.

    • You are asking all the right questions. Congratulations! And yes, we recommend everything you say below. Summer music programs will help you clarify your plans, give you focused opportunities for lessons and practice, introduce you to mentors and peers who are also passionate about music, and open doors you never knew existed. Look at the 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs page on as a great starting point. Music theory is important to have a background in before you start college, so however you can start gaining that, go for it (summer music programs often have a music theory component as well). Read articles on about applying and auditioning for more ideas.

  51. Shanna

    I’m a sophomore and I really want to go to college for music. I Know how to play clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and bass drum. I am in the process of learning flute, baritone, and trombone. I want to better prepare myself for college and I need some advice. Should I better my playing and practicing the 4 instruments I already know or should I continue to extend my range of instruments by continuing to learn more?

    • College auditions have you focus on your primary instrument – the one you play best and which will be your main instrument in music school. So you’ll want to spend the bulk of your time focused on that one. The purpose of auditions is mainly for schools to see how proficient you already are on your primary instrument, as well as whether they think you’re ready to move to more advanced levels, practice at the level music majors are expected to do, and perform in ensembles, orchestras, choirs, bands, etc. So being able to play many instruments a bit but none of them really well will not serve you if you want to apply to music schools. Later on, however, the more instruments you can play really well, the more career opportunities you’re likely to have. Private lessons, if possible, are a great way to improve your playing – along with lots of efficient practicing and playing solo as well as with others. Summer music programs are highly recommended and a great way to improve your playing, learn from great mentors and peers, and really understand what the life of a music major is about. See our 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs page to learn more.

  52. Janet

    Hi.! I am 17 years old and I started my music (piano) lessons really late. I am learning from a private teacher (twice a week for 2 hrs) and it’s been only three months but I managed to cross my 1st grade and currently started on to my 2nd grade. My teacher was really surprised that I crossed my 1st grade just in 3 months because his other students took almost one and half year to complete. I have well trained in my theory and I am pretty good at sight-reading as well. I decided to have a degree in music and then major in music after my postgraduation (this year) but I don’t know how to go about and I fell that I am not up to the level for having a degree in music as I just started my 2nd grade. I haven’t learned much about music and still have a long way to go and so I don’t even know wether the college will accept a beginner like me…!!.really obsessed about learning piano..!!…can you give me some of your professional advice ?

    • For a realistic glimpse into what you would need to do in order to major in music, we highly recommend that you read articles on about applying and auditioning, and then look at various schools on the website to see what they require of students when they audition. We also suggest that you read some of the career articles on to get a better sense of what you would want to do with a degree in music. Note that you could also minor in music as well as look at attending a liberal arts college where you wouldn’t have to declare a major right away and could continue lessons and practice before auditioning (see this article: Majoring in Music at a Liberal Arts College).

  53. Venetia

    I’m currently a junior in high school. I’ve been playing the piano for 9 1/2 years—with classical music as my core training. I can read sheet music and I have really good theory skills. I’ve also been singing for the past 2 1/2 years. I want to major in vocal performance but I don’t know how exactly I’ll be able to prepare myself for university in less than a couple of years. I sing twice a week—two hours in total—and I honestly feel like I’m progressing, BUT in case I’m missing any fundamentals, do you have any suggestions for further vocal training?

    • You don’t indicate whether you have a private voice teacher but if not, we highly suggest you find one if you want to major in vocal performance. We also suggest you look at our 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs page to find a summer program for yourself. This would provide good, focused training and you could also study voice on a college campus where you’re interested in applying. Also, take a look at our Vocal Performance articles here.

  54. Catherine M

    I have been playing piano for 9 years, and I am a sophomore in high school. Most of my friends who play instruments have already decided whether or not the would like to pursue jazz or classical training. I recieve both, but I am nervous to pick for college learning. My question is if there are any piano majors that allow you to study both as part of one major? I want extensive learning, which is why I am leaning toward a major, but I know most schools either have you study jazz OR classical, unless you double major (which I cannot because my parents are making me major in writing). Just wondering if there are any known schools that I can get classical and jazz instruction, and if not, what I should do. Thanks!

    • We suggest you start taking summer music programs in jazz or classical music so you can see where your passion really lies. Classical music is typically seen as foundational for most forms of music, and most schools offer the same music theory and music history classes to all music majors. Many schools will allow you to take lessons in the genre you are not majoring in, although those may cost extra.

      Check out our 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs page to get started. There are many excellent programs on this list and some of them even take place on college campuses so you can see whether you’d want to apply to those schools.

  55. Angelica

    I am currently a sophmore in high school and I just started learning saxophone and piano at the start of the school year. I’m really interested in studying something related to music and I was wondering if I’ll have the capacity to play well enough by the time I graduate. I’m not looking to take it as my major but maybe just well enough to be in the college band. So I would like to know if I’m hoping for nothing or if I still have a chance to reach that level?

    • Most schools allow non-music majors to participate in bands, orchestras, ensembles, and choirs – especially if they’re good musicians. So the more you learn and practice in high school, the better your chances are of finding a spot in a college band.

  56. Miriam

    I’m a junior in high school and I’ve had piano lessons for about 11-12 years. I am able to read music, but it takes me a while because I have to count through the notes; I’m not able to look at a piece and say the note off the bat. I am currently teaching myself pieces here and there, but while going through the notes will help me to learn and revisit what I was taught, I am able to learn pieces better by ear and make the process shorter. I was also in choir and a lot of musicals from elementary school up until last year, but I don’t really see how being able to keep in time and repeat the correct notes will help me if I can’t read the music very well. I would like to minor in music, but I feel as if I’m not skilled enough to be able to go through with it. I know that music theory is an option at school and that taking it next year will help me a lot. Any other suggestions?

    • The process of applying to minor in music is very different from majoring in music. We suggest you look at the websites of schools you may be interested in applying to, and see what music minor options there are for non-music majors. Also check to see what the application process is and whether or not you’ll need to audition for the minor you’re interested in at each of the schools. All schools are different! As for sight-reading: we suggest you read this article about sight reading skills.

  57. Patrick

    I’ve been considering going to post secondary for music, but I don’t think I’m prepared enough. I play with both of my school’s bands, and I’m improving at a good rate. I’m interested in jazz (I’m a saxophonist), but the nearest private teacher I’ve found for my instrument is 2 1/2 hours away, and I’d only be able to get there about every 2 weeks at best. is that a good enough amount of private tutoring coupled with self-learning? Would it be worth the time even if it’s just once every 2 weeks?

    • It’s worth trying, for sure. You’ll need to be proactive and practice as if you were going to see your teacher every week. Do you live anywhere near a college or university with a music program? If so, they often have upper level undergrads and grad students (as well as professors) who offer lessons to high school students. Also, you can check out lessons via Skype – there are a number of good teachers who teach online – successfully.

      Check out our article “Planning to Major in Jazz” for more about going to school for jazz and stay tuned to a new article about careers in jazz, coming soon.

      Also, seriously consider a summer music program where you can really advance your skills. See our Summer Music Camps and Programs page. We’ll be adding some new summer jazz programs this month.

  58. clady

    I seriously desire to major in music in a Georgia college but have absolutely no previous high school band/music experience because my elementary/high school did not offer music programs. Please advise if there are colleges in Georgia that serve a passionate and enthusiastic music novice like me. My plan is to specialize in wind instrument and performance if given the opportunity. How do I meet the admission prerequisite for college audition … any other route/??

    • Most 4-year college music programs expect you to have enough experience on an instrument to be able to audition well and be accepted. So other options: minoring in music or taking music as an elective in addition to getting lessons from a highly proficient junior or senior music major or graduate student; going to a liberal arts college where you can explore music without a strong music background; attending a community college with a good music department; taking lessons at a community music school.

  59. Reagan

    I’m a freshman entering my second semester at the University of Northern Iowa. I’m a deciding major leaning heavily towards music but I have never learned to play piano. Looking at composition, I have to pass two levels of piano proficiency courses. I’ve only ever played brass and sang. What do you recommend?

    • Keyboard skills are important for any area of music, especially composition. Look closely at your school’s website to see the requirements for majoring in music there, and then talk with music department faculty about any remaining questions.

  60. Annie

    I am a sophomore in high school. I only play the violin. I have played it for 6 years with one year of private lessons. My only orchestral experience is my high school full orchestra and string orchestra. Thing is, I in a way “gave lessons” to my violinist friend everyday after school freshman year and realized I really enjoyed teaching music. It made me really happy whenever I could help my friend and she improved. I want to major in music but I do have many doubts. I don’t know what to use my major for after college and I don’t think I am good enough for a professional orchestra. I have problems with rhythm and staying on beat and bow control sometimes too. What can I do to improve? I can’t stay on beat without a metronome which I assume would be essential to playing with a piano accompaniment. I have access to a piano in my garage as well but my parents won’t get me piano lessons. What do you suggest? Is there a career that I could enjoy and get a good income from? Thank you!!

    • This is a great time to be exploring options. We recommend you look at the new Summer Music Camps & Programs page and learn about the many opportunities for honing your music over the summer, when school’s not in the way. We also recommend you read our articles on music education as well as “What Can You Do with a Music Degree?”

  61. Laney

    I’ve been playing the flute for 5 years now in my school band, and I’ve just gotten really serious about it this past year (I’m a high school sophomore). I’ve also been teaching myself piano for about 8 months. I’ve just recently been considering majoring in music, but I can’t get piano lessons, and I’ve never had private lessons on my flute. I plan on taking AP Music Theory next year, but I just feel like other kids that plan on majoring in music are so much better off than I am, even though we’ve been playing the same amount of time! I guess I’m just asking for suggestions? How can I better prepare myself? What should I truthfully expect?

    • So much depends on why you want to become a music major, what you envision doing with your degree, and where you want to go to school. Read our articles under the “Preparation and Planning” tab to help clarify what you want to do. Also look seriously at summer music programs to amp up your playing – our Summer Music Camps & Program section is a great place to look for those. Most music schools require an audition, and you have a much better chance of doing well on your audition if you’ve been taking lessons with a private teacher. Consider a liberal arts college with a good music program –– you would likely audition before your sophomore or even junior year, and often just for placement. (Read Majoring in Music at a Liberal Arts College if you’re interested in this option.) Another option would be to go to a community college for the first year or two, but if you do that, be sure to read Community College for Music Majors about how to make it work. You can always look at minoring in music to keep music as a focus without necessarily having to prepare to audition.

  62. Josh

    I am currently a sophomore in high school who has sung in choirs for six years and is considering a music major. I have good knowledge of music theory and am considering taking AP music theory next year; however, I have minimal piano skills (essentially only being able to find notes). Would taking AP music theory be beneficial, and should I attempt to learn more piano before entering college?

    • Keyboard skills are important for music majors regardless of what area of music they study in college. So the answer is yes! AP music theory will strengthen your music theory knowledge and make music theory more understandable when you reach the college level. You may also be able to pass out of college introductory music theory if you take the AP test and score high enough, which could leave you with time for an elective you’d otherwise miss out on.

  63. Ornela

    I’m currently a junior in high school and want to major in Music Performance. I started playing violin freshman year and have been doing very well. The thing is I don’t really believe in myself and I feel like I’m not good enough. What should I do?

    • Wonderful question! Most musicians are very critical of themselves, so you are not alone. But gaining confidence is key to being able to play your best, stay open to feedback, and improve your proficiency level. The more you perform, the more likely you are to start gaining confidence. But in the meantime, you might find this article helpful: Reducing Music Performance Anxiety. Be sure to also share your concerns with your parents, your music teachers, and anyone else who you consider to be a mentor (such as your school counselor). They may all be helpful to you as you build your sense of confidence. And consider a music program for next summer: they provide the opportunity to focus on music with lots of support, without having to juggle school at the same time.

  64. Adam

    I am from a band back ground and have been really lazy until recently on learning theory. I have been self-taught on guitar and piano from around 15 years. I have just started piano lessons and aiming for a grade 8 one day and hoping to study for an MA in composition. Am I too old?? I feel like I am 10 years behind everyone I know. I am 31. An MA program said they would take me but I don’t personally feel good enough. I am cramming in theory and piano lessons. Any fast track adivce?

    • Our first suggestion is to ask yourself why a master’s in composition is something you’re considering. What is it you want to learn and what do you want to do with your training? What genre(s) of music are you interested in studying? You might find the new article on goal setting (“Jumpstart Your Career in Music”) to be helpful. We don’t know which school you’re referring to that will offer an MA but most composition programs we’re familiar with on the master’s level offer an MM and require a strong background in music was well as a portfolio of a specific number of scores before they’ll consider you. We suggest you look at the websites of a number of schools to learn more –– you can start with the participating schools on Have you also explored other ways to learn what it is you need to fill in the gaps in your knowledge and proficiency for what you want to do? Individual classes, summer programs, studying with a composer may all be worth considering before trying to dive into a master’s degree, in view of your prior training and number of years away from school.

  65. Rosie

    Hello, I am a freshman and am looking to get into a good college for music. I heard through the grapevine that you should take 4 years of french because it looks good on a music college resume, but is that true? I’m already signed up for French this year, but should I maybe just take 2 years? It is not a required class, but should I take it anyways just for the sake of looking good for college? I’m just not sure what music colleges require in the language aspect.

    • We have never heard that studying French will increase your changes of getting into music school. If you plan to major in musicology, then you will be required to pass language proficiency exams in several languages, and if you plan to be a classical voice major, you will also have language requirements as part of your curriculum (probably Italian, German and French).

  66. Erin

    I am a freshman in college but I have loved music all my life. I love everything about it. However, I have never been in a position to learn any instrument but I want to major in music. How would I go about doing that?

    • Music majors have had a great deal of training and performance experience prior to coming to college. They are required to audition before being accepted. Since you indicate that you do not have that background but love music, to nurture your interest in music, we suggest you take lessons, classes in music history and music appreciation, and attend performances by students, faculty, and other musicians brought to campus to further explore and learn about music.

  67. Samantha

    I am a freshman in highschool which gives me so much time to prepare for college. I’ve sang all my life and took voice lessons from relatives. I played piano in 5th grade but then stopped after a year or so. But until now, I can still play piano but only the very basics. My problem is, my music teacher didn’t seem to teach me more of music notes and it’s making me panic. Is reading notes required in majoring music?

    • You’re smart to be asking these questions now while there’s still time to prepare for the applications and auditions that lie ahead. Yes you should know how to read music if you want to go to music school. Take a look at our article on sight-reading to get an idea of what you need to do. You will also need to start getting a foundation in music theory so it’s not like learning a brand new language once you get to music school. We highly recommend spending time in the summer to focus on these, when you’re not strapped for time by everything else you have you do during the school year. Take a look at our Summer Music Camps & Programs page for ideas. Also, find a teacher during the school year who will help take you farther in starting to prepare to succeed in your music school auditions.

    • You still need to apply, audition and get accepted. Also look at any schools you’re interested in attending to see their academic requirements, in order to know what classes they expect of high school graduates.

  68. guy

    I am a sophomore, I have been playing the piano for about ten years, since I was 6. I have been taking lessons for 8 of those years, I took a couple years off because I was lazy and bored.
    I have a great understanding of music theory, and of the different styles of music, and what makes them different. I also have a great understanding of articulation, ornaments, and great control of dynamics. I’m pretty good at interpretation too. I am studying with a studio professor, and perform regularly at my church with about 250 people. I have no problem performing and play about at a level 7. I want your advice on what to expect when I get into college and start working, as well as where to improve. Also anything you can tell me about a career teaching music at a college would be much appreciated.

    • Keep learning, practicing, performing solo and with others. Attend concerts and listen to a wide variety of genres of music. Sign up for summer music programs – it will help you take your music to a higher level with out the pressures of school. You’ll also get a chance to see how your level of proficiency stacks up against those you’ll be competing with for music school acceptances when it comes time to audition in your senior year. As for teaching at a college, you will need at least a Master’s degree in music but more likely a Doctorate in music. Don’t worry about that now – it’s a long way off.

  69. Liz

    I’ve played violin for 4 years, and I’ve just become serious about it this year. I usually only saw music as a small hobby, but now I’m very passionate, and I really wish to improve enough so I’ll be able to involve music in my career. I have done a music summer camp each year, and have been playing in my middle school orchestra for 3 years. I’ve joined all the orchestras in my community that I could, including my church and all-county orchestras. I love music so much, but I know that being able to play at an intermediate level of the violin isn’t enough to major in music. I don’t know much about music theory or history. Also I’m not very confident in playing around other people excluding my family and teacher. I’m worried that in 4 years I won’t be on the level I need/want to be on to major in it. Basically my questions are- what’s the best way to practice so I am able to improve more? (lately, even though I practice everyday, I haven’t seen any improvement im my playing at all). Also is there a way I’d be able to learn more about music theory without taking a class? One more (sorry this is a lot of questions), I know that counting is essential to being in any kind of group, but I have a ton of trouble counting while playing, and usually end up relying on my stand partner or section leader. I’ve asked my teacher, but she didn’t understand how I couldn’t count and play at the same time. Do you know any ways I could fix this? Whenever I count with a metronome I do fine, but when I try to tap my foot or count in my head I end up just counting totally wrong and getting lost in the music. Thank you in advanced!

    • We asked the author of this article for comments about practicing and counting and his response was this: “Your questions suggest that you are trying to figure this out yourself, without instruction or help. My suggestion: don’t! These are the kinds of questions that are best addressed as part of a continuing dialogue with an expert teacher. Students who try to teach themselves are often admirably self-motivated, but learn fitfully and inefficiently, if at all.”

      So we suggest you find a teacher who can work with your questions and concerns, teach you music theory in conjunction with your lessons, and help you build your confidence in your performance chops. We also suggest you look into higher level summer music programs for this summer and the next few summers – now that you have a specific goal in mind (preparing to be a music major), you are more likely to find that summer music programs provide the training and experience you are seeking, as well as music theory background. If you don’t already have a program picked out for this summer, check Summer Music Camps & Programs – there’s still room in many of these.

  70. Reid

    I am a freshman in high school and I play guitar. I have played since I was 8 years old and have been taking private lessons with my current teacher for 5 years. I do not know his college background but he is a great guitar player and knows a ton of music theory (even a little jazz). I go to a good high school that offers an AP music theory class. I will take that junior year, but I already know some, such as major and minor arpeggios, the major scale and all it’s modes (and most basic chords that work with it), I know the phrygian dominant position and I am trying to get the rest of harmonic minor. I participate in our school chorus as a bass (that can reach lower tenor notes in lung voice). I know basic piano along with a slow comprehension of staff, but it’s there. I will also take private piano lessons to get better at that. I have played guitar with my chorus 2 times in middle school and once in high school, I have played with the orchestra once in middle school, but someone stepped on my pedal board and the power turned off (and I couldn’t find out what happened until after it ended). I might play with the high school one soon, but I do not know. I want to get into CCM (at the University of Cincinnati), which is really hard to get into apparently, and I want to graduate with a phd in music theory, and hopefully become a professor if my imaginary band doesn’t gain an at least tri-state wide following. Music is my passion, so what do you recommend I do to further prepare myself for my future?

  71. Laurissa

    I an a sophomore about to be a junior and I used to play piano when i was younger. Not anymore because I went to the violin at age 6. My family moved to a small town 500 miles away. Graduating class went from 459 to 32. There is no music program anywhere nearby. I really want to be a music major and want to still play violin. Any advice. I have tried to find a private lesson instructor but nobody has any experience. please help me. I used to be in everything….captain of dance team, varsity dance team, showchoir, first chair violin, choir, honor choir, honor orchestra, and theater.

    • Sounds like a stressful time for you. Since we don’t know what area of the country you are in, we can offer some generic suggestions.

      First, we highly recommend you look at signing up for a summer music program. There are still many with openings. Check the Summer Music Camps & Programs page on for starters. Summer music programs can really help put you back on track with your music.

      Second, what is the nearest college or community college in your area? We suggest you contact them to find a faculty member or rising junior or senior who could work with you. Is there a youth orchestra in the area? That’s another way to keep your music going and find an instructor. You can also check with the American String Teachers Association to see if they know of teachers in your area.

      We assume there’s no performing arts high school anywhere nearby. And if there’s truly no one around to teach you and help you progress toward your senior year audition, we encourage you to check out the boarding arts high schools. You can visit them right from at this link: Arts High Schools

    • Tom Hynes

      Hi Laurissa:
      A fine high school student of mine who lived in a small town used to take ‘super-lessons’ with me; he would drive into town and do a three hour lesson, and I would load him up with things to study. You might want to consider that. Skype lessons are very common today, so there may be teachers who are willing to teach you that way.
      I hope that helps,
      Tom Hynes
      Azusa Pacific University

  72. Maddie

    I have been playing piano for 8 years now, and played the violin for 7 and been apart of a Highschool orchestra for 3 years. I am a junior, worrying about college. Music is what I dream of majoring in, it’s the only career I could see myself in. However, I have a learning disability so that interferes with my music playing sometimes-especially theory. I need to attend a college that provides extra care with LD’s… What do you suggest?

    • It sounds like you are working hard to improve your performance and get lots of experience. Great to hear!

      Your question is an important one. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that each college have an office in place to support students with learning differences. Every school is different in terms of the extent of what they offer, but every school is required to offer certain accommodations to students with documented needs for extra time for test-taking, enrollment, and more. Check the websites of schools you’re interested in attending to see what they offer. You’ll find that most schools offer these services through their disabilities office. Then contact those offices directly at the schools you’re still interested in, to learn specifically how they would assist you.

  73. Donovan

    I have been taking band for two and a half years now and I currently know how to play trumpet and french horn I also know just a little piano. I am 14 and in eighth grade. I plan to continue band throughout high school and hopefully college for my ninth grade year (freshman year). I am currently signed up for concert band, music theory, and drama I haven’t really done alot OUTSIDE of school for “musical build” and I really want to but my parents think that school will cover it all which I strongly disagree. I am afraid that I am not at the level or not ready or on the right track to become a music major, do you think I am? I also sing in the choir on occasions at my church and I feel like I am okay with my vocal skills and range. Do you think that is enough? Thanks!

    • If you think you’ll want to major in music, then private lessons and summer music programs on your primary instrument are really beneficial. While some high schools have excellent music programs, there’s just not the time to work with individual students to help bring them to the next level with their music. Take all the performance opportunities you can get and consider auditioning for a local youth orchestra as well.

  74. Christian

    I’m a highschool student (sophomore about to be junior) and i’ve played guitar for about 2 years and plan on taking guitar and piano lessons until i go to college. Do you think that’s enough experience to major in music? If not what else should I do before I try to major in music?

    • You will need to audition at most schools, so whatever you can do to strengthen your proficiency will be good. We suggest you also take introductory music theory since you’ll need several semesters of it as a music major. It’s often challenging, and there’s no time like now to get started. Look at summer music programs to further enhance your playing. Note that many of these incorporate music theory, so they’re great preparation for prospective music majors. You can start by checking our Summer Music Camps & Programs.

  75. Duanna

    Much to my chagrin, I see that singers, vocal performance majors and so called professional singers do not read well, cannot play an instrument, do not learn their music for a job and cannot make an arrangement for their vocal group or even write an obligato instumental part for fun or to perform with them. They cannot read clefs–they should be reading the original Anna Magdelena books–where one hand is in the soprano clef and another in bass clef. Read a Bach score the way they used to. Learn to read all your clefs. And learn to speak several languages fluently–know what you are saying. What is happening to the state of music!?? For all their expensive training and schooling, they are badly trained musicians and singers and do not have professional musical etiquette.

    I have sung with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the LA Opera and I see even the standard there has dropped. What happened to the days when you went to the library took out a piece of music and took it home to learn it? It is a sad state of affairs o show up at a rehearsal and see that one of your fellow colleagues are not singing the correct notes and are going to “learn” them at the rehearsal/ This is not professional and disgraceful. Be a well rounded musician and singer and get out of your score, know your music and look at the conductor. yes, this takes discipline and some hours of study. Use a good book like the Hindemith books for your harmony and musicianship. Maybe the professors just are not very good and and at a por level demanding little of singers, so they produce a mediocre and not well rounded singer and bad musician.

    • Hi Duanna:

      It’s difficult to reply to your comment directly, as all of us are products of our experiences–and all our experiences are different. Like you, I have been disappointed by fellow professional musicians at times but, much more often, have been humbled and inspired by colleagues. I put less emphasis on drawing larger generalizations and conclusions, and more on learning and growing from what I’ve observed–be it positive or negative.

      This is an attitude I try to pass on to my students. Fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and support–as opposed to that of hostile competition–means encouraging openness and humility. This does not preclude criticism; honest and expert judgements are crucial to the development of a musician, and teachers who soft-peddle such assessment do their students no favors. Neither, however, do teachers whose criticism denigrates or destroys. Much like the building of muscle strength, the process of building musical strength involves careful, gradual stressing and rebuilding.

      Perhaps the singers you are so disappointed in were not adequately challenged–or decline to challenge themselves. Perhaps the music students we challenge as teachers will enter the workforce with a healthy respect for those musicians who strive for high standards, and a sober recognition of those who don’t–and make their own choices accordingly.

      Tom Hynes

  76. Jordan

    I am currently a high school senior and I am looking at possibly becoming a music performance major. However, I was unaware of the fact that I need to be able to play the piano and I have no idea how. What level do I need to be at in order to pass my audition; what is the easiest and fastest way to get there?

    • We assume you will be auditioning on an instrument other than piano. You will not need to audition on piano as well. Knowing how to play piano is a skill that will help you learn music theory and compose. It would be helpful, if you can, to get some basic lessons as soon as possible and continue when you’re in music school.

  77. Anna

    I have been playing piano for 8 years. I’m currently taking a Music Theory class in school, and plan to continue further onto AP music theory. Are there any suggestions I should look into to prepare myself for college?

    • It sounds like you’re doing a lot already – great to get AP music theory under your belt. We assume your piano training includes private lessons, which are important if you plan to major in music in college. Tuning in to what you are really passionate about and might like to do after you graduate can help you figure out your next steps before you start applying and auditioning. Read articles on this website, talk with musicians, teachers, and members of your local symphony. Play solo piano, play with others, join a youth orchestra, attend concerts whenever possible. Summer music programs are also wonderful for refining your technique, for meeting others with similar passion for piano, and for getting a better sense of what to expect in college and beyond.

  78. Evelyn

    I’m rather late to the game in this, I really want to major in music yet… I’ve been playing for less than a year and I’m in my senior year. I took private lessons over the summer, joined my high school orchestra, and am taking Music Theory. I work hard every day and am rather sure about this yet I don’t believe I can obtain the skill level of those who have played since the fourth grade by the time of an audition. Is it at all possible for me to be able to still major in music?

  79. Hi Danielle:

    Thank you for writing in. I taught at Mt. SAC from 2001-06, including evening Music Fundamentals courses, so I know your environment well.

    The material in your class should be taught at a relatively easy pace, as that course is designed for students with little or no previous (or even music) background. Music Fundamentals for a non-music major is typically an Arts requirement or elective, such as for Education majors. For aspiring music majors with little theory background, Music Fundamentals becomes a ‘pre-theory’ course; this material will be covered again in Music Theory I, but at a much quicker pace and expectation of student progress. At Azusa Pacific University, we distinguish between the two (i.e. Music Fundamentals for Music Majors), but this typically doesn’t happen at the junior college level. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing the style and pace of your teacher–though, when I taught there, we took our time and kept the pace reasonable.

    I’m sorry I can’t be more specific, and that this is happening late in the semester. Try not to be discouraged, and remember that Music Theory is only one measure and element of an aspiring musician’s studies. I hope this helped. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any more assistance.

    Stay tuned for a more in-depth article on about how to make music theory classes work for you. And in the meantime, check out these articles: Making It Through Music Theory – Parts 1 and 2.

  80. Danielle Chastain

    I am a current college student (2nd Semester Freshman) and I am majoring in Music/ Opera. I have a little background in music and theatre (growing up I sang in musicals/plays and played clarinet for 6 years). Right now I am taking a Fundamentals of Music class at Mt. San Antonio College. I started out fine, but we are almost up to finals week and I am not doing so well anymore. The curriculum is proving to be more difficult than I had anticipated it to be. We have been learning intervals, major scales, key signatures, triads, and other things around that area. I am just having trouble understanding and thinking critically when tasked with an assignment. What would you recommend, someone like me, to do since I am a little behind being in college already?

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