Coursera Online Learning Review: Best Music Courses, Top-Rated Classes - Rolling Stone
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The World’s Best Music Schools Are Making Classes Available Online to Everyone

Learn about the music industry from professors at Berklee, the University of Edinburgh and others, without leaving your house

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Virtual learning has become a big part of our lives these days, whether students are attending classes via webcam, or people are looking to upgrade their skills with an online tutorial or course. When it comes to the latter, the internet has made it possible to take remote courses that fit around your schedule, and don’t require a transcript.

One of the best online learning platforms out there is Coursera, which offers classes that span the fields of business, entertainment, personal development and more — all taught by accredited professors from well-known universities.

For aspiring musicians, music managers, and music fans alike, Coursera has courses from some of the top music schools in the world, with instructors offering courses that run the gamut from playing an instrument, to learning about music production or marketing.

Many of the classes are taught by professors from The Berklee College of Music, whose notable alumni include John Mayer, St. Vincent, Quincy Jones, Gillian Welch and Wyclef Jean, to name just a few.

We’ve also picked classes that come from the University of Rochester, West Virginia University, The University Of Florida, The University of Edinburgh and The University of Melbourne, who boast alumni that include Renée Fleming, Chuck Mangione, Kathy Mattea, and Marcus Mumford.

All of these colleges have produced world-renowned musicians in every discipline, and Coursera makes it easy to virtually “attend” classes while having the opportunity to build up similar skills at your own pace. We’ve selected beginner-level courses that require very little experience or equipment — in some cases none — so the barrier to entry is as low as possible. All you need is an internet connection to stream the courses from your device.

The best way to get access to these music schools online is through Coursera Plus, the platform’s subscription service allows you to get unlimited access to more than 3,000 courses for a flat fee of $399 per year (or about $1 a day). That’s cheaper than paying for classes at a typical in-person university, and you can take the courses on your own schedule, at your own pace.

Coursera Plus gives you the flexibility to enroll in different courses too, to see whether or not they’re for you. Think of it as an entire resource library of top-tier courses, leading academics and industry professionals all at your disposal. There’s no better way — or smarter way — to get into online learning than through Coursera Plus.

We’ve picked out 10 music courses and Specializations available on Coursera Plus right now for anyone looking to boost their knowledge of music performance, production and partnerships. These highly-rated courses touch on all of the disciplines we mentioned earlier, so you’ll find one that can help you break into any part of the music industry (Note: a “Course” refers to a single class, while “Specializations” are a series of classes that lead you through a progression toward mastery).

At the end of each course or Specialization, you’ll earn a certificate that you can use to enhance your resume, update your Linkedin Profile or to impress recruiters at your next big job interview. Using this time at home to update your skills will help put you ahead of the pack, especially in the competitive music industry.

Find Out More About Coursera Plus Here

Keep in mind that while we’re focusing on music courses, the Coursera Plus catalogue contains classes in business, computer science, information technology, programming, graphic design, and several other disciplines. You can see their full roster of 3000+ courses here.

1. How to Play Guitar (Four-Course Specialization)

This beginner-level guitar Specialization covers basic chords and scales, and fundamentals like reading sheet music. It contains four courses: Guitar For Beginners, Guitar Scales and Chord Progressions, Guitar Chord Voicings: Playing Up The Neck, and Guitar Performance Techniques.

By the end of the 16-week Specialization you’ll be able to play lead or rhythm guitar parts, and write your own melodies. You’ll be taught by four professors from The Berklee College of Music.

While you don’t need to know anything about playing guitar to take these courses, you will need the instrument to practice it. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete this course, which will take roughly five months if you participate for three hours per week.

Sign Up For Coursera’s How to Play Guitar Specialization

2. Fundamentals of Music Theory (Single Course)

Coursera’s Fundamentals of Music Theory course comes from The University of Edinburgh, and covers techniques you can use to understand multiple genres of Western music. You’ll learn about pitches, scales, intervals, form, meter, cadences, and harmony. These skills can be applied to any instrument you play, and can help you appreciate complex genres.

This is a beginner course that requires no prior experience or hardware to complete. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete this course, which will take roughly seven hours to complete.

Sign Up For Coursera’s Fundamentals of Music Theory Course

3. The Singer-Songwriter (Four-Course Specialization)

The Berklee School of Music’s Singer-Songwriter Specialization will teach you the fundamentals of guitar, singing, lyric writing, and music recording. The Specialization contains four courses: Guitar For Beginners, Singing Popular Music, Songwriting: Writing the Lyrics, and Introduction to Ableton Live.

Through these courses you’ll learn basic guitar chords and leads, breathing techniques and how to craft a song. The lyrics portion of the class covers rhyme schemes, lyrical phrasing, and syllable emphasis. By the end of it, you should have all the skills you need to create a structurally sound song, and record it using Ableton Live, a popular piece of recording software.

You don’t need any musical experience going into this course, but it does require a guitar for practicing, and a microphone and audio interface for recording. This Specialization is taught by professors from The Berklee College of Music. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete this course, which will take roughly five months if you participate for four hours per week.

Sign Up For Coursera’s The Singer-Songwriter Specialization

4. The DIY Musician (Four-Course Specialization)

Coursera’s DIY Musician Specialization is a series of beginner-level courses focused on songwriting, music recording, and marketing. It contains four individual courses: Songwriting: The Lyrics, The Art of Music Productions, Pro Tools Basics, and Building Your Career in Music: Developing A Brand and Funding Your Music.

These courses will teach you how to write more compelling songs, use Pro Tools to record them, and eventually run a crowdfunding campaign to make income off of your work. This Specialization is available through The Berklee School of Music.

Although it’s meant for beginners, Coursera recommends you have some prior music and songwriting experience under your belt before taking on this Specialization. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete these courses, which will take roughly five months if you participate for three hours per week.

Sign Up For Coursera’s The DIY Musician Specialization

5. Music Production (Four-Course Specialization)

Coursera’s Music Production Specialization will give you an overview on how to edit, mix, and master digital music using Pro Tools. It’s made up of four classes: The Art of Music Production, The Technology of Music Production, Pro Tools Basics, and Music Production Capstone.

Through these classes you’ll learn how to identify a reference track, so the entire album will have a similar sound and feel, and production techniques like applying reverb delay, and compression. This Specialization will also teach you how to evaluate the quality of your mix on different equipment, so you can make sure it sounds consistent. You’ll be taught by professors from The Berklee School of Music.

You don’t need any prior experience in music production to take these courses, but will need a copy of Pro Tools to mix your tracks. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete this Specialization, which will take roughly five months if you participate for three hours per week.

Sign Up For Coursera’s Music Production Specialization

6. Today’s Music Industry (Single Course)

In Coursera’s Today’s Music Industry course, you’ll learn about how to identify musical trends, which can be applied to songwriting or marketing. The class focuses on where the industry is now while examining prior developments, which can reveal cycles and fads. This class comes from West Virginia University.

You don’t need any prior experience in any musical field to take this class, and it requires no equipment. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete this course, which will take 15 hours total. This is a great course to take for people hoping to work for a record label, management company or publicity firm, though it’s also a great low-commitment class to take for general interest too.

Sign Up For Coursera’s Today’s Music Industry Course

7. Music Business (Four-Course Specialization)

You’ll learn the ins and outs of entertainment marketing in Coursera’s Music Business Specialization, which comes from The Berklee School of Music.

The Specialization is made up of four courses: Music Business Foundations, Building Your Career in Music: Developing a Brand and Funding Your Music, Copyright Law in the Music Business, and Creativity And Entrepreneurship.

The Specialization will teach you how to manage yourself as an independent musician, network, and eventually launch a crowdfunding campaign. These skills can be applied to working with other artists to further their career.

By the end of this Specialization, you should know which part of the music business you’d like to explore further. Coursera says you won’t need any prior experience or hardware for this class. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete this course, which will take five hours total.

Sign Up For Coursera’s Music Business Specialization

Note: If you’re interested in a more specific course on a similar subject, we recommend the Berklee School of Music’s The Business of Music Production Specialization.

8. How Music Can Change Your Life (Single Course)

The How Music Can Change Your Life course from the University of Melbourne will give you insights into the physiology of music. The class covers how music impacts you biologically, positive changes that can occur when listening to music, and how music can be experienced individually, and within groups. By the end of the class you’ll have a firmer understanding on the power of music, and how it’s used by different members of society.

You won’t need any prior knowledge about this subject, but should be interested in biology and music. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete this course, which will take 26 hours total.

Sign Up For Coursera’s How Music Can Change Your Life Course

9. The Music of the Beatles (Single Course)

If you’re interested in musical history, Coursera’s The Music of the Beatles class covers the rise and fall of the world’s most popular rock band. Taught by a professor from the University of Rochester, this class traces the Fab Four’s journey from Liverpool through the end of their recording career at Abbey Road.

This class is on offer from The University of Rochester, and covers not only the history of the group itself, but how its music impacted the world. A specific emphasis is placed on the Beatles’ maturity as songwriters blossomed over time.

You won’t need any prior knowledge or equipment to take this class, but an interest in The Beatles’ career is encouraged. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete this course, which will take 14 hours total.

Sign Up For Coursera’s The Music of the Beatles Course

10. Music’s Big Bang: The Genesis of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Single Course)

Music’s Big Bang: The Genesis of Rock ‘n’ Roll is offered by the University of Florida, and covers early rock music from the 1950s. You’ll learn about notable figures (Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis), and the way early rock impacted the rest of the world.

You won’t need any prior knowledge about rock music or special equipment to complete this course, but you should have an interest in the subject. You’ll earn a certificate when you complete this course, which will take nine hours total.

Sign Up For Coursera’s Music’s Big Bang: The Genesis of Rock ‘n’ Roll Course

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