Music streaming services compared - the differences
For many people, music is an irreplaceable hobby in everyday life. However, it often remains just that: a hobby. But there are musicians who turn their passion into a profession. The basic musical training you get in school can even be continued in higher education—which, of course, means studying music is the way to go. Studying music gives you the opportunity to learn more about the many theoretical and practical complexities of music and to gain expert knowledge. But who should study music, what exactly does it mean to study music, and what opportunities does that degree open up for you from a professional point of view? You can find the answers to these questions in this post.
Countless courses with different focuses await you within the broader music field of study. On the one hand, there are classical music courses, in which you mainly deal with artistic and music-related topics and, above all, are trained on the instrument of your choosing. In music studies, you usually focus on yourself. The subjects taught can include…
So as you can see, there’s no shortage of options in this subcategory. But “classical” is not the only path one can choose within music studies. Other options include, for example, courses like “Popular Music,” “Popular Music & Media” (as seen at the University of Paderborn), Rhythm, Orchestra, Music Production, Sound Design, and many more. As always, there are overlaps with other subject areas such as musicology or music education. Nevertheless, these in-depth courses place more emphasis on the main discipline.
In contrast to courses of study such as—pardon the cliché—business administration or management, studying music should not be chosen without intention. Requirements to pursue a music degree vary by country and university. In Germany, for example, Abitur is sufficient. An NC is rarely set—unless you are moving towards teaching (then the NC is usually between 2.5 and 2.8). But that doesn't mean that you can study music “just like that.” There are more requirements. A mere interest in music and a high school diploma are not enough.
The aim of studying music is to complement your musical skills and existing knowledge in such a way that you can make a living with music. There should be a certain amount of practical experience, a basic knowledge of sheet music and, of course, a passion for music. If you primarily enjoy listening to music rather than performing with an instrument or your voice, you won't have an easy time studying music. Practical performance counts here—the selection process is tough and often only a handful of students are admitted to a course after the entrance exam. So think carefully about whether music to this extent has a place in your everyday life and whether you are up to the challenge. If you can solve a rhythm or tone dictation, master an instrument, and read notes, then you’re well on your way.
As mentioned, there are some differences in the direction of music studies depending on the focus. Components such as form theory, music pedagogy, harmony theory, ear training, composition (or basic knowledge of composition theory) usually form the foundation of any music study. After that, the focus is different, but the basis is consistent for all professional musicians.
In most cases, you can choose the practical orientation of music studies. Often you have a major and a minor. The major would be the instrument that you have been playing the longest (this could also be singing). The minor is often piano or, for the instrumentalists, singing (but of course you can freely choose this secondary focus). You can often choose whether you want to become a solo or ensemble musician, and sometimes whether you want to study classical music or popular music like jazz or rock. Depending on the location and university, special focuses such as early music or church music are also possible, with the practice being supplemented in many cases by historical subjects.
Regardless of the type and structure of the musical course, it is of course also important to approach the course correctly and to focus on the music career from the start. These tips can help you get through music studies successfully:
Following these tips will help you get through your studies. Of course, these are only individual aspects, but the rest will come over time. The standard period of study is usually around four years, but it can be extended with various postgraduate courses. It is always important to keep music practice consistent and to actively deepen the music, even in your free time. If you’re really passionate about music, your studies will be successful.
Professionally, studying music provides countless opportunities to apply your newly learned skills professionally. First of all, keep in mind that many of these professions can also be carried out without a degree if the necessary practical experience allows this, but that degree is still important. Possible professions include professional singer, composer, music teacher, manager, music producer, music journalist and many other careers.
With the many professional opportunities, the salaries also differ, of course. After completing your degree, you can usually expect a salary of around 28,000 euros per year, but depending on the industry, this could end up being more or a little less. As a sound engineer, you earn around 30,000 euros a year, as a professional musician, on the other hand, statistically only 17,000 euros. Thanks to an excellent quota of more than 90 percent, finding employment is quite likely in most circumstances.
Many culture-based courses of study, as well as music, have the problem of not being able to keep up with other areas of study in terms of salary. For this reason, many students ask themselves whether starting a musical course is worthwhile at all. While the highest starting salary is usually for music teachers, it doesn't look too appealing for most professional musicians. Even with a completed degree, it is not always guaranteed that you’re going to get paid enough.
For this reason, anyone who wants to study music should not do so primarily for future financial benefit. In terms of content, these courses are by no means geared towards this. You will only really enjoy a musical course if you truly want to engage with the topic and do so in depth. In many cases, it is precisely this ambition that leads to recognition of your abilities after your studies. Only then will you see a correlation with your earnings.
At many universities, tuition fees are still charged today, which in many cases creates a financial burden for students. In addition, there are costs for owning instruments, the associated literature and rehearsals. Any student who cannot rely on the financial support of their own parents is therefore initially on their own. It is usually worthwhile to seek part-time employment to finance a social life parallel to your studies. It makes sense to find a side hustle that involves music. Although the side jobs in your area may be rare, but it’s always worthwhile to look around. Nearby studios, labels, and venues can be great starting points.
Job searches take time, however. That’s time that a student (especially one practicing music) may not have. In that case, we recommend that you explore financial aid or scholarship options. With that extra support, you may be able to live on your own during music studies, or share an apartment with fellow classmates. When looking at the daily life of university students in traditional courses and in music courses, there’s little actual difference. Therefore, use the study time as well as you can, and enjoy the time at the university.
Want to connect with graduates from the music industry or exchange experiences? Our job advertisements for musicians here are at Mukken is just what you’re looking for. Other music students from your desired university can also be reached directly here without much effort to learn more about the content of your studies. Look at our blog. Here you will find many interesting articles that can also give you important wisdom in preparing for music studies. Click here for a contribution about songwriting, and or here for one about good music lessons.
Originally published on December 11, 2021, updated on January 7, 2022