grayscale photography of violin on table with music sheet. Photo by Cameron Mourot on Unsplash

High School to College: How to Prepare to be a Music Major

Transitioning from the music expectations in high school to the ones in college can be a challenge. I’ve certainly had my fair share of struggles and know many other people who have as well.

Preparing to be a music major ahead of time will give you a distinct advantage. Here are my top five tips:

1. Take advanced music classes (e.g., theory, ear training) if your high school offers it

I had the opportunity to take AP music theory in high school, and I didn’t. This is something I regret.

Even if you don’t do well in the class, or on the AP exam, having some sort of theory and ear training background will be super helpful to you in your first year of college.

Having come in to my first year without any theory or ear training experience was manageable, but it’s definitely been difficult at times.

One particularly helpful site for music theory if you want to prepare on your own or study is musictheory.net

2. Practice singing and hearing pitches

As a music major, you will take ear training (also called aural skills), and in ear training, singing and hearing pitches makes up the majority of what you do.

It’s good to start practicing early, because ear training skills can take a while to build up. Starting this in high school will really help you when you get to college.

One of the most helpful sites for ear training that I’ve come across is teoria.com

3. Learn to play the piano

I’m a clarinet player. I did not expect to have to learn how to play the piano in college.

This isn’t a requirement for all music major programs, and it isn’t for the B.A. program at my school. But, for most Bachelor of Music programs and for a lot of graduate schools, piano proficiency may be required.

This is easier for some students, and harder for others (I found it really difficult!). Start learning ahead of time if you can, and make sure you’re using proper playing techniques and finger positions. It will also help you a lot with ear training skills.

4. Take private lessons

In college, you’ll most likely be taking weekly lessons with a professor in your applied music area. Taking lessons in high school will help you learn the expectations for private study. It will prepare you for the amount of time and hard work needed to be successful in private lessons.

Taking lessons will also give you the chance to greatly improve your playing and is a way for you to familiarize yourself with standard repertoire and practices before you head off to college.

5. Form consistent practice habits

In college, you’re expected to practice every day, often for at least a few hours each day. While you may have been able to succeed with only a couple hours of practice here and there in high school, college expectations are much higher.

Getting into a familiar and consistent practice schedule now will help immensely. It’s okay if you miss some practice time here or there, but do your best to put together a daily practice schedule, and stick to it!


Trying out these five tips can be super beneficial to you as you’re preparing to be a music major. Starting college is a huge transition and music majors often face really high expectations. Prepare yourself early and get ahead of the game. You’ll thank yourself later.

Having trouble finding the right music school? Here are my Top 3 Tips.