Music Production School and the Alternative
by Bret Piontek
You've probably seen the ads when you're watching tv late at night. Some career college or vocational school is advertising a music production, digital media, or recording technology program of some sort.
There are many colleges, universities, and specialty schools that offer vocational diplomas, associate degrees, and bachelor degrees in music production, music business, and similar courses of study.
I myself am a graduate of a one year vocational program in recording and music technology. While I gained a pretty good foundation, there are a lot of things I wish I knew ahead of time. Higher education in any form can get quite costly, and it's important that you consider all of your options before shelling out a small fortune.
Why Do You Want the Degree?
Keep tabs on your motivations. Are you trying to secure a job in the music industry? Do you want to sharpen your skill set? Do you want to produce your own music?
Music production and related fields are both creative and technical. Since it's not really a standardized industry like accounting or law, you'll want to weigh how much a degree really plays into your ability to find work. Your success is going to be more dependent on your relationships with people, skill level and proven track record than the degree or certificate you hold.
Be sure the institution is legitimately accredited for the degrees it awards. You don't want your degree to be unrecognized should you choose to transfer into a different course of study, another field entirely, or graduate school.
If you are going just so you can gain specific skills, accreditation is not as important, but check to make sure the program fits your learning goals and that the investment is worth your time and money. Your time may be better spent shadowing others who are already working on projects that you're interested in.
What to Expect out of a Music Production or Recording Program
No school can completely prepare you for the real world. That's true of any course of study or discipline. Your education and training is what you make of it. Rest assured, your education alone will not turn you into the next Clive Davis or Timbaland (a feat not easily obtained even if you are brilliant).
Recording engineering and production, like any creative art, runs under the principle that there are no rules, only guidelines. There's a lot of experimentation and hands on learning that must take place. You won't be taught how to develop your ear and be creative (as if that sort of thing can be taught), as much as the very technical aspects that go into producing a record. I actually cringe when I think back on my old projects.
Some programs will teach basic music theory and music business. Others will be more concentrated in a particular area. Only you can determine which program will best suit your desired outcome.
The technology changes constantly. Instruments, software, computers, processors, and so on are constantly becoming more sophisticated. You'll already be behind on the latest and greatest gadgets by the time you graduate. This is nothing to fear, as a lot of the skills you acquire will most likely transpose. Just be prepared to adapt to changing environments (a good quality to have in life anyway).
If you just want to get started, or have some personal music projects you want to complete, you'd be amazed at what you can accomplish with a personal computer and a modest recording setup.
Vocational programs cost thousands of dollars. Private colleges that offer 4-year programs can cost upwards of $80k.
What if you only want to learn very specific things? What if you don't have the personal time to go to school? What if you're not able or willing to shell out the cash?
A very economical, and far more convenient option is to learn music production online.
Whatever your educational choice, get out there and start learning! The more you learn, and the more hands on experience you get, the better you'll develop your skills. Just like singing, playing an instrument, or any other creative art, it takes practice.
Bret Piontek is an author and owner of "MusicTyro.com", an online community of music learners and creators. MusicTyro provides articles and resources for music instruction, software, songwriting, and artist development. Visit us today for more resources on musicianship and music production.
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