by Jeff Bowman

For many high school horn playing seniors, the highlight of the year can be getting accepted into a school’s music program. For me, this was because so much work had been put into preparing for the audition. I know this is the case for at least some horn players, as they have applied to multiple schools of music in the hope that they will get in to at least one of them. But once that day comes, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Now, the question becomes, “what should I do to prepare for all of the music classes I will be taking?” The answer depends on whether or not you have any background or previous experience with music theory, ear training, or piano.

First and foremost, if you are not in the habit of practicing at least once or twice a day, my suggestion would be that you start that habit over the summer. Most schools will require that you practice at least an hour or an hour and a half a day, and being able to get into the practice room more than you are used to can be especially hard during your first semester in college.

Second, if you do not have a basic understanding of scales and know at least all 12 major scales, you are definitely going to need that. You will need this not only for your teacher and general knowledge, but you will also need it for your level one theory course and beyond. Also, becoming familiar with the circle of fifths will be a huge help for those who do not know the 12 major scales.

The third area, and the one that gives me the most trouble, is ear training. Many colleges will call these classes aural skills, skills, or may even call them simple ear training. This class, like theory has a wide range of curriculum; but unlike theory, has essentially two parts to it. There is the listening part, where you must learn to identify intervals and such, and the written part, where you must learn to hear a short phrase (4-16 bars) and be able to transcribe it, to name a few of the areas. The more important of these two is the interval training, and there are many websites that you can use to help you begin acquiring an ear. The one that I have been using and find a bit more useful is There you can work on ascending and descending intervals, static and moveable do, and even transcription. The fourth and last area is piano. Since many students take piano at a young age, this area does not cause many problems among musicians. However, if you have no experience with the piano whatsoever, it might be in your best interest to invest in either a piano teacher over the summer or in some beginning books that could at least get you up on your feet and running a little bit with it.

Lastly, give some thought to making sure you really want to be a music major and want to do music for the rest of your life. I know many of you may be passionate musicians, but step back before you step-up to the plate. Being a music major is definitely one of the hardest majors in terms of numbers of credits and all that is required, but it is also, in my view, one of the most rewarding on more levels than one. If you are completely sure of your choice, then I would like to personally welcome you to the world of being music major (and becoming certifiably insane).

Happy Horning!

Jeff Bowman is a horn player at Western Carolina University

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