Advice for Prospective College Music Majors

In this post, I will be dishing out some advice to the high school seniors who are planning to study music in college. This time, I get to give some advice based on my actual experience rather than what I felt my parents were doing or should be doing. I have experienced the college application process, and that means for this topic, I have a little more to say. So, here it goes.

Killer Harmony | Advice for Prospective Music Majors | Do you want to major in music? Read my top six tips for help in preparing for college as a music student!

1. Make a list of all of the schools that you will be auditioning at.
This is pretty self explanatory, but the reason that I think you should do this is so that you can get organized and can keep things straight when it comes to preparing for you auditions.

2. Look up the audition requirements for your instrument at the schools you listed for #1.
This is a continuation of the first tip, but you want to make sure that you are preparing good repertoire for your auditions. Most schools will want to see your range, whether that means playing pieces from different eras or different tempos, or one more technical piece followed by a lyrical selection. Most schools will require scales (chromatic, major, minor) as well as sight reading. To practice scales, I would recommend looking into getting a good scale book for you instrument. If you play flute, I would suggest ~Trevor Wye Practice Books for the Flute: Volume 5~. For sight reading, you should do a little bit of simple sight reading each day. I have found that the Rubank books are very good for this sort of thing, because they have short little exercises that you can then work on more to help your technique.

3. Contact your could-be future applied professors.
Go on to the websites of the schools you are looking at, find the contact info for the person who teaches your instrument. Send them an email with your name, high school, maybe your current teacher, and line up a couple of questions to ask. This is a great way to get your foot in the door, especially if you do it before you audition there, because the professor will see your name on the schedule, and they will remember you more. Also, the name of your current private teacher (you are taking lessons, right?) is not as important if you are going out of state. If you live close to the schools you are looking at, it can be a good thing to include, because the professor at that school might know your current teacher.

4. If you are not in private lessons, start ASAP.
I think that most students who are serious about majoring in music will have probably been taking private lessons for awhile, but if not that is okay. I think if you can, you should take at least a few months worth of lessons. Tell your teacher that you will be majoring in music next year and you want to get a feel for how college-level lessons work. Most private instructors were music majors themselves at one point, and they can help prepare you for the road ahead.

5. Be prepared to upgrade your instrument.
If you are still using the instrument you bought in 5th grade, that is fine, but you are going to want a better instrument sooner rather than later. It can be smart to wait until the school year begins so that you can ask advice of your college professor, but just know that that expense is not far away. Also, if you play a woodwind or brass instrument, you may need to use your current instrument in marching band, and you don’t want to have to use your nicest model outside.

6. Think about the different areas of music and your interests.
This will help you find the area of music that you want to focus your studies in. If you want to spend your life performing, go with performance. If you want to be a band director, you should choose music education as your major. If you want to compose, try and find a school where you can study that. Music therapy is also an emerging field not offered at many schools, but if that is something that you might enjoy, then look into ways that you can do it.

I hope those six tips help you as you finalize some of your plans for the year ahead. It might seem far away, but August will be here before you know it. If you want more tips for music majors, I can write more lists. In the meantime, check out Majoring in Music. If you want to keep up with me daily, follow me on Twitter (at)itskillerharm and Instagram and Pinterest (at)killerharmony. If you want to find some sheet music, check out some of my stuff here.
Thanks for reading!

#BlogLife: How to Start a Blog

Welcome to my first ever series where I blog about blogging! If you are new to blogging or you want to start, this is the place for you!

Killer Harmony | #BlogLife: How to Start a Blog | Learn how to start a blog with the first entry in a series of posts for new and aspiring bloggers! Learn all about how to start a blog off on the right foot, how to pick a topic, choose the right platform for you, and more!

Starting a blog is really not that hard. The hardest part is getting everything set, including choosing your topic, figuring out your target audience, and deciding which blogging platform to use. In this first post, I will talk about what you should do before you write your first post. I will cover writing blogs in the next part of this series, which will hopefully help you start your awesome journey! P.S. Don’t forget to check out my Etsy shop, because at the end of February, you will find a special surprise!

1. Pick Your Topic
This is also sometimes called, at least in the blogging world, your niche. You want to write about something you have an interest in. Why would I write about cars when I don’t care one bit about them? You should also have some knowledge of your niche. I am a college music major, and I am experiencing my trip through life, so it only  makes sense that I blog about my life as a college musician. My blog nice covers a few aspects: college, music, and lifestyle, but they are things that I am passionate about and things that I have quite a lot to write about.
2. Find Your Target Audience
Before you start blogging, think about who you see reading your blog. Male, female, or a mix of the two? How old are they? What are their interests? What is their background? As an example, my blog targets mostly females, but a good percentage of males, aged 15-28, who have, are, or will be pursuing music at the collegiate level. Of course, you don’t have to fit those qualities to read my blog, but that is a profile of who I think of as being a reader of this blog.
3. Choose the Best Blogging Platform for You
The two biggest platforms are Blogger (owned by Google) and WordPress. If you have a top level domain, you would use WordPress.org or for subdomains, WordPress.com. I have used Blogger and WordPress.com, both with subdomains of the respective websites. I recently switched to WordPress.com, and I love it. I will say that if you want to explore blogging at a very basic level, just get started and see if you like it, Blogger is a good choice. Most people probably have a Google account, so that includes a Blogger account which makes it super quick to get started blogging. Once you have decided that you want to continue and grow your blog, it is a good idea to switch to WordPress. I wish I made the switch sooner. Just note that if you switch platforms and don’t upgrade to a top level domain, you will lose all of your traffic statistics, but it is not difficult to make your Blogger blog redirect to your WordPress.com blog if you are a broke college kid like me. I will be doing a more in depth comparison of the two big platforms later in this series.
The post will be linked here when it goes live.
If you are just blogging for yourself, your friends, and family, you can feel free to stop here. If you even think that you might want to grow your blog someday, keep reading.
4. Find a Posting Schedule That Works for You
In my opinion, two seems about perfect when you are starting out or you have other responsibilities like school, family, or work. I can’t manage more than that most weeks, unless I am on a school break. Even then, I pre write a lot of my content, sometimes more than a month before it will go up. Whatever you do, pick the right number for you, and pick days that you will stick to for posting days. I post on Mondays and Thursdays, except for special occasion, so returning readers know when to expect a new post, even if they don’t follow my social media, which you totally should! I will be doing a post all about scheduling posts, the pre writing process, the editing process, and how to schedule a post to be published at a later time.
A link to that will be here when that post is up.
Don’t forget that with anything, but especially blogging, quality is much more important than quantity!
5. Set Up the Proper Social Media Accounts
You can either use the same account as your personal one and just change your username to reflect your blog, or you can create a separate account on all of the various social media platforms. I, personally, use the same accounts for both personal and blog, because I feel like my blog is an extension of myself, and I want my social media postings to show that. I do have a separate Facebook page for my blog, but I also post about my blog on my personal account. More about social media marketing later, so don’t forget to subscribe to my email list of follow me on social media so that you don’t miss out!
More details on social media will be linked here when they are live.
6. Draft Your First Post
Now you are ready to start writing your blog! Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy it. If you need ideas for a good first post, peek around some other blogs in niches similar to yours and see what they did for their first post, or figure out what type of post is super popular and run with that! Here you can find my first post, I cringe just thinking about it!
Next up in the #BlogLife series, Writing a Blog Post!
I hope these tips were helpful and that you are even more excited to start your new blog than you were before you started reading this post. This series is a little bit out of my niche, but I have come to love blogging, and it is part of my life now, so it fits in the lifestyle category of my blog.
Thanks for reading!

Why You Need a Blog (or Website)

Why do you need a blog? What is so cool about blogging that makes it something that everyone should do or have? Well my friends, you need a blog. It doesn’t have to be your main squeeze or even to make you any money at all. But you need one. Why? Because it is your online presence. It is how people will see you when they put your name into Google. It can be a resume, a portfolio, a way to get your name out there. It is a place to send people when you are looking for jobs.

Killer Harmony | Why You Need a Blog (or Website) | There are many benefits to having your own online space. It can be a way to connect with people: friends, family, perspective employers. Your website is an online hub about you. Read my other recent post about keeping a clean online presence. Blogs and websites are powerful tools to develop yourself personally or professionally. This blog for me grew out of wanting to create an online portfolio. Whatever your reason for starting a blog, do it.

I’m telling you this as a friend. You don’t need to have all of the bells and whistles attached, but you need some sort of online presence aside from your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram profile. A blog gives you more of a voice than that. You can’t say much in a 140 character tweet, but you sure can say something in a blog post. Your blog shows that you are a good project manager, and for any job, that is a good thing.
Sure, the need for a blog is more apparent for some careers namely: writer, graphic designer, photographer, web developer, and so on. But your site doesn’t have to be a blog. It can be a static (unchanging) website where the homepage has your bio and then you have another page with your portfolio or services. If your dream is to be a musician or a film director, you can embed YouTube videos in your blog or just cut to the chase with a YouTube channel. If you want to be a teacher, you can publish example lesson plans or even a video of your teaching.
It is for that simple reason (to give myself a platform to launch my career) that I started a blog in the first place (little did I know that it would become as big a passion as music). Starting this coming Monday (1/25), I will be launching a series of posts on starting your own blog. I will not be covering topics such as how to monetize it, because I am still figuring it out. What I will cover is how to start your blog, my process on crafting a blog post, choosing the platform for you, scheduling posts, and the social media side of blogging. I will then be releasing an eBook for sale on my Etsy Shop by the end of February. The eBook will be covering the topics I put on the blog in more detail as well as a couple of extra topics!
Thanks for reading!

Your Online Self: Keep it Clean (+ How I Do It)

I love it when I see people be themselves. It can be quite refreshing, shocking even, to see people who are confident enough to be real. I love that. But there comes a point where you can take it too far. I don’t think that you should be fake on the internet, but you have to remember that what you post online will be there forever. Even if you delete something, people have ways to access that information.

Your Online Self: Keep it Clean (+ How I Do It) | It's great to be yourself, but somethings are okay to be kept secret. You want your profile to be clear of anything that might negatively affect you in the future. People use Google. They will find that picture of you chugging a beer. Don't do it. You don't have to post anything and everything.

I try my hardest to keep the not so great things off of the web. I’m not being fake. I’m putting my best foot forward. Companies, schools, and individuals have access to the internet. Most people know how to work a search engine. If you apply for a job and the HR director for a company looks at your Facebook or Twitter profile and finds something that looks bad, bye bye job opportunity. Keep your social media clean. Don’t be negative towards a specific person or company. Don’t post pictures of yourself chugging a beer (especially if you’re under 21). Post the good things in life, like accomplishments or something good about your day. Keep it looking nice, because the internet is a one stop shop for first impressions. You don’t want to leave a bad one for the world to see and save.

How do I keep my online presence clean? Well, first, I avoid posting tons and tons of pictures. The ones that do make it online are ones that I would be proud to show my grandparents. I also don’t post my location. Not that that in and of itself is a bad thing to post, but depending on that location, it can give a bad impression.
The third thing that I do to keep a good profile is I avoid using foul language. Don’t get me wrong, I do cuss in real life. But I only do it in front of people who, with absolute certainty, I know will not be offended. Again, it’s the things that I would be uncomfortable saying or doing around my grandparents that you will not find online.
Lastly, I avoid gossip and drama as best as I can. It is not always easy, but it is something that I definitely don’t want being logged forever. I usually have responses, but I will keep them to myself or find some more positive way to articulate what I mean.

The point of this is not to make anyone feel bad if they post any of the things that I don’t. I wanted to explain why I don’t post certain things, and if you don’t feel the same way, that’s totally cool. Just remember that the internet is a very powerful place, not only for you, but for everyone else with access to the internet.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave a comment about how you keep your social media clean!

Posting Schedule for the Spring + New Etsy Shop!

Blogging in college is hard. I love it, but as a music major, I have quite a bit of stuff to do during the semester. This spring will be especially difficult with everything from Ear Training & Sight Singing 4 (?!) to working on preparing for my junior recital in the fall. I want to spend as much time as I can on this blog as well as my Etsy shop, which you can find in the sidebar and by clicking on “Shop My Stuff” across the top.

I plan on blogging as much as I can in the next four months, but with school, that might not be as feasible as it has been over my winter break. I have been pre-writing, editing, and uploading posts for a while. I have quite a few ready to go, in fact this post was pre-written. I would like to be able to have two posts a week, but if that is not something that I can do without sacrificing my school work, then I will have to stick to one post per week. I want to be able to provide quality content rather than a bunch of half-a**ed pieces of writing. I want to address this before school starts back up and things get crazy. You can almost surely expect a post from me each Monday, and unless something comes up, I should also have something on Thursdays. I won’t promise anything else as I am not sure if I can do more than that, but those are my goals. I will probably have more time to post regularly in the summer, so hopefully, that can make up for anything I don’t get done during the spring. Believe me, I have a ton of plans for summer-related content, but maybe that’s because I’m already daydreaming of warm weather…
Another exciting thing that I want to announce is the launch of my Etsy shop! I briefly mentioned it at the beginning of this post, but here is the part where I explain it further. (Yay? Yay.) So, I have been thinking about ways to take my blog to the next level. Yeah, I love writing, but I also enjoy creating other types of content to help out my fellow college students, musicians, job hunters… So, that is why I have opened a shop on Etsy where I am selling different kinds of academic and general organization printables. I have a few items in stock now, but I hope to add more soon. Check it out by clicking “Shop My Stuff”!
If you want to keep up with me daily, follow me on Twitter (at)itskillerharm and Instagram (at)killerharmony. You can also subscribe to email updates in the sidebar, and be sure to leave a comment with a request for either a blog post or a printable!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you understand!