Becoming a Guitar Major: How to Prepare
by Jennifer Hughes

So you’ve decided on taking up guitar in college and would like to know how you can prepare. What skills do you need to have? Before we lay out what you can expect from a guitar program, you should know that you would need to invest in a good guitar. There are several acoustic guitar models under $1000 that can handle the demands of a guitar program, so make sure you look into those first.

Students majoring in guitar need more than just a quality instrument and skills. They would also need to be committed, focused, passionate and motivated, and would need to work really hard to achieve their goals. If you want to get that degree in guitar, prepare for your music program by doing the following.

Read sheet music

If you’re serious about learning guitar, you should learn to read traditional musical notation. Don’t limit your music reading to tablatures. Guitar students are expected to read music well, so take time to learn to read music before your formal guitar studies. It will pay off once you’re tasked to read music on a daily basis.

Build your fingerboard and chord knowledge

Study the CAGED system, master multiple fingerings of all the scales. You should know different chords, including barre and fingered jazz chords, as well as all the notes at every fret of every string. You should be able to understand the relationships among notes and scales and identify which note or chord is which.

Consider learning classical guitar 

Even if you’re more of a blues player, learning to play classical guitar can be to your advantage as a guitar major. You will be able to develop hand strength, proper posture, endurance, accuracy, speed, and coordination more than ever before. It will also help you in terms of tone production.

Be familiar with different genres and playing styles

If you are majoring in guitar, your guitar knowledge shouldn’t just be limited to the kind of music you play. You should be aware of different guitar styles such as country, flamenco, jazz, rock and blues. This will help you become a more versatile and well-rounded guitar player. You would be able to incorporate techniques from different genres into your own playing style.

Participate in group performances

Participation in groups can help you develop different performance skills that can help you become a better and well-rounded musician. For instance, being part of a jazz ensemble develops and reinforces your improvisational skills, while joining an ensemble or orchestra can teach you how to follow a conductor and play in a group. Get as much playing experience as you possibly can.

Watch instructional videos

Watching instructional guitar videos can help you figure out areas that you need to improve on. You will also be able to learn about techniques you haven’t tried yet, or concepts you haven’t studied. This is a great supplement to your current study and training.

Think of the bigger picture

Lastly, don’t think of majoring in guitar simply as becoming a better guitar player. Think of it as a big move toward becoming a professional musician. As such, you should take steps to learn music theory, train your ear and participate in events where you can apply your skills. Most of all, keep on listening to music and practicing your skills. Good luck and have fun!