The College of Arts and Architecture

Music Technology Minor - Frequently Asked Questions

How will the minor help me? Is the minor right for me?
A minor is an academic program that supplements a major for students interested in developing an emphasis in additional disciplines. If music technology is an area of interest for you, this program can help you develop a strong portfolio that might enhance your major. It may make your resume a little more interesting by showing a breadth of interest beyond your major. And if a future employer asks, "So what did you do in that minor?" - the best outcome is if you can pull out a portfolio of work that is extremely impressive. At the end of the day, it's the work that counts -- not the minor. If the minor is just an extra line of type in your transcript, it won't help you.

We conceived of the minor some years ago when we noticed that there was a small number of students who were passionate about this area and were taking all the classes in it that they could. So we devised the minor as a way of recognizing their work. Since the minor has been approved, many students have shown interest. However, many of these students seem more interested in getting the minor than in taking the courses.

The minor is "right" for you if you would take the courses even if there were no minor. If you are only interested in the classes because of the minor, you have the concept backwards.

No one is saying that this minor is for everyone. Skrillex did not receive this minor, and he's doing just fine.

If you're a junior or senior and find yourself with credits to spare and are considering picking up a minor, this is probably not the one for you. There is a good reason we don't accept students farther along than their fifth semester: the skills are learned gradually over time. They are not gained by taking as many courses as possible at once over a short period of time. It's akin to applied study of a language. In theory, it may be possible for a student to take Spanish 2 and 3 simultaneously and earn passing grades. However, no responsible language instructor would allow a student to do that, as it would not lead to real progress.

There are some majors at Penn State that require that their students complete a minor to graduate. Please do not start this minor if your main reason for doing so is that your major requires completion of a minor. We cannot be responsible for graduation difficulties faced by students who find themselves unable to complete the minor.

My major requires that I complete a minor. Should I pick this one?
Maybe – but this is not an “easy” minor, so you should choose this minor because you're passionate about the field and you'd like to take these courses even if doing so didn’t result in a minor.

Can I double-count credits for my major to the minor?
Yes. Courses used to satisfy general education, degree requirements, electives, and major requirements may also be used to satisfy minor requirements.

Do I need an interview to be accepted into the minor?
While we're always happy to meet interested students, an interview is not required. The best way to get started is to enroll in the core classes, INART 50, INART 258A, and THEA 285. The first two are general education, so in most cases they'll count towards your degree whether or not you choose to pursue the minor.

I'm having trouble getting into classes to complete the minor. Can you help me get into them?
That's something you have to take up with the instructors. Officially, the minor is optional, because no one is required to get it in order to graduate. Thus, we have no influence as far as getting MUTEC minor students enrolled into classes.

I'm having trouble finding classes that count towards the minor. What should I do?
There are many courses at PSU that can count towards the minor. If you can't find any that suit you, it may mean that this minor isn’t the best fit for you or that you should meet with an adviser to discuss options.

I don't think I need to take MUSIC 8 because I've been playing an instrument for years. How do I waive the requirement?
Just ask. You should be able to read music to complete the minor. MUSIC 8 ensures that you can. If you already read music, just ask to have it waived. Many students waive this requirement. For them, it becomes an 18 credit minor.

Do I need to take music theory classes for the minor?
Music technology minors are encouraged to take music theory, but not required to. The requirements are listed on the minor's information page. You are required to be able to read music, which is covered in MUSIC 8. If you have the commendable wish of pursuing theory further, you may contact the music theory area in the School of Music. They admit non-majors at the beginning of the semester, when Music majors have been placed and they know how many seats they have available. You will likely be asked to complete a placement test to ensure that you are placed into the appropriate section for you. 

What majors take this minor?
Graduates of the MUTEC minor have majored Music, Theatre Sound Design, Integrative Arts, Film Production, Information Science & Technology, Communications, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Management, and Pre-Med. Students in any major may pursue the MUTEC minor.

When should I apply for the minor?
Students who have completed (or are in the process of completing) INART 50, INART 258A and THEA 285 may apply to the minor at the end of each semester by submitting a portfolio to Mark Ballora. This should consist of a list of courses taken that apply to the minor and grades earned in them, courses remaining to complete the minor, and a collection of the student's best work, in whatever form is most appropriate (papers, recordings, web pages, etc.).

Students who have been admitted to the minor will be permitted to enroll in THEA 484 Audio Recording.

How long does it take to complete the minor?
To be safe, allow three years. Some students complete it in less time than that, but trying to complete the minor at an accelerated pace can be stressful, since many of the courses that might apply to this minor will not be easy. Basically, we're not in the business of handing out minors; we're in the business of facilitating strong work. We require that students to apply to the minor before the end of their fifth semester; this means that you should have completed INART 258A and INART 50 by that time.

How flexible are the requirements?
The four core courses are required. The 6 supporting and related course units are meant to be as flexible as possible, with the condition that at least 3 of these must be at the 400-level. (It is a PSU policy that students earning a minor must have at least 6 400-level units in the minor. Three of these are mandated with THEA 484.) The list of supporting and related courses is a set of suggestions, but is not exhaustive. New courses are created every semester, and students often approach us with courses they'd like to count towards the minor. Any courses whose principal subject matter is art, music, and technology are fair game.

There are occasions when changing prescribed requirements for an individual student is appropriate. These situations are approved through the College's of Arts and Architecture's official petition process. Please consult Mark Ballora, rather than Curtis Craig, about petition requests for the Music Technology Minor.

What are the classes like?
They're rigorous. To succeed, you'll need to be passionate about the subject. This is not an easy minor.

What kinds of skills do I need for the minor? How can I be successful in it?
There are no prerequisites, although knowledge of music would certainly help and you are expected to have a certain comfort level with a computer. You are expected to be open-minded about learning things you might not already know. In our classes, we'll be asking you to stretch in new directions. The muscles you gain will help you in whatever you want to do.

There have been students whose interests are quite focused, for instance, only wanting to mix dance music with the software on their own computers. Some have been very good at it. But commercial software programs that enable easy creation of dance music can be deceiving. If you create something that sounds good, it might mean you're talented, it might mean you're painting by numbers -- it isn't always immediately clear. What is certain is that getting a good grade in the MUTEC requires you to stretch yourself beyond what you already know. We've been around, we've done this for some time, and we have a pretty good idea of what you ought to be learning.

Ironically, the best students seem to be the those who don't care about getting a minor, and who would be taking these courses even if there were no minor.

Two words associated with successful students are "initiative" and "proactive." Students will get out of the minor what they put into it. Students who are taking the classes because they want to earn a minor have got the concept backwards. Students who are passionate about the work, and for whom the minor is more of an afterthought, are those who tend to do the best work.

What kind of job or graduate program will this prepare me for?
If you're really considering a career in audio, the only question that matters is whether you're dedicated enough at it to be the best you can be, because you will be entering a competitive field full of highly dedicated people. What the minor can do is help you identify your interests and strengths. You can then look for jobs or schools that are seeking people with these interests and strengths. 

Former students who have graduated with the minor have gone on to graduate music technology programs, or employment in fields such as theatre sound design and concert audio reinforcement, and electrical engineering. Their career paths have had more to do with their choice of major than this minor. The minor may be a complement to a number of degree paths, and it gives you an opportunity to create a compelling portfolio.

Are internships available?
Internship experience is highly recommended - it is often the most direct path to employment. Unfortunately, we don't have a formal method for placing students into internships. You are encouraged to pursue any openings you might have in the job field. Or to identify areas you'd like to work, contact companies, and ask about possible internship opportunities with them.

Is there a major in music technology?
The Bachelor of Arts in Music degree has a Music Technology option. As this is a music-based degree, the entrance requirement is the same as for the other degrees in Music: it is contingent upon passing an instrumental audition.
Audition requirements for the various instruments are described here.
The application process is described here.
More information about the Music Technology option can be found here.