Best Music Technology Degree Programs
Tastes change rapidly in music. One day, a certain style may top the charts, and just as the industry catches on and many different artists begin producing this kind of tune for mass consumption, something else has popped up and stolen all the attention away, changing things forever. The same can be said for the technology world, which experiences a turnover rate almost as fast. Music and technology move so quickly, and the two are now forever intertwined, as most popular singles these days are crafted, mixed, mastered, and shared with the world via computer. In fact, at this point, it’s tough to imagine anyone creating a solid piece of work without technology, and there are new gadgets, software programs, and advancements being introduced all the time. It may be a mysterious side of the business that isn’t talked about enough, but it’s a highly lucrative one, and it’s something everyone who wants to be involved in music should investigate, whether they want to be an artist or they want to find another way to push the medium they love into the future.
If you’re looking to learn more about (and eventually work in) music technology, you may be interested in the programs offered at the following schools:
- New York University
- Brown University
- University of Southern California
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Berklee College of Music
- The University of Texas – Austin
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Elon University
- University of Denver
- Stevens Institute of Technology
Location: New York City, NY
New York University demands to be first on this list for many reasons, but first and foremost, it goes here because it offers some type of degree for everyone in the music technology field. For those just getting started, there is a bachelor’s. Beyond that, students who want to learn more can grow and improve with a master’s, or possibly a doctorate. The school even has an advanced certificate, which lands somewhere in between those options, and which could be a fit for those who already have a degree in this world, but who don’t want to spend the time (or money) on another one. New York University doesn’t just teach music technology, it is a leading force in the field when it comes to new research and breaking ground in an exciting industry. The legacy brand in education has its own research wing, called MARL, which is an acronym for Music and Audio Research Laboratory. Access to it is something students can’t get anywhere else, and it could make a world of difference for those who want to take their careers to new and exciting places. It also must be said when it comes to the music industry, especially the technology side of things, there is perhaps nowhere better for someone to be than New York City. Sure, there are musicians everywhere, and the music industry itself has hubs in Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, and plenty of other wonderful locales, but music tech has a home in New York City unlike almost anywhere else, and if a student can live and study there, they will be open to amazing opportunities not afforded anywhere else.
The University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music’s music technology program “reflects the current and evolving nature of professional music making in the digital age, where the job description of today’s contemporary musician often includes composing and arranging, live and studio performance, audio engineering/editing and mastering, music synthesis and programming, as well as most or all of the business aspects related to music.”
Location: Providence, RI
Brown University’s focus when it comes to music technology is very different from New York University’s, and it’s not what many might think of when the phrase comes to mind…but it could be exactly what some emerging talents desire to study. An advanced degree in Music and Multimedia Composition allows students to not only make music but to do so in conjunction with other forms of art, with technology playing a huge role in both. According to the program’s description, students who are accepted to this area of study will “conduct advanced inquiry into the cultural, theoretical, technical, and aesthetic issues surrounding music and multimedia production in close collaboration with faculty researchers strongly invested in real-time, interactive sonic and visual media, sound art, instrument design, and acoustic composition.” If this sounds like a mouthful, and one you can’t begin to decipher, this may not be what you’re looking for…or at least not yet. At the moment, it appears the only way to take part in this program is to work toward a Ph.D., so while it may sound wonderful, it’s not for everyone, as it requires a huge commitment of time and money.
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Some who are looking to be involved in the music technology industry want to work on the tech side but are interested in music, while others are much more interested in creating music, but also want to understand emerging technology and how it will affect what they make. This program of study is focused squarely on those who fit into the second category. The University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music has a relatively new music technology program, one which now has a music production bachelor’s that is only a few years old at this point. Many colleges offer music production, but sometimes, Professors and those teaching the next generation can be too focused on how things used to be done. Sure, it’s great to learn how to play a number of instruments and set up a studio for Session Musicians, but so much of the music that does well these days is created, mixed, mastered, and engineered solely on computers, and young people need to understand every aspect of all of those processes if they want to have a shot at making a living creating their art. The University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music’s music technology program “reflects the current and evolving nature of professional music making in the digital age, where the job description of today’s contemporary musician often includes composing and arranging, live and studio performance, audio engineering/editing and mastering, music synthesis and programming, as well as most or all of the business aspects related to music.” This program of study touches on a lot of different parts of the industry and the job (as is stated above), and while some may find this helpful, it does mean students don’t have an opportunity to dive deep into any one thing, as they may in more focused degree programs.
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
You know Carnegie Mellon meant business when it founded its Music Technology degree program, as it reached out to three different schools at the famed university to create one of the best collaborative degrees in the country. The university’s School of Music, School of Computer Science, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering all came together for this project, and the results are incredible. Within this chosen major, students can also pick a more specific field to learn essentially everything there is to know about Recording Technology, Audio Engineering, Computer Music, Music Composition, Music Performance, or even Music Theory. According to the university itself, students who take part in this program will be guided and will learn from some of the smartest minds in the field, but they will be largely self-directed, so anyone who isn’t a self-starter and who doesn’t know how to work hard need not apply. Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are offered, and it’s possible for students to earn both…though they may choose to do so at different institutions, simply to gain a different viewpoint and work with different people throughout their education.
Location: Boston, MA
No list of colleges involving anything even remotely connected to music would be complete without Berklee finding a home somewhere. While it is better known for performance, production, and songwriting, the Boston, MA-based standard has also jumped into the world of music technology, and the combination of the two could make for a new generation of top-notch artists who understand the technology used to make their music the best it possibly can be. While it might sound like a match made in heaven, Berklee’s Music Technology program is still in its infancy, and it’s not available to everyone. At the moment, it’s only offered as a minor, meant to be completed in just one semester. On top of that, it’s something only those who study abroad at the college’s campus in Valencia, Spain can take part in. Those may certainly be limiting factors for many, but Berklee has a lot of technological advancements to offer all students…even if not in the form of a proper degree.
You know Carnegie Mellon meant business when it founded its Music Technology degree program, as it reached out to three different schools at the famed university to create one of the best collaborative degrees in the country. The university’s School of Music, School of Computer Science, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering all came together for this project, and the results are incredible.
Location: Austin, TX
While it may not be a music technology-specific degree, The University of Texas does have a program that will help students learn skills allowing them to eventually work in not only the music industry but many different parts of the entertainment world. The degree itself is a B.S. in Arts and Entertainment Technologies, and those who opt to take this route will have to choose one of four emphases: Game Design, Digital Visualization, Projection, Lighting, and Interactivity or (perhaps most appropriate for the people reading this article) Music and Sound. The Music and Sound concentration contains many technology-centric courses, and the school is working toward ensuring students know how to compose music for video games and films or become a Sound Engineer. If you’re looking to become a Singer-Songwriter who knows how pedals work, you can learn a lot here, but it’s probably not for you. If you want to be the person behind the scenes creating sonic effects and scoring a video game or movie, perhaps you should head to Austin, a truly great city to spend time in as a young person.
I had to choose only a handful of schools to write about for this piece, but there are plenty of others worth looking at if you’re thinking of pursuing a degree in music technology, or perhaps even if you only want to learn more on the subject. Here are a few universities and colleges in the U.S. that might be a perfect fit for you:
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
- Elon University (Elon, NC)
- University of Denver (Denver, CO)
- Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ)
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