Winning at Music College - Part 1
Winning at Music College
What will you need?
One of the best parts of starting a new school year was heading out to a stationary shop to buy a new pencil case, new pens, a new note book, folder, etc. I always liked it anyway.
Starting Music College isn't much different, but it could be a little more expensive!
Being a musician is very much like being a tradesman - you'll need the tools of your trade to be able do the job you're qualifying for.
So this guide will tell you everything you should have with you to take into music college.
1. A good quality instrument
A huge part of playing your instrument is that moment when your instrument becomes an extension of you. But if you don't like, or enjoy, playing your instrument then it becomes more unlikely that you'll want to play it. That means you won't practice, you won't get better and you won't reach a professional standard.
So look to get yourself a good quality instrument - one that you would take out into work with you. It doesn't have to be an expensive shopping trip if it doesn't need to be. You can pick up some good quality instruments on the second hand market for 1/2 their RRP value if you know where to look, and you're patient with it.
For keyboard players, even buying a basic 66 or 88 note controller keyboard would be a good investment, and then using instruments hosted on a DAW or MainStage for the sound banks.
2. A good quality amp
For guitarists and bassists, you'll need a quality amp to be able to develop your sound. You'll even need it for performances.
As with instruments, you don't need to blow a huge amount of cash on something big or loud, but just enough to be able to practice at home, perform in small music clubs and perform small scale gigs.
My book "The Musicians Guide to being a Music Student" talks about students going out to get gigging and working experience throughout their college career. Some colleges will allow you to borrow gear but you shouldn't rely on it. It only takes one person to destroy an amp, and then have the privilege withdrawn for everyone, or for all of the amps to be leant out on the night you want one.
It's always best to have your own gear.
You can also be a little smart about it, and build a Bass amp rig inside your computer. For the cost of a small interface and Apple's MainStage, you can use virtual amps and stomp boxes to create a high quality rig that can be used at home and on stage.
3. Delay and Overdrive pedal.
For guitarists and bassists, having a small palette of effects can go a long way. Depending on your amp, you'll likely have reverb and the ability to over drive a channel. But don't forget a delay pedal and a good overdrive for switching to a lead setting for colour and excitement in your sounds.
There are many awesome old skool multi effects boxes around the internet that'll cost you between £30 and £100 if you look for the old APE, Korg or Boss units. New isn't always better.
4. A Computer
All of your work will be done on a computer - let's face it.
You're also going to have Music Technology lessons where you're going to need to produce and mix music, at least to a basic level.
Honestly- the preference is a Mac. Colleges usually get a great deal on Macs (and they look impressive on the marketing) so you'll likely be stuck using a Mac for your daily work at College anyway.
A good thing about Macs (for buyers, but not owners!) is that Macs don't really hold their value, but they last a looooooooooong time. PCs you can expect to reach their end of life at around Year 3-4 mark if you're lucky. Mac's, despite the narrative that some like to push, are very well engineered and the components are very good quality. So the machines last a long time.
This is an advantage because you can pick up a 4 year old MacBook for a very good price on the Gumtree market, and still expect to have 4-5 years of good use out of it.
I'd recommend sticking an SSD drive into any old computer, as it does offset the natural ageing of the system and gives you a lighting fast machine.
Because of the reliance on technology for College, and especially music, you'll have to go a long way to find a musician that doesn't have a computer or a DAW installed!
5. Two Hard Drives!
Pick yourself up a pair of 1TB hard drives. You'll be needing to transfer files between home and college on a daily basis and cloud systems might not be enough if you end up creating very large music production files.
I saw '2 drives' because you'd be sensible to back up your work on something remote. There's little tolerance for students 'losing' work because of computer failure - or losing drives!
You could even go that one step further and sync your drive to a service like Dropbox or Google Drive for added safety.
6. Pens, highlighter pens, a hole punch and a folder.
Look - it's just how school works! You'll possibly be given lots of course material in paper form. And frankly - it's useful. I can not count the number of times I've gone back to my college study notes - even 20 years after leaving.
The simple fact is the, as humans, we learn better when we write things down and make physical notes on our lesson material.
Keep everything ordered in a folder. Highlight important sections or information. Make notes everywhere. I guarantee you'll come back to it in years to come, if you're doing "music career" right!
About the Author
Dave Phillips is one of the most skilled musicians in the UK industry. A player, a producer, a manager, a teacher, a writer and a designer - Dave is very very busy!
He studied at Music School - SSR in Manchester - and almost instantly began teaching music production at Degree level which led him to eventually manage a Music College. He also studied for his BA as an adult.
Knowing how difficult the music industry is - and know how difficult it is to be a teenager and young adult! - he enjoys teaching and coaching younger musicians to make the right choices at the most critical time of their
His book "The Music Student's Guide to being a Music Student" is an in depth look at what it is to be a professional musician, and things that students should be doing while they study to ensure that their music career kicks off the moment they graduated.