Violin, Guitar and Other Stringed Instruments

Learning to play a stringed instrument can be a rewarding challenge for anyone who loves music. Keep reading to learn about training options and career possibilities for some with this skill.

Are Studies in Violin, Guitar or Other Stringed Instruments for Me?

Career Overview

Studies in stringed instruments, which can include violin, guitar, viola, cello and bass, can lead to careers in musical performance, music composition and teaching. As a stringed instrument performer, you may find job opportunities in bands, orchestras and studios. Music composers and arrangers create and adapt written music and may work on a number of different projects throughout their careers, such as writing scores for television programs, movies and advertisements.

You might work in a variety of different environments if you study stringed instruments. If you are a music performer, you may play shows in venues all over the nation. If you are a stringed instrument teacher, you typically work at a university or a similar education setting, such as a high school or elementary school. Performing musicians should be prepared to work irregular hours and have constantly fluctuating schedules. You may not be able to play full-time, so it is a good idea to keep other job opportunities in mind even if you are playing shows on a regular basis.

Employment Information

Earnings for musicians may fluctuate as much as their work schedules. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that musicians earned a median hourly income of $23.74 in 2013 (www.bls.gov). Since many musicians work part-time in other industries, it is difficult to provide accurate wage information for musicians as a whole. Music teachers who work in postsecondary education had a much more stable median income in 2013, making $62,830 annually. The BLS expected overall job opportunities for musicians to grow by five percent from 2012-2022, which is considered slower than the average growth of occupations during that period. Much of that growth was expected to occur for session musicians. However, postsecondary teachers, including music professors, were expected to see a 19% employment growth during that period, which was considered to be faster than average.

How Can I Study Violin, Guitar and Other Stringed Instruments?

Undergraduate Education

You can learn the skills and techniques of playing stringed instruments through private lessons and postsecondary education programs. Some musicians in bands may have very little formal training. Most composers and directors have at least a bachelor's degree in music. If you wish to pursue a career in instrument teaching, you usually need to complete graduate school.

Universities that have music programs in instrument performance usually give you the opportunity to specialize in the specific string instrument you are interested in. Your degree plan is structured for your instrument choice. For example, guitar students take courses in fret board harmony, guitar history, form and analysis and ear training. In addition to learning the technical aspects of your chosen instrument, you learn about music theory and music history. Most bachelor's degree programs in music give you performance opportunities. You usually choose a performance group to join, such as jazz ensemble, orchestra or school band.

Graduate Education

You generally need to show your talent and skill playing your stringed instrument before you can be admitted to a master's program in musical performance. If you wish to become a music teacher, a master's program in music education can give you the necessary tools to do so. This master's program focuses less on mastering a stringed instrument and more on music teaching techniques, requiring courses such as developing curricula for music students, analytical techniques, musical education and pedagogy. Those wishing to teach guitar, violin or other stringed instruments at a postsecondary institution are also typically required to have completed a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in music or music education. A Ph.D. program in music education can require several hours of coursework, internships, a series of qualifying exams and completion of a dissertation.

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