I have unofficially graduated from Berklee College of Music through their online course entitled “Introduction to Music Theory”. While this sounds celebratory and extravagant, I must say that my Berklee journey has resurfaced a lot of the what-ifs of my life. That is why today, other than spilling some tips and tricks to successfully complete a Berklee online course, I will also be confessing my struggles as a frustrated musician because I know that my struggles are not unique. I know somebody needs to hear them, be encouraged by them, and most especially, be enraged by them.
Forever a Frustrated Musician
Being born in a musical family, it is no surprise that I can sing. It is no surprise that my younger sister can sing, too. That goes without saying that countless cousins can do the same as well. It is also not a secret that 3 of our uncles are well-respected musicians in the town. It was always dreadful to constantly see them as judges in all of the Singing Contests I joined when I was younger. Majority of us are self-taught. Growing up, my usual reply to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was always “I want to be a professional Singer!” It was in 4th year High School when I realized that people like me cannot afford those kinds of dreams. I was born poor and in order to survive, I needed to be practical with my life choices. People like me need to hustle harder than the others.
Despite being 26 years old now, working as a full-time Software Engineer, I have not given up with Music. I don’t think I will. I’m a Multipotentialite after all, and Music is a constant part of my life. I will always want to move forward with it. That is why, I was very happy to have found an online course from the legendary Berklee College of Music. However, as I progressed through the entire course, I realized how inadequate I was. Because of how I was brought up, without all the privileges that others had, I couldn’t complete what others deemed as basics. It was my first time hearing about Ear Training. I couldn’t read and play the compositions well. It was terribly sad to feel inadequate on a thing you love, but it was sadder to be reminded that if I had the privilege to study Music growing up, all of these would’ve been a piece of cake. Unfortunately, life did not offer me those choices, and so here I am left to be a frustrated musician. Too frustrated that even earning the certificate for this online course seemed like a privilege I still cannot avail.
However difficult the past might be, there is no other way but to move forward. I have to move forward. For those who are like me, I urge you to move forward as well. This is the main reason why I am writing this article today. I will show you how I will move forward in the hopes that this information will help you move forward as well.
It’s never too late. Choose to move forward.
In my generation, we really needed to attend physical classes or hire a private teacher in order to learn Music efficiently. Even musical geniuses needed to do that. However, this era is different. Today, technology offers us a lot of affordable and accessible opportunities to learn Music flexibly. This is how I plan to move forward.
1. Taking Classes
If there are opportunities to attend physical classes in your local community, attend! As for people like me who are working full-time weekdays or for those who would like to learn from affordable channels, I would recommend you to learn from online courses such as:
Of course, I would recommend this first. After all, I took my “Introduction to Music Theory” from BerkleeX. However, the courses offered from Berklee are quite advanced. It will require you to have basic knowledge about Music. It will also require you to have Instrument Skills, more specifically Piano Skills. If you are not in that level yet, like me, I suggest you take other options. However, if you really want to try and experience a Berklee education, you have 2 options; (1) take their full courses for FREE but without a certificate or (2) pay around USD$40, complete their course, and get a certificate. Of course, the latter is difficult to do without the prerequisites I mentioned earlier.
● Other Options
If you can afford to shell out a little money, the following options are actually better than Berklee Online because they provide basic courses for those who do not have prior knowledge at all.
They sell each course for an affordable price. Certifications are also available at a separate price.
You just need to avail of their monthly subscription in order to take unlimited courses whenever, wherever.
You will have unlimited access to their premium courses if you avail of their monthly premium subscription. They also offer mentorship packages paid separately.
Again, another app that requires a monthly subscription. I tried their free tutorials. Their courses are very hands-on and comprehensive. Unfortunately, they focus more on skills (Singing, Guitar, Piano, etc) instead of Music concepts.
2. Practicing Ear Training
One important things that my Berklee journey made me realize is the significant importance of Ear Training. Ear Training is basically the ability to accurately identify musical elements. Having this ability as a foundation in your musical journey is necessary. Therefore, you should hone it.
I am currently terrible at Ear Training. So, I’ve sought help from the following mobile applications to hone my skills. You can choose from any of these choices:
Of the 3 apps I downloaded, I like this app the best. Their training is comprehensive and not boring. Recommended!
3. Learning an Instrument
Some would argue that this is unnecessary. However for me, it is necessary. It serves as a guide for Ear Training. It also is extremely useful when you try to explore or experiment on melodies. I believe, there is no limitation as to what instrument you must learn, but I learned from my Berklee journey that learning piano or guitar is extremely useful in the music journey. I am currently learning both. For this, I sought the help of Yousician.
Curious about my Berklee Journey?
When I saw that Berklee Online is offering a course on an introduction to Music Theory, I was ecstatic. I thought it was perfect for me because I’ve never had a proper Music Education before apart from those I had in Grade School, which I can barely remember now. To my surprise, the course was a mixed of the basics and some advanced topics. The further it progressed, the harder it was for a beginner like me to catch up on it.
Are you interested to take the “Introduction to Music Theory” online course from BerkleeX? Access it here!
For those interested, here are some tips and tricks:
- The lessons are for free. However, if you want to take your time learning and get a Certificate from the course, you would need to pay around US$42 using online payment gateways.
- You need to hone your Ear Training skills before starting the course or else, it will be difficult to answer the quizzes and assessments.
- You need to know how to play an instrument. You also need to have an instrument while doing the course. Doesn’t matter which instrument, but of course, it would be best to have piano skills.
- The course will be conducted via video modules and self-assessment modules. Therefore, make sure you have a stable Internet connection.
And that’s it! You’re ready for your Berklee education journey! Good luck and have fun!
The video modules from Berklee featured interviews and superb performances from their actual students and teachers. From the videos, you can infer how much they enjoy living the musical life, how amazing it feels to be surrounded by people with the same interests, and how awesome life in Music School is. All of these were very inspiring. I envy them. I envy the life they’re living, getting to do the thing they love most everyday. As heartbreaking as that may sound, I want to choose hope. I hope to still push forward my own version of a musical life despite it being different from the normal one. I hope, all of us despite being limited by our circumstances, will be able to come through all of this. Most importantly, I hope the generation after me will be freer to choose the path that they love the most.
This article may have sounded a little bit sad, but I hope it was encouraging and helpful to you. Good luck on your musical journey! Don’t worry too much. We will definitely come through!