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What Are the Different Types of Music Degree Programs?

By K. Kinsella
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many universities and arts colleges offer a variety of music degree programs. Some of these courses are designed to prepare individuals to become performers while others prepare students to become teachers, composers or music producers. Music degree programs available through many colleges include musical theory, vocal or instrumental performance, and musical engineering.

Students enrolled in musical theory degree programs learn about different types of music such as jazz, classical, baroque and various contemporary styles of music. Classes are focused on teaching students about the composition process and the elements of a piece of music that cause it to be classified in one of these stylistic categories. Aside from learning about composition techniques, students taking theory degrees also learn about musical history. Typically, students are taught about the lives and careers of influential composers and their impact on the development of different styles of music.

Many music degree programs are vocational rather than purely academic. These courses are designed to prepare individuals to become professional vocalists or instrumentalists. Typically, students enrolled in these courses are either talented singers or individuals who are skilled at playing a particular musical instrument. Much of the course consists of music lessons during which these individuals receive one-on-one instruction from experienced singing tutors or instrumentalists. People who complete performance degrees often find work as opera singers or orchestral performers.

Some music degree programs are designed to prepare individuals to become musical producers rather than composers or performers. Many colleges offer musical engineering degrees during which students are taught how to edit soundtracks, combine recordings and use various types of sound recording equipment. Some of the classes during musical engineering programs involve computer software. Consequently, these degree programs often attract individuals who have previously completed information technology (IT) or computer programming degrees.

Individuals with various types of music degrees sometimes work as schoolteachers or college lecturers. While skills learned through music degree programs may help to prepare an individual to become a teacher, many universities offer music teacher training courses. Generally, students are taught about musical theory and given some instruction so that they are able to play at least one musical instrument to some degree. Aside from music-focused sessions, these students are also given general teacher training. Therefore, individuals who have completed music teacher degree programs are able to teach other school classes beyond just music lessons.

Performance related degree programs require one-on-one interaction with tutors and therefore these courses are normally classroom based. In contrast, musical theory courses can be taught online. Internet based classes enable students to attend music colleges without having to contend with the cost of relocating.

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