Learn Production and Performance Skills with These Cheap or Free Online Music Classes
One of the biggest complaints when it comes to going to college is the cost. Sure, there are plenty of other pains associated with higher education — touring campuses, interviews, auditions, applications, essays, scholarships, and ensuring you have all of the proper documentation from what can seem like a million different sources (and all before you even arrive on campus as a student) — but the first thing noted by any incoming learner is the enormous price tag that can come with earning a degree. Those astronomical sums can be even harder to accept when the degree is in a field where people aren’t necessarily known to make healthy salaries, which can be the case with music or any of the arts.
It’s not always all about the piece of paper you receive at the end of four years of study (though they certainly are important), but the education is key. No matter what you want to do in music, you need to learn, and if college simply isn’t working out, if you can’t afford it at the moment, or if you’re looking to either get a head start on your education or supplement what you already know at a fraction of the cost of traditional schooling, why not look into a MOOC?
A MOOC (massive open online course) is a class offered to anybody who wants to sign up on the web, typically on a platform created just for this purpose, and often by an institution already associated with education or a specific field. They sometimes come free, but even those that cost something aren’t nearly as expensive as actually attending a proper college. While the experience certainly isn’t the same, there is a lot to be learned for just a few dollars online (if any at all), if you will only take the time.
Here are several MOOCs offering online music courses that might interest you if you’re thinking about studying something connected to the music industry (or if you already have, but you still want to learn more).
Of all the MOOCs and similarly-styled platforms popping up in the past decade or so, Coursera and the following site on this list are among the biggest and the best known, and according to many, the best. Coursera is my personal favorite. I have used it many times to learn about a range of topics and every single experience has been wonderful.
A quick look at the site will show you if there is something to be learned on the internet, chances are it’s available many times over on Coursera. The platform has partnered with dozens of colleges and universities all around the world, and it now boasts a catalog with thousands of classes. Tens of millions of people have taken at least one course with the company.
Coursera has an entire portal dedicated just to music and art, and it’s easy to get lost and salivate at all the options featured. You might head there for one specific thing but with literally hundreds of choices that all sound interesting and will all be worth your time, it’s difficult not to load up and select too many at once.
Many of the classes can be taken for free on Coursera, but not all of them…though don’t worry, the education you receive on this website won’t run you anywhere near what a traditional degree will. Most of the options with a price attached are still offered for under $100, and they come with a certificate of completion at the end. It’s not the same as receiving or even working toward a true college degree, but it’s nice to have. If that’s not what you’re looking for from an organization like Coursera, there are still hundreds of classes you can audit completely for free.
Here is a quick sampling of music-related courses currently being offered on Coursera:
- Today’s Music Industry – Taught by West Virginia University
- Fundamentals of Audio and Music Engineering: Part 1 Musical Sound & Electronics – Taught by the University of Rochester
- Fundamentals of Music Theory – Taught by the University of Edinburgh
- Introduction to Classical Music – Taught by Yale University
No matter what you want to do in music, you need to learn, and if college simply isn’t working out, if you can’t afford it at the moment, or if you’re looking to either get a head start on your education or supplement what you already know at a fraction of the cost of traditional schooling, why not look into a MOOC?
While Coursera may be my favorite when it comes to free online courses, edX is a very close second. (I have also participated in courses on this site.) edX operates similarly to Coursera, but everything is offered for free, though again, you can add a certificate of completion to the end for just $50. It’s just for you, but at such a low price, why not grab it?
edX also features hundreds or possibly thousands of classes from many of the biggest educational institutions in the world to anybody who wants to take them, and there are many choices when it comes to music. In fact, while some of the musical offerings are simple and for those just getting started in the business, edX also has more than a few for people who could be considered experts, and there is something for everyone in between those two points.
In fact, if there seems to be anything of note that truly separates Coursera from edX (other than a relatively tiny sum of money required for only some of the classes), it’s the fact the latter seems to cater more to those who already know quite a bit about one topic. Many of edX’s music classes are not for those just picking up a guitar for the first time…though don’t be afraid to at least browse all things related to music!
Here are a few of the various music classes currently being offered on edX:
- How to Listen to Great Music for Orchestra – Taught by Juilliard
- First Nights – Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and Program Music in the 19th Century – Taught by Harvard
- Introduction to German Opera – Taught by Dartmouth
- Jazz: The Music, The Stories, The Players – Taught by Hamilton College
The two organizations I just profiled certainly have a lot of classes in the arts fields, and there’s sure to be plenty to occupy your time, but when it comes to all courses offered on MOOCs, categories like music and other creative pursuits are still lagging. Percentage-wise, they don’t come close to filling as much space as, say, a business endeavor or one focusing on science or tech, and because of this sad fact, Kadenze was created.
Kadenze is a for-profit company aiming to fill the gap left by other MOOCs. The company offers individual classes as well as programs comprised of several different courses put together, with the aim being you’ll really know quite a bit about at least one topic.
Many, if not all, of the courses can be audited for free, but if you want to earn a certificate at the end stating you did well and completed the full program, you’re going to need to open your wallet…and you’ll have to open it much wider than when it came to the previous two MOOCs I described.
Receiving the official certificate of completion from a Kadenze class will run you several hundred dollars, with some going for $300, while others were priced at double this amount. Sure, it’s a fair amount of money, but with the education you’re receiving, it’s still coming at a fair price.
Here are some of the classes posted on Kadenze in the music category:
- Piano I: Introduction to the Piano & Staff – Taught by Arizona State University
- North Indian Classical Music I: Fundamental Elements – Taught by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra
- Introducing Entrepreneurship for Musicians – Taught by the University of Miami
- Introduction to Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists – Taught by the California Institute of the Arts
One final MOOC I’ll profile specifically is Udemy, which doesn’t give things away entirely for free…but which also isn’t looking to take all of your hard-earned cash. The classes uploaded to Udemy all run for fairly low prices, typically about $100 or less, though when I looked, the site was having a deal where everything was just $11! Either way, Udemy offerings are typically sold for a tiny amount of money when compared to college-level education, but perhaps it’s enough to keep people committed? When something is free, no matter how great or top-notch it may be, it’s easy to let it fall by the wayside, but if you’ve paid for something, even if it’s just a token sum of money, chances are you’ll stick with it until you’re done.
Udemy courses aren’t offered by colleges and universities, but rather by individuals. Sometimes that’s a good thing, as there are plenty of people out there who know a lot about certain topics (especially music) who aren’t employed by a certified institution but who certainly are worth listening to. On the other hand, it’s possible the person creating and teaching the class might not be the absolute best educator, so keep this fact in mind as you participate.
Here are a number of musical courses offered on Udemy:
- Blues and Advanced Guitar Lessons
- Make a Mixtape: How to Make a Seamless DJ Mix in Ableton
- Build Your First Home Studio: A Step-By-Step Guide
One final MOOC I’ll profile specifically is Udemy, which doesn’t give things away entirely for free…but which also isn’t looking to take all of your hard-earned cash. The classes uploaded to Udemy all run for fairly low prices, typically about $100 or less, though when I looked, the site was having a deal where everything was just $11!
In addition to the online companies and non-profits I have already written about, there are other options out there working to offer similar forms of education, though they aren’t as well-known and they typically don’t feature nearly as many courses as edX, Udemy, Kadenze, or Coursera…though they may end up having exactly what you want, so browse them!
FutureLearn offers several courses in all things media, though music doesn’t appear to be a highlight, as I was only able to find a handful that would be a fit for those who want to up their understanding of all things music (such as From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores and Cantonese Opera: From Backstage to the Stage)
A simply-named company called Alison also has a handful of classes, but a brief search for “music” only turned up four items. While the site was filled with ads, it’s still another destination online for free education, so who are we to complain? The options were simple and all about music theory (which is important), with names like Introduction to Music Theory and Music Theory: Instruments and Rhythm, both coming from Yale’s open platform.
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