Music Resource Guide for Students

To study music, we must learn the rules. To create music, we must break them.” — Nadia Boulanger

If you are a student who is looking to enroll in a music program or interested in a career as a musician, then this is the music resource guide for you. It covers a variety of resources that will help you to become a better musician and better understand the fundamentals of music theory. Learn about the many opportunities that are offered through scholarships and grants and the music organizations that are advocating for the music industry. We sprinkled some fun in as well with a list of free music games and apps that will continue your musical education in an entertaining way.

Music Theory

Person using a keyboard and writing a song

One of the best places to get started with music is to learn about music theory. Music theory is complex, but it is an important aspect of making music. What is music theory? It teaches the fundamentals of music and the building blocks to use when creating musical compositions. Harmony, melody, and rhythm are important parts of music, and music theory can help define them through the use of scales, chords, tempo, and more. Expand on your knowledge of basic music theory with the following websites:

  • — The go-to website for music theory for beginners, it offers a variety of free online content, including interactive tools, lessons, and exercises to help you learn music theory.
  • One Minute Music Lesson — These quick one-minute music lessons will help you understand music theory as well as learn how to read music easily. They offer both free and premium lessons.
  • 8 Notes — This website has plenty to teach you with 47 different lessons on music theory alone. The music theory website also offers free sheet music for a variety of instruments across many music genres.
  • Teoria — Here, you’ll find a wide range of music theory and ear training exercises. The tutorials will help you to better understand scales, chords, intervals, and how to read music.
  • Music Theory for Songwriters — Songwriters will find plenty of useful information here, such as how to identify which cords flow together well, the major scales and minor keys, and understanding modes in music theory.
  • Music Theory for Musicians — This website shares fun music theory lessons for “Musicians, Not Theorists” that aim to teach you to speak the language of music theory. They offer a variety of basics and intermediate music theory topics.
  • Berklee Online — Learn music theory like a Berklee student with these free sample lessons offered by the college. Each of the 12 lessons highlights a different musical interest area.

Secondhand Musical Instrument Organizations

Person donating their old instrument

Musical instruments are expensive, but the high cost shouldn’t hinder someone from being able to play music. The following organizations accept donations of secondhand musical instruments that they then match up with requests from people or music programs in need. Reaching out to one of the following organizations can help you to save money.

  • Hungry for Music — This organization accepts musical instrument donations and then matches each donated instrument with one of the many requests they receive for an instrument. The organization has matched more than 16,000 instruments with children all over the U.S. and around the globe.
  • Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation — This foundation’s aim is to keep music alive in our schools by providing new musical instruments to underfunded programs as well as providing important services and access to music education.
  • Guitar Center Music Foundation — This organization’s aim is to keep music education alive and available in schools across the nation. They support music education programs across the U.S. by providing instruments to students and programs in need; so far, they have provided instruments to more than 300,000 people.
  • The Gift of Music Foundation — This nonprofit believes that music matters and works to ensure that everyone, including at-risk youth, has access to music programs, instruments, teachers, and the many benefits a music education provides.
  • Fender Play Foundation — This nonprofit’s goal is to increase access to music education and to help put instruments and the necessary learning tools into the hands of students and teachers. Founded in 2019, they have already reached 5,000 students and 70 teachers with a goal to reach 10,000 students by the end of 2021.
  • Spirit of Harmony — This organization assists other groups and individuals with hosting community instrument drives where instruments can be collected and then redistributed to music students in need.
  • Half Steps Music Foundation — This nonprofit reconditions used musical instruments and then donates them to organizations that are involved in performing arts and music education.

Music Practice Websites

Person practicing playing the sax

“Practice makes perfect” definitely applies when it comes to mastering the art of music. It isn’t always easy to motivate yourself to practice as much as you should, so we shared some of our favorite websites to inspire you to practice playing a musical instrument.

  • GuitarLessons — Here, you’ll find some of the best instructors on the internet to teach you how to play guitar as well as the best ways to maintain your guitar. They offer more than 90 free online guitar lessons that cover technique, exercises, music theory, and how to play lead guitar.
  • Fender Play — Who’s better to learn guitar, bass, or ukulele from than one of the biggest music instrument brands? Choose the song you want to learn, from classics to today’s hits, from their extensive library of thousands of songs.
  • Piano Lessons by Pianote — This library of free online piano lessons is great for beginner, intermediate, or advanced students. The lessons will teach you things like proper posture, ear training, counting notes, and playing scales.
  • FreeDrumLessons by Drumeo — These free drum lessons will get you started learning how to play the drums and include helpful methods for how to get warmed up on the drum set and some basic drum beats and drum fills.
  • ViolinOnline — Here, you’ll learn a wide range of violin basics, such as how to tune a violin and how to properly care for it, in addition to learning the proper playing position and scales through various lessons. It also offers free violin music from a variety of composers to play along to.
  • Musician's Toolkit — The perfect choice for those who aren’t sure which type of instrument they want to play, this site offers music lessons for a variety of instruments, from drums to horns and more. Through their lessons, you’ll learn about instrument fundamentals, songwriting, ensemble playing, and even the music business.
  • Udemy - Udemy has free and relatively cheap guitar lessons from professionals. You can often find Udemy promo codes to get paid lessons at a substantial discount.

Now that you’ve begun practicing your instrument, it’s time to get better at knowing how to read sheet music. We’ve collected some websites where you can find a variety of different types of free sheet music. Choosing music that you like and actually want to play will make the process of practicing much more enjoyable.

  • Virtual Sheet Music — Here, you’ll find a library of sheet music with thousands of pieces of music to choose from. Every two weeks, they offer a free download from their “for purchase” catalog, which you can be notified of if you subscribe.
  • 8 Notes Free Sheet Music — This site has free sheet music for 25 different instruments, including voice. The music categories to choose from span a wide variety of genres that include pop and rock, jazz, wedding music, or songs by decade.
  • FreeSheetMusic — This site offers a wide variety of free sheet music for download, from classical to Irish music, folk music, and Christmas carols.

Music Apps and Games

A woman learning to play the guitar with an app

Music apps can be great tools to use when you study and play music. There are a wide variety of apps available to download to your devices. Below is a collection of free music apps that can be useful as you continue your journey to becoming a better musician.

  • Multitimer — This advanced timer is great to use when you need to time multiple things at once while you play. It can even link to your Apple watch so you can easily see how much time is left.
  • Shazam — Identify any song you hear playing around you, whether it’s on the radio or in a grocery store, within seconds using this free app. It’s the perfect tool for identifying a song you hear and want to try playing later on.
  • Musescore — Download this free app to create, play, and print sheet music for various instruments using the self-proclaimed “world’s most popular notation software.”
  • GuitarTuna — This free tuning app can help tune an instrument quickly and accurately. It is able to tune a variety of different instruments, not just guitars.
  • Piano by Plusadd — This piano app can be played with both hands and includes a high-quality piano sound and 18 additional tones, including an electric guitar tone.

Below is a list of music games online that are perfect for those times when you need a break from practicing and just want to have some fun with music.

  • Crazy Games Music Games — This huge collection of online music games offers fun for all ages. Play around with vocals with the Blob Opera or the Beatbox Sausages, or test your skills with the Beat Dropper or Rhythm Capture.
  • Inside the Orchestra Online Musical Games — This nonprofit organization offers free online music games to see how well you can identify the sounds of different instruments, test your musical memory, use an online rhythm composer, and even play musical bingo.
  • Ask GRAMMYs Trivia Game — The Recording Academy created a weekly virtual trivia game that can be played using Alexa and Google Home. The game refreshes every Monday; you can find a list of the upcoming music genres by clicking the link.

Music Scholarships for College Education

Woman receiving a scholarship in the mail

If you plan on studying music in college or are already enrolled in a college accredited music program, a music scholarship can help you save money on college tuition. Below is a list of scholarships that are awarded to those enrolling in a music-related program. Remember to also reach out to the financial aid office of any college or university that you are interested in to see if they offer performing arts or other music scholarships to students.

  • Glenn Miller Birthplace Society Scholarship — The Glenn Miller Birthplace Society (GMBS) has held a scholarship competition every year since 1977 that is open to high school seniors and college freshmen who plan to make music a part of their future. Only ten vocalists and ten instrumentalists are chosen to compete at the annual festival, with three winners selected from each category. The first-place winners receive $3,000 each, second place is awarded $2,000, and third-place winners receive $1,000.
  • Musicians Making a Difference Scholarship — Drum company Pearl awards two annual scholarships in the amount of $5,000 to high school musicians based on a student’s contributions to their community, rather than their musical ability. The objective of the scholarship is “to reward and inspire the youth that will shape tomorrow.”
  • Performing and Creative Arts Scholarship Award Program — BIG ARTS awards this scholarship to high school seniors who plan to study visual arts, music, dance, theater, literary arts, or film. Students who are currently enrolled in an accredited undergraduate program for the arts can also apply for the scholarship.
  • The ASCAP Foundation Scholarships — This collection of scholarships is available to students at all levels. For most of these, the recipients are chosen by the music faculty at each high school, college, or university. Contact individual school financial aid offices to see if any of these ASCAP Foundation scholarships are available.
  • BMI Foundation Music Scholarships — The BMI Foundation awards a variety of music scholarships to students and musicians. While some of these scholarships require an application, others are awarded by invitation only.
  • Donald Runnicles Musical Arts Scholarship Competition — The Grand Teton Music Festival awards three scholarships each year that are open to high school seniors from Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana who are pursuing their primary studies in music. The music program must be through an accredited four-year college that is recognized by the National Association of Schools of Music or a nationally recognized conservatory. The scholarship prizes are in the amounts of $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000.

Music Grants for Individuals

Music grants are a great way for musicians to be able to finance their musical projects and get them off the ground, especially when they’re lacking the necessary funds to do so. There are many organizations out there that offer grants for musicians; we’ve listed some of them below.

  • Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant — The program awards four different grants each year to support individual artists and collectives in music/sound and other art forms. So far, the FCA has awarded more than 5,000 grants that total more than $20 million.
  • New Music Grants — Their mission is to support and promote all types of music creators, so this grant offers funding for music projects and supports individual music creators who need help getting to the next level.
  • Musicians Foundation Grant — The purpose of this grant is to help musicians in a time of need be able to pay their rent or mortgage, medical bills, and other essential expenses. To be eligible, you must have worked as a professional musician for five or more years in the U.S. and have tax documents listing your occupation as a musician or music educator.
  • The Alice M. Ditson Fund — This organization offers two grants, one for recording projects and another for special streaming projects. The program’s objective is to provide exposure for young, unknown composers. The grants range from $1,000 to $5,000.
  • Music for All Grants — This organization aims to support every type of music-maker and awards funding in five areas: projects based on electric guitars and/or ukuleles, projects that use analog synthesizers, support for a piano or keyboard player, community choirs, and projects based on innovation in remote music tuition.

Music Associations and Organizations

A group of people getting together to practice playing music

From advocating for music education to assisting professional musicians, the work of many music associations and music organizations is necessary to keep the industry thriving. Some of these organizations have been advocates for the music industry and music education for more than a century!

  • National Association for Music Education (NAfME) — This is one of the world’s largest arts education organizations and has been around since 1907. It is the only association that addresses all aspects of music education and advocates at the local, state, and national levels. They offer a variety of opportunities and resources for students and music educators of all teaching levels. NAfME helped establish music education as a profession and aided in the development of the national standards for arts education.
  • International Society for Music Education (ISME) — This organization was formed in 1953, and its goal is “to stimulate music education as an integral part of general education.” Their program has evolved into a global organization for music teachers and strives to promote music learning around the world.
  • Save the Music Foundation — This organization’s mission is to help students, schools, and communities to “reach their full potential through the power of making music.” They provide access to music education by donating instruments and technology, providing support for music teachers, and advocating for the future of music education.
  • National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) — This association was founded in 1924 and is made up of 637 accredited schools, conservatories, colleges, and universities. It provides assistance to theses institutions and students who are a part of any music-related endeavors. The association also establishes national standards for undergraduate and graduate programs and other credentials for music disciplines.
  • American Federation for Musicians — This association consists of 800,000 musicians across the United States and Canada who perform in orchestras, backup bands, festivals, clubs, theaters, and more. Its goal is to make the music industry work for musicians.

Music Industry Events and Conferences

A woman presenting at a music conference

Networking is an important part of the music industry, and these annual events and conferences are a great way to learn more about the industry, add to the discussion, and make career-enhancing connections that could change your life.

  • Music Biz Annual Conference — The Music Business Association believes that the music business is at its best when professionals can connect and collaborate. This four-day music industry event is a great place to meet others and discuss the future of the industry and how to best support other musicians.
  • NAMM Trade Show — The National Association of Music Merchants hosts this annual trade show for both international and local music distributors. It’s known for unveiling the latest technical innovations in music.
  • SXSW Conference and Festival — People from a variety of creative industries around the world gather for this week-long conference, which is also combined with a showcase festival where some of the biggest names in music play. This is a great place to learn about important breakthroughs in music and network with powerful people in the industry.
  • AmericanaFest — The Americana Music Association presents this annual event that offers four days of seminars, panels, and networking opportunities for both music industry professionals and fans. It also includes intimate showcases each night with legendary artists.

Each year, three major music award shows take place while millions of viewers tune in to see which of their favorite artists will win. It’s a lifelong dream of many musicians to make it to one of these three major stages to receive an award.

  • Grammy Awards — Presented by the Recording Academy, these awards recognize achievement in the music industry. A Grammy is considered to be one of the four major annual American entertainment awards, along with the Emmy, Academy (Oscar), and Tony awards. Winners of all four of the awards are referred to as EGOTs.
  • American Music Awards (AMAs) — Created by Dick Clark in 1973 to compete with the Grammys, these awards chose winners through a public poll in which anyone can vote through the AMAs website. This is how the winners have been determined since 2006; before that, they were selected by members of the music industry based on factors like sales and airplay.
  • Billboard Music Awards — This annual awards show is presented by Billboard, and finalists are chosen based on their album and digital sales, streaming figures, radio airplay, touring, and social engagement. They give awards for the top album, artist, and single for a variety of music genres.

Transition to Professional

Tom Hess has a pretty robust 5-part blog post series on how to become a professional musician that covers various aspects including entering the music industry and crafting a music career success plan.

Once you're ready to get serious about recording your music, you may get an audio recording device. B&H Audio Video website has various Pro Audio recording devices. A feature of B&H is their Video Chat Connect, which allows you to connect with a Pro Audio Expert live online to discuss your recording needs. You can find various B&H promo codes online and additionally other deals, specials and rebates.

You should also be on the lookout for second hand equipment on sites like Reverb, Music Go Round, Sweetwater, Guitar Center, Sam Ash and more. Sam Ash has over 4,000 used musical instruments on sale including guitars, pianos, saxophones, drum sets and more. They have various financing options, including offering "Play Now, Pay Later" through the Affirm buy now pay later service. eBay also has various second-hand musical instruments and gear which can be up to 30% off retail prices, or even more if you apply an eBay coupon when available. Finally, you can check your local community or various online Facebook groups as well.

We hope you found this music resource guide helpful and are looking forward to a bright future in music using the many new skills you’ve learned through the long list of music resources compiled by the team at CouponFollow.

about the author

Quan Tsang
Quan has been an advocate for full price avoidance since his early youth when he was an avid discount bin diver. His dedication to a delectable deal continues today with his contributions to CouponFollow, Slickdeals, and other discount forums.