Free Online Lectures and Courses for Music

Students who earn a degree in music can use their studies in a number of fields, with teaching and performing being the most popular. Musicians can specialize in a certain genre, instrument, or type of vocalization; they can work in recording or marketing; or use their knowledge to compose new pieces. Musical scholars, on the other hand, can study music’s history or its intersection with any number of other fields such as anthropology, technology, or healthcare. The possibilities for personalizing this field of study are endless.

Sample Courses

Given how broad the field is, students majoring in music will want to specialize early in their careers. This may entail choosing an instrument or instruments, focusing on vocal music, or specializing in a field like history, composition, recording, or theory. The majority of students will need introductory courses in those areas, regardless of their focus. A degree in music is also likely to involve dedicated practice time and individual lessons with music professors. Upper level courses will be specific to the instrument or musical area chosen by the student.

Possible Specializations

Students may choose to focus on any number of instruments, with piano and string performance being two of the most popular. Composition is another common specialization; often, students can elect to study ensemble composition or composition for a particular instrument. Outside of performance music, a popular specialization is music therapy, which involves the study of how sounds and musical composition can address people’s cognitive, behavioral, social and physical needs. Music education is also popular, with many students combining music study with a school’s teacher-education program.

Degree Types

In addition to choosing a focus, students need to choose an appropriate degree program. While musical performers aren’t required to have any degree, post-secondary education can be a significant boon to employment.

Associate

An associate’s degree allows music students to go into performance, business, production, or education, though students will not necessarily be able to find high-level jobs in the latter. Students interested in the technical aspects of music production and artist management may only need an associate’s degree to continue in the field. Others can use an associate’s degree en route to a four-year school.

Bachelor’s

The majority of music students hoping to go into recording, performance, or academia earn a bachelor’s degree. Music educators will qualify for teaching positions with this type of degree, while performers and composers may be able to find employment in a broad range of music-related fields. Those wishing to truly specialize in an instrument or vocals should continue on to a graduate degree.

Master’s

To specialize in a particular instrument, qualify for high-level musical groups, or pursue musical theory or history at the scholarly level, students should get a master’s in the field. This will also be an important step for students going into musical therapy, since further study in healthcare fields may be required.

D.M.A

For students who wish to conduct music or go into scholarly fields like musical pedagogy, a doctorate will be needed. Those who hope to be professional performers in orchestras or symphonies should also pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, since this is often required. Students will also need a doctorate in order to teach music at an institution of higher education.

Ideal Candidates for Music

Music students come from all different backgrounds, but many share similar traits. Chief among those are creativity, an analytical mind, and patience. Often, music majors will be somewhat skilled in mathematics. Much of the pattern recognition in learning and practicing music is easier with an understanding of sequencing and mathematical relations. It’s also helpful to have a deep appreciation for different types of music and an appreciation for the effect the discipline has on culture. Finally, students should be self-motivated, since a degree in music – and composition or performance, in particular – requires a good deal of independent practice.

Career Pathways

The employment outlook for students of music varies significantly depending on the student’s specialization and desired position. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the musical performance field will grow by 5% in the next decade, with a median hourly wage of $23.50. Musical composers and directors will see the same job growth rate but earn a median salary of $47,350, while music teachers earn a median salary of $73,340 but won’t see much more than a percentage point or two of job growth in the next ten years.

On the other hand, recreational therapy, which includes those in musical therapy, can expect jobs to keep pace with the national average of approximately 13% growth in the next decade. Therapists earn a median salary of $42,280 annually.

A music students’ ability to find employment will vary widely depending on ability, location, desired field, and, to a certain extent, luck. For performers, it can be a very difficult field to break into. However, it’s also one of the most rewarding fields for those who love music and want to share their compositions and abilities with the rest of the world.

If you want to learn more about what it means to study music, there are numerous resources to help you. Reach out to professional music organizations in your community, find students enrolled in degree programs, talk to local musicians, and explore colleges and universities offering musical study programs.

4 Courses

Get More Out of Your Online Music Courses

Music Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • 19th-Century Music

      This journal from the University of California Press covers "Western music between the mid-eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries."

    • American Music

      Published by the University of Illinois Press, this journal focuses exclusively on American music's past and present and includes reviews of books, concerts, and the like.

    • Chinese Music

      An "international refereed journal published quarterly by the Chinese Music Society of North America" that analyzes Chinese music and its relationship to other music.

    • Computer Music Journal

      This journal has been in publication for three decades and provides articles and analysis of digital sound technology and musical applications of computers.

    • Early Music

      This Oxford journal was founded in 1973 and is the go-to journal for anyone "interested in early music and how it is being interpreted today."

    • Popular Music

      This international journal covers all aspects of music, whether that's the intersection between humans and sound or the details of composition.

  • Trade Magazines

    • Chamber Music Magazine

      This publication is "the only national magazine dedicated to the art and business of small ensemble magazine" and provides both features and interviews.

    • Future Music

      This magazine is for musicians interested in the intersection between music and technology, presenting articles on both new developments in music creation and ...

    • Pitchfork

      This alternative music magazine strives to present music news and artists in a new light, highlighting lesser-seen news and musical releases.

    • Rolling Stone

      One of the nation's most popular publications, this magazine is known for progressive, liberal, and controversial interviews and features on music and music ...

Music Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • Classical Commissioning Program Guidelines

      Deadline: March 21

      Award Amount: Up to $27,000

      This grant from Chamber Music America is to "support U.S.-based performers and professional contemporary classical and world music ensemble for the commissioning and performance of new works."

    • GRAMMY Foundation Grants

      Deadline: October 1

      Award Amount: Maximum $25,000

      This is a series of grants aimed at supporting individuals and organizations that want to "advance the archiving and preservation of the music and recorded sound heritage of the Americas."

    • M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet Fund

      Deadline: April 1

      Award Amount: Varies by project

      This travel grant for musicians sends a post-doc student to France in order to conduct research, whether its pursued independently or through a university.

    • New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble Development

      Deadline: July 1

      Award Amount: Up to $34,000

      This grant from Chamber Music America is to support "professional U.S. jazz ensembles to create, perform, and if desired, record new works."

    • Ora Frishberg Saloman Fund

      Deadline: April 1

      Award Amount: Maximum $2,000

      This grant goes to a post-doc student conducting "musicological research oriented to music criticism and reception history" and may cover either research or travel costs.

    • The Thomas Hampson Fund

      Deadline: August 15

      Award Amount: $1,000

      This grant is meant to support research and publication on Classic Song, whether American, contemporary, or otherwise, and may be given to project proposals involving technological innovation.

  • Scholarships

    • Berklee College of Music Scholarships

      Deadline: Varies

      Award Amount: Varies; partial tuition

      Berklee awards numerous incoming music students financial scholarship to help with tuition in students' pursuit of a degree in music; full-tuition awards are ...

    • Glenn Miller Scholarship Competition

      Deadline: March 15

      Award Amount: $1,000-4,000

      This scholarship is given to instrumentalists and vocalists and is to be used to pay for education-related expenses and may be given to musicians in any genre.

    • Mark Tucker Award

      Deadline: January 15

      Award Amount: TBD

      This award is given to a student who presents his or her individual research paper to the Society for American Music board; awardees will have the chance to ...

    • National Federation of Music Clubs Scholarships

      Deadline: Varies

      Award Amount: Varies

      NFMC offers annual student and collegiate scholarships for musicians; scholarships may be specific to instruments, composition, music education, or blind ...

    • National Young Arts Foundation Scholarship

      Deadline: TBD

      Award Amount: Maximum $10,000

      YoungArts provides financial support for high school musicians, and other artists, looking to make a career out of music; scholars are paired with mentors and ...

    • Young Musicians Foundation Scholarship

      Deadline: TBD

      Award Amount: $250-750

      YMF awards scholarships to musicians from age 8-26 who reside in southern California, providing monetary support for continued private instruction.

Music Internships

  • Berklee College of Music Major Specific Internship

    Deadline: Varies

    Music students at Berklee can choose an internship in any city across the U.S., designing a summer program that directly fits their field of study and gaining professional experience.

  • Dream Careers Music Internship

    Deadline: Rolling

    Dream Careers works with undergraduate students and music companies to create internship pairings; applicants indicate preferences for musical field, and Dream Careers helps find a good position.

  • GRAMMY Foundation Internship: The Recording Academy

    Deadline: Varies by chapter

    Undergraduate students interning with The Recording Academy learn marketing, finance, technical and creative skills needed in the music and recording industry.

  • Harry Fox Internship

    Deadline: TBD; summer, fall and spring

    Undergraduate and graduate students get the chance to work in the music publishing business, collaborating with organization employees to work on licensing and digital music technology.

  • Recorded Music Internship Program for Visiting Summer Students

    Deadline: February 28

    This internship for NYU students allows participants to work with one of a number of recording studios and organizations in New York, supporting students' study of recorded music.

  • Summer Residential Internship Program in New York City

    Deadline: February 14

    Given by the Berklee College of Music, this internship "provides students an opportunity to gain professional experience in their chosen field" of music, as well as attending workshops.

  • The Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship

    Deadline: November 15

    This one year fellowship is designed for minority students in music who have completed at least one year of full-time graduate work and intend to pursue a Ph.D.

  • Warner Music Internship

    Deadline: Rolling

    These internships for college students allow participants to "obtain real world experience at one of the top music companies in the industry."

Music Student & Professional Organizations

  • Student Organizations

    • American Musicological Society

      AMS, founded in 1934, aims to "advance scholarship in various fields of music through research, learning, and teaching" and has members in over 40 countries.

    • Chamber Music America

      This organization is popular with younger musicians involved in chamber music. However, they advocate for music of all forms, beyond just the traditional.

    • Music Teacher's National Association

      MTNA is "dedicated to advancing the value of music study and music making in society and to support the professionalism of music teachers."

    • National Association for Music Education

      This organization is one of the world's largest arts groups and addresses all aspects of music, advocating at local, state, and federal levels for the ...

    • The College Music Society

      CMS "promotes music teaching and learning, musical creativity and expression, research and dialogue, and diversity and interdisciplinary interaction."

    • Young Musicians Foundation

      YMF is an advocacy organization, supporting the development of musicians from ages 4-26, and it is parent to numerous student musical ensembles and programs.

  • Professional Organizations