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Being a Music Student and How To Get Through It (Part 1)

For Musicians Who, Essentially, Want to Suffer

Now, before anyone loses their minds about the title, being a music student is hard, painful work. Especially in Illinois, collegiate music programs are some of the most strict and in-depth programs in the country. Since there's a lot to talk about, and I don't want to make this too long, I'll be breaking this up into parts. Part one will primarily focus on preparing to be a music major and practicing outside of class.

First off, if you want to be a music student or are a new music student, you need to know the steps to prepare for the next two to four years of your life depending on the degree you're pursuing. You'll be doing a lot of practicing in class and out of class. You should get used to living, eating, and breathing music now so you're ready later. If you're not used to spending nearly every waking moment studying and practicing music, the transition to a music major is going to be very difficult. 

Before I mention anything else, you need to know how to prepare for the hell you're about to endure because, let's face it, being a music major is hard. You need to know what you'll need: what supplies you'll be using, what to take with you on move-in day if you're living on campus at a university, the essentials. Well, first of all, you'll need staff paper. Chances are that you'll have to take a class or two that teaches you how to compose music. So, get some staff paper. You'll also need earbuds or headphones. This one might be pretty obvious since you want to listen back to your lessons without disturbing the people around you which brings me to my next point. You need a recording device. Any old recording device will do. Use the voice recorder on your phone or laptop, just make sure to record your lessons for reference later. This is vital to doing well as a music major. Now, this one may make or break you. Get a planner. Write down everything. You'll need to remember a lot of dates for events and deadlines for homework.

Now, if you're a singer, like me, you'll need to drink a lot of water. I mean, A LOT of water. You'll also need to commit to a good sleep schedule. I would suggest at least eight hours a night but, you're a music major so, that's not possible. So, try for at least five or six hours a night. Realistically, you'll probably have a lot of homework so, you'll need to schedule everything so you don't fall behind. Trust me, it's very easy to fall behind.

It would be in your best interest to not fall behind on practice. You'll be expected to spend at least two hours a week practicing on your own time for each one-on-one class you're in. Where I study, the policy is two hours of practice for each credit hour for each one-on-one course. So, if you have a one-on-one vocal course, that's at least two hours out of your week for that. Same goes if you also study an instrument, which you probably do since most music programs require majors to study at least one instrument. Most programs require piano as a vocal major's primary instrument of choice. So, that's four hours out of your week gone. On top of those two hours per course, you'll also be expected to keep a practice log with a minimum amount of practice time for that as well.

Without out of class practice, your progress will be much slower. When your progress slows down, it'll show when you finally do your juries at the end of each semester. The best way to give your all is to get all your practice in but, don't do it all at once. Do it in bursts of about 30–45 minutes. Make sure to go over mistakes over and over again until you get it right before moving on. And always have water nearby so you can hydrate because being dehydrated is bad for the body and especially the vocal chords. The last thing you want to do is damage your vocal chords. You also don't want to strain your voice. If you can't get anything out, don't force it.

There's a bunch that I missed in this, but I'll be sure to have it covered eventually. In part two, I'll be going over studying and practicing strategies. 

Disclaimer: This can apply to more than just music majors, but it's primarily meant for music majors.

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Being a Music Student and How To Get Through It (Part 1)
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