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Topic: Just starting out... (music education)

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  1. #1

    Just starting out... (music education)

    Hello fellow GPOers...

    I'm wrapping up my Graphic Design degree and getting ready to head out on the four-year journey of a music degree. I am most interested in theory and composition above my own personal performance (although will opt for the piano as my tool).

    I've never had any formal music training, just learned by reading lots, and talking with many of you... sometimes on the phone til two am but it has taught me a wealth in a very short time. And I'm wondering:

    What forms of music education have you recieved?
    *AND*
    Which of those forms taught you the most?

    Did you have a parent that played, and taught you?
    Did you go to music lessons every weekend from the time you were 3?
    Were you lucky enough to be able to play by ear?
    Did you ever have a mentor?
    An inspiring teacher?

    I'm really interested in how everyone here learned their craft, and which approach to learning worked best for you?

    PS: I took one of those psych tests to tell me my preferred learning style and broke EXACTLY even in all four categories (learning with the eyes, learning with the ears, learning with the hands and learning with the brain (textbook))
    Alan Lastufka | www.BelaDMedia.com
    Producer/Artistic Design | Content Producer

    20 Things

  2. #2

    Re: Just starting out... (music education)

    Alan, my advice to someone looking for a good music school is this: decide what your ultimate goal is, and the choose the school that best qualifies. For example, I want to be a film composer, but in my ignorance went to a university in the middle of nowhere because it was cheap. Needless to say they didn't have a film department, much less film scoring classes. The composition department was severly lacking in resources for composers interested in this genre. I would have much rather gone to UCLA or USC where they actually have a film department (!) and actual degrees in film scoring, and a highly accredited composition department. Not saying that I didn't learn anything, I learned a ton, just not about composition and film scoring. Also knowing that in the real world of film scoring it's the ability to create music that matters and not what degree from where, but for me it's a personal issue of preparedness. Would having studied film scoring at a university better prepared me for the real world of film scoring? Probably, but I know that's not necessarily a guarantee. And who knows; my education may have ended up lacking in other areas, the experience might have turned me off entirely, and I'd be welder or something. Anyway I can't really go back and change it now. So, here I am trying to figure it all out on my own. And I'm determined to do so.

    I have always wanted to play and write music for as long as I can recall. I started piano lessons at my own request, rather than having my parents push me into it, and I happened to have a really great teacher. I've had lots of inspiring teachers, actually, and many amazing experiences and I keep learning more everyday (from everyone here at NS!). But my primary inspiration is...well, me. Just my drive to keep playing and writing, and my aspirations to learn more and write better and better music. Anyway, these are just my opinions. Hope that helps answer some of your questions.

  3. #3
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    Re: Just starting out... (music education)

    My suggestion would be to identify your goal, and make sure the school and teachers you'll be studying with can guide you to your goal. Many music professors are academically based and look down upon anything slightly commercial. To succeed in these schools you have to play their game, give them the type of music they want to hear, even if it's not your type of music. Choose carefully.

    I envy your diverse learning styles. I began music lessons at an early age continued through a university. But I tend to approach composition from a theoretical standpoint. I think too much. I end up analyzing to much. Now, I'm trying to compose more from my heart and ear, not my brain. I guess this is a by-product of all that schooling.

    When you're in a music school, take this opportunity to explore, perform in and write for as many different genres as possible. You'll never get that opportunity again.

    Even without being born with perfect pitch, you can take ear training classes and develop your skills that will give you the ability to identify pitches, chords and rhythms without having an instrument nearby.

    Nothing can substitute for a great teacher. I've been fortunate enough to have a few who inspired me to grow, and made it fun while it was happening.

    You'll run into many students who've been playing before they were potty trained. They'll be in the practice rooms 8 hours a day. Don't be intimitated by them. Your passion will carry you. Look at John Williams and Danny Elfman. One has a classical background. The other is a rock 'n roller. Doesn't matter. Both hugely sucessful.

    Good Luck, Jeff

  4. #4

    Re: Just starting out... (music education)

    Thank you jmc and Jeff,

    As far as goals, definetly NOT hollywood, or much film at all, aside from scoring my buddy's latest $15 horror project... just cause I get a kick out of those...

    I write mostly for chamber orchestras and quartets (when speaking classical) and industrial/emo (when speaking rock), I would like to develope, and eventually, combine the two to create my own flavor (like a string quartet tribute to Fugazi LOL ) my apology to those that are not familiar with Fugazi, but that's pretty funny IMHO...

    I'm looking mainly to learn how to take what I hear completed in my head and get it onto the manuscript page and eventually thru GPO... ("good-luck" you say... I know, most likely won't happen...)

    I also want a strong foundation in theory so when Gary says "marcato", I don't have to ask him what he means anymore...

    Thanks guys for you help, tell me more about you guys though... what classes you found most important and most helpful... that stuff.
    Alan Lastufka | www.BelaDMedia.com
    Producer/Artistic Design | Content Producer

    20 Things

  5. #5

    Re: Just starting out... (music education)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Lastufka
    Thank you jmc and Jeff,

    As far as goals, definetly NOT hollywood, or much film at all, aside from scoring my buddy's latest $15 horror project... just cause I get a kick out of those...
    Sounds like you are more interested in theory, and more of the nuts-and-bolts of music, scales, modes, form, orchestration, etc. In many ways the non-programmatic genres are even more exciting and challenging to explore.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Lastufka
    I'm looking mainly to learn how to take what I hear completed in my head and get it onto the manuscript page and eventually thru GPO... ("good-luck" you say... I know, most likely won't happen...)
    Well, that's pretty much the whole battle. I often wish I could just plug my brain directly into the computer, and just... erg! ...just like it sounds in here! No, not that!... like the brain! Why can't you listen to the brain?!?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Lastufka
    Thanks guys for you help, tell me more about you guys though... what classes you found most important and most helpful... that stuff.
    The basics are theory and ear training. There are tons of classes, history, form and analysis, counterpoint, and of course private instruction and ensembles. Although it sucked at the time, I wish I had taken more ear training.

  6. #6
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    Re: Just starting out... (music education)

    You'll be able to get a well rounded foundation in the theory you're seeking in school. As far as being more familiar with the verbiage, that'll come with time. I still keep a music dictionary by my desk when I seen an unusual term.

    I enjoyed all of my music classes, except music history. And that was a result of a poor instructor in my case. I wish he would have had more enthusiasim that he could have inspired us with.

    Orchestration class was great. Using other instruments was like having a new world open up. But we had to use real players. With GPO, the gratification is instantaneous.

    I really didn't like sight singing at the time because my voice is so bad. But I've found sight singing is one skill I use constantly now.

    Transposition exersizes were very challenging. I had one test on piano where I was handed a sheet of music. All whole notes written on the 3rd line of the staff. But the clef changed every measure. And these were very obscure clefs. At the time I thought when will I ever use this? But sure enough years later on a session, the producer tells everyone to transpose their part on the spot, and that training paid off.

    You're going to have a great time in school. And with today's technology you're already light years ahead of where we were just a few years ago.

    Jeff

  7. #7

    Re: Just starting out... (music education)

    Well, I prefered Fugazi when they were Minor Threat, but that's another story. Anyways, no matter what path you choose, I'd like to wish you good luck. Make the best of this opportunity.

  8. #8

    Re: Just starting out... (music education)

    Im hesitant to answer for a few reasons. One, I have met people who have come out of places that are "high esteemed" institutions and people who have never recieved an ounce of training. Some of these people I have met over the years scare me they are so good at their instrument(no training). Some had tons of training and couldnt hold up to these others.

    Alot of factors come into play. For me it has always been an accute interest in music, so much that I cried often when hearing particular pieces. I found at podunk little school in Longview that it was a great experience and we had by the end only 6 or so total music majors in the whole school. It was a very intimite setting and we all became and still are really good friends. Some may scorn me for this, but the simple fact remains that part writing or all the other studies is the same no matter where you go(accept the ensembles may be much better! our local band was mediocre hehe). Its the instructors interest in you I think that counts the most and your interest. Our school may have not had the resourses as a bigger school , but we looked forward to every day.

    Just as a funny example, our computer lab has reallly old apples that had those green screens and produced very basic beeps with a very ancient ear training program lol

    Anyway having said that I think your decision should be ultimately yours and just consider the things others say. If I recall, Wagner had like 6 months of formal training, didnt really play any instrument all that well, but look at his music!

    Oops almost forgot, yes my mother played piano. She started me at an early age. I was always in rapture of the instrument. Thats Why I pestered Gary to put that silly piece up, so I could say I did something lol. She isnt happy that I choose to stay in the background and just have a family and enjoy life. But I take it with a grain of salt, its my life after all
    Nicole Davis

  9. #9
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Just starting out... (music education)

    If I could have those wonderful years of college back again I would do it in an instant! The courses, the professors, the instruments, the girls (oops) strike that - the civic orchestra, conducting class, tech band which was no more than music majors playing instruments they never played before. I used to call it "The Green Acres Band"!
    Alan, I guess what I am trying to say here that within you is a passion and no matter where you decide to attend, do well! Study hard and listen to what is all around you. Take note of the other students and their abilities. Learn from them and you will grow to be one heck of a musical person. Love with your heart your every step. If you can, take technical courses in all the instruments or at least as many as you can do it! I'm going off the deep end here as usual, sorry.
    I learned the right way and why it was so to play even my primary instrument percussion. How to perform with more feeling and how to merge the ear with the written note.
    I envy you Alan. I found studying at a University quite intimidating at times but one beautiful experience. I grew up in a family of 7. My dad helped design the tail sections of some of the jet planes you fly on today. My mom was and still is at the age of 80, a singer, plays piano, and had dreams of being part of the Met. My oldest brother was quite active as a percussionist all through school and life. My second oldest brother played guitar and sang in many 60's bands but gave it up when he went to Nam. My twin is still active and the youngest, my sister, plays piano. I am the only one who went to college for music formal training. But most of my training came from my family. I was exposed to quite a bit of music as a child but always had the incredible desire to learn how to read.
    I started taking lessons at the age of 20 from the principle percussionist of the Buffalo Phil, Mr. John Roland. Then, attended a two year private music institute where I met several awesome teachers who took an interest in my desire to better my abilities. After, and with much more enthusiasm, I applied to many Universities to secure a four year degree in music education. I decided on the University at Buffalo's Amherst campus where the best and most sought after professor in percussion taught, Mr. Jan Williams. The man was a veritable gold mine of information and technique on percussion instruments. I needed to have even a bit of what that man had to offer. It was hard. The audition was grueling. He was a very stern no patience kind of guy who knew why I was there and demanded the proof I was worthy!
    Oh, geezz Alan, just tell me to shut up!
    "Trust your feelings" and go where you can get the best teaches no matter the cost! You strike me as on heck of an intelligent person. Why heck, you strike me once more and I'll...
    You'll do fine in anything you pursue buddy ol' pal ol' friend of mine! If not, the people on this forum will come a lookin' for ya! Besides, we're all here to see ya through it right people? A...people...right? I know I am. Say, by the way, how much theory have you had?
    Styxx

  10. #10

    Re: Just starting out... (music education)

    Hi Alan, listen to tons of good vocal harmony recordings, Singers Unlimited, HiLos, Take Six etc. I grew up listening to a gob of vocal stuff, and I am able to relate all of that type of harmony to the harmonies that are so typical in classical music. I wish you well!

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